Utah: Citing possible prison time, DWR boss speaks out against wolf-removal bill

Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, doing the apparent bidding of Don Peay*  has sponsored SB36, a bill to kill any wolves that migrate to Utah.  The bill would be a violation of U.S. law. Defending it in court will just cost Utah taxpayers money. Except for northern Utah, wolves in the State are fully protected by the endangered species act.  The head of the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources told the truth. No doubt some legislators will threaten him . . . today’s politics!

Citing possible prison time, DWR boss speaks out against wolf-removal bill. By Patty Henetz. The Salt Lake Tribune

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*Peay is the founder of Sportsman for Fish and Wildlife. He pretty much sets Utah wildlife policy, according to some commentators.



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  1. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    Appears UT may not be too wolf friendly.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    My guess is they are about like Idaho. Public opinion research has been done on Utah. I don’t know if an expert here wants to give some details.

  3. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    Ralph – you mention ID how about WY? Do you see a difference between the two in their attitude toward wolves?

  4. Percy Avatar

    egads, I’m glad I don’t live there!
    I hope the wolves don’t go there either if that’s what they face.

  5. JB Avatar

    We surveyed Utah residents in the spring of 2003–immediately following wolf #203’s trapping. The survey contained a number of items that were identical to a survey that had been conducted in 1994.

    Across a series of 10 items we found significant differences in only three: Residents exhibited less agreement with the items: (a) Wolves compete with big game hunters for prime trophy animals, and (b) Utah is better off without wolves; while they exhibited more agreement with the item (c) Putting wolves back into their former habitat will restore the balance to the deer populations in that area. There were no significant differences in the composite attitude measure (a score derived via a combination of all 10 measures) among any of the sub-populations of interest (i.e. big game hunters, rural residents, or urban residents). Mean attitude scores for these groups were positive for urban residents and hovered around neutral for rural residents and big game hunters.

    I dug back into the data so that I could provide some specifics regarding certain questions (this part is unpublished).

    – 19% agreed that “Utah is better off without wolves.”

    – 55% agreed that they “…would like to see wolves in Utah” (25% were neutral).

    – 49% agreed that “Regulated public hunting of wolves is an acceptable way to manage wolf populations (16% were neutral).

    – 57% described their attitude toward wolves as positive; (29%) were neutral.

    – – – – – – – –

    Like Idaho, the Utah legislature is heavily influenced by the livestock industry and a small group of extremely vocal, and extremely negative hunters. While our survey was underway, the UDWR was conducting “scoping” meetings to learn what hunters thought about wolves. Don Peay and SFW rallied the anti-wolf crowd for these meetings. We commented on the situation in a subsequent publication:

    “…while we collected data for this study the UDWR conducted a series of scoping meetings in order to involve Utah residents in the management process. They found 719 of 897 attendees (80%) identified ‘‘do not allow wolves in Utah’’ as one of their top 3 management priorities… However, our survey, which used probabilistic sampling and weighted data to accurately reflect regional population distributions, found over half of respondents agreed with the item ‘‘I would like to see wolves in Utah.’’ Moreover, results from the 1994 survey were statistically identical, suggesting public opinion on this issue has not wavered. The lesson is that managers often hear from their most vocal critics or those most involved in particular wildlife issues. It is easy to see how such experiences can color managers’ perspectives, resulting in a skewed perception of public opinion.”

    Citation: Bruskotter, J.T., Schmidt, R.H. & Teel, T.L. (2007) Are attitudes toward wolves changing? A case study in Utah. Biological Conservation, 139(1-2), 211-18.

  6. JB Avatar

    Unfortunately the actions of Utah’s legislators concerning wolves parallel those of Idaho. These actions highlight the inadequacy of the regulatory “protections” (using that term loosely) currently in place for wolves. Time and time again western legislatures have exhibited their inability to leave wolf management to F&G agencies. Even when such legislation isn’t signed into law it sends a chilling message to agencies: the people who sign their checks are telling them to keep wolf populations out (or keep them as low as possible).

    I’m sure folks in Montana are pulling their hair out over the actions of the Idaho and Utah legislatures.

  7. jimbob Avatar

    Does Utah also have enough caves for all of their cavemen? It sounds like they definitely don’t have enough asylums for all of their crazy people—unless you count Utah’s State House as an asylum. What a bunch of backwards asses! Maybe they should have a bill against Lightning, one against fire, and another against significant snowfall—all of those can kill not only cows and wildlife, but people, too.

  8. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    Using legislation to achieve an end that you desire is not crazy – the enviromental movement does it all the time.

