Yellowstone Behind Bars

Idaho is a place unto itself. Managed by right wing politicians and inhabitated by an ideology reminiscent of the 1800s, this state continues to slide backward. How can one believe otherwise when the Governor’s State of the State address this year included these words:

One form of growth we don’t want to encourage is in the wolf population that was imposed on Idaho almost 20 years ago. With your unflinching support, we were able to fight through the opposition of those who would make Idaho into a restricted-use wildlife refuge and take back control of these predators from our federal landlords.
We’re managing them now, and they’re a trophy hunting species. But the population is still growing, and our resources remain at risk. So I’m calling for establishment of a Wolf Control Fund and a State board to direct and manage it.’

Butch Otter’s words are not only biased and inflammatory, they are erroneous. According to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, wolf numbers have declined since 2009.  In 2012, they dropped 11%.  The 2013 report published this March states, “The Idaho wolf population increased steadily since reintroductions in 1995 and 1996 through 2009 (Idaho’s first wolf hunting season), after which data suggest the population has declined.”

 

Photo courtesy of Living with Wolves (http://www.livingwithwolves.org)

Photo courtesy of Living with Wolves (http://www.livingwithwolves.org)

On March 26 of this year, Governor Otter signed into law HB 470, the Wolf Control Bill that appropriates $400,000 to lethally control wolves. Other available funds raised the amount to $620,000. And while those supporting this bill had expected to get a cool 2 million in one shot, they have nothing to worry about as the appropriation will doubtlessly be available annually for the next five years.

Their apparent plan is to reduce the Idaho wolf population to 150 animals with 15 breeding pairs. This is the specific number that will keep them off the Federal Endangered Species List. Presumedly, reducing the population to 149 will bring the USFWS running and the state will lose control over their wolves.

Can you imagine obtaining a truly accurate population count in a place with the rugged, remote wilderness of Idaho? Can you imagine obtaining a truly accurate wolf count anywhere? Wolves move, they hide, they double back, they look remarkably like one another from a distance. And they aren’t born wearing collars, not yet anyway. How can we be assured the numbers aren’t dropping too low?

From what I understand, the state Fish and Wildlife Departments are not always forthcoming regarding their wolf counts. Wisconsin is a good, or should I say bad, example of this. In the past, they publicly shared the details of their process, but this year they closed the doors to their preliminary wolf count meeting. Hopefully, the reason was as they reported, to prevent hunters from finding out where to find wolves.

But the secrecy prevented everyone from understanding the results, including University of Wisconsin’s Adrian Treves, whose work focuses on the coexistance of wildlife and humans. He says in an article in The Badger Herald,  “There’s a great deal of scientific concern about the data released this week because the methods have changed, the reporting has changed, and I’m not able to evaluate the quality of the data in the way I was able to do for the last 14 years.”

Incidently, the wolf population in Wisconsin dropped 19% over the past year, from 809 to 658.

Meanwhile, back in the gem state, Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, rancher and chairman of Idaho’s House Agricultural Affairs Committee, has proposed that a chain link fence be placed around the perimeter of Yellowstone National Park to protect his sheep and cattle from marauding wolves. 

He is quoted as saying this idea was tongue-in-cheek when he first proposed it but he’s come to believe it’s a darn good idea. And he believes the supposedly vast amount of money that wolf advocates are holding onto will finance the fence.

He does admit that the fence might be a hard sell and according to yesterday’s Capital Press, if it fails, he will support wolf predator zones, payments of wolf bounties to hunters, a continuous wolf hunting season and continued funding for lethal control efforts.

I find it desparing how many ways there are to eliminate wolves, and simultaneously, how Andrus and others minimize their own responsibility in protecting their livestock. Equally discouraging is how Idaho officials continue to reject the evidence verifying the importance of keystone predators as well as the statistics that show, year after year, that livestock deaths due to wolf predation rank below 1% of all losses.

Online posts from those who don’t adhere to the Idaho wolf loathing mentality propose some worthy ideas. Some suggest an Idaho boycott. Others like the idea of a lawsuit against the bill. And some hope the USFWS will step up and offically review the recent actions of HB 470, that the Service will go against the grain to defend  a species that a few years ago, was deemed worthy of their full protection.

I learn from Garrick Dutcher of Living with Wolves that the fine print of the Endangered Species Act requires that in the five year post-delisting time frame (known as the oversite period), the USFWS requires that the states demonstrate that they are utilizing adequate regulatory mechanisms in protecting the recently delisted species. How will Idaho justify their track history of anti-wolf legislation and actions to the USFWS? And will the USFWS stand strong in enforcing this regulation? We have only a few years left in this five year period to find out.

Photo courtesy of Living with Wolves

Photo courtesy of Living with Wolves

In a less scientific viewpoint, will there come a day, even in Idaho, when wolves aren’t seen as numbers to erradicate but as an essential species with an intricate social structure, an animal that as much as any, represents that we have not yet destroyed all of the wild places of our natural world?  Such an evolution of thinking in the western states would require a change in the dominant paradigm from its current mentality to one that is willing to consider the greater good rather than short-term, self centered needs, fears and desires.

Maybe the fence idea isn’t such a bad one. At least there would be one truly safe place for the wilderness to exist without the self interest of humankind to control it. I just hope the fence can also be used to keep out those who fail to appreciate the environment, and all the resident creatures, of places as wild and wonderful as Idaho.

Photo courtesy of Living with Wolves

Photo courtesy of Living with Wolves

 

 

 

 

24 thoughts on “Yellowstone Behind Bars

  1. Backwards and ignorant at the highest levels in ID government is evident, but this is also a reflection on the ID electorate, the people who put these idiots in office. Redneck America is taking over red state legislatures and even some blue state legislatures. Part of this is gerrymandering. The dems had better wake up to the politics at the state levels; else the far right agenda is going to run amok with little to no regard for majority opinion and values. These people are on a fact free diet regarding wolf management, ecology; they are anti-science, anti-federal (the best way ti manage wildlife and wilderness). Redneck is in favor in ID and other red states.

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  2. I think the fence idea is a bad idea. With the attitudes toward predators in Idaho, and especially toward wolves, there is a real possibility that this “trophy hunting species” as wolves are labeled, will become victims of the controlled (or canned) hunting industry that is decimating the lion populations in Africa. Fences can keep wildlife safe, but the experience of fences so far is that it has a greater tendency to keep wildlife confined in areas so that those who wish to kill them (for a fee) can do so.

    On another note, Governor Otter is indicative of the ignorance and hatred of the remaining bigots in this country. Why is he still in office? Is it corruption? Is it that he actually represents Idaho voters? Is it that there is no one running against him during re-elections? What reasons are there for this man to continue to be governor? We want to know!

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  3. The celebration of ignorance is at an all time high in the United States and the planet will never recover. Karma however is eternal and the willful destruction of the planet and the non-English speaking creatures will not be left unpunished by the universe. Idaho is not just destroying wolves, they are destroying themselves and to some point us all.

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    • We cannot wait for karma. It is our responsibility as citizens, as humans, as part of this world, to act and do anything and everything we can to alleviate the ignorance and stop the hateful attitudes. If we could do it for civil rights, we can do it for wildlife!

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  4. Thank you all for your comments. They are much appreciated. There are so many thoughts on how we can work as advocates to protect wolves and the environment. I don’t think there is one correct way. I do see the problem with a boycott as it could affect the many wonderful and forward thinking people who live in Idaho. And the idea of a fence is not the least bit feasible, so whether it would help or not is really a moot point. The comment, “If we could do it for civil rights, we can do it for animals” has a lot of truth in it and the situation in Idaho seems desperate enough to make this comparison. Although there certainly remains a great deal of injustice in the realm of civil rights, progress has been made. How did it come about? It seeems there were legal decisions made, vast educational efforts, a coming together of a lot of people, tons of personal sacrifice, and at least some of the change came about due to civil disobedience. And it took time. The idea of looking at our efforts in relationship to this larger movement is interesting and perhaps worthy of our attention.

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    • If the government agencies that can make rules on this issue would use the real science to do their jobs, we would not have this problem. Did anyone think about the time of my ancestors in this country there were lots more wolves and a very healthy ecosystem even though a few wolves were taken when needed for spiritual needs. The wolf was revered and not treated like the “Little Red Riding Hood” fairly tale wolf. We lived in great harmony and the ungulate herds were in a lot better condition than they are now. It is time for greedy hunters to see that their goals of quality game would be better off if the wolves were allowed to seek a natural balance with man and nature. Use science and real numbers to make decisions and not lying and emotional calls to unreal fear. US Fish and Wildlife, get off your tail and do your job along with the other government agencies.

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      • I want to point out here that conservation and wildlife programs get their funding from selling hunting and fishing licenses. This is a real problem in that, with hunting and fishing declining, so does the funding. This means that, in order to fund conservation and wildlife programs, state and federal agencies are compelled to encourage these activities. That is why we need a new paradigm, one which includes the 94% of us who do not hunt and fish. Creating the changes needed to fund conservation and wildlife programs to include non-consumptive uses of public lands, would encourage state and federal agencies to do the jobs with which we, as citizens, have entrusted them; namely to conserve and protect the wild lands and the wild life that lives there. It does not, nor has it ever, made sense to kill in order to conserve. That is nonsense of the worst kind. If we want conservation and preservation and protection of our wild lands and wild life, we need to support and advocate for changes to the laws and policies which give power to the kill to conserve mentality. Get active; do what you can whenever you can to make change happen.

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  5. If another country waged war on our wildlife like Idaho has on wolves, the US would label them “eco-terrorists” and immediately declare war on them. Anyone who has had contact with their type knows what kind of people they are and the extent to which they will stoop to defend what they mistakenly believe to be their “God given right” to kill for fun and profit and to appease their lust for killing. A truly civilized society would not allow psychopathic serial killers to roam free, much less allow them access to firearms. If President Obama truly wants to take guns out of the hands of lunatics, this would be a good place to start.

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    • What you say is powerful. I want to say, though, that we need to support sensible gun legislation. President Obama cannot do it by himself. We need to vote for it and let our representatives know we want it and will advocate for it. If we speak out and we do it consistently, we can expose this God-given right for the mean and arrogant perspective that it is, and change the laws to accommodate a more compassionate and respectful attitude toward life, in all its forms.

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  6. If another country waged war on our wildlife like Idaho has done with the wolves, the US would label them Eco-Terrorists and would immediately go to war with them. Anyone who has contact with these killers knows what kind of people they are and the extent to which they will go to defend what they (mistakenly) believe to be their “God giver right” to slaughter animals for fun, profit and to appease their bloodlust. A truly civilized society would not allow such psychopathic serial killers to roam freely, much less allow them access to firearms. If President Obama really wants to take guns out of the hands of lunatics, these killers would be a good place to start.

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  7. Sorry but I am a conservative and I believe that we should NOT be hunting wolves or bears. Do not link all of the “right” into a wolf hater’s club. There are many a Leftie that will hunt them too. And if it means money to a rich constituant, that leftie Politician will do as the richie wants as long as it fills his coffers. There are other ways to keep down population. We don’t have to KILL. And by the way, most of the south was known as having “southern democrats” so many of those “rednecks” (a term most leaned against the people in the south) you speak about are NOT conservatists. There are just brutal idiots in all walks of life that belief brawn is better than brain.

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    • An interesting comment. I am a liberal, and my brother is a conservative. Although we do not agree on some things, even most things, we do agree on wolves as essential to ecosystems, and the hunting pf predators to be barbaric. Wolves keep their own population numbers down, naturally; they do not need our “help.” Brutes can be found in all walks of life; you are certainly right about that. So can kind and compassionate people be found in all walks of life. The thing is, though, that the politics of guns and arrogance tend to be more prevalent among the red states than the blue, with North and South Carolina and Georgia being good examples of no gun laws run amok, and Idaho being a good example of the desire for no federal government oversight run amok. We have a federal government so that we, the people it represents, can intervene when states, a portion of the whole country, decide they are “too special” to have to follow the rules and the laws that the rest of us do. That includes science-based management. We are a “united” states, and there are 50 states, all of which are expected to be productive members of one nation, not many mini-nations. The western part of this country is the “American” west, not the “Idaho” west. The Republican party, of which most conservatives are a pat, is engaged in keeping the minimum wage as low as it has been for decades, denying people health insurance, allowing corporations and big money to influence politics, decimating the Endangered Species Act, get rid of clean air and water legislation, the list goes on. If you affiliate yourself with these stances, then you really have to expect flack. We want wolves, we want science-based management and we want, as hikers and wildlife viewers to have a say in policies that determine how we, as a nation, will respond to our wildlands and wildlife. A government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” means just exactly that; and the 6% of those who hunt and fish DO NOT represent “the people.”

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  8. Wolves are the canary in the coal mine. What happens to them, will happen to all of us, too. Everything is connected. I do not know if a fence can be useful in the future but in the immediate future the only question will be is it going to save Wolves lives or not? And I can tell you from actual fact, on a sanctuary level, yes, it works. And last I knew, Idaho has nothing it can do about wolves inside Yellowstone but the moment some unfortunate wolf hears some pup in distress on an electronic caller and ranges out of the park, he or she will be a dead wolf. If a fence stops that, fine. If the people of the area evolve, the fence can be rolled back up. The people complaining about livestock loss due to predators can pay for the fence, it’s their responsibility to care for their animals. They are the ones pissing and moaning about living with a wolf population. The wolves are our wolves. The question is, who do you want as their guardians, the wolf genocide states or the national park service?

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  9. The fence around Yellowstone is ludicrous. Not only does it violate the spirit of a national park, it would be easily destroyed when the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts. Which would also kill off all life within a certain distance of the eruption site.
    Now, for the core of my post, I’ve got some ideas on how to punish Otter and his cohorts. Personally, I don’t believe just voting them out is good enough. They must pay the ultimate price for their crimes.
    This clip gave me some ideas.

    For the “lesser offenders”, if you can even call them that, here’s what to do with those lowlifes. The ones who belong behind such a fence.

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  10. Thank you for writing!

    On Fri, May 2, 2014 at 5:04 PM, Wolves and Writing wrote:

    > Beckie Elgin, Freelance Writer posted: “Idaho is a place unto itself. > Managed by right wing politicians and inhabitated by an ideology > reminiscent of the 1800s, this state continues to slide backward. How can > one believe otherwise when the Governor’s State of the State address this > year include”

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  11. As David L Mech said “if wolves are to survive, the wolf haters must be outnumbered, outshouted, outspent, and outvoted. Polls indicate most Americans believe wolves belong in wild places. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is planning to implement a wolf conservation stamp. Individuals would purchase the stamp and the funds would be dedicated for wolf conservation. If enough people wrote letters to ODFW proposing the same for Oregon, it could happen.

    Letters containing facts to the USFS, BLM and ODFW do make a difference as these are public agencies and they must abide by laws such as the ESA. As a former BLM employee, I can attest decisions on projects such as timber sales, grazing allotments and OHV use are influenced when enough public outcry is expressed.

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