Crying wolf

Crying wolf. By Tony Vagneur. The Aspen Times News (CO)

Tony Vagneur discusses how some “Idaho ranchers exemplify fear” and how others use fear to perform political manipulation.







  1. kt Avatar

    Tony Vagneur’s column is so true.
    But unfortunately, those same raving paranoiacs are some of the very people who have the written the plan (at least the one I have in hand) for wolf management. Let’s see – 24 cows = what? $24,000. Likely a third or so the salary of the head of OSC.

    The “Idaho Wolf Conservation and Management Plan” March 2002 lists Stan Boyd as co-chair of the Idaho legislature’s wolf oversight committee that drafted the plan.

    The Wolf Plan committee was comprised of seven men (kinda like the ID FG Commission composition), see . And among these seven were Stan Boyd and at least two other prominent and often complaining Idaho ranchers, Ted Hoffman (cattle man) and Laird Noh (sheep man). Mr. Hoffman has also been a key figure in interfering with ESA listing for slickspot peppergrass in Idaho.

    There are the names of perhaps a couple non-livestock industry parties, from what I can tell, on the plan.

    AND Mr. Cameron Wheeler, current Chairman of the IDFG Commission, whose voice is heard on the background of the You Tube recording of this week’s IDFG Commission meeting that Ralph has posted, is also one of the authors of the Wolf Plan! Yes, the man who belittles women’s sports, is one of this plan’s authors.

    Even his IDFG Commission Biography shows ties to the livestock industry – he is a real estate broker dealing in – Ta-da – farms and RANCHES.

    See IDFG Commissioner Bios at

    The other names on the Plan I don’t recognize are Jack Lavin and Bob Loucks. Jim Peek is the only biologist (voice in the wilderness?) for sure whose name is on it.

    Maybe Ralph or somebody can explain how this 2002 Plan (which looks like it updated a 1992 document) and appears to be a product of the Idaho Good Old Boys Wolf Domination (or is that annihilation) mindset fits into the equation of what is about to come down with de-listing.

  2. kt Avatar

    And one thing: the “raving” I referred to above is not done by uneducated ranchers as the Aspen article may allude, or out of ignorance. The people who have perfected it are the leaders of the livestock industry. It’s a polished, consistent grating whine to cause distraction from other issues …

  3. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    I had a long conversation with former state Senator Laird Noh while doing research for a master’s level paper on wolf reintroduction. I thought that he was an eminently reasonable man who spoke favorably about wolves. Yes, he is a “sheep man”, but my own interaction with him and from what I have heard from others who have known him for much longer is that he was a moderate voice in a very conservative legislature who spoke eloquently and acted and lead favorably on many conservation issues during his tenure in the legislature.

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    My personal impression of ex-Idaho State Senator Noh (pronounced Nay) is that he was several levels above many of the names mentioned here.

    KT is correct that the Idaho wolf plan was drawn up by the livestock industry and one token wildlife biologist — Dr. Jim Peek of the University of Idaho, who is truly an expert on elk, wolves, and many other matters, especially as applied to Northern Idaho.

    Peek’s presence probably gave the committee and their plan some credibility with USFWS.

  5. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Given that the FWS is going to make its proposal for delisting tomorrow, I would hope that one thing done in the public comments on the proposal is to demand that the FWS start the scientific assessment of the three state plans (Montana, Wyoming, Idaho) over again, from scratch.

    The FWS has badly bungled the entire delisting process, from informing the Wyoming legislature four years ago that the FWS would accept dual status in Wyoming’s plan, to the lousy “peer reviews” of the three state plans, then having to backtrack on Wyoming’s plan, now giving credence to most of Wyoming’s plan. And we also have the true colors of Idaho’s plan. Nothing about the process has any credibility.

    The assessment of the three state plans has been so politicized that it’s worthless.

    I would like to see, although it is unlikely, a National Research Council panel convened to assess the current state of wolf recovery and to develop a model plan for all three states to conform to in order for delisting to proceed and succeed. This should have been done a long time ago.

