Delisting wolves won’t change much in the West . . . Rocky Barker

In this Writers on the Range piece, Rocky Barker, well known author and reporter at the Idaho Statesman opines that despite Governor Otter’s strong anti-wolf statement and all the anti-wolf talk among officials, not all that much will happen to the Idaho wolves.

Delisting wolves won’t change much in the West.

I should add that one promient former wolf manager has indirectly offered a somewhat different opinion, and speculated that he could probably kill 90% of the wolves in Idaho by himself if he had an airplane, pilot, and radio receiver (not that he wanted to do this–indeed, quite the opposite).

Barker is correct that much of the anti-wolf sentiment is not realy sentiment against the animal. It is based on dislike of various groups of each other, and as Barker says, dislike of the federal government. That these things are true should be very obvious from reading the anti-wolf (and pro-wolf too) comments on this blog.

Update: it seems that almost as soon as I posted this about group conflict, folks from all kinds of social groups who don’t like each other weighed to pretty much confirm the paragraph above.



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  1. kt Avatar

    I think Rocky Barker is just trying to do damage control for Butch Otter and the lot of Republican Thugs in charge in Idaho these days. Barker has always given ranchers and sagebrush rebel types (like in the Owyhee Intiative) an inexplicable pass, often writing about personalities much more than issues, facts, or what is really going on in plundering the public’s lands.

    As if he is so enamored with the myth he is afraid to lay bare any of the livestock industry’s dark and nasty side. Since Barker has has been steadfast in not really delving into the dark side of public lands ranching (which is really behind much of the wolf debate), his opinion is not to be trusted here.

    If the Statesman, Idaho’s major newspaper and where Barker rules the roost in enviro reporting, were to, every time it wrote about wolves in the coming year, presented the hard numbers on what tiny fraction of public lands livestock – and the even tinier number of ranchers ever have wolf “problems” – and also wrote about who these ranchers are (often like Faulkner, Soulen, and others – large, elite and/or wealthy livestock people) – it would go a long way toward banishing some of the hysteria over this. But NO. That would mean presenting people with facts – something the Idaho Statesman is loathe to do when it comes to the public lands livestock industry.

    Barker is doing damage control to try to untarnish some of the savage image that Otter has exposed to the world. After all, the Statesman needs all those naive people to keep moving here, under the illusion that Idaho is some nice and unspoiled place – in ignorance of the hatred that is often not far below the surface …

    It is true, is it not, KT, that much of the wolf controversy is really a surrogate for conflict between groups and sub-cultures over other matters? Ralph

  2. Alan Gregory Avatar

    I suspect (and I speak with 32 years of print journalism experience behind me) that Barker — without even realizing it — is trying almost too hard to achieve the so-called balance most reporters try to achieve in their straight news-page articles. Of course, “balance” doesn’t mean much when one side is so obviously off the mark (as is Butchy Otter). But most reporters are trapped into reporting this “balance” side by inertia, if nothing else. All the Rocky Barkers of the journalism world could learn a lot through a couple of readings of Michael Frome’s book “Green Ink.”

  3. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    Wow, kt, I’m really surprised you managed to churn out yet another conspiracy theory while once again saying nothing positive about anyone. Could it be that Rocky Barker is writing his perception of reality based on his observations of this issue over many years? Could it be that simple or is there always some dark, under-cover cabal at the root of every story relating to public lands? (You really don’t have to answer, I could guess what it would be.) I strongly agree that the wolf conflict is a surrogate for other issues as Ralph suggests, I just don’t subscribe to the sky-is-falling mentality (espoused by both sides) that this is a crisis of the first degree. It sure does bother me that Otter wants to reduce the numbers down to the minimum, but I guess I have a bit more faith in the political process that this can be addressed. It is worth trying, anyway…

  4. kt Avatar

    It’s not a conspiracy theory. It’s watching how Barker has written about the livestock industry for however long he has been with the Statesman.

    “Salt of the earth rancher, striving to make a living, set upon by envtl laws, enviros, blah … blah … blah…”. Nary a word about how that rancher is abusing the public’s land, or the facts behind ranching issue.

  5. Rob-S Avatar

    kt. You’re forgetting that the Feds made the laws not the ranchers. Get the laws changed and the excellent practices you seek for on public lands will change! You can complain about this all you want but their has to be a group willing to push this before the politicians to get it changed.

