Billings Gazette makes 8 dead sheep into "crime of the century" story.

Talk about over-the-top bias . . . !

Would this story make any local news if the sheep were killed by something other than a wolf? Eight dead sheep is normally not news.

The fact that the owner won’t seek reimbursement indicates this is not about economics, but social hostility, aided and abetted by the reporter.

Not seen for century, wolf kills sheep. Predator makes kills in Two Dot area. By Brett French. The Gazette Staff

You can contact Contact Brett French at or at 657-1387.






  1. Monte Avatar

    Decent people have a hard time taking money from groups like Defenders of Wildlife who supported wolf reintroduction, but are now suing to stop delisting even though the stated recovery goals have been met. Groups who do their business through lawsuits and intimidation like Defenders of Wildlife should be ashamed of themselves, but they believe the end justifies the means, just like Hitler.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    “Decent people” do not try to win an argument by saying someone they disagree with is like Hitler (or any other infamous tyrant)

    This is a very offensive post. No one involved with these issues one way or another is like Hitler in any way.

    Perhaps you need to review history before you post. Filing lawsuits is a perfectly legal means to an end.

  3. Buffaloed Avatar

    Kinda like how the U.S. government killed all of the buffalo, grizzlies, wolves and the indians so ranchers could maintain a “way of life”?

  4. SAP Avatar

    Good response, Ralph!

    One valuable thing about the blogosphere is that it is a treasure trove of logical fallacies. Were I a teacher of argumentation or formal logic, I would have my students looking at blogs on a weekly basis, at least, so that they could learn to identify logical fallacies.

    Fallacy Files actually has a page on “The Hitler Card.”

    “The Hitler Card” is a “guilt by association” fallacy, a sub-fallacy of the Red Herring: an irrelevant point.

    Go through the “Taxonomy of Logical Fallacies,” and you’ll see that Red Herring and its subfallacies are probably the most common. “Appeal to Authority” is a fairly common one, but Ad Hominen, Hypocrisy, and Guilt by Association are the big three.

    I notice it’s usually sheep producers who eschew compensation. Are they more principled? Or does it have anything to do with the fact that commercial sheep are maybe worth $40 apiece?

    Anecdote: once, while searching for wayward mules, I came across a couple of sheep out by themselves on the boundary between National Forest and a trophy ranch/development.

    I told the ranch manager about the sheep, and he said they had gotten loose while they were on the ranch for a noxious weed control effort (the sheep rancher was paid to bring several hundred sheep there for a period of time to eat knapweed and thistle).

    I offered to help catch the sheep, and the manager said something like, “oh, don’t worry about them. Last year he [the sheep owner] left five of them behind, and when I called and told him, he said that unless we had them in a corral already, it wasn’t worth it for him to come get them.”

  5. Linda Hunter Avatar

    Wouldn’t it be refreshing someday to have a rancher who has dead animals actually try to find out what animal killed them instead of assuming. They saw a wolf, then dead sheep . . and the wolf never took a bite? Wouldn’t it be embarrasing if they discovered that it was a pack of dogs, who are known to do just that type of killing and not eat a bite . . . I really wish they would gather tracking evidence before they call in the news. Often people tell me that they looked for tracks but couldn’t see them. . that is because they are not trained trackers NOT because there were no tracks there . . wolves don’t fly nor do packs of dogs.

  6. Ronnie Avatar

    Comparing this to Hitler is WAY over the top..
    From the ranchers perspective though, I can see
    why they wouldn’t take money from defenders. I wouldn’t
    take money from a group that supported something
    I was passionately against. I have NO faith in the states
    to manage the wolf responsibly; however, legally the time
    has come to delist.
    Wolves are going to be killed in high numbers eventually and anyone who thought otherwise from the first day of reintroduction was kidding themselves. Society has not evolved much from the last time we wiped them out and in the end legally or illegally we are going to see the same end result.

  7. Monte Avatar

    I was making a comparison based on a common philosophy held by the two that the end justifies the means. That’s all. By the way, “legal” doesn’t always mean right.

  8. Catbestland Avatar


    What about the Hitleresque manner in which the wolves as well as the Native Americans were exterminated in order to accomodate these so called “decent peple”‘s conquest of the land?

  9. Buffaloed Avatar

    Utilitarians, who you seem to be comparing to the groups who are filing legal challenges, are those who use the philosophy of “the ends justify the means”. Utilitarians are only looking out for themselves and the groups who are challenging delisting are hardly looking out for themselves they are looking out for wolves and ecology. I think that you are seriously confused.

  10. Buffaloed Avatar

    Take a philosophy class and learn what the h$%* you are talking about before comparing someone to Hitler.

  11. steve c Avatar
    steve c

    Monte, when the anti-wildlife forces can throw money around to make their own rules where but the courts can these battles be fought?

  12. Brian Ertz Avatar

    “Groups who do their business through lawsuits and intimidation like Defenders of Wildlife should be ashamed of themselves”

    it’s incredible how telling this fear of lawsuits is – this fear of the rule of law. i mean, my God ~ what does it say when folk are so afraid and resentful of testing the legality of an action ? and what’s the deal with this ire for Defenders ? Do you know anything about Defenders’ posture through all of this Monte ?

    if anything, this concerted effort to blame judges, litigant parties, and the application of law is a coercive form of PR and political intimidation ~ and too often it’s worked.

    and where does this fit in with the caricature of the wimpy environmentalist ? oh wait ~ i’m sorry, the wimpy ‘conservationist’ (enviros aren’t supposed to call themselves ‘environmentalists’ anymore – it sounds too rabid or something). i mean, are conservationists bullies, or are they wimps with no principle ?

    and if ponying up private dollars to bare the financial burden of wolf reintroduction is a ‘means’ that is somehow unjust to livestock producers ~ ??? take it or leave it i suppose.

    “legal” doesn’t always mean right

    don’t i know it ! lord knows i’ve been on the wrong end of that gavel of few times myself. perhaps a good old fashioned bar-fight would have been the most prudent forum for resolving my qualms ? or maybe my political connection would have made it more fair ?

  13. Catbestland Avatar

    I am always amazed that such “decent” and supposedly law abiding people would have such an aversion to the law. How does a law suit equal intimadation?

  14. JB Avatar

    Well this is ironic! Some folks might remember a post not so far back in which Defenders of Wildlife and other so-called “brown” conservation groups were compared with Nazi sympathizers for their willingness to collaborate with ranchers!

    Monte: Defenders of Wildlife–maybe more so than any other conservation group–has chosen to WORK WITH RANCHERS, much to the disdain of many here. If you don’t like lawsuits that’s fine. If you don’t like lawsuits that aren’t likely to come out your way, that’s fine too. But comparing people that work within our legal framework to further their interests to a madman who murdered millions of people is simply ludicrous.

  15. SAP Avatar

    In the Gazette story, this is erroneous and would have gotten the rancher in trouble:

    “At the time, Martin didn’t know the wolf had killed five of her sheep. Had she known, the .222 rifle that always rides in the tractor could have been used to legally kill the wolf.”

    WRONG. Even though there’s a good chance they would have been killing a stock-killer, they DID NOT witness the wolf in the act of “biting, wounding or killing, or actively chasing, molesting or harassing livestock.”

  16. SAP Avatar

    Cat – you’d probably be interested in this item in last weeks FWS wolf report:

    “There was a report of four wolf-like tracks seen by an experienced small aircraft pilot from Alaska along the Platte River on the border of Colorado and Wyoming in late February. Nothing more has been reported or documented but local agencies will continue to monitor the situation. In early March a pilot in Utah reported he saw 5 wolf-like canids [2 black and 3 gray] just east of Flaming Gorge reservoir a couple of miles south of the Wyoming/Utah border. A single wolf-like track was located by Utah DNR and UT WY specialists who investigated the report. “

  17. Catbestland Avatar


    YIPEE !!! That made my day. Thanks

  18. vicki Avatar

    The mere mention of Hitler is a huge grasp at a straw. Hitler was a fiend, who forced millions of innocent people into agonizing deaths. To even compare the people of DOW with Hitler is outrageous. To even mention Hitler in comparision of sheep and humans is a serious testimaony to someone’s lack of intellect.
    The question is, does the loss of 8 sheep merrit such attention? Not really, but the manor in which it was used as propoganda is. The reporter who wrot this forgot a key lesson, reporters base their stories on fact, an do so with a non-biased opinion. I guess this “reporter’ got his/her education at The National Inquirer’s school of journalism.

  19. vicki Avatar

    sorry aboutthe typos… public transportation is bumpy.

  20. steve c Avatar
    steve c

    Read the comments below the billings gazette story. People are scary…

  21. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Yes. Read the comments.

    It shows why you can’t sit deal and make a deal with these people. They are not rational in the sense that you can adjust differences between you and them.

    Their attitudes are based on emotional expression, not a clear-minded assessment of their interests. They also don’t seem to know much about the wider world even should they be interested improving their personal situation.

  22. SmalltownID Avatar

    It shows what people in rural america are concerned with… their way of life. In no way does it justify what they say they want to do, but have some empathy. It is a shadow of what is or would be said in almost any rural community in the west where something like this happens. Similar to how we get on here and discuss what makes our blood boil, rural america goes to the nearby gas station (now some of us are getting computers) and they talk about wheat prices, gas prices, their cattle, their animals, their way of life. And you bet they are emotionally charged when it comes to their day to day discussion and 5 of Ann’s sheep are dead. However, most of them if you sit down with them are reasonable, but not if you lack empathy. That is true on both sides of the fence.

  23. steve c Avatar
    steve c

    It is hard to have empathy for people who openly talk about breaking the law (shoot, shovel, and shutup). It is also hard to have empathy for people who constantly vilify groups that are there to help them survive (defenders of wildlife) by compensating them for livestock losses (something local state governments should be doing instead of spending millions on predator control programs). It is also hard to have empathy for people whose “way of life” is resulting in thousands of animals to needlessly be killed per year at a cost to the taxpayers (the bison tragedy comes to mind among others).

  24. SmalltownID Avatar

    You are talking about the extreme when you say “shoot, shovel, and shutup”, “vilify defenders”, and your last connection with the bison. People from the other side could make the same argument for lack of empathy about the extreme “green” side. Fortunately, some people are opening their minds and crossing barriers. You can continue to be a pessimist and say that every wolf is going to be killed in the west, but the reality is in another 10 years we will still have wolves. It won’t be a perfect world for ranchers, and it won’t be for wolves, but I see the effort thus far as a success because we are at a balance in my opinion. You can’t ask for much more without being a total hypocrite.

  25. SAP Avatar

    I would add, too, that we know almost nothing about the bulk of the commenters on the BG website (except for Marion and the sheep rancher herself). Who knows where these people are or what they do?

    Scan a sample of stories and comments and you’ll see the same ones over and over . . . looks like they spend all their time writing barely-coherent, grammatically-atrocious, beyond-ignorant rants on that website. As poorly as they express themselves, I am amazed that they have even figured out how to use a computer and access the web.

    Do these people influence the opinions of others? Maybe. I can find you some in-the-flesh people who would agree whole-heartedly with BGazetter bloggers. They have so many screws loose that everyone avoids them and almost no one listens to them.

  26. SAP Avatar

    And . . . the folks I was just describing, for all their venom and tough-guy posturing, pose very little direct threat to wolves. People like that are either propped up in front of the computer, or in front of their big televisions, or are holding down a barstool.

    A wolf would have to come into their house or into the tavern in order for them to kill one.

  27. Linda Hunter Avatar

    I went back and re-read the article and the comments and I am more convinced that this is the work of a pack of domestic dogs. I grew up on a sheep ranch and was amazed at how violent little house dogs get when when they get in a group and egg each other on. . a lone wolf might eat a sheep but I cannot imagine it going on a killing spree. Killing sprees are usually a pack of dogs. My father killed dogs who had their fangs locked on a sheep only to get grief from neighbors who claimed their dogs would never do such a thing. It is a tragic thing to see the aftermath but there is absolutely nothing in this whole story that ties it to a wolf. . even if I hated wolves I would have to wonder about all the assumptions that were made here.

  28. Cindy Avatar

    I have to agree with SAP’s comments. I see that Marion is still using her “they were trucked in” argument. Like I’ve mentioned before, they wouldn’t of had to be trucked in if we hadn’t killed them off before to appease the ranchers and settlers years ago. (The same could be said for the bison and Native Americans as well).

    I also found it kind of funny that it was a big black wolf. Gee, that sounds familiar. Maybe it was the big bad wolf from Little Red Riding Hood. I’m not going to say it wasn’t a wolf who did the killing as I wasn’t there, but here again, everyone who reads the article jumps to the immediate conclusion that all wolves behave this way, and thus, want to get their pitch forks and head out to the hills to kill every last one. We may have well reached the time where wolves needed to be managed to keep them from taking over the country, but I hope we never get to the point of them being killed off to the brink of extinction again. They have just as much right to be here as we do.

  29. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    SAP makes a good point about the comments. It’s easy to forget that they are not a fair sample of opinion.

    Reporters who do the standard story like the reporter is question deserve a lot of the blame.

    They must have a template. They appear to be lazy and give the impression that wolf depredations are very common and serious. You would think that after 13 years, 8 dead sheep, maybe killed by a wolf would not be a story.

  30. Heard Enough Avatar
    Heard Enough

    To Linda Hunter,

    There have been a few well documented cases of a wolf pack killing dozens of sheep in a single attack in Idaho, so your statement that “Killing sprees are usually a pack of dogs,” is not totally accurate. I have no data to determine how often “killing sprees” are the work of packs of dogs. These rare instances of wolves killing domestic sheep far in excess of the wolves’ needs are where the anti-wolf crowd gets their notion that wolves are rampaging through the woods killing everything within grasp. In the Idaho cases I’m not sure if wolves actually killed all of the sheep; it may be that the wolves killed some of them and the rest of the livestock panicked and in the melee killed themselves, so to speak- nonetheless they were dead and attributed to wolf predation. It happens.

  31. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    There have also been cases of black bears killing over a hundred sheep.

    There might be something about the sheep that can trigger a desire to kill “for sport” (hey, maybe to protect a mountain meadow; how do we know bears and wolves don’t have a sense of esthetics or natural balance?).

  32. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I had a good chat with a university biologist today with wolf experience growing up and professionally in Minnesota and Idaho.

    He reminded me that wolves can come into an area and live at a low density for some period of time before local people realize they are there. Then when they realize there are wolves, there is a response out of proportion.

    When I saw where Two Dot, Montana was, I got pretty angry because I thought there have been wolves in the nearby Crazy Mountains since 1997 (does anyone remember what happened to the offspring of wolf 28F that could never capture and collar?). Go figure!

    But then probably no one was paying attention.

  33. Linda Hunter Avatar

    To Heard enough: thanks, I would like to know more about this as I live where there are few wolves. . I just thought that a lone wolf would be far less likely to be the author of a killing spree than a pack . . I sure do remember as a child being roused in the middle of the night to pack killing of our sheep by domestic dogs in Michigan. There were some impressive demonstrations of pack mentalilty . . which served me well as a teenage in avoiding dangerous situations, i.e. going home when the pack formed among peers.

  34. SmalltownID Avatar

    There are few absolutes in nature. It is easy to draw lines about how things operate in the natural world. However, despite our efforts and in my own habit of doing so the one thing I learn over and over again is few things are static in the environment.

    Good point about how few ppl realize wolves when they are in an area. In the last month I have had two seperate experiences with about 10 different wolves (I think) within 10 miles of the I-84. 99% of even outdoorsmen in Idaho would be floored by that idea.

  35. SAP Avatar

    One odd thought hit me while watching the “graphic” video on the Gazette site:

    Look at all that loose wool! I wonder what goes through the predator’s mind when it goes in for the bite, only to have this wierd sensory experience — the taste and texture of the fleece (full of lanolin and dirt, coarse), and the fleece kind of coming off in big puffs.

    Is there any native North American prey animal that would be similar? Cervids probably shed a little hair when they get bit; bison are sort of “wooly” in winter, but not in near the volume as domestic sheep’s wool.

    My point? The wool may confuse the predator, giving the sheep a chance to get away, although it may already be mortally wounded. It strikes me that domestic sheep are very very dissimilar from any other ungulate they would encounter.

    Other animals have evolved defense mechanisms that involve “shedding” body parts — think of skinks (lizards) breaking off part of their tails to escape. Seems that if evolution selected this kind of defense, it must have some utility in momentarily confusing a predator, giving the prey animal a chance to escape in the confusion.

    While wool on sheep almost certainly didn’t evolve under this kind of selection pressure, the predator’s susceptibility to confusion, and subsequent disruption of motor pattern, is still in play.

    Under this hypo-hypothesis, mass killing of sheep occurs because the predator bites and then releases multiple sheep. They’re not that fast, and can be tackled and restrained easily, so the predator gets multiple chances to kill a sheep.

  36. JB Avatar

    Ralph says: “You would think that after 13 years, 8 dead sheep, maybe killed by a wolf would not be a story.”

    More evidence that with the media (especially where wolves are concerned)…”if it bleeds it leads.” There was an article in a public health journal (I’ll try to find) a while back that talked about how the media’s coverage of certain diseases increases people’s perception of risk associated with those diseases. The result is people have a warped sense of the actual risk associated with diseases.

    I wonder if the same is true for wolves? That is, does all this coverage of depredations skew locals’ perspectives on wolves? My guess is that it does; and this is one of the reasons why the rural West’s narrative on wolves differs so much from the rest of the country’s.

  37. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    You are absolutely right. The Billings Gazette has a story today about a wolf depredation on a single cow calf! and it is in a place where wolves are not new at all — the East Fork of the Boulder River.

    There have been many articles how the police and crime shows on television facilitate the belief that the crime rate is high and growing, even as it declined steeply.

    When it comes to diseases, the coverage of brucellosis has to make the Montana public think this is a dire threat. Most likely they can’t even name the other, and far more common diseases that cattle get. Certainly not their incidence.

    Much of the problem is that American media, until the explosion of information on the Internet, has been almost entirely “for profit,” meaning a story is covered, even essentially made up, to gain readership or viewership, with no attention to its larger significance. Witness the fascination about young, missing blonde-haired women and the lack of coverage about the real estate bubble even though it was clearly unsustainable (we dumped our stocks in real estate two years ago).

  38. Robert Wiley Avatar
    Robert Wiley

    Decent people have a hard time taking money from groups like Defenders of Wildlife who supported wolf reintroduction, but are now suing to stop delisting even though the stated recovery goals have been met. Groups who do their business through lawsuits and intimidation like Defenders of Wildlife should be ashamed of themselves, but they believe the end justifies the means, just like Hitler.

    I don’t agree about the Hitler part but the rest is true. Defenders of Wildlife and all the other Pro Wolf Groups and their supporters are some of the most underhandedly decietful people I’ve ever seen.

  39. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Robert Wiley,

    We went over this just last week, but you seem to be new here.

    The defective wolf recovery goals were not established by Defenders of Wildlife or any other group that supported wolf recovery.

    The recovery goals were produced by the federal government. So how can any private group be deceitful when they never agreed to anything?

    You probably didn’t know this and are repeating what you heard.

  40. JB Avatar

    Robert Wiley:

    IMO, Defenders is taking a bad rap for the wolf law suits. Most people don’t realize that the suits are not so much about wolves as how the federal government is interpreting the ESA for the purpose of listing/de-listing endangered species. You might not be aware that Defenders is also suing the government regarding the listing of Prebles meadow jumping mouse? Never heard of the PMJM? I’m not surprised (see comments above regarding the media).

    My point is that this issue is NOT about wolves; they (Defenders) disagree with the government’s justification for listing/de-listing, and are fighting the government (and wining) on all fronts. The wolf is just one case; Defenders also sued the federal government (and won) regarding their failure to list the Canada lynx and the Flat-tailed horned lizard, for example. Most people don’t know about the larger context of this disagreement because the media is incapable (or unwilling) to dedicate space to the issue. It’s simpler to say that Defenders doesn’t want wolves delisted, which simply isn’t true.

  41. SmalltownID Avatar

    Part of the problem Defenders have is their representation in public forums and, in general, how issues are fielded with government agencies. One of many examples: you can’t give a presentation about how cattle ranchers are not justified and were morally wrong in gaining their rights to the land through conquest and in the same breath tell ppl that your effort is to end all public land grazing in the west. Even if ppl wholeheartedly agree that public grazing is an injustice they can’t help but feel like their intelligence is being insulted.

    For the most part, I don’t have a problem with the effort of the Defenders. However, the claims about intimidating through litigation (let alone physically) are more than warranted. Ask anyone who works for a government agency that has anything to do with wildlife. In the BLM many of them can’t even do their jobs because they are tied up in litigation or the threat thereof. It is frustrating because I believe by better public representation by showing a little empahy they could get even more accomplished by bridging some gaps and noticing the fine line of when and when not to sue. But for some, unfortunately, it is not JUST about defending wildlife.

  42. kim kaiser Avatar

    SmalltownID Says:

    Ask anyone who works for a government agency that has anything to do with wildlife. In the BLM many of them can’t even do their jobs because they are tied up in litigation or the threat thereof.

    this is not isolated, in just about every occupation, where you deal with the public, from insurance to whatever, you are always covering your ass and documenting to prevent or show you act in good faith,

    there was an aritcle in the Detroit paper today about a new york business man sued a stripper over a lap dance. She caught his face with her high heel,,

  43. JB Avatar


    I’ve never had an agency employee suggest that felt intimidated by Defenders. In fact, Defenders co-sponsors a conference on wolves with the explicit intent of drawing in relevant agency personnel. However, I do recall a case in which an FWS employee was actually cited for trespassing and littering when he darted and tagged two wolves just off of a road on a Wyoming ranch.

  44. steve c Avatar
    steve c

    BLM can’t do their jobs? Were their hands tied when they killed 1000+ bison this winter? Do you even think about these things before typing them?

  45. SAP Avatar

    Steve, I think BLM is one of very few agencies NOT involved in killing bison on the borders of YNP. NPS, DOL, APHIS, FWP, USFS . . . but BLM?

  46. SmalltownID Avatar

    Maybe I was too vague but I was trying to be respectful. In Idaho, such is the case. I can’t speak for Wyoming or anywhere else. JB, last month an IDF&G employee was physically assulted by a Defender attorney. So maybe we are both being too vague. I don’t know where you are from or how many agency employees you know.

    I know most of you are allegiant to the Defenders but I don’t know how you can compare the general public to the defenders as far as litigation (Kim). Kim, its not just the threat. What really binds BLM employees is the litigation underway. I don’t know if they do it on purpose but it cascades down and ranchers can’t get grazing allotments. I don’t have a problem with that. But that is what is going on in SE Idaho. I don’t think you are giving a fair assessment. I think the Defenders do a lot more good then harm but my take is they could do even more good since they are “Defenders of Wildlife”. In your eyes apparently they can do no wrong.

    SAP, steve thinks about things before he types them, don’t question it!!!

  47. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Smalltown ID

    Unless this is something new, the alleged assault was by Jon Marvel of the Western Watersheds Project, not Defenders, and it was supposedly upon an Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner.

    Brian Ertz, who sometimes edits this blog was one of the few people who saw the entire interaction, and it did not happen. There was no assault, just an argument.

    It’s amazing how stories get mixed up . . . , and very disturbing to me on this one!

  48. kim kaiser Avatar

    i can assure you Smalltown,, having been named in several lawsuits as a representative of the insurance industry,, everyting i do, everything i say, is geared to cover my ass,,,,,,there is no difference,,,,there are as many people out here trying to get something for nothing at any cost and under any circumstance and i can tell you from first hand experience that they will lie, and distort to get what they want. In fact, those of us who have been doing catasthrophe adjusting for a while have often said that we not longer adjust claims, we also have to determine the best way to handle them without subjecting ourselves to suits,,,,,every house we go to, we subject our selves to suit,,

  49. Brian Ertz Avatar

    SmalltownID says:

    last month an IDF&G employee was physically assulted by a Defender attorney.

    I am certainly not immune to being afflicted with a loose lip ~ but Smalltown, it’s pretty obvious you have no idea what you’re talking about with this one – and ironically – i think any wildlife advocate – scratch that – any citizen would be proud of Marvel’s conduct that night.

    As for the defensive posture as it relates to litigation ~ quite frankly I think it’s shameful. I spoke to a Defender’s rep. that was almost apologetic about how litigious our society is. This is nothing more than a spineless response to an orchestrated talking point that has turn folk into de facto apologists for law-breakers and industry.

    When industry hijacks regulatory agencies, castrates them, and runs them with no regard for the law – contrary to the law – then it is up to citizens to file suit. That’s the law – and it’s the right thing to do. They’re breaking the law ~ no apologies necessary.

    This “lawsuits are bad” narrative is one of the more effective talking points the right wing has employed to loot the public interest and the little guys’ chance at justice.

  50. JB Avatar

    Just to follow up: In my opinion, the Bush administration is purposefully breaking the law in order to list as fews species as possible. This has been an extremely successful strategy for them because:
    (1) Keeping things in the courts keeps species off the list and oil, gas, mining, property-rights, etc. happy;
    (2) They effectively cripple NR management agencies who spend all their time and money (scratch that, our time and money) fighting lawsuits (part of a larger agenda to privatize federal lands/NR management);
    (3) They get to make claims about how they’re trying to do the right thing and the big bad interest groups keep suing them; and
    (4) MOST IMPORTANTLY they get to claim that the ESA doesn’t work because of the citizen suit provision.

    As Brian pointed out, the ESA isn’t working because THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION IS BREAKING THE LAW.

  51. SmalltownID Avatar

    I already said that I don’t have a problem with the litigation as a whole, so you can label me all you want Brian. I see it as a necessary checks and balances. I am optimistic. I won’t repeat my opinion.

    I may be wrong, but as a person who is on the ground, a wildlife advocate, conservationinst, and person who is working with a species 10 years behind the wolf, and 5 behind the Sage grouse (that doesn’t qualify me any more-so then anyone else but all honesty in advertising to illustrate a point) nothing is more frustrating for me then to have to pick up the pieces because people are polarizing the issue more than they have to. Litigation has FINALLY got people’s attention thankgoodness. The next step is to bridge the gap if you really want to turn wildlife around, that doesn’t mean stop all litigation.
    Maybe I’m wrong and it has nothing to do with their responsibility whatsoever and it rests solely on people’s shoulders like those on here that aren’t NGO employees.

    I know your average rancher is written off as the same type of people you see on the Gazette, but my experience has been otherwise. Are there some that won’t listen no matter what you say and have the attitude “shoot, shovel, and shut up”? Sure. But it has not been the norm in my experience as I have gone in 1st, to build a relationship of trust, 2nd, to educate. I doubt most ppl with the same approach would have much of a different experience but I could be wrong.

    Good for you Brian, I heard from a witness first hand (another f&g employee) that seems to have a different opinion. You have the upper hand, no doubt, I wasn’t there. You can call it “loose lip” and I don’t know what I am talking about but apparently someone else saw it differently. Anyone who “questions” anything about Defenders, Watershed, etc., or anything mainstream is automatically labeled as someone who is attacking from “the right”. It only polarizes things more and in my opinion is the only thing from keeping us from making more progress than we already have.

  52. Brian Ertz Avatar


    i respect, not agree, with your take on controversy as a bad thing – JB will tell you, we’ve sparred about these very issues, most of the time respectfully (i’d be the one between the 2 of us who’s fallen into less than entirely respectful composure).

    but as for the IDFG stuff, you don’t know what you’re talking about – that ought be the standard for maintaining a tight lip – not fear of controversy.

  53. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    If you work for the BLM, you have to understand that the agency has usually been regarded as a clientele agency for the livestock and mining industries, even though it gained a strong multiple use mandate under FLPMA.

    Moreover, under the Bush Administration and the Reagan Administration the BLM was encouraged to evade the laws, and that’s the reason for the lawsuits.

    An academic book, The Administrative Presidency Revisited: Public Lands, the BLM, and the Reagan Revolution (1992), was written about the BLM under Reagan and how efforts to evade the laws in favor or livestock and energy resulted in the just the opposite — agency confusion, lots of lawsuits and movement in the opposite direction.

  54. SmalltownID Avatar

    If I did work for the BLM you would think I would be aware of the history and the stereotypes surrounding the agency. Thanks though, I do appreciate any literature to support a statement.

    I don’t know how fear of controversy would motivate me to make a statement that would ultimately lead to controversy??? It seems counterintuitive. Fear of controversy is exactly my point – labeling someone as soon as they make a statement that is not mainstream. Rather than acknowledging an obvious truth despite it being critical of an organization you support. I don’t belong to or support any organization that does not deserve criticism. Thus, if someone is critical I don’t automatically assume they are a cattle rancher from Billings or tree hugger from So. Cal. just because they were critical.

    I don’t know you Brian, but obviously you have ties or great affinity for, bc your defense of, watershed/Marvel, or both. I don’t even know if we are talking about the same instance, which isn’t even important. In most cases I am happy with what is being done by conservation/environmental groups (I am part of the effort), ppl are opening their eyes because they are scared —-less. I was not saying that they (defenders, marvel, watersheds, etc.) are the root of all evil or even evil. But if you can’t refrain from labeling, let alone empathizing (not to be confused with agreeing) with, someone who is ON your side 80% of the time, how can you bridge the gap? Or rally the troops?

    Unfortunately, I believe most ppl think it is futile to try to work with the ag industry, ranchers, etc. And maybe it is in Wyoming. But in Idaho, I beg to differ.

  55. Brian Ertz Avatar


    i can certainly respect your wish for cordial interactions among different interests. i share your wish for cordial interaction. especially so far as cordial interaction is capable of allowing for the adequate expression of perspective and advocacy. too often it is not – and the blame for that is irrespective of party, perhaps it is the nature of interests in conflict.

    i am glad that you have an open mind about livestock interests and wolves. it’s folk like yourself that play a critical role in building trust among parties – bridging the gap. for my part, i am not entirely interested in being a part of bridging any gap – i do not see a deficit of this effort. i am interested in it insofar as it produces results for wildlife and wild places. i would respectfully submit a request for a demonstration of the fruits of this endeavor present in the IDFG wolf management plan – taken on balance – against the overwhelmingly one-sided enforcement of Livestock & Big Game’s subjective interest.

    i hope that you will entertain as legitimate this notion that it is ok that there are folk who hold wildlife above cordiality as a standard of advocacy ~ maybe even consider the idea that it may be necessary in certain circumstances ~ and perhaps entertain the possibility that this standard of emphasis can be a productive contribution to the advocacy of wolves and wildlife as well – that it ensures balance, perhaps contributes valuable ideas, constructive narratives, constructive incentives/pressures/motivations otherwise not considered, and perhaps even serves in some regards as an antidote to apathy.

    i submit to you that especially in idaho, the circumstance is ripe for disgruntled discomfort and suspicion of our politically appointed wildlife managers, livestock interests (associations/lobbyists – not necessarily individuals) & politicians.

  56. JB Avatar


    I sympathize with your point of view regarding extreme positions/rhetoric. As Brian noted, we certainly have sparred on this in the past, though for the most part I think we’ve kept things civil.

    With that said, I stick by my original claim about Defenders’ law suits being legitimate. It would be one thing if they were losing these suits, but in fact, they win about 3 in 4. Winning, in most cases means the agencies action is thrown out as “arbitrary and capricious” under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). Note, Defenders wins these cases despite the fact that the agency is entitled to a wide degree of discretion in how they interpret ambiguous language in the ESA–meaning FWS really has to blow it to lose! And yet they lose again and again!

    I’m not a total partisan here; I recognize that this policy of litigating everything began under the Clinton administration. If you still need more evidence, I would point you toward the resignation letter of one Ronald M. Nowak, a former zoologist with FWS. Nowak resigned in FWS in 1997, noting:

    “My primary reason for seeking this opportunity to retire is that this agency is no longer adequately supporting the function for which I was hired, the classification and protection of wildlife pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and indeed, often is working against this function. I have become particularly concerned about the agency’s seemingly unrestrained use of public funds to carry on litigation and other actions to thwart or delay appropriate classification and regulation of species such as the lynx.”

    FWS/Interior is to blame for the litigation. Defenders is just forcing them to obey the law.


  57. SmalltownID Avatar

    Appreciate the feedback. That is the kind of feedback I was looking for on a blog such as this.

  58. SmalltownID Avatar

    I understand the benefit of the extreme advocate in behalf of wolves as you pointed out. I guess I see the prevalence of extreme advocates (on both sides) versus people who are working to find a middle ground i.e. implementing representation for someone other than big game hunters and ranchers in the IDF&G plan – completely opposite from what you view. Maybe it is because the ideas of extremists (such a derogatory term these days but it is what it is) fly in the face in every letter to the editor. In other words, If you’re not passionate about it you don’t write about it. Neutral parties don’t submit their opinions, for the most part, mostly those who are extreme.

    Maybe you are involved with the issue professionally in a way that is different then my own and you see a different artifact than I see (I’m not just talking about letters to the editor by the way). Other then in academia, I meet very few people who are not polarized on this issue. To me, at this point in the game polarizing statments or the issue only help to get people’s attention. After that they serve no purpose for progress. Thus, very few people who are bridging the gap.

    The letter to the editor in the IS journal today was a perfect example.


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