  6. kt Avatar

    Noh in many respects has a reputation that masks another side when it comes to on-the-ground grazing. Behind the scenes, the same attitude prevails – example – a recent Berger Tract “collaborative” group of some kind trying to get us to pay to kill sagebrush for “forage” for livestock.

    You might also check out the EWG Ag subsidies list under that last name.

    AND unless my memory is clouding up, I recall him favoring the use of 1080 in the sheep collars steamrollered through the wonderful ID legislature (and committees he was on?) while he was still there.

    I think you’re probably right. He got things done in the perceived interest of livestock growers because he was bright and moderate on non-livestock issues. He would do things like support education spending and oppose measures from the cultural fringe. Whereas the typical livestock politician supports livestock, period. . . no give along with the take, no bargaining, no negotiation.

  7. kt Avatar

    AND, here it is from the EPA about Mr. Noh:

    Mr. Michael A. Guerry, President of the Idaho Wool Growers
    Association; Mr. Mark Collinge, State Director of Idaho Wildlife
    Services, United States Department of Agriculture; Ms. Judy Woodie,
    President of the Idaho Cattle Association; and Mr. Laird Noh of Noh
    Sheep Company were the four persons submitting comments on the
    amendment. All commenters confined their remarks to the predator
    control aspects of the amendment. All commenters expressed the opinion
    that 1080 LPCs were a valuable tool and supported the predator control
    provisions of the amendment.

  8. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel

    The sheep go out, the sheep come in. The cattle goes out and the cattle comes in. What happens in the interim? Who watches over them? Not a soul, usually. What ever happened to the cowboy who lived with his herds? They cost too much money to pay competitive wages. So the ranchers pay $600 to $800 a month for foreign herders, who do not really care for the herd, because it is not theirs.

    The lack of animal husbandry is the culprit in livestock losses. There are ranchers who have minimized loss to inventive practices, such as the Sun Ranch in Cameron, MT

  9. be Avatar

    Tony Vagneur hit the nail on the head.

  10. Jordan Avatar

    I recall (but might be mistaken in my advancing age — where’s my glasses — where’s my cane?) that Jack Lavin used to be a bigwig on the Boise NF and that Bob Loucks was a county agent in Lemhi County where the town of Salmon is located so he would count as a pro-cowman

    Kimberly sheepman and retired State Senator Laird Noh was considered too intelligent by the far right that’s taken over or is trying to take over Idaho and was targeted to be ousted. So give Laird some slack. If you’ve been around sheep all your life you probably get a bit sheepish with regards to understanding coyotes or anything else that likes to eat lamb.

    My advice, wolf advocates – live a healthy life (free of beef) and try to outlive the current Idaho power structure that has no use for any predator.

    And, Keep your sense of humor and reach out to reach the unwashed choir in the middle — who doesn’t yet have a opinion on wolves, or livestock grazing or slickspot pepper grass.

    Most of all – be the sunshine, not the darkness. Wolves will make it if we plod fast wisely on their behalf.

    Now, altogether: “We shall overcome, we shall overcome, we shall over come some day ..

    Seriously (but not too seriously lest the blood pressure go up), as a longtime Idahoan who cares about wolves, I’ve been singing this civil rights song a lot. I live where there’s no one to hear me but the wolves.

    Face the sunshine. Not the shadow. Believe. We can stop this madness that Butcher Otter and Nate Helm and others have wrought since the New Year began.

  11. Rob-S Avatar

    I’ve known lots of ranchers over my life time as I grew up on a ranch and most all neighbors were ranchers. Yes, there have been some bad apples as there are in any industry. However, this is not true for all as it is implied by Tony’s article. Unfortunately the ranchers get the bum rap for everytthing in relation to wolf restoration and public lands. They are better stewards of the land than they have been in the past and as I have witnessed. They are also more environmentally conscientious. It angers me when I see articles like this that implies “ALL” ranchers are bad. Many of them believe that the wolf advocates have on their agenda to rid public lands of cattle which is no different than the wolf advocates believing that the big livestock operations are in politics or are politically driven to rid the public lands of the wolves. What is needed is for both groups to work with and trust each other then maybe some good can be accomplished from both sides. I do not or have not witnessed this type of cooperation.

