In the spring of 2015, Governor of Minnesota Mark Dayton made the controversial decision to halt the use of GPS radio collars on moose (Alces alces) populations by state agencies and university researchers. Governor Dayton made this decision after questions arose over the potential for radio collars to cause an increased risk of moose mortality. This action directly impacted a three-year study by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which was exploring causes of a decline in the state’s moose population.
The governor’s decision concerned many within the wildlife profession, including the Minnesota Chapter of The Wildlife Society (MNTWS), as the action has the potential to impact science-based management of moose populations in the state.
The MNTWS wrote a letter to the Governor’s office and representatives from MNTWS recently held a meeting with Governor Dayton’s Policy Advisor Molly Pederson to offer the governor assistance on current and future wildlife policy decisions.
Governor Dayton felt strongly about the need to save the moose population and believed the best way to do so was to remove any potential human causes.
“You can study, you can study, you can study and that information is good. But when you’re damaging the breed that you’re trying to study it’s just not right,” said Dayton.
Many wildlife biologists are concerned the governor did not adequately evaluate the scientific merits of his decision. Other factors such as disease and predation were being examined as possible causes of population decline, and recent modifications to the way in which radio collars were being placed on moose had yet to be given time to show positive results.
John P. Loegering, CWB® and Gary Huschle, CWB® of MNTWS discussed with Pederson ways in which these issues could be managed that would ensure sound science plays a key role. This included a suggestion to create an independent panel to evaluate the moose project, which the governor’s office may consider in the future to review research findings and make suggestions as to the direction of moose research and management.
As a result of the meeting, the governor’s office is now aware that MNTWS is available to assist on other projects and reviews of draft policy. This could include assistance in determining research needs for other species in the state.
The hope of MNTWS is that this meeting provides a solid foundation for a relationship to form between the state chapter and the governor’s office.
According to Loegering, “The governor’s staff seemed receptive to the science-based technical expertise and information that MNTWS could provide. We look forward to our next steps in continuing to build a strong relationship with the governor and his team.”
Additional Sources: Minnesota Public Radio Article (April 28, 2015)
|Caroline Murphy is the Government Relations Program Coordinator at The Wildlife Society.