  6. kt Avatar

    Ralph – Response to your “it’s a surrogate” – yes, but the key point is that a primary reason it has BECOME a surrogate and REMAINED a surrogate for so long is the “pass” that writers like Barker give to the public lands livestock industry in their personality piece writing about public lands ranching.

    Until there is “balanced” reporting on the dark and nasty side of public lands ranching industry, there will be a continued wolf controversy. Until Barker reports that the Sportsmen for Hate are largely a front (even though most of the foot soldiers unknowingly so) for the livestock industry, and are a perfect Karl Rove type front group to stir up controversy under the guise of “poor elk hunters can’t find elk by roads anymore”, then the controversy will remain.

  7. kt Avatar

    OK – Here you go – a perfect example of Barker drivel with rancher as interpreter of the land/steward of the earth.

    What is missing from this piece is any information on the condiitons of the public lands that the Bachmans themselves graze (NOT the Shoofly lands here the article is about), how portions of a WSA in the lands that THEY DO GRAZE was to be RELEASED to new livestock developments under the OI (i.e, not to be part of the Owyhee Intitiative “wilderness”), that Bachman was a secondary beneficiary of the Brackett million dollar Bombing Range Buy-out, that Bachman was a former bigwig at the Simplot feedlot near Grand View, etc.

    The OTHER side of this story is there are problems with conditions on the public lands where the rancher-interpreter here runs cows on public lands (largely exotics and not much native veg left) AND that the reason the land where they are bouncing along in the pick-up is in such good shape is that THERE IS NO WATER IN THE UPLANDS, so the cows do not go there and degrade the bunchgrasses.

  8. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    So now it is Rocky Barker’s fault. This is priceless!

  9. Eric T. Avatar
    Eric T.

    Did you look at the tagline of the article? It is in the Idaho Outdoors Seven Wonders of Idaho section. So yes the article should and is about one of the Seven Wonders of Idaho. Why should Barker tackle the other subjects in what is essentially an human interest piece? He mentions in the article that Bachman worked for BLM and Simplot. I remember a book Barker wrote “Saving all the Parts”. I don’t believe he gave ranchers a free pass in the book.

    If the “anti-wolf” SFW is the Sportsmen for Hate, kt’s term, then the “pro-wolf” WWP should be labeled as Watersheds for Hate given kt’s various diatribes.

  10. kt Avatar


    You might be interestd in some of the principles discussed here:

    Who owns the Statesman? A large entity. I forget who it even is now. Their basic fare is lightweight articles, heavy on the sports, and they are trying to Appeal to a 25-35 demographic to sell advertisements. When asked Why doesn’t the Statesman take a more investigative reporting slant, one of the response folks have gotten is: “Oh, well, they changed hands again, and they’re not sure what to do …”.

    Bottom line is when the public, in lightweight article after lightweight article is NOT informed about many of the facts behind an issue, industry (like livestock) continues to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes.

    The Statesman was so nasty about trying to monopolize print media in Boise a couple years babck, that they tried to run the ONE alternative news paper in Boise out of business – the Boise Weekly – by publishing a competitive weekly called Thrive and siphon off advertisers. The Statesman chain at the time did the same thing elsewhere to Alt. Press. It did not work here, and BW has survived.

    And Yes, I believe it IS to some degree Barker’s fault – when it comes to ranching, he will NOT report what is really going on.

  11. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    kt – well, in this case, Rocky was not writing for the Statesman and you did choose a pretty interesting article to use as an example of “lightweight” journalism, as Eric T. pointed out. I agree that the Statesman is not really a top tier newspaper and is, for the most part, pretty lightweight, but I think Rocky has an excellent reputation, nonetheless, and his reporting is better than the tripe that the Statesman printed following the Gore speech when Barker was, for whatever reason, not available to cover it.

    And good for the BW for weathering the storm a couple of years back. I think it made them better in the long run, which is good for everyone.

  12. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I’m not going to comment on whether Rocky is not telling the story very well.

    I know him pretty well, and have for many years. I know KT too. I think they are both good folks. KT really cares about these things because she sees them day after day in the field, in the BLM offices, etc. You study the laws, regulations, have a detailed knowledge of the country and of range biology, and it’s hard to remain mild-mannered.


    I do want to point out that one reason blogs are just exploding all over the Internet is because of the perception that the regular media are not doing the job.

    Readership of this blog just keeps growing, and so too with most others that have frequent news. And if you don’t like any particular blog, there are so many others to choose from!!