  9. JimT Avatar

    Hate to disagree, but the enviro laws are NOT passed all the time. They are proposed, and die in committee most of the time. The Ominbus Act that was passed was the first major bill addressing wildlands, and wilderness in decades, and will probably be the last for sometime to come. Last time the Clean Air Act was amended was in 1990; Clean Water before that. There has been no reform of the Mining Law since it was passed in 1872, and no re-writing of the ESA provisions for a very long time..probably a good thing in this political climate. NEPA, FIFRA, CIRCLA (dead now for all practical purposes)…NFMA,

    Maybe you are thinking of regulatory changes instead of statutory changes?

  10. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    JimT – I know you hate to disagree – I was going to go back and edit but, figured you would do it for me ~S~. Yes, I meant the whole ball of wax the legal, regulatory and any other scheme you guys can come up with. I will allow you to edit “scheme”.

  11. jdubya Avatar

    Christensen is a tool of SFW, no doubt, but even he can read the writing on the wall. Since this bill got some publicity he has been called an idiot a dozen different ways by the media and constituents. The word is that he is going to change his bill to call for more study of the Utah wolf problem. What wolf problem? This was Grandstanding 101, taking a page from the book authored by Buttars (our race and gay bashing senator).

  12. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Thanks for summarizing your study of Utah public opinion.

  13. JB Avatar

    Sure. It is nice to see that the data are useful, if only for showing the extent to which the Utah legislature is willing to pass legislation that does not represent the majority of its citizens.

  14. jdubya Avatar

    This is the meat of the “new” bill:

    23-29-201. Wolf Management.
    (1) The division shall contact the service upon discovering a wolf in any area of the state where wolves are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act
    and request immediate removal of the animal from the state.
    (2) The division shall manage wolves to prevent the establishment of a viable pack in all areas of the state where the wolf is not listed as threatened or endangered under the
    Endangered Species Act until the wolf is completely delisted under the Act and removed from federal control in the entire state.
    (3) Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply to wolves lawfully held in captivity and restrained.

    Typical utah versus the feds rhetoric

  15. william huard Avatar
    william huard

    It is amazing to me we have people like Christensen in office. Such irresponsible legislation should not be tolerated by the voters of Utah that are stupid enough to vote for him.. Perhaps his office staff could give him some files to rearrange with all the free time he has on his hands. He must be taking lessons from Michelle Bachman.

  16. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    I don’t have time to go back to the data, but Responsive Management (RM) has done several surveys for Wyoming G&F regarding peoples’ attitudes toward wolves and bears, and if I remember correctly, the numbers pretty much track along with JB’s account of his numbers from Utah.

    The fact is, the people of these states are much more moderate regarding wolves and bears than the wingnuts and their allies in the legislature or the dimwits of our county commissions who’ve passed resolutions prohibiting wolves and bears from the counties.

    Of note is that the critical aspect of peoples’ support for wolves and bears, RM found, was that conflicts were dealt with promptly and efficiently.


  17. Wilderness Muse Avatar
    Wilderness Muse

    Is this just sabre rattling, or does this ridiculous bill have a snowball’s chance in Hades of actually passing?

    Seems the legislators representing the the greater Salt Lake City/I15 corridor would slap this down pretty quick. Maybe the LDS elders will weigh in on it.



    If this comes even close to passing I will owe you an apology regarding the apparent enlightenment and increased tolerance for wolves in some areas of the West – specifically Utah.

    And, is anyone at Utah State inclined to follow up on your research from 2006-07, or it it too soon?

  18. Wilderness Muse Avatar
    Wilderness Muse


    Off the point, but did you get the stuff JimT and I gave you on public trust on another thread?

  19. Elk275 Avatar

    I wonder if the wolf question was put to a vote what would the out come be. I think that we would all be surprised.

  20. Virginia Avatar

    JB – your telling sentence in the last paragraph – “The lesson is that managers often hear from their most vocal critics or those most involved in a particular wildlife issue.” – this is so evident when you attend any of the meetings sponsored by G&F regarding their mismanagement of wildlife. Advocates are often “too busy” to attend these meetings, but the anti-everything crowd always shows up!

  21. Mike Avatar

    Jdubya is right, this is grandstanding and the type of state vs. federal rhetoric that the Utah legislature is known for.

    I like to think that there are some wolves living in Utah right now. We have had several incidents where wolves have shown up (Wolf #253, one found near Treemonton, the GPS’d collared female that was recorded in the Uintas in 2009, the pack that wandered in near Flaming Gorge) and there are probably others that have gone unseen/unreported. It isn’t that far of a reach to imagine a couple of wolves sticking around and managing to stay under the radar.

    Granted some more wolf-friendly policies in Wyoming, Idaho, and especially Utah would go a long ways to allowing a pack to become established.

  22. jdubya Avatar

    Elk, that depends upon who gets to vote. If the question is presented to a convention of SFW, nary a positive vote for the wolf. But presented to the public, the whole public, different outcome.

    Maybe you should read JB’s report above where he states: – 55% agreed that they “…would like to see wolves in Utah” (25% were neutral).

    55 plus 25 equals 80% of the people of Utah were either neutral on the subject matter or positive for wolves in utah. Hell, I don’t think even dubya won the state by 80%. (and no, I am not demeaning the fine qualities of wolves by comparing them to our former president).

  23. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    The thing about public opinion, politics and what happens in a state legislature is this.

    While public opinion counts in a democracy (or even in one that isn’t), what counts the most is political organization.

    Groups like SFW are locally organized and turn out and do enough political things that help or hurt legislators, that their voice is heard. Other wildlife groups, including those that support wolf restoration, are not well organized at the local level. Worse, they have to overcome political inertia that tells legislators that they are of no help and no threat. That is a steep hill to climb.

  24. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    So jubya,

    Those with a broader view of wildlife in Utah than Don Peay have to get organized and involved to influence the legislature if they want to not see this kind of legislation.

  25. JB Avatar


    I don’t think the DWR wants to know, and they would be the likely (only?) funding source. To be honest, I doubt too much has changed in Utah, given that residents there have little/no experience with wolves.


    Elk, jdubya, Ralph:

    Ralph’s point is a good one. Also, keep in mind that while the people who support wolves are a very diverse group, the ones that are vocal tend to lean (pretty heavily) to the left. In contrast, those that are vocally opposed tend to lean heavily to the right. Guess which way the legislature leans?

    Elk: You may be right regarding putting it to a vote. SFW has been extremely successful at rallying the troops in the past. This isn’t trivial as a lot of support for wolves is passive (i.e. comes from people who aren’t likely to participate in a special election or ballot initiative).

  26. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    What thread? I don’t follow every one. Have been really busy the last couple of weeks.


  27. Wilderness Muse Avatar
    Wilderness Muse


    Try this one.


    my post on January 19, 11:13AM to JimT (and you)

  28. JimT Avatar


    Scheme is such a loaded term, intentionally or not, in a political and legal discussion. I prefer strategy… And, the enviros employ the same strategies as the opposition, except we are less well funded, and less well connected. Nonetheless, we manage to save lands and creatures so folks like you can enjoy them.

  29. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    Strategy – good to know – I will keep an eye out for “strategy” talk.

  30. jdubya Avatar

    Ralph, good point. I have gone up against them a few times as have many others, and we almost always lose. SFW can buy off lawmakers dozens of different ways (a hunting trip with Karl Malone was always high on the list) while others can’t. Kirk and Allison (see their message above) can certainly attest to their (SFW) top predator status on the utah wildlife food chain. I am not sure what it would take to knock them off.

  31. Si'vet Avatar

    JB, if I remember correctly, you reside in Utah, my question is are the Anshutes who run a lot of sheep in the Unita’s as politically driven/connected as the Siddoways in SE ID.

  32. gline Avatar

    Like anywhere else in the west, those that speak the loudest about wolves are the ones that hate or fear them. Those of us who do appreciate them, don’t speak until there is some stupid bill requesting their demise.

  33. JB Avatar

    Si’vet: I moved out of Utah about 5 years ago for more school. I really enjoyed my time there, and try to get back every year or two.

    In answer to your question, I’m not sure how to compare these tribal groups. My limited experience with the tribes in Utah (mostly the Ute) suggests they were ambivalent about wolves. To be honest, I’m not sure how politically connected they are?

  34. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Talks with Bears, I am not about to say that Wyoming is exemplary in their attitude with wolves, but I think we are not nearly as bad as Idaho. People here aren’t putting up signs in areas warning about “Canadian Wolves”, we don’t have gubernatorial candidates preaching wolf removal straight out of the 1800sm we don’t have organizations like saveelk and I have never seen anyone warn potential new residents about the dangers of wolves. Idaho’s approach is so outdated it is amazing.

    But…We did have the predator and trophy zone area which was pretty ridiculous. And I have seen plenty of smoke a pack a day stickers and wolf terrorist ones but they are in the minority.

  35. Dawn Avatar

    How do these people get in office ? I know it is who you know and who backs you , but damn do the public see or even want to see this ? These people sound like they came out of the 1800’s it is the year 2010, enough already, get over it Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, wolves are here and some of the American population wants them here in OUR National Parks

  36. Dawn Avatar

    Protect your cattle and dogs and cats and anything else if you move into the back country of the Rocky’s, I do, and adapt with the wildlife here don’t destroy it or try to control it .

  37. Dawn Avatar

    I agree Pro wolf cause I do live in Wyoming and the attiude is some old school but also new school !

  38. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Dawn, I am glad to hear someone agree with me on the 1800s statement. That really is a problem. It seems like people are so set in their ways as to be ignorant at times. I am amazed at politicians who are elected into office that buy into the Little Red Riding Hood fear. Wyoming has an interesting mix of old and new school. Not sure which of the three states is the best with their wolf attitude.


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