Defenders of Wildlife considers fate of grizzly payment program

Defenders never seems to get credit for its program that reimburses ranchers for livestock losses to wolves. Ever fewer know they pay for losses to grizzly bears (except in Wyoming where the Game and Fish Department runs a “gravy train” for ranchers who say the lost livestock to grizzlies).

Should Defenders continue paying for bears in the Greater Yellowstone (in Idaho and Montana) with delisting?

Story in the Billings Gazette. By Mike Stark.

It doesn’t cost them much, but there is the principle of the thing.







  1. elkhunter Avatar

    I read this on the internet, We wouldn’t want to give you the impression that Defenders instituted a
    program in which they knew they could not lose unless that is what they
    had planned. Hank Fischer, Representative for Defenders of Wildlife,
    stated: “The purpose of a compensation program isn’t to make ranchers
    happy or gain their support,… The purpose of the program is to
    develop enough of a political and economic comfort level with the
    public so as to allow wolf recovery to proceed unimpeded.” It has
    worked very well for them.
    I dont think they really want the support of ranchers, just the support of the general public.

  2. Wolfen Avatar

    Why should defenders receive credit for their reimbursement to ranchers when the ranchers did not want or need wolves in the first place knowing that their livestock would be killed by wolves. I have been told by several ranchers that defenders does not always compensate at full value for fall prices regardless of when the kill occurred. In some cases ranchers have only been partially compensated.

    This is no different than when ranchers sell their grazing permits to a conservation group or place fewer cattle on public lands or do habitat improvement projects for damage cattle may have done. Ranchers have not been given credit. From what I have read on other threads kt and the likes can only tear down and ridicule instead of give credit where credit is due. I feel no different towards defenders of wildlife. Maybe if the wolf advocates gave a little credit for livestock owners where and when it is due then the ranchers might be somewhat more sympathetic and give some credit to Defenders of wildlife.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I think Defenders should not compensate these folks unless their livestock is killed on private land.

    Public land ranchers get ample subsidy from the public treasury by below market grazing fees. They have no legal or ethical claim for additional private subsidization of a basically harmful economic enterprise.

    Dealing with recreationists, dealing with timber sales, dealing with mining operations, and dealing with predators on public land are a cost of running livestock on public lands.

  4. elkhunter Avatar

    If they dont wanna keep running the program, then let the ranchers protect their cattle in a manner that is effective. I have heard from alot of ranchers that it is almost impossible sometimes to get the money from them, that you almost have to bring in a crime lab to prove it was killed by a wolf/bear. Especially calves, 10 hungry wolves dont leave much of a young calf I imagine.

  5. be Avatar

    compensate ranchers that have demonstrated a willingness to use predator-friendly ranching techniques on private land.

    the “ample subsidy from the public treasury” point ralph mentioned is right on the money.

    look – there is some visceral antagonistic response that is borne of a confluence of frustrations – having little to do with wolves/predators and perhaps more to do with market forces that are squeezing ranching operations out of business – wolves are a red herring. the best way of dealing with this is not by pumping that problem full of money which has done nothing to mitigate those irrationally hostile feelings. perhaps universal healthcare – to include mental healthcare – is the answer.

    i hope defenders has learned that their good faith efforts to more-than-reasonably mitigate a less-than-rational concern is futile if it ever hoped to curb the whining and discontent. if those ranchers that continue to whine were genuinely concerned with their economic ‘interests’ – the program would be wildly succesful. perhaps it is because these folk are more focused on the red herrings of predators – and less concerned with organizing around their actual economic interests (such as against corporate takeover and control of the commodity chain – & globalization) – that the conditions which perpetuate the insolvency of their present state are taking place.

    of coarse – that would entail reason rather than spiteful reaction…

    defenders’ program has succeeded (perhaps inadvertently) in demonstrating to the public something that many have known all along – that the qualms these ranchers have is not based on reason, science, or good-faith-self-interest. it is based on something else – something which those who are willing to listen to the natural world and be nourished by its peace, diversity, and authenticity will not be able to placate with reason alone.

    i hope that defenders comes to the conclusion that given the chill reaction their generous program has recieved from its beneficiaries, their donors’ dollars are more efficiently/effectively spent on other fronts – or that those that have benefitted from the recompensation program take it upon themselves to demonstrate the integrity of stepping up and dropping some op-eds to the tune of illustrating their appreciation – lest a few vociferously ungrateful bunch doesn’t ruin a good thing – as far as self-interest is concerned.

  6. Wolfen Avatar

    I agree with Ralph somewhat. Ranchers should be compensated for wolf kills on private land. However, just as you state that dealing with recreationists, dealing with timber sales, dealing with mining operations, and dealing with predators on public land are a cost of running livestock on public lands likewise, the livestock owner has a vested interest in his livestock and private land. He should not only be compensated for wolf kills on private land but he should also be allowed to kill any and every wolf that harrasses, kills, crosses his land without interference from FWS, Fish and game or conservationists as they are a threat to his economical llivelihood. I am sure there would be alot more wolves killed this way than the mere 53 or so the FWS killed in 2006. Like you say, this is some of the costs of dealing with the wolf but on private land……..

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Ranchers can legally and do kill wolves that harass or kill their livestock, but killing one that crosses their property is another matter. The days of needing a permit are gone, at least in Idaho and Montana.

    You might want to think about the legal status of wildlife in general. Wildlife are the legal property of the state, such as the State of Colorado or the state of Oregon. People cannot generally kill wildlife that are classified as game on their land unless they have a hunting license. Others kinds of wildlife cannot legally be killed at all under the laws of various states.

    Because wolves are classified as game in all the states with wolves (except Wyoming which has no management authority), allowing a landowner to shoot a wolf that is merely on the property is legally no different than allowing him to shoot a deer or a moose that is on the property and saying “it was eating my dogwood, grass, or sagebrush.”

    It opens the door to private killing of game without a license. You probably don’t want that. Even if you do, most people do not.

  8. Denise Johnson Avatar
    Denise Johnson

    Stop all subsities to ranchers period.
    Right on…Ralph and BE!!!
    Wolves are killed everyday legally since reintroduction.
    And it is easy to tell what prey is doing the killing of cows/calves.
    Now they want to do the same thing with BEARS! What next????
    I have a neighbor that had to kill elk that were destroying his apple orchard. He repededly asked the State to control the herd by fencling his orchard (as he was only 93 yrs. old at the time). The State finally fenced the orchard after he killed the elk, with his lawyer on site.
    Now the elk herds have been driven out of their migration route, fenced in and feed by hunting operations and are on the decline because of humans and developement. Note: to ELKHUNTER: There are NO WOLVES in this State!

  9. chris Avatar

    Defenders of Wildlife’s compensation program was a good faith gesture in an attempt to respect those who don’t respect back. A large part, if not all, of that money comes from private citizens in favor of wolf and grizzly recovery. They are not going to get to all the kills but every cent they pay out is one cent they didn’t have to. And it wouldn’t be beneath some ranchers to blame wolves and grizzlies for every loss, even some of those killed by the predominant killers (disease and weather). Or to pretend they can’t kill wolves to defend their cows when in fact they can.

    What about ranchers keeping a better eye on their herd to discourage wolves or find dead cows quicker? What about changing husbandry practices? These things would take more time and effort, while lying and whining take such little. Better husbandry would pay off in the long run and actually protect livestock from all mortality causes until they can be killed by people. But politics reigns over common sense, and short term testosterone release prevails over real solutions.

  10. Wolfen Avatar

    For all you wolf advocates who hate the livestock industry maybe you should all complain to someone who really cares and can get the regulations changed. A good place to start is to get the support of one of your conservation groups to lobby congress. You all whine and moan about the cattle rancher and how he runs his cattle on public lands so let me point out some facts for you.

    1. The federal government (being the BLM, FS, etc.) made the rules and regulations regarding public land grazing.

    2. The feds also establish the rules for how often cattle are moved from one allotment to another, whether an allotment should be rested, and how many cattle are allowed to be on that allotment.

    2. The feds also set the $1.56 price per aum, not the livestock industry. Obviously it is the feds, not the livestock rancher, who does not value our public lands as they set the price much lower than fees for private land grazing.

    3. The feds made the rules and regulations dealing with wolf depredation, whether it is on public land or private land. And yes, this does include removal of problem wolves even though the depredations may have occurred on public lands.

    It is not that difficult to understand any of the above.

    Bottom line #1: The cattle rancher lives by the rules and regulatilons allowed by law. If you are trying to get the rancher to change his habits from what the law allows then more than likely it will not happen.

    Bottom line #2: As you can see, the very taxes you pay to the federal government are being used by the federal government to abuse our public lands at your expense.

    It does not make sense to whine and complain and bad mouth the rancher yet pay into the federal government for allowing these practices to happen. In a way that is hypocritical.

    Bottom line #3: Boycott the federal government. If you do not, yet complain about the rancher and his grazing practices then you are being a hypocrite.

    Bottom line #4: You want the rules and regulations changed with respect to public land grazing then lobby congress, run for office, join forces with some conservation group to lobby congress for change.

  11. elkhunter Avatar

    Denise, First off I have no idea what state you live in. You might want to include that when you make such an amazing point. And of course humans and loss of habitat is the main reason of animal populations declines, I never said it wasnt,congratulations you just learned what we have known for decades. Good Job.


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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