Reaction To Wolf Settlement

“It has not fixed the problem,” Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation CEO David Allen told The Missoulian‘s Rob Chaney in the wake of last Friday’s word that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and 10 environmental groups had reached a settlement on wolves in the Northern Rockies.

“Read my lips: No deals,” adds an editorial forwarded to Northwest Sportsman by Dale Denney, the Northeast Washington hunting outfitter. “Of course wolf groups want to make this deal, they come out on top. Right now they know they are losing in congress, they are hoping this deal is made so they don’t lose control of having wolves on the ESA and the ability to go back to court.”

He supports Montana U.S. House Rep. Denny Rehberg’s HB 509.

“My bill will fix this mess once and for all,” says Rehberg in The Missoulian‘s article.

“I’m for any plan that will put wolves back under Montana’s control, where they belong,” Montana Senator Max Baucus told the Helena Independent Record. “… But the fight isn’t over, and I won’t stop until we find a common-sense solution to Montana’s wolf problem that brings certainty to our ranchers, famers and hunters.”

“Who really cares what a bunch of attorneys say about wildlife management?” said Don Peay of Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife to the Salt Lake Tribune. “Congress needs to act so wildlife managers, not federal judges or attorneys from environmental or hunting groups, manage wildlife.”

In a far more moderate tone, Andrew McKean, hunting editor of Outdoor Life (and a former coworker of mine at Fishing & Hunting News), says, “It’s looking like wolves will once again be managed as wildlife: by restrained public hunting.”

That’s his “optimistic conclusion” after the Fish & Wildlife Service and 10 of 14 plaintiffs involved in litigation over Endangered Species Act protections of wolves in the Northern Rockies announced a settlement that would, among other things, move day-to-day management of packs back to Idaho and Montana. That would open the door for another hunting season in those states.

Under the deal, the animals would remain protected in Washington, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming — the first three states’ wolves would be addressed under a new rule on the status of wolves in the region. It also requires the Service to work with the Cowboy State to craft an acceptable plan and continue to monitor populations for five years, and would prevent the groups from suing the government until March 31, 2016.

However, the settlement is dependent on a federal judge’s OK — the same judge who in August 2010 relisted the species across the region … after he said in summer 2009 that hunts could proceed — and doesn’t bind the four groups that didn’t agree to it.

But perhaps the quartet want to continue the game of nuclear brinkmanship with ESA.

McKean had some thoughts on the proposed agreement:

·     Mess with ESA under advisement – The rift among wolf advocates stems from how to deal with congressional legislation that would remove wolves from the federal endangered species list. Remember, wolves are only the most polarizing of the hundreds of species under federal protection. Environmental groups are afraid that if wolves are removed from federal management by congressional decree, then the underpinnings of the entire Endangered Species Act might unravel. What’s to stop Piedmont landowners from working with their congressional delegation to remove protections from the Virginia long-eared bat? Or to remove ESA protection from Klamath Basin suckers because California irrigators manage to elect representatives receptive to their cause? Love or hate the ESA, but if it offers protection only to those species without a political constituency, then the whole notion of science-based wildlife management suffers. If there’s a problem with the ESA, deal with its structure. Don’t selectively remove certain critters just because the political climate makes that a popular decision.

·     Marginalize the zealots: This goes both ways. The most extreme environmentalists have been marginalized – that’s what this settlement tells me. Now the anti-wolf groups need to do the same. The “shoot, shovel and shut-up” bunch that advocates vigilante killing of wolves needs to be quieted, and the reasonable middle ground of responsible hunters needs to be tasked with managing wolves.

As for wolf advocates, one spokesman thinks the settlement would ease the way for a population of 1,000 wolves in Washington and Oregon in a decade to a decade and a half.

“Then you’re going to start to see wolves in Nevada, Utah, California,” Kieran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity told the Associated Press (via the LA Times). “We could really repopulate the West.”

Sure you could.

If the West was nothing but forested mountains.

And there weren’t hundreds of thousands of succulent calves and sheep wandering around.

Nor any trucks or trains for the wolves to walk in front of.

Or poachers’ crosshairs.

And nobody living here.

But I guess we all need our saviors — and bogeymen.

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