Yellowstone Wolves: Embattled Again

Time Magazine sounds the alarm!

The headline is misleading because Yellowstone National Park’s wolves are not embattled except indirectly by gradual deterioration of their genetics if adjacent non-Park wolf packs are eliminated.

Nevertheless, the article makes it clear the 1200 or so wolves outside the Park are probably threatened with a large reduction in their numbers. The effect of a Time Magazine article is on a national audience, not the local, and it’s good to see the alert go out.

Congressional legislative action is the very best way of preventing large wolf reduction.

Yellowstone Wolves: Embattled Again. By Pat Dawson. Time Magazine



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  1. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    Ralph, what are you proposing regarding Congressional legislative action? Does someone have a bill and is looking for sponsors?

  2. sal Avatar

    Congress ought to be on top of this as it is a direct threat to the ESA, which this administration seems determined to destroy, one way or another.

    I was ina graduate seminar, a few years back, that was an open discussion of the ESA at the age of thirty and whether it is still a viable piece of legislation. During the course of the semester there was held a closed conference of Iterior Dept. heads, acadenics/scientists, and agency specialists.

    The faculty of the course, who were agency personnel AND former ESA program directors AND academics, came back absolutely livid after several heated debates with the Interior folk, with whom they had long been acquainted.

    The general warning that came of that episode of “Bushness” was that the ESA was itself endangered and… “If you think this crap is bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet. What they have in mind for the future is so ugly I can’t talk about it.”

    Basically, unless the current congress can curb Kempthorne and Co. in their quest to ultimately make the rest of we advocates pay for making him look bad concerning his stance on wolves, it’s all going to be a longer, harder, dirtier process that should never have come about in the first place.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Congress could do a lot of things, such as require an independent scientific review of the delisting criteria and the state wolf management plans in view of the fact that the original reintroduction and delisting plan was written in the late 1980s, the actual reintroduction performed in 1995-6, and so much new has been learned in the many years since.

    They could simply put a provision in DOI appropriations bill saying no money shall be spent by the federal government to move forward on delisting during FY 2008.

    There are other possibilities that I should not discuss here.

  4. Mike Wolf Avatar
    Mike Wolf

    The NRMWRP is flawed in more ways that anyone can imagine. Read the beginning of it, it lists 5 reasons why wolves were extirpated:

    Under the heading of “Reasons for Decline” the NRMWRP states:

    According to Young and Goldman (1944) AND Mech (1970), the population decline of the eastern
    timber wolf was a result of: (1) intensive human settlement, (2) direct conflict with domestic livestock,
    (3) a lack of understanding of the animal’s ecology and habits, (4) fears and superstitions concerning
    wolves, and (5) the extreme control programs designed to eradicate it. These factors caused the
    decline in all the wolf populations within the United States, including those in the Northern Rocky
    Mountains. Threatened Wildlife of the United States (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1973) lists land
    development, loss of habitat, poisoning, trapping, and hunting as reasons for decline of the Northern
    Rocky Mountain wolf.

    Examining these 5 things, we can see that #1 has not been addressed, #2 is being very sloppily addressed, and #5 was supposedly addressed; but the new 10j rule reestablishes such programs.

    I saved #3 and #4 for a specific reason. I researched and presented on the failure of the NRMWRP to properly address education. Since we cannot really address human development in wolf habitat, then education is the most important aspect of the causes of decline (even #2, conflicts with livestock, can be remedied with education, as well as legislation) is something that must be addressed through education. Yet, when you examine the plan, education is merely mentioned as something to be pursued. Education is the only part of the NRMWRP that is not given criteria for succes. Yet, in examining the reasons for decline, one sees that education must be the most important aspect, as all other factors are largely uncontrollable.

    It is on this basis that I believe that wolf recovery in the northern rockies was doomed from the onset. And it is on this basis that I believe that delisting should be stopped: if education was not properly addressed, then we still have the reasons for decline in place and as such, it is completely illogical to declare the recovery efforts a success. If I were an attorney, or had the money to hire one, I would argue this point in litigation; and use it as a basis for a legal challenge not only to delisting, but to the plan itself.

