A Deafening Silence on Wolves

Wolf. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

It’s September, the deadline for a U.S. Fish and Wildlife decision on relisting wolves, and yet not a word from USFWS Director Martha Williams, recently a guest speaker at the annual Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus supported by the Safari Club and other trophy organizations.

Rarely have so many comments been delivered on an issue as there has been on relisting wolves. Much like the last Fish, Wildlife and Parks meeting, the level of comments supporting wolves far exceeded any comments to kill them, but the result was only to lower the kill by four wolves.

I hear that USFWS views this issue as too political and will wait until after the elections to likely announce that they will not relist. I hope I am wrong; in a democracy, an informed majority should have a voice. It is like the Electoral College; you may win the popular vote, but the presidency can be decided by Nebraska.

We know that Fish, Wildlife and Parks is not counting wolves as they should, the iPom method relies on hunters without on the ground surveying done by biologists, and Idaho and Montana allegedly manipulate the iPom system for a population count that allows more wolf killing. Yet, USFWS appears willing to accept these flawed numbers as a basis for not relisting.

How is it that livestock interests, supported by senators Tester and Daines, still rule the West? This heavily subsidized industry, which gives little to Montana’s economy, has overgrazed our public lands, and yet demands predator destruction, is past its time. Agriculture now produces seven percent of Montana’s revenue. Agriculture added 921 jobs from 2008 to 2018. By comparison, the Outdoor Industry Association estimates that there is just over $7B in consumer spending in Montana from outdoor recreation, creating 71,000 jobs.

This heavily subsidized industry, which has left our public lands in disarray and continues to be the leader in predator destruction, profits and rules the Western lands by means of money, rural support and congressmen and cenators that turn our co-existence and land management into manure. This misappropriation of wildlife management is subsidizing torture and killing of our wildlife. The killing of so many wolves on the Yellowstone border has shrunk the ability of smaller packs to cover wider territory that wolves usually cover, destroyed the balance in their packs, and caused real harm to globally valuable research. But all this was not enough to stop the killing on the border of Yellowstone this coming season. Multiply the killing of 450 wolves and wolves are being castrated and their range and ability to improve lands will be crushed.

All our wildlife suffers at the hand of management by special interests. Trappers have expanded seasons, wolf snaring, and no setbacks of traps at all in Sanders and half of Lincoln Counties, locking the public out of our public lands, and indiscriminately decimating wildlife. Yet FWP remains adamant about trappers’ ‘freedom’ to kill, disregarding the majority’s right to observe wild animals or recreate without threat of injury or worse.

FWP continues aggressively, no matter the party, to damage wildlife and promote activities no longer in line with a modern America. How can we justify a nine-month season for unlimited beaver trapping in dry eastern Montana for just $28 per trapper? Bobcat and pine marten are so scarce even the trappers complain, but trapping continues. How can we sit by and see wolves destroyed in Idaho and Montana, while ranchers profit from trophy hunting and graze public lands to dust?

Change begins with rebuilding state agencies that act as hired guns for the trophy industry, ranchers, and select politicians, all of whom profit from the slaughter destroying our heritage. Change is coming.

That change comes from our voices, our actions and the removing those from power who continue to destroy the heart of our wildness.