…..and GUT the Endangered Species Act.
The details of the overreach.

Wolf © Ken Cole

The States are asking their congressional delegations to GUT the Endangered Species Act by changing the language of the Act so that it would allow species to be delisted based on state boundaries. In other words, it would allow the USFWS to use arbitrary, political rationalizations to decide when and where species can receive protection or to incrementally list or delist populations using rationalizations that are not based on the “best available science”. The ramifications of this are pretty profound and conservation groups should take notice of this. As the comments of the Montana FWP commissioners shows, they are not talking just about wolves but about all species.

“Changing the Endangered Species Act sounds like a tough, uphill job, but it’s important when you look at other species like grizzlies and sage grouse,” said Commissioner Dan Vermillion. “Montana has done a good job managing wildlife and we need to make sure we are not penalized (because of other states’ actions).”

The states are also asking for permits under Section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act so that they may allow public hunting of wolves.

SEC. 10. (a) PERMITS.—(1) The Secretary may permit, under such terms and conditions as he shall prescribe—
(A) any act otherwise prohibited by section 9 for scientific purposes or to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species, including, but not limited to, acts necessary for the establishment and maintenance of experimental populations pursuant subsection (j).

Here is an obvious question to be asked: How does public hunting of wolves “enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species”?

State scrambling to revive wolf hunt.
By EVE BYRON Independent Record

About The Author

Ken Cole

Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project. We do not accept unsolicited “guest” authors or advertising.

92 Responses to State scrambling to revive wolf hunt

  1. Phil Maker says:

    Isn’t it obvious Ken- allowing hunting of a listed wolf population will build tolerance!! Heavy on the sarcasm.

    • jon says:

      Allowing hunts is not going to build tolerance what so ever. Hunters/ranchers will always hate and despise wolves and that is that. I am sick to death about hunters/ranchers whining about wolves.

  2. Elkchaser says:

    I am sick of the wolfies changing the rules Jon. Also interesting how there are no articles in here about the WWP extorting money from the pipeline company.

  3. timz says:

    What “rules” were changed?

  4. WM says:

    This is one of those “be careful what you wish for” moments. Defenders and the other plaintiffs in the delisting litigation got what they wished for in the NRM, temporarily at least.

    They should not be surprised at all by the reactions of the states (and FWS as chief defendant trying to follow what it believed the law was under three administrations) in the litigation.

    It should be noted that this battle is not confined to ID, MT and WY – think UT, CO, Dakotas, WA, OR, NM, AZ, NV, etc. – which may ultimately be affected by the application of judicial decisions as Judge Molloy was compelled to make in interpreting the ESA Distinct Population Segment language. If Molloy’s ruling is the law – and I personally believe it is a correct interpretation- then why shouldn’t states ask for changes, particularly in light of the rather drastic (in their view) implications that follow from WY’s decision not to play by the rules of the NRM wolf reintroduction? What happens the next time another state doesn’t want to do exactly as requested by FWS, and it jeopardizes the hard work and efforts of of the states that do?

    My sense is this did not need to happen. But if you think about it, delisting along state political boundaries is not inconsistent with state management of other game species, and consequently it is not without some pretty compelling logical reasoning in the current political world that recognizes states as sovereign entities for certain functions. And, where a state is not ready/willing to take on responsiblity to manage, FWS remains the manager with the species in protected status. Maybe that is better than a state being a manager, if not really doing so in good faith under the law.

    This also runs parallel to the suit that HSUS filed and won against the GL states for their wolves. So, it might be reasonable to conclude there will be some support from them in getting the ESA changed as well. Think for example if MN and WI say we want our wolves delisted, and MI is still trying to catch up with its part of the GL DPS.

    These matters had the possiblity of a reasonable solution and, in my opinion, both sides have maybe squandered that possiblity. And now that some of these states are either really pissed off or mildly so, the ESA will get close look. Whether there is enough momentum in Congress to change the law is yet another story.

    • JimT says:

      Surprised? No. Repelled by the extremism of the reactions to the re-listing? You bet.

      We will see fiscal bills get attention this fall. That chicken-s**t approach of attachment will only have a prayer if it is attached to a military spending bill. And i am hoping the committees have the cajones to kill the amendments before that happens.

  5. timz says:

    WM, that’s all very nice and I agree with most of it. But if it was an attempt to answer my question to Elkchaser, “what rules did the wolfies change” it failed to do so.

    • WM says:


      I was only addressing the general topic news article and Ken’s introduction.

    • Ryan says:


      Many view it as the Population goals have been met, now they view all of the legal wrangling as rule changing. I can see where they are coming from, because even if WY changes its plans, DOW will still sue the next time they are de listed. So whats the point, get with your congressman and get the laws changed so that the next lawsuit will not be as easily won. Don’t worry it will be attached to some bill that protects children or some shit that will be passed easily.

      • Save bears says:

        I have heard rumblings that they are going to try to attach the bill introduced by the OK senator to some other bill that has to pass, kind of like they did with the gun in the parks bill.

      • timz says:

        It’s ironic that these folks sit around and berate DOW, etc for all the lawsuits when the know their actions (gutting, ESA, and/or seeking ways to circumvent it) are only going to bring more and delay delisting even longer. Don’t suppose it ever dawned on them to sit down and really work it out. You have to wonder who really doesn’t want these animals delisted.

      • Save bears says:


        If they get it attached to an important piece of legislation, it won’t matter, because it will be against the law to list wolves..this bill would essentially make them non-classified animals nationwide and allow the unregulated killing of them, they don’t have to work very hard to play the normal political game in Washington, just wait until an important bill comes along, then slap that sucker on there

      • Ryan says:

        “It’s ironic that these folks sit around and berate DOW, etc for all the lawsuits when the know their actions (gutting, ESA, and/or seeking ways to circumvent it) are only going to bring more and delay delisting even longer. Don’t suppose it ever dawned on them to sit down and really work it out.”

        Really, what was so wrong with the last delisting besides the exclusion of WY? The season weren’t agressive with asinine quotas and posed no threat to the wolves becoming endangered again. The last DOW lawsuit was the nail in the coffin my friend.

  6. timz says:

    Just because Congress enacts a law does not mean it can’t be challeged in court. A law like you speak of certainly would face legal challenge.

    • Save bears says:

      Lets look at the history of bills that the president has signed into law and how many actual successful legal challenges have been?

      Yes, you can challenge it, but the courts most of the time are on the side of the presidential signing of the bill

  7. timz says:

    “Really, what was so wrong with the last delisting besides the exclusion of WY?”

    If you were paying any attention you’d realize we don’t know the answer to that question as the other issues in the lawsuit were not even addressed because the exlusion of WY. was all the judge needed.

    • Daniel Berg says:

      Ryan, If you read through this blog more you’d see that there are plenty of people who do support a responsible wolf harvest.

      • JimT says:

        DB, define “responsible” program for wolf killings. What protections will they have given the present conduct and policies of the states if they are allowed to manage the wolf reintroduction? I see little or no evidence that such a thing can be planned and implemented given the rhetoric and stated goals of the state leaders as well as those of the anti wolf stakeholders.

      • Ryan says:


        I’ve been posting on here for years, it doesn’t change. The more extreme onside is, the more extreme the reaction is.


        It was proably a little calous and incitedful what I said, I’ll moderate it, I’ll stick to my origional statement though many posts ago. This president doesn’t know shit about the west, ecosystem, or the enviroment.

      • Ryan,

        I just said pretty much the same thing about Obama in my own comments.

        I thought your comment toward wolf supporters yesterday were unnecessarily hostile.

      • Daniel Berg says:

        JimT – Even though it is oversimplifying and an “all else equal” situation, the short answer is hunts with quotas that not only preserve the genetic integrity of the species, but also allow them to play a significant role across ecosystems. I’m obviously no expert, but so far I haven’t seen anything proving that scenario to be an impossibility other than people’s perceptions and attitudes.

      • Daniel Berg says:

        JimT – Also, I realize that the current status quo with many of the decision makers regarding wolf management in the states’ renders responsible hunts difficult, and that is unfortunate.

    • JimT says:


      Look…everyone on the anti-wolf side would like you to believe two things.

      One, Elk are the next candidate species for the threatened list due to the long overdue, science based reintroduction of the top canine predator to an ecosystem that has been out of balance since their human-caused extinction on the behalf of the livestock industry. The facts, of course, don’t support such a thing, but then, hysteria and greed seldom are rational decision making models.

      Two, the wolves are fully recovered in all of their historic habitat, and you should put the original figure of 300 (reminds me of the recent campy movie) in stone because, of course, science is immutable, and never has to adjust its conclusions if research shows that it is a fact-based approach to take.

      Of course, the great irony here is that the attitudes and conduct of the ranching industry, the guiding industry, and yes, some of the hunting community has contributed substantially to the current political impasse on restoring the wolf to its proper place in the ecosystem of the West. It is convenient to blame the wolf supporters for the impasse; that is what the entrenched do best–blame and inflame.

      • Elk275 says:

        Jim T

        ++One, Elk are the next candidate species for the threatened list due to the long overdue, science based reintroduction of the top canine predator to an ecosystem that has been out of balance since their human-caused extinction on the behalf of the livestock industry. The facts, of course, don’t support such a thing, but then, hysteria and greed seldom are rational decision making models. ++

        I agree that elk will never be a candidate for the endangered species act, but hunting seasons are going to have to be adjusted for wolf predation. There are going to be in the future restrictions on either sex hunting, length of seasons, areas that were over the counter purchase of tags will have to going to a limited entry draw and hunting methods restricted because of wolves. I do not think that it is fair to the hunters of North American to see a reduction in elk hunting opportunity because of wolves. There is not enough elk permits for everyone who has the means to hunt elk in the US every year, then we are going to future reduce that opportunity because of wolves.

        I have never liked dogs ( I was bite hard before I can remember) and from wolves came dogs. We in Montana are seeing hunting restrictions in the Bitterroot this year because of wolf predation. I have talked with state biologist and they are telling me in the future hunting opportunities are going to be reduced from what is available to today. This is not sitting well with many people in Montana.

        I have always voted for the environment and the democrats, but ………… Sometime this fall my state representative will be knocking on the door. Mike Phillips is my representative, one of the original wolf people in Yellowstone park now with the Turner’s endangered species foundation; I like Mike very much. Mike is going to have to explain what his true feelings are about wolves and there management. I do not want the Republicans to be the majority in the house of senate, but.

  8. Cindy says:

    Ryan – You are the most disrespectful person on here, well, at least today.

    • I deleted Ryan’s comment. Sometimes I write things that are beyond what makes a civil discussion.

      • timz says:

        I think the chances of Congress passing a law excluding wolves from the ESA are quite remote. As a politcal guy do you agree or disagree with that Ralph.

  9. Alan says:

    I don’t think such a law would ever pass on its merits. I would agree that an amendment would be the way that it would be attempted. The Endangered Species Act and wolves are very popular in most parts of the country, which leads me to believe that such an attempt would be fought more in the court of public opinion. Further, I think that it would be political suicide for any President to sign a bill, any bill, that contained a provision that gutted the ESA. That is exactly what would happen if we allowed a senator or congressman to slap an amendment on an unrelated bill and “exempt” an animal or plant simply to please a few local constituants who feel they are being inconvenienced by the listing. You may as well gut the ESA. Nothing could ever be listed again, as someone is always “inconvenienced”.
    If Obama signed the bill he would surely lose whatever he has left of his base, and re-election would be a pipe dream.
    In the unlikely event that something like this did pass you can bet that it would be tied up in court for years possibly ending up discussing constitutional law in the Supreme Court; all the while wolves remaining on the list.

    • Timz and Alan,

      I agree that the great danger is a rider added to a must pass bill. I don’t know if any of those kinds of bills are coming up because Congress and the President didn’t want anything like that on the agenda before the election. A regular process bill wouldn’t even bet a hearing.

      Democrats need to be told by major environmental organizations that if they mess with the ESA, they will not get electoral support.

      After the election, there will be a lot of lame duck members of Congress, and they will hold a lame session of Congress. The thing about “lame duckers” is that they are completely insulated from public opinion because they have already lost their seat. So what will motivate them? Some will be looking for a job. Some will feel free to indulge their personal policy preferences — ones that might have been too dangerous back home before their defeat. They won’t have to fear the gun lobby, but their behavior is hard to predict.

      Something bad could be sent to the President in the lame duck. The question is will those pushing for exempting the wolf from the ESA care so much about wolves after the election as all the grandstanding now? Another question is, would Obama sign a bill? Although I see him as more friendly to environmental issues than George W. Bush, he has been largely a failure on “Western issues,” which the ESA partially is. Politics would say, “don’t sign it,” but in my opinion he has turned out to be a remarkably inept politician, and the Democrats can likely blame their losses on him (and, of course, the remarkable infusion of right wing and corporate money into the election).

      I taught elections and public opinion for 30 years. The rules of mid-term elections are simple and much different than for presidential election. Mid-term rules are energize your base and try to win a majority of the reduced* number of independents. Ignore the other party. Obama and the Democrats would flunk the course.
      – – – – –
      *I write “reduced number” because independents don’t turn out to vote in mid-term elections nearly to the same degree as Presidential elections.

      • JimT says:

        As I said, the only real danger here is an amendment to a fiscal bill, and probably the one third rail we have currently…the military. I don’t know if there are any continuing resolutions coming up…do you? I also don’t recall if the Senate rules allow amendments to fiscal continuing resolutions..I suspect the answer to that is yes.

        The main problem with telling the Western Dems that they need to support a pro environmental, pro Green agenda or else, is that they are…and so far, correctly…calculating that the radical anti-environmental stands of the Republicans give them enough cover that a rational, committed environmentalist would not waste a vote to protest a retreat to the middle for fear of having more of what we all experienced under Bush.

        The great irony here is that the more radical the Otters or the Pombos of the world, the more cover they give to the Western Dems to run to the middle during the majority of their terms..I am thinking Senate here because they have the longest term….and then say to the base during the campaign..” Do you really want…XXX, the Republican candidate, in charge of public lands and species decisions”?

        I defer to your obvious expertise in the academic political arena, though I have to say I was the top student in my college in Political Science…LOL…Midterms are traditionally dangerous to the incumbent, especially now that Obama is trying to dig out of an economic hole the likes of which the large majority of the polity didn’t experience, and the younger folks barely acknowledge as a fact of American history.

        But, I have to say, the Dems have done a tepid and flaccid job in responding to the over-the-top accusations and tactics of the minority party. Obama has failed at a clear and concise response to the sound bite approach of the Republicans…I fear for the House in the fall…and absent a reform of the filibuster rules, more of the same gridlock in the Senate..I don’t see the Red Party taking control there.

    • Ryan says:


      I don’t think the average american cares about wolves and would be hard pressed to tell you what “ESA” stands for.
      The ones with the biggest stake in wolves are generally the Anti wolfers (Ranchers, hunters, farmers, etc in the west) They tend to make a bigger stink than the pro wolfers and we’ll make their support know. Get the NRA involved and its a done deal, espicially with the big pro conservative push that seems to be happening.

  10. Alan says:

    Ryan, I think you would be surprised; especially regarding the ESA itself. Plus remember that a bill has to be passed by a Congress in which most members do not come from Wyoming, Montana or Idaho. In any case it would be a real tragedy if we allow a handful of western ranchers to trash the ESA. I agree with Ralph. We really need to let Democrats know that if this happens there will be consequenses. I vote Democratic for environmental reasons. (period!) Otherwise, IMHO, there is little difference between the parties; Democrats tax and spend and Republicans just spend and leave it to our grandchildren to figure out.
    Personally I don’t believe that any animal that goes on the ESL (with rare exception) should ever come off. It is ludicrous to suggest that an animal, such as the grizzly bear, which once ranged throughout the west from Alaska to Mexico is “recovered” because there are 6 or 800 of them hiding out in the mountains of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming! Same thing with wolves. “Recovered” because there are a few thousand in the Rocky Mountains and a few thousand more in Minnesota, when there used to be tens of thousands from coast to coast! Rediculous! At best they can be said to be “stable” in a portion of their former habitat.
    Having said that, I worry about going too far…on either side. If the ESA is trashed clearly wolf opponents have gone too far. In the future an animal or plant may be allowed to go extinct that may have held the key to curing cancer or some equally important thing, only to be discovered too late. And, yes, I know that there are many other problems with delisting (and I don’t believe in delisting in most cases, as I said…..but realize that no one is going to get everything they want out of this), Would it really kill us to keep wolves listed in Wyoming and delist in Montana and Idaho? Can’t believe I said that! But this has to be solved, and standing face to face punching each other in the nose like a couple of Rock’m Sock’m robots isn’t going to do it. The fact is that everybody should be punching the rolly poley clowns in Cheyenne.

  11. JimT says:

    Yeah, it would kill us, because you would be giving ammunition to the folks that think that ESA decisions can and should be based on arbitrary political boundaries instead of being ecosystem-based. The big weakness in the ESA is the species-based approach. Even Michael Bean agrees. The problem is there is ZERO chance of ever safely amending the ESA to reflect this/

  12. Alan says:

    “The big weakness in the ESA is the species-based approach.”
    I agree. I have said many times that it is the ecosystem that is endangered, not the species. That is why numbers don’t matter, and why I believe that once on the list always on the list. How can grizzlies, wolves, condors etc. be declared “recovered” when habitat continues to be destroyed?

    • WM says:

      The ecosystem/habitat element is the big pink elephant in the middle of the room that everyone sees, but does not want to talk about.

      For example, the WA Draft plan, used a planning horizon of 100 years on the one hand, and on the other said that no land use management restrictions were anticipated to accomodate their 150/15 breeding pair objective. Then a blind study opinion from three independent scientists screened by yet a fourth to summarize the other three, suggested WA had suitable habitat for 600 wolves (of course they didn’t consult the demographers and regional planners before making these raw conclusions, which all of a sudden start being repeated as acceptable numbers from some advocates.

      And yet another part of the Draft stated that elk populations would be managed to support desired wolf populations (which makes existing hunting interests subservient to an expanding wolf population). The conflicts are inevitable as projections of wolves numbers are met, human population increases and habitat decreases. Gotta wonder what the final plan will say.

      This scenario will play out in virtually every venue state to some degree, in less than 10 years, in my view. What will give – numbers of wolves? opportunities for hunters? land use restrictions to preserve or increase habitat/ecosystems that were promised would not happen?

      There are some real meaty issues to chew on.

      How do you reconcile these clearly competing .

      • WM says:

        …clearly competing interests?

      • Alan says:

        It is impossible to preserve species without preserving habitat. That goes for elk, deer, moose, pronghorn and other “desirable” species as well. It is a goal that hunters, at the very least, even those fervently anti-wolf, should have in common with pro-wolf environmentalists.
        Regarding hunter opportunity: How long do wildlife managers, and hunters themselves, think that the number of hunters in the field can continue to increase, and harvest percentages maintained, as more and more habitat is destroyed? Removing “compitition” from wolves and other predators only (slightly) delays the inevitable: No habitat, no wildlife. That’s one of the best things about the ESA, it inadvertantly protects habitat which, again inadvertantly, protects a host of species in addition to the target ones.

      • Elk275 says:

        Who is acquiring habitat? Pro wolf people. The State of Montana purchase today 28,000 acres of prime elk habitat between Deer Lodge and Helena. This property has an additional 10,000 acres of non accessable state land and access to thousands of acres national forest.

        The ESA has protected existing federal lands from logging and mining, but has it purchase any fee property with outstanding wildlfe attributes; to my knowlege it has not.

    • Elk275 says:

      It seems to me as a hunter the best habitat for most big game is private property. The early setters selected the best lands for their homesteads.

      • JimT says:

        I don’t follow your point about pro wolf people acquiring habitat and then some factoid about Montana purchasing 28K acres. State of Montana is pro wolf now?

        The Land and Water Conservation Fund is meant to be the instrument for land and habitat purchases and preservation. Unfortunately, it has been treated as the politician’s private project slush fund to raid as they see fit. And, as far as I can recall, it never has been fully funded.

      • Alan says:

        Problem with private land is that landowners can decide which species will be “allowed” to live there. It isn’t good habitat if badgers, prairie dogs, coyotes etc. are shot on sight (for example). If you manage just for elk, all you have is an elk farm not an ecosystem. Plus, no one owns enough private land to maintain an ecosystem even if they wanted to. Even Yellowstone is not big enough to contain the entire ecosystem. Finally, landowners can and do decide who can or cannot use their land (hunters, fishermen, campers, hikers, wildlife watchers, etc.).

      • Elk275 says:

        Jim T.

        I was getting a bit tired last night, but here is the story on the Spotted ‘Dog Ranch. I was not purchased with federal funds. This is a great purchase.

        HELENA — Gov. Brian Schweitzer says a $16.5 million deal has been finalized for the state to buy a big ranch near Deer Lodge that is home to prized elk habitat.

        The deal, wrapped up Thursday, was approved by various state boards and commissions before Schweitzer gave his stamp of approval.

        The money to buy the 27,000-acre Rock Creek Cattle Co. will come from the state Natural Resource Damage Program, which manages money aimed at replacing resources lost to mining in the region. The Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks will manage the land.

        Schweitzer says it will be open for hunting.

        The deal met some resistance from those opposed to more government ownership of land and others who thought the deal was a misuse of money meant to make amends for mining damage.

  13. JimT says:

    Based on science, for a start. And then…heaven forbid..the vested interests that have historically had the ecosystem’s interests managed by THEIR definition of health being subjected to a science based strategy instead of a political-revenue only strategy. Basically, we..the wolf supporters..are not asking for the extinction of the elk, as some here would have you believe. Rather, it is a balance of prey predator relationships that needs to be brought back into existence. The key issues? One..livestock interests need to be put back in their place as minor players in the overall economy of the regions…no right to a lifestyle claim allowed. Two…hunters need to share their role with a species that is much better suited to meeting natural ecosystem needs and balances than a role based on economics, not survival.

  14. Elk275 says:

    You have your opinion and others have there’s and I support each person’s opinion, but it ain’t going to happen. I would love to see the buffalo roam by the thousands, mountain sheep on every mountain, native trout in the rivers and wolves.

    In Montana 65% of the land is private, 5% state and 30% federal. The vested interest are not going to allow what you want to happen. If the rancher no longer ranches then the sub dividers are going to subdivide. There are 25,000 to 100,000 acre ranches that have been in families of several generations with very little federal grazing lands. These ranches are not going to fold up and become lessor economic players. The ranchers are major players in the state legislator, real estate agents are major players and the populous wanting high paying jobs are major players. One hundred thousand plus hunters are not going to allow wolves to balance the prey and leave them a minor player.

    It is a distorted dream that the predator/prey is going to balance each other naturally and that we are going to have complete eco-systems restored, while the population increases and the world demand for material goods increases and the have not’s demand what the have’s have. The country has to many people with to many wants to regress .There are no complete eco systems in the lower 48, large national parks and wilderness areas were created after the settlers started patenting land. The Arctic National Wildlife Refugee is the only one left. How many people on this forum have even been there, I have, for most it is a dream.

    Science is not going to dictate wolf or elk populations, economics, land ownership and political power are. The harder one pushes wolves, the harder creating new wilderness areas and expanding existing ones and restricting motorized travel.

    • pointswest says:

      I agree. This Kleppe decision that seems so relevant to current wildlife law was about wild horses a burros. I think both wild horses and wild burros should be shot as vermin. They are not natural (I know a species of horse was here 14k years ago) and wild horses and burros only compete for resources with natural species.

      I can remember when the wild horse and burrow issue made it to national attention. It was all about many “Western” romantics who wanted to see wild horses protected because they were part of “Western” culture and lore. Ambitions politicians found a campaign issue and now they are protected by law. It is sad and proves to me that some fanciful arcadian tend 75 years from now could just as easily rid Yellowstone of grizzlies.

      Now we’re moving forward trying to sort out what to do with truly endangered species and disappearing ecosystems with laws and court decision based on animals from Eurasia that do not even belong here. I too get very cynical sometimes.

      Some philosophy should be developed by the UN or some other international organization to help nations prioritize laws and protections of wildlife and ecosystems.
      As it is now in the US, it is just blowing in the political winds and catching the sails of ambitions politicians.

      • WM says:

        ++I think both wild horses and wild burros should be shot as vermin. ++

        I find it incrediby interesting that Congress would choose to memorialize and protect what, in effect, are two invasive species. These invasive species, then become the basis for a key federal court decision, and a perceived avenue to regulate beyond the boundaries of federal lands on an “ecosystem” basis (according to a very few legal scholars). But when you think of it, it probably is the very fact that they have the potential to do substantial damage that is another justifying basis for the legislation.

        Maybe we need a wild cow and sheep law, to regulate grazing. WAIT, we already do – FLMPA. WHAT? it is not being enforced by BLM or FS.

      • JimT says:

        Which would you rather have on public lands…cows?

        There would be plenty of room and habitat for horses and burros to co-exist with native species IF the cows were not always being pushed as the number one priority. Don’t buy into the livestock line of bull.

        I wonder what the livestock industry would do if the only kind of commercial grazing allowed on public lands were bison?

      • Pointswest says:

        Hawaii has colonies of feral cats that prey upon invasive rats. I suppose that until something can be done with the invasive rats, the cats should be left alone. I would not want to see a Wild and Free Feral Cat Act go through Congress, however, and become a basis for future court decisions regarding the Hawiian Goose.

        I’ve always read that feral animals are usually not very healthy and generally lead short and often miserable lives. It does not take long for the domestication process to rid from the gene pool genes that fend off parasites and predators. For example, I saw a documentary about Russians that recently domesticated a species of fox in eastern Siberia and in just a few generations, have changed the color of these foxes from reddish-brown to black-and-white with the familiar chest patch of white found on domesticated dogs.

        I hate to imagine what changes occur at the microbiological level. These poor feral animals might have loads of lice, maggots, ticks, worms, etc., etc., because the genetic defenses were bread out of the gene pool never to return.

        There may be a few places where feral horses and burros can roam (like a big private ranch) but I do not believe they should ever displace native species and do not believe they should be protected to the extent that they are. I certainly hate to see case law develop based upon the Wild Horse and Burro act.

    • Alan says:

      Elk, I actually, and reluctantly, agree with a lot of what you say. We are not going to have tens of thousands of bison roaming the plains again, etc. But doesn’t that fact emphasize why it is so important to preserve what we have left? Predator/prey balance is not a distorted dream, it is the way things were for millions of years. It was human hunters that destroyed the great herds, not wolves; and to their credit, it was mostly human hunters that helped restore them (to the degree that they have been restored). But that doesn’t mean that they own them.
      In todays world it has been clearly demonstrated that just because land is owned by the state or federal government does not mean that it is protected. Only Wilderness areas can truly be said to protect ecosystems, and as such protect a way of life that you and I both enjoy. Even National Parks are subject to development (except for the few designated Wilderness areas found in some parks).
      One other thing to keep in mind is the way that our system works. Whether one owns 100,000 acres that has been in the family for 100 years, or one is a student living in an apartment in Bozeman who never set foot on Montana soil until 6 months ago, you are entitled to one vote. My guess is that if you add up all of the eligible voters in Billings alone you have cancelled out every ranch owner in Montana many times over. So one has to ask, based on how our system works, the ideals that we all charish, whether these ranchers wield way too much influence? Times are changing and so are demographics. Most people moving to the Northern Rockies are politically to the left of those living here for generations (Montana, for example, almost voted democratic in the last Presidential election, and has two democratic senators (as imperfect as they are) and a democratic Governor. People move here for the amenidies, which include lots of public land and (all sorts of) wildlife.

      • Alan says:

        BTW, “In Montana 65% of the land is private……”. Compare that to Texas, or most other states, and ask yourself where you would rather live.

  15. Elk275 says:


    ==Most people moving to the Northern Rockies are politically to the left of those living here for generations (Montana, for example, almost voted democratic in the last Presidential election, and has two democratic senators (as imperfect as they are) and a democratic Governor.++

    Montana has always been democratic. Since statehood Republicans have only served 24 years total or four 6 years terms in the US senate. There are many people moving here because of public lands, fishing and wildlife and some lean to the left but there are more moving here beacause of the lack of laws and regulations. Unforunately I believe that move conservatives are moving here than liberals. Where else in the US can one open carry his six shooter into a bar.

  16. Nancy says:

    ++I think both wild horses and wild burros should be shot as vermin. ++

    I understand the lineage of many wild horses today can be traced back to the Conquistadors. They were here long before the west became overrun with cattle. And I believe the little burro has also been here for a couple of centuries. Both should be credited for not only helping to establish the west as beasts of burden, but respect is due them for being able to exist in some very harsh conditions. Its a shame they are considered by some as nothing more than vermin.

    • Alan says:

      Nancy, they aren’t vermin. They are beautiful. I understand that the horses in the Pryer Mountains are directly decended from Spanish horses. They are, however, an invasive species that are in compitition for resourses with native animals. I don’t like seeing them killed, and nothing sends a chill up your spine like watching them gallop on a ridge in a thunderstorm; but they what they are. No fault of their own.
      Of course the biggest invasive species of all, as someone pointed out above, is the cow. No one who has cows on public land has any business complaining about “Canadian wolves”!

  17. Alan says:

    I can only go by my personal observations, but the vast majority of people I have met who have lived here less than 8-10 years seem to be closer politically to myself than most of the oldtimers I meet. As for legal open carry; I have very, very rarely seen anyone exercising that right. Never yet in town, though I don’t hang out in bars.

    • Elk275 says:

      Think about it!. The people you met and get to know are similar to you. When was the last time you were at a tea party convention or a Republican convention. We seek out people who are similar and avoid those who are disimilar or we’re in places and events that interest.

  18. Nancy says:

    ++They are, however, an invasive species that are in compitition for resourses with native animals++

    See thats where the line gets kind of “gray” in my mind Allan. How long does a wild species (and the horses we are speaking of are, truely wild) have to be in one place to be considered native? A century, two centuries, a thousand years?

    Because they are often rounded up and sold, gentled down and managed by humans, does that make them any less wild or just defeated, as in lions, tigers and bears…….. oh my? LOL

    I’ve yet to see any studies that claim wild horses are keeping other native species down, but they are in competition with cattle on public lands and ranchers would be my guess, as to why there’s so much passion about them roaming free.

    • ProWolf in WY says:

      The line is pretty gray as to what is a native species. How long does it have to be here? I am mixed on my feelings with wild horses and burros. I love to be able to watch them and think they are very beautiful animals. However, I do worry about how much competition they are with native wildlife. In places that have wild horses it doesn’t seem to be nearly as badly overgrazed as places with cattle and sheep. It’s interesting though how hunting groups will not complain about other introduced species such as pheasants and partridges (which I like to hunt also) Barbary sheep, gemsboks, and even moose, mountain goats, and turkeys that have been introduced outside of their native ranges.

    • Save bears says:

      There is no gray area, the horses and burros are an invasive species, the are not an indigenous species, the are invaders that were brought by the Spanish, I don’t want to see a whole sale slaughter of them, but please don’t try to assign them indigenous species status, The last Native American Horse species that inhabited the North American Continent was over 14,000 years ago, this climate was not suited and they died off! If we want to argue about native species, then, I can make an argument for cattle, they have been on the continent for over 2 centuries!

      • JimT says:

        I will take that argument….:*) Cows..European natives only. At least horses have a link to a native species on this continent at some point in our ecological history.

        Cows do the most damage to the Western landscape; there is no doubt. Horses and burros may appear to be doing extensive damage, but only because they are being restrained by the greedy demands on public lands by welfare ranching companies and the people who profit from them. Give them adequate habitat…and the damages would lessen greatly.

        For me…bison sharing the Western landscape with horses, burros, elk and native sheep would be just about perfect for grazing species. Cows belong in temperate climates with adequate water and grass..and that isn’t typical of the western landscape at all.

      • Save bears says:

        “I will take argument”

        And I am surprised, Why?

  19. Nancy says:

    ++There may be a few places where feral horses and burros can roam (like a big private ranch) but I do not believe they should ever displace native species and do not believe they should be protected to the extent that they are. I certainly hate to see case law develop based upon the Wild Horse and Burro act++

    PW – again, still trying to relate to the defination of “native”

    • pointswest says:

      Nancy…wild horses and burros have three strikes against them for ever being called “native.”

      Thier gene pool has been serverely and irreversably altered by captive breeding…strike one.

      Their gene pool before captive breeding evolved on another continent and among other preditors and parasites…strike two.

      They were not relocated here naturally but were shipped here by humans on man-made ships…strike three.

      They are domesticated animals from the Middle East. I have no problem with domesticated animal roaming around per se but do not want them competing for resources (including tax dollars) with native species that are here naturally.

      I want as much of the natural world to remain as possible. I get tired of landscaping, of development, of gardens, of farms, and of pastures with domesticated livestock. I want as much as the natural world preserved as is possible. Domesticated horses are nice. I like them, but they are a creation of captive breeding. They are in a real sense man made. They are not natural. I don’t want the whole world to be some creation of man designed by experts in beauty…a Wonderful World of Disney. I want some nature left…the world just as it is without alteration by humans.

      Domesticated animals belong on private land.

  20. Linda Hunter says:

    Pointswest you said: I’ve always read that feral animals are usually not very healthy and generally lead short and often miserable lives. It does not take long for the domestication process to rid from the gene pool genes that fend off parasites and predators.

    I would like to point out that the life of a domestic animal in not necessarily an improvement. Personally I would rather be feral than a motorhome dog. . think about it. Nasty food, only humans for companionship and no adventures? Domestic dogs and cats are not known for their wisdom or sanity and lots of them have “issues”. Naw I would take parasites over a dog house any day.

    • Alan says:

      I’ve often wondered what dogs and cats think of their lives. Most have never known anything else. My cat, on the other hand, was feral for close to the first year of her life before we adopted her (or she adopted us!) All I can say is that she looks pretty darn content laying in front of the wood stove on a cold winter night, and shows very little interest in going outside (unless we go with her) even if the door is left open! She seems pretty “smart”. She plays catch, fetch, hide and go seek, “panther” (where she gently jumps on your back without warning and goes for a ride around the house) and several other games (including ‘chase the curser’ as I type this!). Her biggest “issue” is which lap to spend the most time in.

      • Linda Hunter says:

        But Alan, wouldn’t you hate it if all animals were domestic?

      • Alan says:

        Absolutely!!! What a terrible thought! Wildlife is one of the greatest joys of my life. Dogs and cats have been bred to be the companions of man for so long, though, that I don’t think it’s a viable option for them anymore. Being a farm dog and being a family pet is a big difference too. I’ve known dogs that were treated better than most kids.
        I know where you are coming from, though. You and I love our freedom so much that it’s inconceivable that our pets wouldn’t as well; but I don’t think that pets in a good home feel that they are “captive” or property, just part of the family. I wouldn’t doubt that some think that one day they will grow up to be a human!

    • bob jackson says:

      The reason “feral” animals don’t do well is no different than why humans who have been isolated from others…or pampered most of their lives would not do well if they were released and then lived in an alien environment.

      It all has to do with ancestoral learning. Put a few generations away from house escaped and they would do quite well thank you maam….that is if humans allowed these animals to form up into functional families….which they don’t.

      • Linda Hunter says:

        Thanks Bob .. from your post I realized that I did not fully comprehend the word feral . . I thought it just meant wild. It actually means a tame thing that has gone wild, which is a problem unless the animal is adaptive enough to learn new things. Sometimes words do trip us up don’t they. Sometimes I think that some of the discussions on this blog that get people frustrated are a result of not having the terms mutually defined. For instance, when I think of a predatory bear I think of one who has premeditated murder in mind and who is actually stalking and hunting a person or animal with intent to kill and eat. Others I have noticed think that predatory means a bear who will eat meat I think. What does it mean to you?

  21. Alan says:

    ” still trying to relate to the defination of “native””
    God (or “Nature”) put them there instead of man.
    The exception (before I get myself into trouble!) is when man re-introduces a species that has been absent for a short time, as in the case with wolves.
    In other words a species has to evolve or migrate there on their own to be considered native.
    An ancient horse-like creature not withstanding, horses, cows and spotted knapweed would not be in North America were it not for humans.
    In order for an introduced species to be “invasive” it has to do damage to or displace native species. This is clearly the case with cows and spotted knapweed (house sparrows etc.). With horses it’s a little tougher. Are they invasive? Probably, but they are also beautiful and majestic. As I said, it’s unfortunate but they are what they are. Personally I hope that we can always find a small place for them, in the remote Pryor Mountains for example. But those feelings are based entirely on emotion. They don’t belong here like wolves, and are therefore much harder to defend.

  22. Nancy says:

    Timeline………its all about the timeline. At what point is it acceptable and accepted to say:

    ++They don’t belong here like wolves, and are therefore much harder to defend++

    Again, I’m going to ask, according to whom Allan?

    • Save bears says:


      One word, “Science” man has decided to classify animals, so based on current classification, horses and burros are not indigenous…

      Now if you have a new classification, I am sure those of us, that work in the industry, would be happy to listen and evaluate..

  23. Nancy says:

    SB – good article


    While wandering around in a wooded area of Texas I came across what appeared to be a petrified bone. It was about 5 – 6 inches long. I packed it around for years and then one day a friend and I stopped in at the University of Bozeman and had a professor in the paleontology dept. take a look at it. He got excited and said it wasn’t a bone but a petrified tooth from an Ice Age horse.

    • Save bears says:


      I am aware of that article as well as the fact, there have been petrified bones and teeth from the pre-Ice Age Horse, but they died and went extinct and really are not quite the same genetic species as the Spanish horses..without the Spanish bringing the European horses to this continent, there would be no horse species in North America. Its kind of like saying we should have elephants here, because the Mammoth roamed the continent..

    • jon says:

      I see some saying that wild horses are non native and invasive and some as we all know say this about wolves, but let me ask you this Nancy, is a different species of elk was introduced into Idaho or Montana, would there be a big stink about it or would people be bringing it up that these elk are a non native invasive species?

      • Save bears says:


        Elk are indigenous to the North American Continent, and have been for a long time, it is quite different when you are talking about sub-species being put in different areas of the country as they are all connected by genetics. The horses in North America are not the same species or even a sub-species of the Ice Age horse, that went extinct…

      • Save bears says:

        Also despite what some claim, the wolves that inhabit the NRM are genetically related to the wolves that roamed the area before they were wiped out. There is virtually no genetic difference from the wolves that have migrated into the region on there own and those that were re-introduced into Yellowstone and Idaho..

  24. pointswest says:

    I said in my original post about feral horses that I was aware there there were horses here 14k years ago…the so called “ice age horse.” These horses were very different in appearance from domesticated horses. They were much smaller and stockier. There were of one color. They resembled a small burro. The differences certainly did not stop with apperance. They probaby had a very different temperment. Their social behavior was probably very different. Their digestive, endocrine, immune, lymphatic, muscular, nervous, reproductive, respiratory, skeletal, and urinary systems were all probably all different from dometicated horses.

    Domesticated horses were bred to be gentile, to be docile, to socialize with humans, to have attractive colors (attractive to humans), and to be large enough to carry humans or pull carts and plows. Domesticated horses were not bred to be feral and they do not do well when running wild. We have plenty of domesticated horses on private land that are well fed by humans, that are protected from preditors by humans, that are protected from parasites by humans, and that are protected from disease and injury by humans. Why do we need feral horses running around sick and/or injured half the time impacting wildlife and leading short and miserable lives…because it turns you on to see wild horses? Can’t you just watch them run on a private ranch? I like see them on a big ranch. They are nice animals…but they they need human care. I will post a favorite pic I have near my hometown in Idaho.

  25. Nancy says:

    ++Domesticated horses were not bred to be feral and they do not do well when running wild++

    Lost me on that comment PW. If wild horse bloodlines here in the west can be traced back to the 1500’s, I’d say as a species “gone wild” they’ve managed to get along quite nicely, that is until the issue of public lands and exactly “who” grazed them became a hot topic.

    And SB, what about this statement:

    The fact that horses were domesticated before they were reintroduced matters little from a biological viewpoint. They are the same species that originated here, and whether or not they were domesticated is quite irrelevant. Domestication altered little biology, and we can see that in the phenomenon called “going wild,” where wild horses revert to ancient behavioral patterns. Feist and McCullough (1976) dubbed this “social conservation” in his paper on behavior patterns and communication in the Pryor Mountain wild horses. The reemergence of primitive behaviors, resembling those of the plains zebra, indicated to him the shallowness of domestication in horses.

    Or is it as Linda stated:
    Sometimes I think that some of the discussions on this blog that get people frustrated are a result of not having the terms mutually defined.

    Did I miss something in that article?


    From what I gathered, yes, horses were native to this continent and then went extinct, but their species had populated other areas of the planet, adapted, changed and then were re-introduced again to this continent.

    • Save bears says:


      None of my studies in Genetics or Biology, link the horses that now inhabit, to those that went extinct.. The genetic ties are simply not there, they are a non-native invasive species introduced from Europe…I simply don’t understand what is so hard to understand? Please explain..

      Now of course all of us biologists have Theory, Opinion and Science behind us, and often times the results vary among us, the horses that are on the North American Continent are not related to the pre-Ice aged animals..

      • JB says:


        I think what makes folks skeptical is that there are SO MANY introduced species (wild and otherwise) running around N. America–why such a focus on horses? Especially when their populations are relatively low? It seems especially disingenuous to allow millions of cattle (also brought over from Europe) to roam public lands and then claim wild horses are having detrimental impacts (and don’t even get me started on exotic plants).

        BTW: Wild horses are WILD animals. Feral refers to animals that were once domesticated that have subsequently returned to living without the assistance of humans. Dogs and cats go feral all the time. Horses have been living and reproducing as wild animals for many generations. The term “naturalized” is often used to describe non-native organisms that, over some period of time, have adapted to a new environment.

        – – – –

        FYI: In many states non-native fish are purposefully introduced specifically for anglers.

      • WM says:


        I am not sure the line between horses that are “wild” and those that are “feral” is easily distinguished.

        The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act (Public Law 92-195), states: (b) “wild free-roaming horses and burros” means all unbranded and unclaimed horses and burros on public lands of the United States;

        Under this definition it would seem feral horses and burros would be a subset – if unbranded and unclaimed (for how long before determined to be legally abandoned, I cannot say). It is also interesting, since presumably all horses and burros in North America were at one time owned and domesticated by someone, and they eventually became feral. Their progeny were born “wild” or, alternatively they, too, are feral.

        To prove the point- BLM uses the FWS feral definition:
        “Feral horses and burros, as defined by the FWS, are non-indigenous, unbranded, unclaimed descendents of domestic horses and burros that exist and move about unrestricted on refuge lands.”


        There are about 30,000 wild or feral horses and burros in four or five states in the West, and the numbers are controlled not to exceed this rough number – mostly by round up and public sale.

        Maybe the ID and MT should think about wolf roundups beyond what they want for their wildlife management programs, and even donation to other states. Maybe more people would be happy —–for awhile.

      • Save bears says:


        As I have stated, I have partaken and enjoyed the fruits of many introduced species in my lifetime, but as a biologist, I look at the overall health of the ecosystem and introduced species have detrimental impacts on the native species, which I am against.

        Fortunately, I have no romantic relationship with any species of animal, but I certainly don’t want to see indigenous animals pushed out by those who don’t belong in this ecosystem.

        Many people don’t understand, simply because they don’t take the time to learn, and they are fed a continuous stream of rhetoric from both sides of each issue..then they pick their side.. And when it comes down to it, no matter which side is chosen, they will always have someone against them… It is unfortunate, that animals are managed like our country, through politics and money.

        As far as feral or wild, I really don’t care, what I do care about is indigenous species and natural habitat impact, which is why I am so against un-checked grazing on public lands..

    • Pointswest says:

      ++Nancy writes: Lost me on that comment PW. If wild horse bloodlines here in the west can be traced back to the 1500′s, I’d say as a species “gone wild” they’ve managed to get along quite nicely, that is until the issue of public lands and exactly “who” grazed them became a hot topic. ++

      Nancy, I do not have any hard facts on wild horses so if you area really going to challenge me, I will just back down. I am not interested enough in them to go find facts.

      What I mean when I say that feral horses do not do well is that I mean they are not healthy, they often suffer from injuries and parasites, and thier lives are often short. I have read or heard this many times about feral horses and other feral animals. Many survive but have miserable lives.

      Feral horses may have been around since the 1500’s but remember their numbers are being replentished all of the time by newly escaped horses. Also, humans have eliminated most of the preditors in the West and have changed the landscape. If I had to speculate, I doubt wild horses (from domesticated eurasion horses) could have survived if it were not for humans. …but again I do not have any hard facts and am not interested enough to find any. So just mark this down as opinion or idle speculation.

    • Ryan says:


      There is alot more than 30K, that only counts the horses on BLM ground, not nfs, state land etc..

  26. Nancy says:

    This statement is what’s confusing me SB:

    +Critics of the idea that the North American wild horse is a native animal, using only selected paleontological data, assert that the species, E. caballus (or the caballoid horse), which was introduced in 1519, was a different species from that which disappeared between 13,000-11,000 years before. Herein lies the crux of the debate. However, neither paleontological opinion nor modern molecular genetics support the contention that the modern horse in North America is non-native” +

    • Save bears says:


      It may confuse you, it does not confuse me, I have been involved in some of the genetic studies, and we simply did not see the links that others think are there..

    • Ryan says:

      Its just some BS put out by horse lovers. They are a pest and cause lots of damage to the ecosystem. If you want to see what horses can do sans cows to a desert ecosystem, go to seldon NWR.

  27. Nancy says:

    Thanks for your thoughts SB. I’m thinking the “door” will always be open to discoveries still out there waiting to be uncovered, as technology gets better and better and better when it comes to defining “native”

    • Save bears says:

      It may very well be Nancy, as technology always improves our knowledge level improves..


September 2010


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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