RMEF Blasts Defenders

As a battle of letters heats up, the latest from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation blasts the Defenders of Wildlife and Western Wildlife Conservancy for contradictory stands.

“On one hand you trumpet the success of the overall elk populations in [Montana, Idaho and Wyoming]  (which are managed by those states, I might add),” writes RMEF president M. David Allen in an April 9 letter, “and on the other hand you reject those same three states’ ability to manage wolves. That is a curious contradiction. Either these states know what they are doing or they don’t.”

The wildlife advocacy groups are at odds over elk and wolves in the Northern Rockies where numbers of the introduced and naturally returning predators have met federal recovery goals every year since 2002 and increased their overall numbers for 15 straight years.

However, lawsuits and Wyoming’s inadequate management plan kept regulated hunts from occurring until this past fall and winter. Montana hunters killed 72 wolves, Idaho’s 188; both states’ seasons were considered successes, at least by state managers.

This skirmish in the greater wolf war began in early February. RMEF data was cited in an opinion piece written by Kirk Robinson of the Western Wildlife Conservancy and published in a Utah newspaper to argue that elk populations have continued to climb in Idaho despite 1995’s reintroduction of the species to the central core of the state.

That and other statements hit a nerve with Allen, who fired back at WWC, DOW and “others for their disingenuous use of data on wolves and elk” in late February.

High elk numbers overall gloss dramatic declines in some herds in recent years, such as those around Yellowstone and on the Idaho-Montana border in the Lolo-Bitterroot region where there appear to be plenty of wolves, though hunters on the Gem State side were unable to meet the local quota, possibly due to thick country.

DOW came back with a March 30 letter arguing that the recovery goals of 100 to 150 wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming don’t ensure long-term sustainable populations, and the species faces continued resistance to recovery all the way up to the Governor’s Mansion in some areas.

“Strong, balanced, science-based federal and state plans are necessary to overcome this opposition to wolf recovery,” write Mike Leahy, Rocky Mountain director of Defenders of Wildlife, and Robinson. “Through your publicity campaign against us, RMEF appears to be trying to benefit from increasing the conflict over wolves, even as you accuse us of the same. Our proposed solution, however, is not more conflict but more collaboration. We have called for a scientific review of wolf recovery criteria to incorporate the best available science, followed by a regional stakeholder process to guide development of state plans that meet wolves’ biological needs while addressing the legitimate concerns of affected people and communities.”

Another scientific review, Allen wonders. Why, by who and what the heck’s wrong with the plans in place now?

“Why isn’t the wildlife science of three of the leading western states (Wyoming, Montana and Idaho) and the USFWS credible? Is it that you are not getting the answers you are looking for? If so, that is not subscribing to science that is manipulating it to get a desired answer,” Allen writes. “We live within the rules and game management policies of all the state agencies and when we have differences of opinion we go to them and work it out like adults. The United States has the best system of wildlife management in the world, yet you reject the system of states managing their wildlife. Among your tactics are filing lawsuits to stall and extend the process and then point fingers at others like RMEF and say we are polarizing the conflict! Managing wildlife in court is a recipe for disaster.”

Allen calls for “sensible balance” and says that “current wolf numbers have long since crossed over the tipping point.”

He says that wolves should be managed like any other predator on the range, and now that they’re considered recovered by the Feds, managed by state agencies.

“This wolf amnesty program is poor wildlife management. The American sportsmen deserve better respect for all they have contributed to wildlife while groups like yours play games with the system,” he writes.

Allen says this isn’t the Old West anymore, it’s a region populated by millions and facing increasing habitat challenges.

“Man must manage wildlife and we have done so very successfully for over a century,” Allen says in a press release. “We’re long past the day when wolf populations can be left unchecked. Right now this is simply a wolf amnesty program and the results are becoming alarming.”

Allen does extend an olive branch to meet with Leahy and Robinson at RMEF’s Missoula offices, and for their part, Leahy and Robinson say they don’t oppose hunting — so long as there’s a regionally sustainable population of wolves.

But Allen says that if their “organizations do not begin to subscribe to sound wildlife management soon, this disaster will lay squarely on your hands for history and the public to judge.”

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2 Responses to “RMEF Blasts Defenders”

  1. RMEF Rips National Wolf Recovery Petition « Northwest Sportsman Says:

    […] some heat from hunters around the collective campfire, earlier this year it got into a war of letters with the Defenders of Wildlife and Western Wildlife […]

  2. Western Fall Elk Forecast « Northwest Sportsman Says:

    […] statement on RMEF’s Web site above their hunting forecast addresses what became a war of letters earlier this year, where wolf activists “blatantly cherry-picked, manipulated and […]

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