    I know Ed Bangs doesn’t want to hear these things, nor does anyone else in FWS or the DOI for that matter. And I know “litigation” is a bad word to these same people and many others. But litigation is our only recourse because FWS has failed to listen to comments, and failed to revise the NRMWRP to reflect that education needed to be better addressed.

    Aside from attacking the NRMWRP on its own terms, I also believe that legislation should have been enacted as well. The NRMWRP never addressed the FACT that livestock in the region have NEVER been managed with wolves present. As such, legislation mandating management changes should have been enacted, after of course, an intense education program. In my opinion, wolves should not have even been reintroduced until after an education program on management, followed by legislation to mandate such practices.

  5. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    Mike Wolf wrote “In my opinion, wolves should not have even been reintroduced until after an education program on management, followed by legislation to mandate such practices.”

    Mike, I don’t know, but I doubt you live in one of the mountainous western states and I doubt you’ve had much contact with public land users. I say this because, and I don’t want to seem closed-minded, an attempt to educate public land users before the introduction would have been met with side-slapping, gut-busting laughter, not to mention extreme resistance.

    In theory, you’ve describe the optimum, but on the ground, in the field, in the real world…

    I don’t think so.

  6. Mike Wolf Avatar
    Mike Wolf

    This is why I won’t address people like you Mack.

    I have lived in Idaho for over 4 years; and have been invovled with ranchers, advocates, and others, and “on the ground” since 1998 as my biggest hobby and now as my job.

    I came here to Idaho to be on the ground, to be around and immersed in the controversy, so I could have a better view of it.

    But unlike some (ahem…), I don’t close my eyes or put blinders on. I accepted my ignorance of issues long ago, and always try to seek out knowledge and truth.

    Also, I am currently in school. I am in a degree program for rangeland management and ecology. I have also worked with livestock and range livestock production. I have seen a lot on the ground.

    When I speak (or in this case type) about these issues, it is with the sum total of my current experience. And I don’t express my opinions unless I believe I know what I am talking about.

    You have illustrated why I do not like to address people like you. You are ignorant, relatively speaking, and try to demonstrate the ignorance of others in an attempt to increase your own credibility relative to others. That is strictly an emotional response on your part, and a tactic in which I will not otherwise engage. I could spend all my time defending my credibility against the likes of you; or I can post my opinions and observations which I base on extensive experience and thought.

    Gee…I wonder which is more productive towards my goals of helping wolves seek recovery and fair treatment from humans? I’m going to take a wild guess and say that most people here would say that not wasting my time with the likes of you would be far more productive.

    Thus is my decision, and here ends my explanation to you and others.

  7. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    Gee, Mike, it seems you did address me after all. Thanks for the attention from your high horse…!

    Don’t take this as a personal attack – it just seems, to me, that some of your ideas are considerably naive and probably unworkable in the real world: “In my opinion, wolves should not have even been reintroduced until after an education program on management, followed by legislation to mandate such practices.”

    Livestock producers would have laughed you off their ranches.

    Personally, I wish you the best in your chosen profession.

  8. Jim Avatar

    I believe the USFW along with private groups like DOW addressed the issue of impact on landowners for a long time before reintroduction and continued to afterward, and still do. But people are going to feel how they are going to feel. All the eudcation you give them won’t change that. I don’t think it was fair to place wolves in an environment hostile to them and it hasn’t been fair the number of wolves killed for the relatively low number of livestock losses. But as Ed Bangs says, wolves can be shot, imported beef and global cannot be. so blame is put on is in front of your face and not where it really belongs.

    Had the USFW waited for “proper” education programs to take place and actually change the minds of people who had been thinking and living a certain way for a long time wolves never would have been reintroduced. Education doesn’t work – people who refuse to see what is plainly true can’t be educated, neither can people who refuse to allow themselves to be educated.

    Also consider that if it had been up the people of ID back in the early nineties wolves wouldn’t have been reintroduced. The legislators that get elected wouldn’t have permitted it. And that is a better measure of how Idahoans feel, by looking at the people they elect and reelect, than is a poll that shows 53% percent of them support wolf recovery.

  9. d. Bailey Hill Avatar

    Jim—- You made an excellent point! People will believe whatever they want, regardless of education. Just because the true facts have been presented does not mean they are going to change their feelings. People have to choose to see the facts. Until the choice has been made, nothing will move forward.


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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