  12. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I’ve thought about this over the years. I think a lot of the problem has been that the wise ranchers rarely subject the “bad apples” to any kind of discipline, that is to effective social pressure to do a better job protecting the outdoors.

    In fact some of the worst examples rise to the top and run the livestock associations. That’s why KT knows their names.

    I know a lot of ranchers refuse to join the associations. I also know that about half of the public land cattle in Idaho are owned by one corporate organization. A lot of this is not really ranchers at all, but corporations.

  13. be Avatar

    “I do not or have not witnessed this type of cooperation.”

    here’s an org that bends over backwards

    oops ! i don’t think i’m supposed to say that… 😉

  14. kt Avatar

    Well, not only do they run the livestock organizations, they are part of a specific political agenda that pushes a no holds barred exploitation of public lands. Livestock industry people, and their perfected and constant whines, are much more accepted frontmen for the pillaging of the public lands by private interests -than, say – a mining company executive.

    While we are distracted with endless stories of Wolf Hate and the loss of 24 cattle in a state that has 2.5 million cattle (somehow that last part never makes it into the mainstream media), it’s much easier to forget about Simplot phosphate claims in the Caribou, or the latest “Healthy Forests” stewardship logging atrocity.

    There’s nothing like whining squealing ranchers to capture the media eye. And now, there are Sportsmen for Hate who have adopted that same whine (elk are being eaten by a natural predator – woe is us – waaah it’s an affront to our manlihood that we can’t kill them as easily from the road) – and who in many ways simply serve the same purpose. The Wolf Hate movement was spawned and engineered to purposefully distract, as Ralph has been pointing out. While we’re all looking at a sports men group headed by an ex-Craig staffer crying Wolves are a Menace, Wolves are a Menace – you can bet the cash registers a ca-chinging for industry that makes its $$$ off public lands behind our backs.

    They know Wolf Hate is a proven winner, especially in a western state with limited and often poor media, a history of, shall we say, “hate” ideology in some regions, and where writers produce puff and personality pieces more than fact and faceted issue pieces.

    It’s straight out of the Karl Rove playbook. Right before the 2004 election, run the commercial about wolves to scuttle Kerry.

    AND the other big distraction for the media in Idaho and increasing elesewhere in the West is, of course, the quid pro quo wilderness schemes. Purposefully designed to split environmentalists, and distract from the real pillaging of public lands that is occurring.

  15. Karl Moore Avatar
    Karl Moore

    Rob S, I’m with you. I don’t like these types of articles because they tend to divide the two sides of the issue. We need something to bring both sides together so that a compromise can be worked out that makes the most people happy.

    I love the wilderness and the wildlife that lives there. I can remember exactly where I was the day in 1995 when the first wolves were released in Yellowstone. I hope they are still around when my son gets old enough to appreciate them.

    But I can also see the other side. Other than the big corporations, there aren’t a whole lot of ranchers vacationing in Cabo San Lucas in the winter. They were told at the outset what was needed for a sustainable population. Those goals were met a long time ago (at least the population goals). In the case of Idaho, the levels are six times the requirement.

    I’m not in favor of a whole scale slaughter of those over the minimum, in fact I would like to see the population spread. But from the rancher’s viewpoint, when is enough going to be enough? Is the goal of the ESA to repopulate the nation to historical levels or is it to maintain a sustainable level to ensure future generations get the chance to witness a part of our past?

    I applaud DOW’s reimbursement policy. But I think it’s time to take it a step further. Find those ranchers that are helping to develop more wilderness, taking the steps to avoid wolf/livestock interactions, and reducing the stress put on public lands through grazing allotments. Ensure these ranchers are compensated for their efforts, or at an absolute minimum, for their losses (double the price they get for confirmed wolf kills…). If supporting wolf reintroduction is economical for them, if not financially beneficial, it won’t take long to get more of them on the band wagon.

