Defenders ends wolf depredation payments

All Defenders payments for dead livestock ends in September-

It really seemed like a good idea.  Wolves will kill some livestock, but a public spirited conservation group will pay generously for all verified losses and even 50% for unverified, but probable losses to wolves.

Defenders has been paying these claims for well over 15 years now. In my opinion, however, the program did not work if their intent was to generate public support or prevent opposition to wolf restoration. Defenders own studies showed that the program did not build support for wolves among livestock owners.

In retrospect, it is easy to see why it failed.  Livestock owners hatred of wolves is not based on the economic value of their losses.  If the losses were heavier, it might have been welcomed, but in most cases the person who lost stock could pretty easily afford to absorb the loss.  As a result, they could turn down the compensation, or maybe even accept it, but vent their spleen anyway. In a few cases it is clear that owners who welcomed a payment were pressured not to apply for one.

Defender’s program will be replaced by a federal/state compensation program recently set up by law by Senators Tester of Montana and John Barrasso of Wyoming. It is less generous, however. Under the new program there has to be a proven loss and states have to pay 50%. The later won’t be hard to achieve at least in Idaho, the legislature will be happy to cut the benefits of blind old people or those tax-sucking school children to pay for the livestock.

Conservation group ends wolf predation payments. Associated Press (as printed in the Seattle PI)



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    1. JB Avatar

      “The Endangered Species Act does not work and won’t work as long as promises are broken…Rest assured, I am working …to do everything within my power to restore state management and hunting. That’s my promise to every Idahoan and the Defenders of Wildlife.”

      Here’s a wonderful demonstration of how Butch Otter thinks our legal system should work. The ESA–FEDERAL LAW–doesn’t “work” because, in Butch’s estimation, FWS and Defenders (a private NGO) reneged on their promises. Apparently Butch thinks the text of the federal law is irrelevant, and said law should be able to be circumvented with backroom deals? Now what does that tell you about Idaho politics?

    2. WM Avatar


      ++ FWS and Defenders (a private NGO) reneged on their promises++

      What it tells me is that one or more federal agencies either negligently or intentionally misrepresented the meaning of the ESA for the last twenty years, or so regarding the specifics of wolf reintroduction.

      As I have said before, the states ought to be adding claims of fraud and misrepresentation against the federal government to these listing/delisting suits.

      I would really like to see a string of evidence, if there really is any, going back the full period of reintroduction – from the advance work done in the 1980’s, to the actual procurement of the source wolves (including the alleged misappropriation of PR funds for some of it and Jamie Rappaport’s involvement, to the years of discussion between FWS staff and state wildlife agencies about how this would all unfold, right up until the rejection and then subsequent approval of the WY plan, which Molloy rejected.)

      Let’s air all the dirty laundry. I also want to know if Jim Beers is a liar.

    3. Ken Cole Avatar


      “As I have said before, the states ought to be adding claims of fraud and misrepresentation against the federal government to these listing/delisting suits.”

      I’m not sure that the states would really get anywhere with a claim like that. The problem as I see it lies with the fact that the USFWS is required to use the “best available science” in determining whether or not to list or delist a species. Currently, the “best available science” supports the idea that thousands of animals are needed to maintain genetic diversity rather than the minimum of 450 wolves called for in the state’s management plans.

      Maintenance of genetic diversity all depends on what species you are talking about. Things like generation time, mating habits, number of breeding animals all factor into the calculations that have to be made in figuring out how many animals of an individual species are needed to maintain diversity.

      Current numbers aside, if the state’s management plans don’t pass muster with the “best available science” then, I’m not sure that the stalemate will end. I think this is the clincher that will decide the next delisting plan. That’s what needs to be addressed somewhere, likely in court, before delisting actually takes place.

    4. JB Avatar

      “What it tells me is that one or more federal agencies either negligently or intentionally misrepresented the meaning of the ESA for the last twenty years, or so regarding the specifics of wolf reintroduction.”

      Actually, I don’t think the Service misrepresented the ESA at all. They set recovery guidelines in the 1994 EA, and they pretty much attempted to stick to them. You certainly can’t hold them responsible for changes in the science and the actions of federal courts. Up until the 2001 case of the flat-tailed horned lizard, the SPR phrase was all but ignored. Science and law make for interesting bedfellows.

    5. JimT Avatar


      Would you kindly give me your cause of action for filing such a claim against the Feds? What law would allow the states to do such a thing? What applicable, existing common law concept would one use, if at all?

      I suspect if you want ALL The dirty laundry, the states should be at least as forthcoming as the entities you cite in your post, as well as allies of the anti wolf folks like WS, private welfare ranchers, etc.

      Pandora’s Box…WM

    6. WM Avatar

      When I wrote that the states probably should consider fraud/ misrepresentation charges against the federal government, I should have put a parenthetical (tongue in cheek) or one of those cute yellow smiley faces with the wink, that some of you use (perhaps someone will show me how to do that on this forum).

      But I see that as no worse than some of the claims made in the delisting complaints by plaintiffs – seriously. And I think it would be a great sound bite for the press.

      Let’s just look at the federal paperwork a bit. First, here is the Background for the chosen Alternative 1, in the 1994 EIS (edited, but you can find it as I did here at p. 61 (aka Alternatives p.1 ).

      This is important language because it sets the stage for the selected alternative. Read it carefully:

      ++The designation “experimental population” had its origin in a 1982 amendment to the ESA, which created Section 10(j). Section 10(j) provide for reintroduction of experimental populations under special regulations. Before that, the FWS could introduce threatened and endangered species into unoccupied historic range, but attempts to do so were often met with fervent resistance. One reason was that the FWS could not promise private landowners, other federal agencies, and state and local governments that the transplanted population would not disrupt future land management options. The “experimental population” designation gives the FWS more flexibility because such populations can be treated as “a species proposed to be listed” or “threatened” rather than “endangered.” Congress provided the amendment to make more reintroductions possible, by allowing more management flexibility, if necessary, where such management is consistent with conservation of the experimental population. If a reintroduced population of wolves is designated “experimental” and “nonessential” (not necessary for the survival of the species in the wild) under the ESA amendment, other federal agencies are required only to confer with the FWS on federal activities that are likely to jeopardize the species. Exceptions would be in national parks and national wildlife refuges, where formal consultations with the FWS would still have to occur. Management of nonessential experimental population can thus be tailored to specific areas and specific local conditions, including local opposition….++

      Conclusion: Non-essential, experimental wolves means, “flexibility” in management for states in addressing local concerns, and more. Don’t worry. Be happy. We’ve got you covered. [Do you see anything in there about what happens when one state won’t play? Oops, looks like someone missed a major point in the environmental impacts]

      Now, to address Ken’s concern about “best available science.” I did a quick pdf term search and this term appears NOWHERE IN THE BODY OF THE ALTERNATIVES DISCUSSION in the EIS. One has to go all the way to the back to Appendix 11, and there is in the text of the ESA statute, Section 4. There is also an affirmation that FWS will follow the law. (See pdf pages 395-397). That is it buried in an appendix!!!!!!!!

      No discussion in the body of the EIS about how the numbers might change based on the science. This seems pretty clear to be a big hurdle after the fact, that is now playing out in the courts. How many times do you suppose that topic came up during the marketing of this program to the states? I will guess very few, and with assurances that it won’t be a big problem, but then we don’t know for sure about that.

      This of course is preceded by Appendix 9 (which RH has quoted a lot in the past). Ed Bangs, states in a memo to the Yellowstone team entitled “Subject: Assessment of whether population goal established for delisting in the 1987 Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Plan constitutes a viable wolf population.”

      This closing paragraph becomes policy for the program:

      ++My conclusion is that the 1987 wolf recovery plan’s population goal of ten breeding pairs of wolves in three separate recovery areas for three consecutive years is reasonably sound and would maintain a viable wolf population in the foreseeable future. The goal is somewhat conservative, however, and should be considered minimal. The addition of a few extra pairs would add security to the population and should be considered in the post-EIS management planning. That could always be done as a periodic infusion if deemed necessary.++

      Where is the misrepresentation?

      Well, here is a legal definition of the common law action for fraud. A misrepresentation of material fact, upon which another party justifiably relies to its detriment. Misrepresentation becomes fraud through the addition of intent to misrepresent (the legal term is often called scienter). It must be pleaded with “particularity” which means the accuser must say with a certain amount of specificity what was done to them.

      I won’t pretend to put words in the mouths of ID or MT, but I will guess there is a great deal of disappointment for having spent the last fifteen years participating in this program and in the end being told you can’t delist because WY won’t play. We have heard the states say before to FWS, “we have done all that you asked of us, and we can’t delist wolves in our state after X years of meeting the goal you set for us (including that obscure ESA Section 4. “best available science” provision in Appendix 11, whatever that means).

      Yes, I would say there is a case for misrepresentation for the states to make in the court of public opinion, and maybe even a federal district court.

  1. Cody Coyote Avatar
    Cody Coyote

    Ralph and Ken— it’s worthwhile to review that provision in the Omnibus Lands Bill of 2009 that contained Tester’s and Barrasso’s compensation program for losses due to wolves. Half of that $ 1 million in relief is earmarked for direct compensation of livestock losses. But if I recall correctly , the other half was dedicated to implementing “Non-Lethal” wolf control in the Northern Rockies wolf recovery area.

    When was the last time you heard anyone from Wildlife Services or a state game agency talk about how their “nonlethal” wolf control program is going ? Me neither.

    In January of this year, two guys sat before my Park County WY commissioners and delivered their mandatory annual report on predator control for the previous year, box score of animals ” managed” , budget, etc. In Wyoming, the County animal control programs ( funded by the State) have been dovetailed with Wildlife Services itself. One of these two guys was the county trapper, the other was the local head of a 3-person Wildlife Services squad, who previously was employed as the County trapper.

    I specifically asked the WS agent about that new Tester- Barrasso funding ( it had taken effect on July 1 the previous year ). Then I dropped the Nonlethal Bomb… “how’s that nonlethal predator control program working out? ” Short answer: it wasn’t, because they had no use for it and didn;t even try. The Wildlife Services agent said “nonlethal wolf control does not work . It’s a waste of time “. Something was mumbled that once a wolf gets a taste for livestock , all you can do is kill it.

    So I guess I went away with the conclusion that the half of the money used for compensation is welcome, as are most slush funds. The half of the money intended to be used for nonlethal ?—somebody needs to follow the money there, and see if it got anything more than lip service. Or if it was used at all. Or if it was somehow diverted through the backdoor into the predator killing apparatus , against the intentions and letter of the law itself.

    Anyone who has ever tried to get hard facts about the activities of Wildlife Services knows it’s easier to get raw intel on Iran’s nuclear weapons program instead. WS doesn’t even bother to respond to legitimate FOIA requests. They are a rogue agency and work out of sight, under the radar, and are not accountable.

    Somebody needs to do some hard edged investigative reporting on the other half of that Tester-Barrasso wolf control and compensation amendment, the Nonlethal component. Who’s the Inspector General with perview of USDA Wildlife Services, anyway ?

    I’m not sure the Tester-Barrasso Nonlethal even exists. At least not at the frontline theater of Wyoming’s wolf combat zone, Cody and Park County.

    Maybe other readers can write back about efforts in their counties. Myself, I am so cynical about these sorts of things and need to see the tangible and the spreadsheets. I can’t take anyone’s word for results, especially with regards to any legislation intended to mitigate wolf impacts that has Sen. John Barrasso’s name on it. Now THERE is a wolf in sheep’s clothing if there ever was one…

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      I have a feeling that WS and the states are breaking the law because the law specifies that equal amounts of the funding must be used “(1) to assist livestock producers in undertaking proactive, non-lethal activities to reduce the risk of livestock loss due to predation by wolves; and (2) to compensate livestock producers for livestock losses due to such predation.”

      If they are using money to compensate ranchers and not using an equal amount on non-lethal activities then they aren’t following the law.

  2. Virginia Avatar

    The DOW plan to pay ranchers for their “losses” has been one reason that I have never given them any money. I do not want my hard earned money going to any welfare rancher.

  3. jon Avatar

    I have a couple of questions. Do most wolf depredations on livestock/cattle happen on public or private land? Are the the wolves responsible for livestock depredation spared if dow compensates the ranchers whose cattle that those offending wolves killed? I don’t see much point in killing offending wolves and than compensating ranchers whose livestock was attacked and killed by those same wolves. Ranchers should only be compensated if they willing to co exist with wildlife and use non lethal methods. Instead of resorting to killing (calling aerial gunners in), are these ranchers really trying out non lethal methods or are they just giving them up after a while because they may cause an inconvenience to them?

  4. Brian Ertz Avatar

    Compensation programs = Moral Hazard

  5. Pointwest Avatar

    There was a five-part documentary on Animal Planet called the ‘The Las American Cowboy’ ( Click Here ) and after watching it, I certainly had the impression that these ranching family see their cattle heard as an extension of their family. They become very protective of their cows and experience grief and anguish when they lose one. I would advise many of the extreme pro-wolfers to watch this series as a sensitivity training exercise to try and develop some empathy for their fellow human beings. These people feed, shelter, doctor, and protect their animals from birth and they suffer emotionally when they lose a cow or calf. I know that may seem perverse where, in the end, most cattle are shipped off to market to be slaughtered but if you watch this documentary, you will see that it is true. Those herds become and extension of the family to those people.

    Saying things like ranchers “should” learn to live with wolves among their herds is a little like Hell’s Angels saying kids should learn to live with their pitbulls roaming in the neighborhood…even though a kid might be chewed up every once in a while. There is plenty of public land in cities and towns. If you impose wolves on ranchers, why not impose them in cities and towns. Since laws came with reintroduction against shooting wolves, wolves have been imposed on these people. Originally, there were no laws protecting wolves and people could protect their herds by ridding the countryside of wolves…and they did. With reintroduction, laws were imposed prohibiting the killing of wolves, except in certain circumstances, so wolves were imposed on the ranchers.

    I have said many many times, I believe the US should maintain a wolf population and that wolves should be imposed in some areas…but not all areas. It will be a sacrifice for some and, somehow, these people need to be compensated. I believe we need to designate or set aside some large areas but I do not have all the answers.

    Villainizing ranchers, however, is childish, counter productive, and even dangerous and will only lead to further problems. We already see battle lines being drawn by the extremes on both sides.

    1. timz Avatar

      And after you watch that and wipe the tears away read —
      “Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West “, and get your perspective back

    2. Ken Cole Avatar

      Several ranchers sure don’t seem to care much when they leave them out for months on end without enough water. I’ve seen my share of dead and abandoned cows out and about that didn’t look like their owners cared one wit about them. I’ve even reported a few to BLM people so that the rancher would come get them. I found one of them dead a week later.

    3. Pointwest Avatar

      But agricultural subsidies are a nationwide policy issue, they not confined to the West nor to ranchers, and a separate issue entirely. I am speaking of a “people problem” where there are two camps with different views. It always helps to understand the other side rather than villainize and dehumanize it.

      Dehumanizing a class or creed or a culture is a horrific act of aggression and always…always leads to trouble. It is always the first act of aggressors leading or provoking people to violence or war.

    4. JEFF E Avatar
      JEFF E

      “They become very protective of their cows and experience grief and anguish when they lose one.”

      and then send them to slaughter where a nail gun is used to drive a nail into their brain….
      give me a brake..what hogwash

    5. SAP Avatar

      Nail gun?
      Surely you mean the captive bolt gun? It doesn’t drive a nail into their brain, it pneumatically drives a steel rod through their skull; the rod is part of the gun & retracts back into it — hence the name.

    6. JEFF E Avatar
      JEFF E

      and the difference is… anyway the on the spot terminology is nail gun

    7. Pointswest Avatar

      I believe modern slaughterhouses use a spinning blade. The clamp the cow in a shoot and clamp its head. The spinning blade comes up from below and cut the cows neck while a worker attaches the back legs to a hoist. Blood comes gushing out the cows juggler veins via the cut as the clamp is loosened and the hoist begins picking the cow up by its back legs. The now suspended cow move in front the shoot where blood can continue to drain from the carcass. The following cow is moved into the shoot and clamped completing the process.

      This is a safer, more reliable, and faster method of slaughter than using any kind of projectile.

    8. Pointswest Avatar

      You same extreme people who will condemn to hell ranchers for raising cattle for slaughter will revel in how cute little wolf puppies are and how wolves packs behave like a human family. Yet you look the other way when a wolf pack takes down a calf elk and eats the hind quarters while the baby elk is still alive.

    9. timz Avatar

      I have no “beef” with them raising cattle for slaughter, it’s the constant whining about how everyone is trying to destroy their way of live that’s irritating.

    10. Elk275 Avatar

      ++I have no “beef” with them raising cattle for slaughter, it’s the constant whining about how everyone is trying to destroy their way of live that’s irritating.++

      I am getting tried of the constant whining about those who dislike those who own thousands and thousands of acres of fee lands with excellent wildlife habitat. Those who do not own land are jealous of those that do own land.

      I own 1/18 of the land in my condo complex so I am landless.

    11. Pointswest Avatar

      I’ve got news for you. Pastoral romance (Click Here ) dates back to the 3rd and 4th centuries BCE when the Mediterranean began to urbanize. Christianity is a pastoral religion and it eventually permeated Western Civilization in its entirety. So maybe your fight is with more than ranchers.

    12. JerryBlack Avatar

      After reading “Welfare Ranching” by Wuerthner, read “Sacred Cows at the Public Trough” by Denzel and Nancy Ferguson.
      here’s an excerpt…

      “The cattleman’s most prized possession, his cattle, must be viewed with cold, unemotional detachment-they ar destined to be slaughtered and replaced by others. Meanwhile, calves will be pulled at birth with a chain and tractor if necessary, each will be branded by burning a symbol into its living skin, young males will be castrated, horns cut off, notches cut in ears and wattles will be cut on the head and necks of many. The cattle will be lassoed, dragged, punched, prodded, beaten and driven. Any predators daring to approach will be dispatched.
      What is the impact of such violence and gore upon the impressionable children who are destined to become the next generation of ranchers? It seems a small wonder that cattlemen are unable to fathom the sentiments of environmentalists, or muster empathy for a rare and endangered species or concern themselves with the habitat needs of bighorn sheep or native trout. Dollars are real:life and nature are transitory-to be used, recycled, and manipulated-not made into objects of affection.”

    13. Brian Ertz Avatar

      the romanticism enjoyed by Pointwest’s initial comment, and many of the subsequent rancher-apologist comments are a ludicrous misrepresentation of reality.

      The American Rancher is a corporation – thus, it’s a fitting dehumanization, one that reflects accuracy to a much larger degree than the mythical cowboy as we imagine him to be (John Wayne).

      In fact, one might argue that a real problem is the excess anthropomorphism enjoyed by this corporate industry, a fantasy which would have us believe that the “mom & pop” ranchers are “good”, that if we do anything that might hurt them ~ that would be “bad”, and that their romantically projected benevolence ought be cast across the whole industry such as to absolve these Corporate Cattle Barons from any level of accountability, social responsibility, environmental responsibility, even the hard-knocks of the free-market that the rest of us are expected to play by.

      Question: where do cattle on public land go once they’re ‘discovered’ from pasture ???

      Answer: The Feedlot

      American Public Land Rancher Inc. has enjoyed the personified cultural mystique of the America Cowboy for long enough. The industry has significant political and economic incentive to continue to put a camera on the most marginal of anecdotes and broadcast said image into the market, and into the political consciousness of those who continue to write their corporate-welfare checks ~ that’s called Marketing, every industry does it ~ the livestock industry over time has done it very well.

    14. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Brian Ertz,

      You make a most important point. Those who raise the bulk of the cattle are corporations, not ranching families. The “last American cowboy stuff” paints a very distorted picture of the industry. It is a cultural mystique. The universe we live in is almost totally different.

    15. Pointwest Avatar

      Brian, Ralph…I am not defending nor apologizing for ranchers. I am simply expressing the very human side of their existence. Dehumanizing them is not going to help. I too think things need to change.

      BTW…do you have any statistics on what percentage of cattle grazed on or near public land in Montana are owned by corporations? The only statistic I can find is that 20% of Montana is owned by farm and ranch corporations. However, many family ranches are incorporated for inheritance purposes. My grandmother’s large dry farm was incorporated for this reason…to beat inheritence tax.

    16. Pointwest Avatar

      ++Jerry Black quotes from a book: “cattleman’s most prized possession, his cattle, must be viewed with cold, unemotional detachment-they ar destined to be slaughtered and replaced by others. Meanwhile, calves will be pulled at birth with a chain and tractor if necessary, each will be branded by burning a symbol into its living skin, young males will be castrated, horns cut off, notches cut in ears and wattles will be cut on the head and necks of many. The cattle will be lassoed, dragged, punched, prodded, beaten and driven. Any predators daring to approach will be dispatched.”

      …but many of these same things are done to pets. Dogs have their balls cut off, their tails cut off, their ears trimmed off. They are colared, chained up, beat, kicked, and have their choke chains jerked. The are scolded and forced to sleep outside.

      Some human beings even cut the forskin off thier baby boy’s penis. Some babies are cut out of their mama’s belly. Some have thier tonsils cut out. They cut out their appendix. They cut their hair, and will dip them in bath water against screaming protests.

    17. Pointwest Avatar

      I forgot to mention that humans take their babies to doctors who stick them with needles and to dentists who pull out their teeth.

    18. Daniel Berg Avatar
      Daniel Berg

      Pointswest –

      Your comment about cattle being an extension of the family inspired some thinking on my part. I don’t know how I feel about that statement. I just haven’t seen that attitude.

      My best friend is an accomplished team roper. His brother is also one hell of a steer wrestler. I grew up with these guys and spent a lot of time at rodeos, ropings, practicing, blah blah. In that crowd there were plenty of ranchers, their kids, and their hands. Cattle were almost always regarded as inanimate objects that moved.

      It’s not that I blame them for feeling that way. As a kid when I worked chutes, the first few times I did it I always felt bad for hot-shotting the roping steers. After a while though it was just robotic and I didn’t even think twice about it. Nor did I think twice about the well-being of those steers in general beyond their ability to perform a task after dealing with enough of them. In all the years I’ve been around that scene I’ve only rarely ever seen a cowboy treat cattle in any sort of personal or familial way. Only once do I remember roping at someone’s house who wouldn’t use the hot shot on his cattle.

      Not really an important part of your statements for me to comment on, it just made me think. I’ve always thought of their feelings toward cattle as no different than how I feel about my stock portfolio. And btw, I have absolutely zero romantic feelings about my stock porfolio right now.

    19. JB Avatar

      “…I forgot to mention that humans take their babies to doctors who stick them with needles and to dentists who pull out their teeth.”

      Sounds just horrible, but I’m still waiting for the part where they saw off their children’s heads.

      We do lots of things for and to our kids that, while they cause momentary pain, are done for their long term benefit. What is done to livestock is not done for their benefit, but for the benefit of those who own them.

      In my opinion, the human analogy always fails.

  6. spanglelakes Avatar

    Yes – it’s true. There are WS agents that ranchers call because just about any dead cow or calf will be confirmed as a wolf kill. Who these agents are is well known. IDFG doesn’t even ask for a copy of the depredation form, which these days is barely filled out. If WS says it’s a wolf kill, that’s good enough for IDFG to order at least 3 or more wolves to be killed, or the entire pack. Cal Groen’s edict to kill as many wolves as possible is in effect and being carried out under the 10(j) Rule

  7. V.C. Wald Avatar

    While I believe it is reasonable for business owners to be compensated for losses that are beyond their control, and that considering the point of view of livestock ranchers in wolf restoration is the right thing to do, most businesses carry some form of insurance at their own cost, and not at the public’s cost, or that of donors to NGOs like Defenders of Wildlife.
    Would that not be something worth considering? I assume all these folks depending upon livestock ranching for their livelihood have some form or other of insurance coverage on their stock. Give that predation is so low, what would it cost them to add a rider covering losses to bears and wolves, actuarially-speaking?