    I think this is a real victory for free speech, for once.

  13. kt Avatar

    Matt – My initial point – at the beginning of this – was that Barker (the Headwaters piece) was doing “damage control” for the well-deserved black eye that Idaho has been getting because, for once, the truth that there is a real undercurrent of a culture of domination of the land and hatred of the natural world in Idaho was getting out. The Headwaters piece, in my opinion, was done to try to soften that image.

    And you don’t think a reporter has responsibility to examine, when he portrays someone as an interpreter of the condition of the land, to examine anything about the condition of the land that the interpreter grazes, that the WSA area (in SOMEONE ELSE’S ALLOTMENT) looks so good basically because the cows don’t go there? And that the very same ranching couple that is swooning over the lovely country being wilderness IS NOT SUPPORTING wilderness in the land that they graze?

    If Barker’s gonna be writing about the “Seven Wonders of Idaho”, is there any responsibility to mention THE OVERWHELMING CAUSE of threats to the Owyhee portion of the Seven Wonders is public lands grazing? I think there is. Even nature shows on TV, usually at the end, say ” … and the woolly coated lemur is much threatened by logging and encroachment”.

  14. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    kt – I fully agree that the press has some responsibility. Your analysis about the “damage control” as actually interesting. Made me think about it in a different light. I think you are onto something. I just think you came off overly critical of Rocky, in my opinion. I don’t know him as well as Ralph, and I presume you know him, too. I know he’s had plenty of time in his career to do a story such as this, but on the other hand, maybe not. He does work for a company, so who knows what he’s written that’s not been published. Perhaps he could be convinced.

    As for the bit about blogs, Ralph, I think you are right, too. The problem is that there is an abundance of them, to say the least, and it is hard to sort out the truth from all the noise. I’m not sure if blogs actually help that or not…

  15. Denise Johnson Avatar
    Denise Johnson

    Rocky needs to take a trip to the Buffalo Bar in Dell MT. He will see a detailed photo history of what a hunter can do in an airplane with a radio and a gun to the wolf population. Things in Idaho will not be status quo after the delisting. The cattleman will make it a slaughter. As shown by the regions of public lands that are targeted.

    What are the IDFG going to do to keep the radio collared wolves, and the minium of 10 breeding pairs??

    It will be a free for all it appears to me.
    Thanks for the great forum Ralph.
    Always food for thought! It is a great tool to educate, and give a voice to the otherwise silenced.

  16. Elizabeth Avatar

    Indeed, how will the radio collar issue be addressed????

  17. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Did anyone who went to the ID F and G commission meeting hear them talk about the radio collars?

    For a $10 wolf tag it appears they can wipe out $500 to $3000 worth of labor that it takes to apply a collar.

  18. kt Avatar

    I don’t recall any talk about radio collars – there could have been some passing reference early on, but particularly not in the context of costs.

    Steve Nadeau gave his powerpoint presentation that showed Wolf Pelt Tag #1, and Commissioner’s Tags and that took awhile.
    And it was pretty much a Commissioner feeding frenzy of anticipation of divvying up the tags, and a bunch of back and forth about what fees should be, a bit of reference to the legislature, and then in the end the checking with the OSC Atty to see if they were on the right track, and then the talk by OSC Jim Caswell and fretting about Idaho losing federal funding and figuring out how they could keep getting federal funds, culminating in Cameron Wheeler’s sexist remarks about how wolves weren’t going to pay their way, like women’s sports — that Ralph has the tape of Posted. Anybody else recall?

    And no discussion at the IDFG Press Conference the following Monday, for sure.

  19. jordan Avatar

    Re. radio collars. It would be my guess that IDFG would discourage hunters from killing collared wolves, but it would not be illegal. Collars are difficult to see at a distance, or in dim light or when a wolf has a thick winter coat.

    Also, IDFG will continue to collar several wolves in every pack to assure that hunters can be given the latest information on where to find them.

    I think Rocky is mistaken in saying that delisting and hunting wolves won’t change much. A wolf season will bring every predator hater and trophy hunter from around the world to Idaho. Big game guides will follow wolf packs year around , learning their habits and assuring that hunters in their charge will be successful.

    With the help of telemetry, baiting, howling, predator calls and winter tracking, killing 500 wolves would probably take 2-3 hunting seasons.

    The packs near where I live could easily be wiped out when on an elk kill. I hope the day of wolf hunting NEVER comes.


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Ralph Maughan