RMEF Rips National Wolf Recovery Petition

Tuesday’s petition by an Arizona-based environmental group calling for a national wolf recovery plan instead of the federal government’s regional approaches was met by a double-barrelled blast from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation yesterday.

“This is not about saving a lost species,” said David Allen, CEO of the Missoula-based organization. “It’s about money and special interest agendas.”

A press release from RMEF says “animal rights groups have learned that introducing wolves translates to major fundraising, and activists have found a way to exploit the Endangered Species Act — as well as taxpayer-funded programs that cover lawyer fees — to push their agenda and build revenue through the courts.”

Allen frames fundraising efforts on the behalf of wolves as “writing a check that our country’s rural and traditional lifestyles can’t cash. You’re eroding the fundamentals of America’s model for wildlife conservation.”

The petition, from the Center for Biological Diversity, requests the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service come up with a recovery plan for putting wolves back into Washington’s Olympic Mountains (looked at in the 1990s, and dropped after local opposition) and the Cascades of Oregon and California, as well as Great Plains, Great Basin and New England.

The Center says wolves are missing from 95 percent of their former range, and that there is enough suitable habitat in the above areas to foster recovery.

A MAP SHOWING POTENTIAL WOLF RANGE, TAKEN FROM THE CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY'S JULY 20, 2010, PETITION TO THE U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE.

Reintroduction of wolves into Central Idaho and Yellowstone in the mid-1990s has grown into an extremely contentious issue in the region, including Washington. A wolf-related post on WDFW’s Facebook page last Sunday had run to 139 comments as of 1:23 p.m. Thursday afternoon.

Idaho and Montana both unabashadly want to hunt more wolves this fall, though a ruling by a federal judge could put packs back on the endangered species list and move management from those two states back to USFWS before seasons start.

Noting RMEF’s successful work reintroducing elk into numerous Eastern states, Allen pointedly highlights two different approaches to restoring species, one more neighborly than the other.

“Our way is offering to help with funding and expertise so long as the local public wants the species and the state can manage them,” he says. “The other way is using lawsuits and loopholes to shove a project down people’s throats.”

The words also continue RMEF’s newly strident tone on wolf issues.

Feeling 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 Conservancy.

In the latest press release, titled “Attention All States: Prepare to be Sued Over Wolves,” RMEF says wolf advocates’ lawsuits have cost the states as well as negatively affected revenues for conservation projects funded through hunter purchases.

“Now imagine bringing these kinds of impacts to more populated states elsewhere in the U.S., and I think we’re looking at an unprecedented wildlife management disaster,” said Allen.

He is urging USFWS to cautiously evaluate the petition and “reject the rhetoric of the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Earth Justice, Humane Society of the U.S. and other animal rights groups. Wolf re-introduction in the greater Yellowstone region was a classic example of ‘let’s get our foot in the door and then move the goal line,’ and should be warning enough. This is a fundraising strategy with anti-hunting, anti-ranching, anti-gun impacts, and the public needs to understand and see it for it is.”

IN OTHER HUNTING NEWS, the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, as well as Secretary of Agriculture will hold a national teleconference tomorrow to announce 18 members of the new Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council.

The group will help to promote and preserve the country’s hunting heritage, as well as serve as a forum for sportsmen to advise the Federal government on policies that benefit recreational hunting and wildlife resources.

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