    1. Pointswest Avatar

      There are issues with private insurance. There are some of the same issues involved as in the healthcare debate. Who pays for the insurance and who are the beneficiaries? Why should a rancher near Dillon, Montana buy insurance when one near Durango, Colorado does not? Who gets the reward from having wolves around? Maybe the pro-wolfers should be required pay the insurance by law, instead of ranchers.

    2. Alan Avatar

      Doesn’t the rancher in Durango have coyotes, domestic dogs, perhaps mountain lions to worry about. Certainly weather. Chances are the guy in Dillon always had more predators even before the return of wolves. A store owner in a high crime area pays more for insurance than one in a low crime area, just as a driver in the city pays higher rates than one in the country. That’s how insurance works. Why is it that ranchers always seem to think that someone else should pick up their costs of doing business?

    3. Ralph Maughan Avatar


      Regarding your speculation . .

      If pro-wolfers maybe should have to pay ranchers’ wolf insurance, wouldn’t it then follow that elk watchers and hunters have to pay rancher’s elk depredation insurance?

      However, since the cattle industry is one of the worst offenders in terms of greenhouse gas emissions (and CAFOs floating shit particles in the air) shouldn’t they have to pay reimbursement to the rest of us for that?

    4. Pointwest Avatar

      Ralph…yes. That is the problem with private insurance. It is not a substitute for good management.

    5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Thank you Pointswest,

      As Brian Ertz wrote elsewhere in this thread, compensation [insurance] (at least too much of it) is a moral hazard.

      Folks should make sure to read the link if they haven’t heard the tern “moral hazard”

    6. Alan Avatar

      At least with private insurance, when one exercises “moral hazards” rates tend to go up and eventually the insurance is cancelled. Not so much when the government is footing the bill.
      Who pays for the insurance and who are the beneficiaries are often not the same. Once again, that’s how insurance works. A large pool of individuals pay so that a much, much smaller pool of those who actually have losses may collect.

  8. Virginia Avatar

    PW – I have to agree with you – you do not have all of the answers. With all of your knowledge and experience of and in the west, you seem to be an authority on just about everything western. I would like to recommend a book to you that I have recommended on this blog before as it was recommended to those of us who have been reading Ralph’s blog for quite some time. It is entitled, “Pushed Off the Mountain; Sold Down the River” by Samuel Western. You will learn a lot about how the ranching oligarchy has had Wyoming government and citizens (taxpayers) by the throat for a long, long time. Might just give you a little different perspective on the “Last American Cowboy.”

    1. Pointswest Avatar

      Virginia – My father was president of the Rod & Gun Club in Fremont Country in the 50’s and 60’s. In the 70’s, he managed Fall River Electric, the power company that serves much of Teton and Fremont Counties along with West Yellowstone Montana. I grew up hearing from my father that the big farmers and ranchers owned Idaho (and other western states). My father cited all kind of examples and antidotes that “proved” that farmers/ranchers “ran the government” from farm/ranch welfare programs to farmer/rancher privileged use of public roads, to farmer/rancher use of public lands to farmer/rancher tax breaks.

      After I received a college education, however, and began to understand economics and government policy, I could see my father was wrong about the government and the influence of it by farmers/ranchers. It turns out that it is long standing government policy in the US to support, through subsidies, through tax breaks, through programs, and through laws anyone engaged in the production of food. The government slant towards food production is not a conspiracy; it is a policy to keep food prices low for even the poorest Americans. It is to ensure that anyone can afford milk for their baby. It is democracy in action and is not a conspiracy. Furthermore, this policy is practiced nationwide and is practiced in other countries.

      It would NOT be hard for an author to find examples and antidotes in our political system of subsidies, tax breaks, government support, and law of abuse and couple this with misunderstanding to conclude that it is all a conspiracy. It is an irrefutable fact, however, that food prices in the USA, when compared to average the average income, are about the lowest on earth.

      I don’t doubt Wyoming was controlled by cattle barons early on and I know the “cowboy culture” of Wyoming is fictitious. I saw the movie Heaven’s Gate back in the day that was about this very subject. Two things set Wyoming apart from almost every other western state. One is that it is largely a high altitude desert…much more so than any other state. Vast areas of Wyoming is above 6000 feet and receives less than 7 inches of annual precipitation. The only sizable areas of arable land are near the Nebraska line. The other thing about Wyoming is that there was almost no gold and silver found there when Amercans migrated west in the mid-19th century. In Idaho, for example, settlers began moving in during the 1860’s gold rush to raise crops and livestock for the miners. Something like this never happened in Wyoming. The reason Yellowstone Park was the first NATIONAL Park is because there were no people in Wyoming in 1872 and it was still a territory. The territory of Montana had Helena, Bannack, and Virgina City with newspapers and business boosters and politicians who wanted the Park. They along with the Northern Pacific influenced the Federal government to set it aside…because it was not in Montana. If the geysers had been in Montana, the Montana territorial government would have protected it and it may have become Yellowstone State Park.

      Wyoming is different and the cowboy history is a myth. So what.

      1. Cody Coyote Avatar
        Cody Coyote

        What an act of providence that Lewis and Clark somehow missed ” discovering” Yellowstone Park in 1805-06. Completely missed it, thus postponing history for 60 years while gold rushes , settlers , railroads , and Mormons swirled around it. .


        Can you imagine how different the history of the interior American West might have been , were it not for L & C being shown a crude map that the Clarks Fork River and later the Yellowstone River coming up from the south did not issue from California or the west side of the Continental Divide at all …? There is a reason why Colorado , being the same size and shape as Wyoming geographically and adjacent to it, has 11 times the population. History got there first…the miners. Wyoming was just a place to hurry up and get beyond as quickly as possible, along the Great Trail and the Union Pacific.

        The dark side of this chain of events is the Stockgrowers came to think they owned the place and could do as they please with it. In one of the Great Unexplainables, cattle barons managed to rule Wyoming well beyond any rational allotment of human aspiration. Few people and plenty bad weather quickly annoits ironhanded chieftains in a harsh land.

        So on the one hand I am thankful that Yellowstone and the Great Divide Headwaters forestalled colonization as long as they did , but we have endured the feudalism of the baronial ranchers and mythical cowboys for a few too many generations.

        The Great Wolf Debate is a shameful legacy of all that , in the here and now. IMHO.

    2. Ralph Maughan Avatar


      To fill out more of the picture, I think it is government policy not just to protect and subsidize producers of food, it is government policy to protect and subsidize producers of all kinds, as long as they are organized politically.

      The ones who rarely get government protection are the consumers.

      Of course, almost everyone is both a producer and a consumer. The crazy thing is the government protects them in one of their roles but ignores them in the other.

      This tendency has gone so far that it is a fairly good explanation of the great recession and the failure to recover.

    3. bob jackson Avatar
      bob jackson


      I appreciate your insight in the catch 22 cause and effect of producer-consumer politics.

  9. REChizmar Avatar

    It’s the intellectual, well reasoned, generally respectful debate like above that makes this Blog so special. Thanks all for the continuing education, perspectives and differing points of view … again. Sure as all hell beats Big Brother / DWTS – which for some reason my wife is painfully addicted to!

    1. Daniel Berg Avatar
      Daniel Berg

      I agree. There are quite a number of people who post on this site who seem to posess an intimate knowledge of wildlife issues and beyond relating to the west based on many years of experience. Most present information or their opinions in a thoughtful manner. The passion on display here is different to me than it is on other sites that are much more polarized to the extreme of either side. On a side note, there are a few here in particular that could damn near have biographies written.

      I’ve learned so much just in the short time I’ve frequented this site. It’s actually kind of addictive. I’ve spent time on blogs that cater to those who are on one extreme or another when it comes to these issues and this one is one of the most fascinating in terms of discussion.

  10. Nancy Avatar

    When I logged on this morning, before leaving for a job, I believe there were 2 comments so far to Ralph’s post. 8 hours and 50 comments later and I have to say I totally agree with REChizmar & Dainiel Berg’s comments. especially REC’s: “It’s the intellectual, well reasoned, generally respectful debate like above that makes this Blog so special”


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Ralph Maughan