    Let’s quit attacking those who’s minds we will never change. Let’s start winning some of the moderates over to our side. We might not get exactly what we want, but we’ll get a lot closer to it.

  16. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    “AND the other big distraction for the media in Idaho and increasing elesewhere in the West is, of course, the quid pro quo wilderness schemes. Purposefully designed to split environmentalists, and distract from the real pillaging of public lands that is occurring.”

    Sheesh, kt. Have you anything positive to say about anyone or anything? This last comment is interesting. From my perspective, it seems environmentalists are doing a pretty good job of splitting themselves over the “quid pro quo wilderness”. What I see are groups working the reality of the political landscape and the others who cry foul all the time but are unwilling to compromise on any of it! All or nothing just doesn’t work, politically speaking…

  17. be Avatar

    alright, i’ve been waiting for a more appropriate topic but here goes anyway –

    “What I see are groups working the reality of the political landscape”

    The idea that there was “collaberation” is absurd. READ THIS DOCUMENT. It precludes participation from “Jon Marvel” and his followers with regard to the Owyhee Initiative. The document also takes a priori the issue of grazing off of the table.

    ICL (i’ll use the name because I do not claim to represent any of the parties and am tiring of the giant elephant) and the others watched as the ANNOUNCEMENT of the OI (Owyhee Initiative) working group founding precluded the participation of any adversarial voice to the most substantially relevant exploitative industry. Then they claimed “collaberation”? “compromise”? “Green groups” participation in industry end-games is hardly what I think of when I hear those words. I assume that if the staunch industry interest is at the table – then the staunch green interest will be there as well and that their struck deal will be “collaberative” or “compromise.” I at least assume that their voices will be heard – what issues were the industry folk not allowed to bring up? what industry groups were not allowed to send a letter or contribute their voice? The truth is they didn’t have to – their interests were granted up front – before any conversation took place. Perhaps the “reality of the political landscape” meant that the only leverage the ICL (& other) had was their willingness to participate or their threat to pull out and refuse to infuse the process with the political capital its green-cover affords… Congress flips and the groups still want the bill borne of the “political landscape” which apparently necessitated the green roll-over.

    I’ll sit down to poker with any of those green groups any day!

    The reality from my perspective – and you’ll never hear many admit it – is that it is the so-called “others who cry foul all the time but are unwilling to compromise” that give ICL et al the political chips to play with. It’s not their fault that the groups at the table are unwilling to play them. They’re certainly willing to take credit though.

    Even CIEDRA demonstrates a lop-sided “collaberation.” At the beginning there was a voluntary buy-out – then *poof* it’s gone. And what did you hear from those “greens” at the table? {chirp chirp, chirp chirp}. There’s your “compromise.”

    the protection of 319,000 acres comes at the expense of future wilderness bills. these “wilderness” bills will set the tone for the incoming freshman – who are sympathetic to the genuine conservation interest. let’s not let these bills be their precedent for future wilderness “protection.” – There are provisions in the bills that are land/asset give-aways – let those provisions stand alone for vote. let those unwilling to vote for wilderness for its own sake explain themselves before their constituents.

    the willingness of the “conservationists” sympathetic to the right-wingers to cast-aside/disregard/exclude the contribution of other conservationist organizations is indicative of a stance which is deserving of criticism. it ought to be rejected on principle so as to undercut its legitimacy and prevent its future excersize.

    that principled rejection promises to serve the “green-interest” long into the future and well beyond the boundaries of the so-called wilderness at stake in these bills. it demonstrates our backbone and that if any politician wants wilderness associated with their legacy – they will have to settle for a more genuine wilderness.

    it is critically important that people at least understand that the “wilderness” bills are more than wilderness. the process under which they were drawn up is tainted, the fruit is beginning its rot and the actors are cherry-picked to serve an interest other than genuine wilderness.

    it’d be nice to see “green-groups” as eager to collaberate with their fellow conservationists in these bills as they are eager to speak with industry and right-wing politicians.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan