Idaho "wolf viewing area" language is a menace to hunters and wildlife watchers.

You might say, “how’s that? I know it is awful language and a fraud, but how is it dangerous to wildlife watching and hunting in general?

It is dangerous because it arguably transfers ownership of the state’s wildlife to outfitters. Let me write that again, it implicitly transfers ownership of Idaho wildlife from the state of Idaho to private outfitters.

The state of Idaho owns all wildlife in Idaho, and it is managed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. This same is true in other states.

The mission statement of the Department reads: “All wildlife, including all wild animals, wild birds, and fish, within the state of Idaho, is hereby declared to be the property of the state of Idaho. [emphasis mine] It shall be preserved, protected, perpetuated, and managed. It shall be only captured or taken at such times or places, under such conditions, or by such means, or in such manner, as will preserve, protect, and perpetuate such wildlife, and provide for the citizens of this state and, as by law permitted to others, continued supplies of such wildlife for hunting, fishing and trapping.”

Recall that the wolf watching area section of the Idaho wolf population management plan reads:

1. Primarily public land, or private land where landowners agree to low or no wolf harvest.
2. No, or heavily controlled livestock grazing or agreements with landowners and producers that allow viewing and acknowledge a high risk of wolf predation.
3. Any livestock conflicts will be addressed through an incremental approach of proactive nonlethal management, lethal removal and compensation for livestock losses.
4. Provisions exist to protect domestic dogs from wolf attacks.
5. Provisions exist for harvest or lethal removal of wolves if conflicts with ungulates or livestock become excessive.
6. Outfitters in the area agree to the strategy and are eligible for financial compensation, through non-government organizations, to offset differential losses between hunting opportunity and wolf viewing revenue. [emphasis mine]
7. Viewing areas will not be considered permanent and may be moved around the state as needed to address biological and social issues.

– – – – – –

If wildlife belongs to Idaho, why do outfitters have to agree to wildlife watching, and why must they be compensated by people to watch wolves or any other kind of wildlife? Receiving compensation is the prerogative of owners of something.

As we know there are stealthy wildlife privatizers out there. Some have suggested SFW (the misnamed Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife interest group) is leading the way for those who seek wildlife for the rich, Dick Cheney-type “hunters.”

Even today, citizen hunters know they are unwelcome and being pushed around in Idaho, Wyoming and other states by outfitters. Some folks might want to recount some hunting tales.

With a friendly-to-SFW-Idaho-legislature and a complaisant F & G Commission, provision no. 6 above could easily be rewritten by some sneaky legislator to say “outfitters in the area must agree to the presence of other hunters in their area, and hunters must pay the outfitters to offset the differential losses between outfitter client hunting opportunities and private hunting.”

While their wolf watching area plan as written is an awful idea under any condition, if compensation is to by paid to watch wolves or to watch any wildlife, it absolutely must go to the state of Idaho, not a private individual.

Tell people not to give ownership of Idaho wildlife away to outfitters! Please write a letter to the editor in an Idaho newspaper.
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Here is my earlier critique of the wolf watching areas portion of the plan.



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  1. Buffaloed Avatar

    That is something that I have been thinking as well Ralph. Thanks for pointing it out so succinctly. I could see that wording coming up in some kind of unrelated court case.

    Ranchers and outfitters do not own our wildlife.

  2. kt Avatar

    Are the non-outfitted folks “private” hunters – or citizen hunters?

    The moves toward privatization of wildilfe for commercial hunting interests are like “farming” public lands to “produce” the big antler crop.

  3. JB Avatar

    Let’s cut to the chase. We all agree that Idaho owns F&W in the state, and Ralph is right to point out IDF&G’s flawed logic; however, I think that type of argument will be ignored by IDF&G when they (presumably) address comments regarding their wolf management plan.

    My opinion–and it is just that–is that IDF&G will structure their responses to comments similar to the way FWS responds to comments on species’ listings/de-listings. Here FWS tends to address scientific, management, policy, and management questions/comments. If you’re response is too…ideological (for lack of a better term), it is likely to be ignored. If you want to make a comment that has a chance of being addressed, then focus on how they will implement criteria #6. That is, how will they determine which outfitters qualify for reimbursement? Is it actually possible to determine an economic loss related to the presence of wolves in an area? What if modeling efforts show an economic gain? Will outfitters be required to pay NGOs?

    Why take this approach? (1) You point out how absurd the policy is without sounding like a crazed, pissed-off wolf-lover (even if you are), (2) These types of comments are more likely to be addressed, and (3) FWS (presumably) will look at how these comments are addressed; the comments (and IDF&G’s response) will be public record–which could be used in future lawsuits.

  4. JB Avatar

    I apologize for the typos. Sheesh!

  5. Brian Ertz Avatar

    they have no regard for advocates’ interest, nor means or intention to incorporate our concerns.


  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    This is proceeding on several tracks. Letters such as you suggest are being written, and that’s is absolutely critical. I am helping write one such.

    At the same time, I, and others are doing a bit to stir up general public knowledge and of the proposal.

    Of course, present day Idaho is not a very good environment for either given who is in office; but you need to try, and sometimes things change rapidly.

  7. JB Avatar

    Thanks Ralph. I’m glad you’re taking this approach. I’ve commented multiple times on various aspects of the plan and, I admit, it is hard to keep from chewing them out. Perhaps some people should…I don’t know. However, I’m quite sure these types (emotional, ideological, political) of comments have little chance of being addressed in any finalized plan.

    Be says:

    “they have no regard for advocates’ interest, nor means or intention to incorporate our concerns.”

    If you really believe this why write at all? The whole point is to engage IDF&G in a debate in a language they understand. If you don’t think you’ll be heard, what’s the point?

  8. sal Avatar


    I think that the writing of letters and protesting in whatever reasonable actions one might, like litigation, public comment, etc., don’t matter to most of the folks who get to assess them in the agencies and the like.

    be is right, particularly in Idaho and Wyoming. The point of writing something is that it makes a “paper trail” for the record, so to speak, that at least proves that you tried to claim your voice.

  9. sal Avatar

    What has come to mind in the past several hours is the thought that the language used here:

    6. Outfitters in the area agree to the strategy and are eligible for financial compensation, through non-government organizations, to offset differential losses between hunting opportunity and wolf viewing revenue.

    7. Viewing areas will not be considered permanent and may be moved around the state as needed to address biological and social issues.

    ~might actually be a ploy to financially break the NGO’s. It sound “Rovian” enough…

  10. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Am I missing something here? How would the state be able to compel an organization such as Defenders to compensate anyone for anything with out some legal agreement to do that between the state and any such group?

  11. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    The thrust of the JB’s questions is that one accepts in theory that outfitters have legitimate economic interests at stake. They don’t. The fact is, outfitters have no property rights in the big game animals they hunt and they therefore incur no opportunity costs when wolves take big game animals. This is a matter of law. Any attempt to calculate alleged opportunity costs plays into the hands of those who are determined to establish private property rights in wildlife.

  12. sal Avatar

    Jeff E and Robert H.,

    You’re right but, how to convince an unwilling agency and legislature?

    They have consistently proven that they have no interest in hearing what anyone outside of their small circle of friends has to say. They may be figuring that this strategy might make us go away by mandating some form of compensation. Don’t ask me how, I just get a sense that this may be the direction they are trying to steer this argument. You know, make themselves out to be the victim. Most laws are written to favor the victim, therefore, everybody should claim to be the victim in order to get attention for their “plight”.

    There’s no merit to claims made for NGO’s compensating outfitters who are, in effect, pilfering natural resources for profit without concern for anyone other than their small interests. If they suspect that their industry may go by the wayside due to their own lack of skill or ethics, they will scream bloody murder for compensation.


    There is no business that is a “bad business” anymore. If you have a business license, you have the right to operate no matter what harm you do, as long as you can make a buck. If something impedes that “make a buck-ability”, regardless of the claim’s validity, you can cry “victim” and somebody is going to pay, whether it’s the taxpayers or some individual or group that is not in favor of the alleged victim’s modus operandi. Look at the major corporate criminals of the last decade…

  13. kim kaiser Avatar

    well, i can tell you that during a prior discussion about awareness, i cked paper ads from the bozeman chronicle, for a 1/4 page on a sunday run int he editiorial politics section, it was about 450.00 for a one shot run,, if someone wanted to write an informing letter, explaining what this is about, im good for a donation, and if the readership per Ralph, is 3000 some odd readers here,, if only 25% put up 25 bucks or event 10.00,, we or someone get pretty good coverage from 2 maybe tree papers in one or two weekend runs,,,assuiming prices are about the same, whats that say 30% of ralphs crowd,, = 900 readers,,,x 10.00 you got 9 large,,, or say 450.00 per paper 3 big idaho papaers = 1350 per weekend for say three weekends before this gets run throught,, looking at 4500.00 or there abouts,, it just seems to me, if these local people dont ever see or hear about these things,, they never know the potential options or give aways ,, just an idea,, to let the the idahoans aware of whats going on,, then,, if they dont care, well, you can say you really gave it a good go to educate,, at least its in a public forum that gets to every coffeshop, barbershop, resturant in 3-4 sections of the state,,

  14. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    crying victim or setting up an attempt to get as much out of any lawsuits as possible. It seems to me that the state may be trying to tilt the playing field however implausible it may seem. Just imagine the ramifications of a court decision that would order even 1/2% of the monies per year of what ever NGO may be involved to go for Conservation and Compensation funds. It has to be remembered that the state has lawyers working year round on these types issues and sorry to say they are not totally incompetent.

  15. Chris H Avatar
    Chris H

    Will comment letters from other states have any consideration or is this strictly an Idaho issue. I’d love to help out.

  16. Chuck Avatar

    I would think that all comments will help no matter what state……because its not just going to be Idahoians watching wolves, anyone and everyone who loves wolves and would like to see them prosper here in Idaho speak up.

  17. Salle Avatar

    Chris H,

    They might. If one is to make a claim explaining the fact that the wildlife don’t necessarily confine themselves within political boundaries, such as state lines or national park boundaries, and that their habitat being primarily on public lands administered by the federal government and its agencies, they should consider the fact that the wildlife belong to you as well, as a citizen of the country ~ not just the State of Idaho. That being the case, maybe there will have to be litigation in federal court to clarify this fact to the state for the sake of all the citizens of the US.

  18. d. Bailey Hill Avatar

    Encouraging folks in neighboring states to comment not only benefits Idaho but also their states that wolves may migrate to. This could set a precident not just for wolves but other wildlife too. {like bison}. If this can be resolved in Idaho, it makes sense that surrounding areas/states will have an easier transition implementing wildlife friendly laws and guidelines.

    Kim K.— You may also want to check on putting an “announcement” on the adjacent pages to the classified ads. I do not remember if the section is notices or some other title, but it usually is much less expensive and so the info will have a longer run.
    If folks decide to give it a go, count me in. I live in NW Oregon and I have spoken with people who are very excited that wolves are coming back even though all the way over in the NE. It would be a great accomplishment if the wolves could move freely to surrounding states.
    Most people have such a day to day routine, and if info is not readily available, they will not go searching for it even when they have said they believe the way wolves and bison are treated is wrong.

  19. Brian Ertz Avatar

    Last night, after a nearly unanimous condemnation of the plan was voiced in Hailey, IDFG commissioner Wright answered a question concerning whether he’d like to see 600 wolves die with, “[I believe] God gave us the ability to manage wildlife.” ~

    the commissioners will do what is necessary to navigate legal hurdles and to project legitimacy ~ but most of all they will also do what is necessary to secure their positions politically. that involves boring a wide and vague protocol for “controlling” (killing) wolves through which politically charged and arbitrarily operationalized decisions can be made to kill wolves. the nice thing for them about this arrangement is that there is no protocol defined to prevent them from picking and choosing whatever biology they need to justify whatever they want ~ whether it is appropriate or not. They will hang as many ornaments as needed to pass the plan ~ but no more ~ and they will not put pen to paper in such a way that will tie their hands or agitate the interests of the governor.

    i understand the thought that advocates should write comments that IDF&G understands. I do not believe that IDF&G will listen. Here’s the kicker ~ the IDF&G does not know the language of wolf biology as demonstrated by their continued insistence that this is the first new “big game” animal they’ve received. I don’t believe the Department is far enough removed from the political to be objective about management ~ nor do i believe the commissioners are uncomfortable enough in this arrangement to heed our concerns.

    Comments contrast levels of legitimacy. They could serve to educate. The paper trail forces whoever is reading them to confront shortcomings. Unfortunately, they are outsourcing the compilation of these comments. Organizationally speaking ~ this is wise from their perspective ~ it kicks the agitation out of the bureaucracy. This is an important thing to consider. Our comments will not be internalized by IDF&G except through private contractor who’s background is not subject to public oversight and who’s commission is established with closer proximity to political actors.

    The reason it is important to inform public of the shortcomings in terms the public can understand is that once the state takes management – without considering legal action at the federal level – advocates are pretty much SOL. public perception will be one of the few levers advocates have to apply pressure to IDF&Gn ~ as well as the bureaucrats executing it. Pointing out that the bones being thrown wolf advocates now are bogus softens their foundation now.

    comments are extremely important at laying the legitimate alternative foundation now. there is a large body of sound scientific concern.

    one should not fear being labeled ideologues by these people ~ paralysis/self-censorship for fear of their judgement on that is a condition more worthy of fear.

  20. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Speak their language, think their thoughts. Isn’t this what collaboration and consensus are all about?

  21. Chuck Avatar

    Ok I am going to go way out on a limb here. I am all for the wolves 110%, Yes I am a big game hunter. But a couple things keep nagging at my brain and am not sure I can put this down in writing to make sense. To have wolf viewing areas-they would either have to be on private property or public (ie, state or federal land), of course if it were on private land, the land owner can designate that no hunting, trapping be allowed and no cattle grazing. But on public land, unless its designated a park or wildlife refuge how can the state keep people from hunting or trapping???
    I believe that this wolf plan was not very well thought out. Yes there are two sides to this issue, ones that hate wolves and want them out of the state of Idaho and the others who very much want wolves in the state of Idaho. I also think this plan was influenced more on the side of getting rid of the wolves. I myself would love to see it the way it use to be, including having bison and grizzly bear back. Mother nature and politics don’t go together very well. Maybe someone should do some research on who backs the wolves and who is against the wolves, so all the businesses and politicians that are against the wolves, boycott the businesses and vote the politicians out of office. ok….now i am starting to ramble. Time to submit this.

  22. Brian Ertz Avatar

    yes – it is becoming more and more apparent that they have no language with which to incorporate our concerns or values. the act of using their language is an act of self-censorship and an abdication of advocacy. nepotism, monetization, and anthropocentrism are the chief avenues of communication that they understand. picking up those world-views is a taint i’ll keep off my conscience…

  23. JB Avatar

    RH says:
    “Speak their language, think their thoughts. Isn’t this what collaboration and consensus are all about?”

    Now you’re just trying to pick a fight. Okay, I’ll take the bait.

    The answer to your question is an emphatic “no.” Collaboration is not about “thinking” like the other side, nor is it about “self-censorship”; collaboration is about finding common-ground, building trust and social capital, and ultimately, making a decision that divergent parties can live with. Collaboration is not about thinking like the other side, its about understanding the concerns of the other side–walking a mile in another’s shoes, as the adage goes.

    By the way, there’s nothing wrong with self-censorship. In fact, if you think you’re free of “self-censorship” you’re delusional. Don’t agree? Just think of all of the behaviors you exhibit when you’re alone in your own home that you don’t exhibit in public. Self-censorship is a response to societal norms that are reinforced through social interactions throughout our lives–it is a reality for civility: if you simply do whatever you please whenever you please you likely won’t live very long (or at the very least, you’re likely to be socially ostracized).

    Unfortunately, collaborative efforts require a minimum level of trust and an even playing field, both of which appear to be lacking, at least where Idaho is concerned.

    (FYI: One of the reasons that Defenders of Wildlife has played such a key role in the reintroduction and continued conservation of wolves has been their willingness to participate in collaborative efforts. You may call them “brown,” but I challenge you to find a “green” organization that has done more for wolves.)


  24. Salle Avatar


    Look at this interesting page I found while looking around the state web site: