Who's not willing to compromise on wolves?

Is compromising with the lawless in the best interest of wolves, wildlife, or the ESA?

By Ken Cole, Ralph Maughan, and Brian Ertz.

Ever since wolves were relisted as an Endangered Species by Judge Molloy of Montana there has been a persistent drone of editorial opinion, political grandstanding, and accusations made about and against wolf/Endangered Species Act (ESA) advocates.


Just recently, a piece was written that claimed wolf advocates “blew it” by fighting too long and too hard to protect the integrity of the ESA via fighting to keep protections for wolves. It went on to say that wolf advocates should have made an offer to settle rather than fight for the integrity of the ESA and now they are responsible for giving their opponents ammunition to threaten the integrity of the ESA.

The fact of the matter is that wolf advocate plaintiffs have been in settlement discussions with defendants, sadly enough, even after the court victory re-instating protections for wolves. It’s been wolf-opponents such as representatives of the state of Idaho that have declined to participate, refusing to even send anyone to these discussions. So who’s being too strident and why?

Furthermore, any settlement agreement must be reviewed by the public which means that it is an action that could be litigated by any number of groups for various reasons.

You can read about what is publicly known about the discussions here:

Montana Says Settlement Possible In Wolf Lawsuit.

And here:

Federal officials deny Montana request to hold a ‘conservation hunt’ for endangered wolves.
Canadian Business Online.  Be sure to read both pages.

Wolf conservationists have been also accused of “moving the goal posts” by demanding that all the delisting criteria for the program be met. Instead the claim has been the only required goal was reaching a minimum 300 wolves among all three states, but even this number was dictated by the government. It wasn’t set by some deal conservationists made.

These criteria are detailed in the USFWS wolf recovery plan which requires, in part, that wolves achieve at least 10 breeding pairs in each of the three states and that each of the three states produce wolf management plans that are acceptable to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).  The first goal laid out as the minimum requirement for “recovery” was met early on but Wyoming stands apart from the other two states by demanding that their plan allow anyone, for any reason, to kill any wolf by any means in any part of 80% of the state outside the National Parks and wilderness areas in the northwest corner of the state.

Yes, the wildlife management agencies of Idaho and Montana have committed to maintaining wolves at levels higher than 100 wolves in their states, but these commitments are hardly secure. . . far from it. The state management plans were not written by these wildlife management agencies. They were written by the legislatures of their respective states. The Idaho and Montana legislature have made it clear they are not shy about demanding the state wildlife agencies manage only for the minimum population levels that they committed to in their plans. Just such an effort was made in the last Idaho legislative session. It was put on hold because the wolf delisting was still being litigated. Such a resolution could be made more powerful by being turned into a bill, which would likely pass now that wolves have been relisted. Legislators have made a point of saying as much in private conversations with wolf advocates and they are on record in the 2001 HOUSE JOINT MEMORIAL NO. 5 demanding that “wolf recovery efforts in Idaho be discontinued immediately, and wolves be removed by whatever means necessary.” It’s not a matter of if they’ll do it, but when.

We are told that wolf advocates made a “deal” that wolves would be delisted once the minimum population goals of 10 breeding pairs for three consecutive years in each state was met. Not so. What group set this number or made a deal? Where is it written? “Deals” such as this could conceivably been made by certain unrepresentative individuals, but the ESA and NEPA are clear, and ,under these laws, decisions such as these have to be made using the best available science. They cannot be made based on a whim and the political flavor of the day. Currently the best available science indicates that thousands of individuals are required to maintain genetic and population viability.

Wolf advocates have been accused of not compromising on wolf management issues, but many forget the biggest compromise made by wolf advocates and many, many others made since. That compromise, seen as a mistake by some and not by others, was the reintroduction itself. There were wolves in the Northern Rockies before the reintroduction. These wolves had full protection under the ESA. There were not classified as an “experimental and non-essential population.” They could have slowly reestablished populations in Idaho, and eventually Yellowstone, on their own but with much less genetic diversity and over a longer period of time. That also means that they could not have been killed for any reason other than protection of human life. Most wolf advocates compromised on this issue by allowing the USFWS to reintroduce wolves to central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park as an experimental, non-essential population.

Furthermore, at the time of the reintroduction, as Peter Steinhart wrote in his 1995 book The Company of Wolves, even Republican Idaho Senator James McClure, seeing the writing on the wall, supported reintroduction because it would allow ranchers the ability to kill wolves in defense of livestock.

“….Senator James McClure of Idaho introduced a bill calling for the removal of wolves from the endangered-species list, and subsequent reintroduction into Yellowstone. In effect, he was conceding that wolves were inevitable, and that the ranchers would be wise to compromise in order to protect their ability to deal with depredations. Congress, however, rejected McClure’s bill as an attempt to circumvent the Endangered Species Act, and instead called for the preparation of an environmental impact statement for wolf reintroduction into Yellowstone National Park. That amounted to tentative approval of reintroduction.”

Since the reintroduction over 1,200 compromises have been begrudgingly made in the three states to avenge livestock depredation by wolves.

Wolf advocates also compromised by giving support to monetary compensation for livestock losses in hopes that it would gain tolerance. After originally supporting it, in our opinion, this turned out to be a farce — it never accomplished its original goal of gaining tolerance amongst those who were compensated. Worse, it created a moral hazard which allowed ranchers to continue feeling a sense of entitlement without changing any of their behavior.

While both sides have endured threats over this issue wolf advocates have also endured threats to their physical well being from those with a different opinion brandishing weapons and have been physically assaulted. They have been investigated by the FBI for trying to document the actions of Wildlife Services. They have been made to jump through hoops just to have simple questions answered about what is happening on the ground.

Anti-wolf forces have perpetuated myths about “vicious Canadian wolves” when not a single wolf scientist believes such as sub-species of wolf exists.  They make wild claims about 200 pound wolves when they are really only around 100 pounds.

Wildlife Services, the agency which conducts livestock depredation investigations for the various states and conducts wolf controls by various means including gunning them down from helicopters, has been lawless with regard to Freedom of Information Act requests made by many groups and has not responded to or fulfilled its duty to provide the public with information about its management activities or spending.

The Idaho Fish and Game, as well, has issued a directive to its employees that they should not discuss any wolf management activities over email, but rather over the phone. Furthermore, they can’t even see fit to update their monthly wolf news update page. Right now, it hasn’t been updated since June.

Yes, wolf advocates are worried, but that worry is well founded. We are worried that the states will move forward with their goals of reducing wolf populations to the minimum they define in their legislative management plans if wolves are again delisted under their plans. We are worried that a strident faction in Congress will gut the ESA using a “midnight amendment,” but that does not mean that wolf advocates should gut the ESA themselves nor hunker down and apologize for winning in U.S. court. The ruling by Judge Molloy was not decided on a technicality as Cal Groen, Director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and others would have you believe, it was won on a simple reading of one of the most popular environmental laws ever. The USFWS acted arbitrarily when they used state lines to delist wolves rather than biologically meaningful lines and the judge saw that.

It’s not as if we have been dealing with a rational opposition when you consider all of these facts. In fact, the future of wolf recovery is not secure even without legislative intervention.  The blatant disdain for wolves by those who will direct how the agencies maintain a secure future for wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, among other states is obvious to those who are paying attention.

So, I ask you, who hasn’t compromised? And who isn’t following agreements to manage wildlife using the best available science? Should the country let the recent bills submitted by Danny Rehberg, Mike Crapo, and Jim Risch, Max Baucus, Jon Tester and rank outsiders like Chet Edwards of Texas dictate how the ESA is implemented thus gutting the ESA? Have the advocates of the ESA lost because they refuse to gut the ESA themselves?



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  1. timz Avatar

    Well said gents……..

  2. JerryBlack Avatar

    This ‘closed door attempt” to gut the ESA was confirmed by the livestock industry’s Harvard Law lobbyist at the recent Rehberg dog and pony show in Hamilton.

  3. JerryBlack Avatar

    Yes, well said…….I happen to be one of those “wolf advocates that have endured threats to their physical well being”.

  4. Cody Coyote Avatar
    Cody Coyote

    … you are not alone, Jerry.

  5. Virginia Avatar

    Ralph – you need to send a copy of this article to the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and other major newspapers – your excellent rationale will resonate with those of us and other people who are castigated in this country for having an opinion that wolves should be allowed to thrive, that the ESA should be strengthened, not weakened, and that wildlife belongs to all Americans, not just those who live in the West.

  6. nabeki Avatar

    Excellent! Thank you for laying it out so perfectly Ken, Ralph and Brian!

    The threats are real for wolf advocates. Here’s two out of the thousands I’ve received on Howling for Justice. One directed at me, the other at Jerry.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 3:50 PM
    I would like to see nebeki name and state where she is from so we can send her death threats.

    Thursday, January 28, 2010 4:22 PM
    Hey jerry b cry a little more ill make sure the next one shot is dedcated to you :). KILL EM ALL ONE PACK AT A TIME.

    1. Brian Ertz Avatar

      an implicit (if not too often explicit) reverence for violence is at the core of the anti-wolfers’ rationale …

    2. jon Avatar

      Threats of physical violence to wolf advocates seem to be the norm for anti-wolfers.

      1. Save bears Avatar


        I, as a hunter have experienced more than my share of death threats from the pro wildlife crowd as well, I don’t think extremism is confined to one side of the issue..

      2. Save bears Avatar

        And to word it very strongly, I don’t condone it from either side!

      3. Craig Avatar

        Maybe you all should go back and read the 100s of threats to the first guy in Idaho who killed a Wolf LEGALLY! You are know better, you are just on the other side of the fence! You only bring it up when it favors you!
        You guys hold yourself to a higher standerd but fall at the first sign of weekness in another and cast stones and become just as bad or worse as your apponents at threats,name calling, slander!
        You are no differnt just opposite views, the same kind of mediocre people who will make no differnce just bitch about the consequences but want change with know inconvience to there simple lives. Ralph and others I would say do somthing more than the rest of you, therefore I hold their opinions with just and truth and a point of validation of someone who is trying to do something to change things!
        The bitching and moaning and everthing else is like listening to what Peris Hilton just got arrested for!

        Just my opinion, just 1 simple grain of sand in the ol’ salt shaker!

      4. Elk275 Avatar

        Good reply Craig. I have friend who wrote the article on wolves for Field and Stream, I saw him this mornimg, he interviewed the person who shot the first wolf. The pro wolf people threaten him so much that his children had to stay at a safe house and he started carrying a pistol. His car and other propery was damaged. He turned the situation around and built a web site publishing all of the threats and their e mail. If a phone message was left the phone number and a transcript of the message was published on the web site. Pro Wolf people are the same a anti wolf people, they are not effective, they are losers.

      5. nabeki Avatar

        More than a decade ago I attended a “Road-less Initiative” hearing in Montana. We had the chance to speak “on the record” and voice our opinion in support of the measure. At the back of the room there was a hostile group that decided they would disrupt the meeting by shouting people down, when they stood at the podium to speak. I was very nervous but decided I was not going to let this group intimidate me. They booed and hissed at everyone who spoke in favor of the “road-less plan”, yet were too cowardly to come down and speak their minds “ON THE RECORD”.

        This is a standard tactic that goes on in Montana around any environmental issue. It’s not just used to intimidate wolf supporters but anyone they deem to be “greenies”.

        There was a radio station in the Flathead called KGEZ run by John Stokes. He labeled environmentalists “Green Nazis” and called the environmental movement “the Fourth Reich”.

        “Radio Station Owner to Burn 12-foot Green Swastika to Protest Earth Day Marxists” April 17, 2002….

        He’s no longer on the air but it’s no secret this is SOP when it comes to wolves or any issue the antis feel threatened by.

        And it’s not just Montana either, does Ron Gillette ring a bell?

      6. Save bears Avatar

        After many interactions with John Stokes, both in Washington when he tried to form his own country and then again in Montana with his radio station, all I can say, is he was one of the biggest assholes I have ever met in my over 50 years of life, now he is one I would threaten!!!! Talk about an anti social and anti everything person, he personifies the definition of jerk!

      7. JerryBlack Avatar

        Craig…..your comment:”You are no differnt just opposite views, the same kind of mediocre people who will make no differnce just bitch about the consequences but want change with know inconvience to there simple lives.”
        Could you be more specific? I do agree that there are some on here that obviously don’t have a life other than commenting on this blog, but there are others that are doing a hell of a lot of work that you don’t hear about because they don’t have time, or choose not to get on here and impress people with academic credentials, hunting stories, or their life history.
        Tell me about some of the advocacy you’re engaged in and next time you’re at a wolf hearing, meeting, seminar etc…please identify yourself to those of us who “aren’t making a difference.”

  7. Rita K. Sharpe Avatar
    Rita K. Sharpe

    Ralph,I agree with Virginia. You should send copies of this article to the major newspapers.

  8. Elk275 Avatar

    Save Bears

    ++I, as a hunter have experienced more than my share of death threats from the pro wildlife crowd as well, I don’t think extremism is confined to one side of the issue..++

    Tell me exactly how you have had death threats from the pro wildlife crowd. I have never had any problems from the anti hunting crowd. I just want to be proactive, one never knows in this day and age.

    1. Save bears Avatar


      Back in 98-99 I ran a very popular hunting website focused on archery, on Dec 12th, 1999 I received a phone call telling me that I would be dead if I were ever caught by myself in the woods, two days later, I had a car sitting in my driveway at 11:30 at night(not an easy task where I live), I didn’t take it very serious until the car showed up in my driveway.

      I have also been threatened when working with RMEF on Fence Pull’s days we took to get rid of old barb wire that inhibits wildlife movement and the most recent one was in Billings this year, when I was doing an education seminar at one of the Great Rockies Sports shows.

      Take care, you never know who you will run into, in the woods or at a sports show…people are radical more often than you would expect…

      1. Save bears Avatar

        But to be fair, I have also been threatened by ranchers when I worked with FWP an was in the field talking to them about Bison, so the gambit runs BOTH ways…

  9. Craig Avatar

    Like I posted Save Bears it goes both ways all the time! You have to know how to work both sides of the fence depending which side you steped on. There is no happy medium you will piss one side off 100% of the time, but you better be able to deal with it at that moment and at the same time stand for what you believe right or wrong in your opponents eyes!

  10. Craig Avatar

    Then you now know what it felt like to be the first guy who LEGALLY shot a Wolf in Idahoi! THE OTHER SIDE DOES ALL THE SAME CRAZY SHIT but 1000 times worse and makes you guys look like IDIOTDS! Look at Peta ect do you understand? You have more Ron Gillettes on the other side than us!

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      Well Craig, I don’t condone threats or violence and what happened to the guy who shot the first wolf in Idaho wasn’t right. That being said, I am totally unaware of anyone who has actually followed through on any of those threats from those who advocate wolf recovery. Maybe I’m ignorant about it but I’ve never made a threat to anyone.

      There is a reason I don’t post photos of myself to this site and that is because I’ve read my name on other blogs. I’ve also read the threatening emails Brian has received and he has had the lug nuts loosened on his car after a meeting.

      I was also on the phone with Lynne Stone while Ron was waving a gun around. She was scared to death and that was before the assault.

      I haven’t made a big deal of this before because I don’t want it to distract from the issues. I don’t want it to here either and maybe it was a mistake to put it in the article.

      I would be more interested to see the discussion about the other issues rather than that one. While it is important, because this issue is getting totally out of hand and I worry that the violence will escalate, I do think that it is a distraction in many ways.

      The fact of the matter here is that the legislature calls the shots and the ESA calls for the recovery of species not just a token population. As I read in an email I did obtain from a USFWS FOIA, recovery and viability are two entirely different things. I don’t think that the states’ plans even provide for viability over the long term let alone maintain a “recovered” status for wolves. That’s what I want and 300 wolves across the three states doesn’t cut it. In fact, 450 doesn’t cut it either and that is exactly where we are headed under the current state plans. It’s not realistic to think otherwise.

      1. Elk275 Avatar

        ++That’s what I want and 300 wolves across the three states doesn’t cut it. In fact, 450 doesn’t cut it either and that is exactly where we are headed under the current state plans. It’s not realistic to think otherwise.++

        This year the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks eliminated 1000 cow elk permits in the Gravelly and Snowcrest Mountains because of Wolves, and that does not cut it with the local and non resident hunters. There are going to be more reductions in hunting opportunity because of increased wolf popuations and that is a fact. The West Fork of the Bitteroot has gone from 2000 elk to 750 elk and all cow hunting has been eliminated because of wolves.

      2. timz Avatar

        So are you saying the wolves killed all the elk hunters were going to kill? Bummer for the hunters.

      3. JB Avatar

        “This year the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks eliminated 1000 cow elk permits in the Gravelly and Snowcrest Mountains because of Wolves…”

        For the millionth time, this single-cause understanding of elk population dynamics is a VAST OVERSIMPLIFICATION of what is going on. Statements like this only contribute to the tension between sides by making positions irreconcilable (i.e. it is either wolves or elk). As Ralph has pointed out many times, more elk means more food for wolves, so big-game hunters and wolf-advocates have something in common.

      4. Craig Avatar

        Ken, what would you say in an honest opinion for both sides would be a good number not leaning either way? You know as well as I, it’s not possible to have a happy medium because both sides are of very differnt opinions!

      5. SEAK Mossback Avatar
        SEAK Mossback

        There are certainly those here who will tell you that wolves and other predators are neither here nor there as an influence on ungulate populations — its always habitat. Unfortunately, that’s not the case everywhere. Predator-prey theory generally holds that there are two states of equilibrium, (1) high numbers of both predator and prey or (2) low numbers of both predator and prey (termed by some as a predator pit). One can always hope that elk and wolf populations will respond like Midwest whitetails and wolves (very consistent high dynamic equilibrium). That would be great, but there are factors that point toward greater risk of low equilibrium in the NRM, the main one being the presence of so many other formidable natural predators (i.e. mountain lions, black bears and grizzly bears). An additional factor is the extent that wolves can maintain at low numbers of elk by switching to other species. On one island here where deer were abundant until 40 years ago, but now practically non-existent, wolves are still quite commonly seen according to friends who guide, commercially fish and have surveyed salmon streams there. During spawning season, wolves eat lots of salmon and a graduate student found that black bears (averaging 4 to 5 per square mile) are a substantial part of their diet at other times. Between the black bears and wolves, the deer are unlikely to return to a significant density that could provide much hunting opportunity. It’s not a major problem because people in the area have so many other great protein sources right at hand, and black bear guiding (with a non-resident harvest of about 180 bears/year) has become a major revenue source. Low dynamic equilibrium also persists in wolf-moose-bear systems throughout much of the interior. It makes hunting a bit more difficult but also keeps the competition down and I have friends who have still done very well in those low-density areas — one just returned from taking a big bull very near a road for the second year in a row in an area that attracts few other hunters.

        However, I sense that the Rockies with so many more people and avid hunters are clearly different. There, a substantially lower prey population doesn’t simply mean that hunters have to look harder but quickly translates to reduced legal opportunity by requiring a low-odds draw for a license or greatly curtailed season. Extended periods in a predator pit are probably just not going to cut it (as Elk275 said), outside of national parks, and it would be difficult for even wolf proponents to argue that such a condition contributes toward that all-important total number of wolves in the DPS. That puts a lot of pressure on wildlife agencies to monitor prey populations not just for numbers and trends but evidence of top-down versus bottom-up population regulation. A popular alternative that’s evident already will be to just generally keep heavy pressure on wolves. Ideally, wolf seasons and limits would be tailored accurately to address both prey population status and particular livestock issues, with a light hand where there are few problems. Logistical and informational issues with managing wolves, other predators and prey as well as budgets and politics all present challenges to that approach . . . . but it is one ideal (although impossible prior to delisting).

      6. Elk275 Avatar

        Seak Mossback

        You said it better than I did, it will be a cold day in hell when hunters in Montana are going to see reduce hunting opportunities because of wolves. I stopped at a bar and grill in the Madison Valley Sunday night, there were several tables of bow hunters and the talk was gut shot them. I am afraid that it is happening now.

        Side Note: I have been watching the Chilean Miner’s rescue on the Internet; it the best thing on TV tonight, what brave men. I love good news

      7. JB Avatar

        “…it will be a cold day in hell when hunters in Montana are going to see reduce hunting opportunities because of wolves.”

        Right. So what you are saying is that, under state control, hunters will push for measures such that wolves not be allowed to have any impact on any ungulate population anywhere in Montana. As I said (above), this position is irreconcilable with what wolf advocates want. Statement like this are conversation-enders. They leave only one response: see you in the courts.

      8. SAP Avatar

        get in your time machine and let’s go back to 2004: over-the-counter antlerless permits in the Gravellies were an effort to finally get some elk killed there. The herds were over objective, with no one killing cow elk to speak of. In my opinion, the network of roads and motor trails up there led a lot of people to unproductively road hunt there, with the elk just pulling back into a few wild places where they were invulnerable. Couple that with mild weather, and you get a big, growing elk herd.

        I am looking at the 2010 regulations


        and for the five hunting districts that span the Gravelly, Snowcrest, and Centennial Mountains (HDs 323,324,325,327, and 330), the first 15 days of the season allows hunters to take antlerless elk or brow-tine bull with a general elk license. That’s two weeks out of five weeks for hunting cow elk with an otc license.

        That tells me that these herds are getting closer to objective, and that winter weather late in the season could make elk vulnerable to overkilling if everyone with a general tag can kill a cow.

        Also, I don’t have the numbers and history at my fingertips, but Wildlife Services kills a lot of wolves in the Gravellies. Few packs make it more than two years there, and to hear locals tell it, those wolves eat beef six months out of the year.

        I guess I have trouble with the idea that regulations and harvest levels designed to REDUCE elk numbers should somehow stay at that level forever. The Gardiner late hunt is a great example — not much of a hunt, just waiting for the Park elk to step over the line. I never heard that that hunt was a social program to provide easy elk meat for people who couldn’t get out in the hills for some reason.

      9. SAP Avatar

        PS regarding what you overhear at bars in the Madison Valley: folks have been talking like that since 1997 when the first wolves came out of the Park. It’s just kind of a tradition now, sort of like hating the Yankees if you live in Boston.

        A lot of those people, the wolves (or bears, or whatever) would have to come into the tavern to a) cause them a real problem, since they are either at the bar, at home, or traveling between the two, and b) for those people to have an opportunity to “gut shoot ’em!”

  11. timz Avatar

    “Maybe you all should go back and read the 100s of threats to the first guy in Idaho who killed a Wolf LEGALLY! You are know better, you are just on the other side of the fence!”

    Perhaps he should have refrained from having his picture pasted all over the press with his shit-eatin grin in his camoflouge clothes, with his big rifle and his dead wolf at his feet.

    1. jon Avatar

      It is quite normal and should have been expected that that guy Robert Milleage would be called out for his actions and that is killing a wolf for sport. No one should have just assumed there was not going to be any outrage or backlash against people killing wolves for sport. Pro wolf advocates are not perfect by any means, but most of the time they have to defend themselves when being faced with threats of violence from anti wolfers. Legal or not, wildlife was still killed for sport. If anything, people speaking up about this guy’s actions tells the others that they aren’t going to stand for this disgusting and unacceptable behavior and that is killing wolves for sport and than taking a picture of yourself smiling while standing over the dead animal showing off your superiority. The Ron Gillettes are on the anti wolf side. The pro wolf advocates are the ones that are trying to protect wolves. People spoke up about what this guy did and vented their anger for what he have done. Robert Milleage should be ashamed of his actions, but I am certain he is not.

      1. Ken Cole Avatar

        Jon, outrage and backlash are much different than threats and intimidation. Let’s steer this discussion away from this and center on the real issues.

    2. Craig Avatar

      Yeah, that’s the media for ya! You really think he sought them out? Ya think Brett Favre told the press he sent pictures of his Junk to a bunch of women? Pull yer head out, the media is an evil force only looking for a story right or wrong!

  12. SEAK Mossback Avatar
    SEAK Mossback

    This was well laid out. Thank you. It’s a sad state of affairs that there is nobody credible even from all of the governmental parties willing to negotiate on the other side, except possibly the State of Montana.

    However, this may seem like a stupid question, but what really could you negotiate? Can you negotiate the Endangered Species Act? — I thought it could only be litigated. It seems to me that the nine legal arguments that NRDC lined up to derail delisting this time cannot be rolled away from the tracks by negotiation and would still be available to the Center for Biological Diversity or HSUS, both of which are still piling rocks in front of the derailed Great Lakes wolf delisting train that at least some groups agree was headed in a favorable direction. Some will point to USFWS ineptness or lack of foresight in Great Lakes wolf delisting, but it really doesn’t matter — the more they are seen as trying and failing in a place with thousands of well-distributed wolves and very protective state plans, the more people wonder and question the ESA. By itself, perpetual delay in delisting the Great Lakes population wouldn’t be much of a problem (Minnesotans mostly just grumble among themselves) except that it’s amplified by all the noise and commotion in the Rockies. I remember being able to point to ESA de-listings, but it just occurred to me that they were all shortly thereafter re-listed through the courts. Delisting Great Lakes wolves, if it were possible, would probably do little to buy patience or tolerance among western wolf opponents but would certainly be a great political stroke nationally in defense of the ESA, at a time when it may be needed. Or perhaps there are still too many large rocks lying by the tracks, whether through design of the ESA or lack of diligence by USFWS in clearing them?

    1. Alan Avatar

      “….what really could you negotiate?”
      Seems to me you could negotiate dropping the lawsuits. “If you do x,y and z we will drop our lawsuit. In exchange we will do A,B and C and you will drop your appeal.”
      Problem is only Montana is negotiating.
      Meantime, can anyone give me a reason, living in Montana, that I should bother going to the polls in November? “More tolerance for bison,” and, “DOL is ill equipped to manage bison,” Brian Schweitzer promised. Four years later nothing has changed. Rehburg is trying to gut the ESA, while his opponent feels that Yellowstone should be run like a big ranch.
      I am so turned off by politics. When Obama was elected I thought, “Finally! A return to sanity! An Interior Secretary who will care about the land! Environmental decisions based on science! No guns in National Parks!” Scheesh! I’m done! Who cares who gets elected, doesn’t much matter!

    2. Brian Ertz Avatar

      there’s no real incentive for the states to settle. keeping the issue contentious gives politicians the opportunity to grandstand while at the same time advancing the saliency of their policy-objective of gutting the ESA and otherwise maintaining “control” of a politically charged such that they can cheaply project the suggestion of responsiveness to their constituency while gutting tangible functions of government like school-funding, etc…

      it’ll be interesting to see how threatening any of this is or how much grandstanding takes place after the election.

      it’s all about walking through the process … comment … endure the personal and political intimidation ~ and hope that at the end of the day, wolves are granted a fair shake …

      you may remember during the development of Idaho’s wolf recovery plan developed by IDFG and several anti-wolf interest groups, wolf advocates were denied a draft copy of the state’s management plan throughout the process ~ female members of the “stakeholders group” were made to ‘sit-close’ up next to oh-so-manly managers to get a peak at a copy of the plan in its development.

      during this “steakholder” process, some of the less confrontational wolf advocates prostrated themselves before the IDFG all but begging for the department to incorporate a boutique wolf zone into the management plan … a, let’s say ‘generous’, position of compromise considering it constituted these groups’ willingness to abandon any meaningful ecological asset/consideration ~ let alone biological consideration ~ in the rest of the state to secure a little boutique wolf zone in central Idaho.

      Rather than secure these groups’ willingness not to contest the plan ~Idaho smacked down this idea, insisting on a hunt in every last inch of wolf territory in the state, denying wolf-advocates even this menial table-scrap, and then used wolf-advocates to claim its plan was developed via a stakeholder process with representatives from all sides ~ despite the fact that wolf advocates formally and publicly contested the plan.

      In my estimation, given my short experience with this issue ~ the state, the IDFG Commission, and many of the politicians at the IDFG have NEVER given wolf advocates the least bit of any indication that they are acting in good-faith … yet, wolf advocates continue to take back to the table … wolf advocates have NEVER been unwilling to compromise, offer solutions and listen to offers in good-faith.

      regardless, pieces like this from people who clearly either have no idea what is actually taking place among the parties (or are just willing to suggestively lie through their teeth to push just yet another anti-wolf-party-line mutilation of the truth) is absurd, and irresponsible – if one were to commit to maintain even the most moderate level of honesty with how this process has unfolded.

      wolf and wildlife advocates should not be intimidated by these folk and their collective tactics that have disavowed even the most moderate reverence for intellectual honesty.

  13. Elk275 Avatar


    ++Perhaps he should have refrained from having his picture pasted all over the press with his shit-eatin grin in his camoflouge clothes, with his big rifle and his dead wolf at his feet.++

    The lady from the local paper who he was familar with ask to take his pictue. Within 4 hours that picture was all over the world. He never thought that could happen, the picture was only going to be in the local paper, but the local paper sent out a press release with the picture all over the US. I would have made the same mistake and so would have many others.

    1. timz Avatar

      Bullshit, I read interviews with him after the fact. He was very proud of his 15 minutes of fame.

      1. Elk275 Avatar

        What he did was legal and he had a right to be proud, whether you like it or not. What he did was legal.

      2. timz Avatar

        And as far as I know know one has wronged him either

      3. Daniel Berg Avatar
        Daniel Berg


        I think it’s counterproductive to attack a hunter who legally killed a wolf during hunting season, regardless of how proud he is of the kill. Someone who threatens to kill every wolf he can illegally and brags about the slim chances of being caught is much more deserving of negative attention.

      4. jon Avatar

        DB, sb brought this up a few times and I happen to agree with him on this and that is those that claim they are going to kill a wolf using sss or whatever are probably not the ones that will be killing wolves. Although Toby Bridges are one of these types, he would be extremely stupid to follow through on this internet threats. I have no doubt that some may be killed, but it will do nothing to help the wolf hater’s cause. They just are releasing their anger because they are losing control big time. These poachers who do infact kill wolves, karma will get them sometime down the line.

    2. jon Avatar

      Elk, I don’t think Robert knew what was going to happen after his picture was posted in the paper. With issues like this wolf one, people all over the world are watching closely and when they see something wrong that is going on, they will speak up and express their anger toward those wrong doers.

      1. Elk275 Avatar

        Jon, he is not a wrong doer what he did was legal. I can find no wrong doing, maybe you feel that it was not right but it was legal, therefore no wrong doing.

  14. Rita K. Sharpe Avatar
    Rita K. Sharpe

    Craig how does anyone actually know how many nuts are on either side.It’s was not right that the man ,who shot the first wolf last year,got threatenening calls.No one should be threatened.He allowed himself to be photographed and he spoke to the reporters. Regional people weren’t the only ones reading or hearing about it .I read and heard about it here in the mid-west.It was and still is a sensitive subject .There are enough Ron Gillettes,on both sides.No one side can say they are innocent.

  15. timz Avatar

    “I think it’s counterproductive to attack a hunter who legally killed a wolf during hunting season”

    As I think it’s counterproductive to post your face all over as the proud first wolf killer and than cry because your being harrassed for it. And as an aside I don’t really care what you think.

    1. Daniel Berg Avatar
      Daniel Berg

      I suppose it doesn’t really make much of a difference whether you care or not.

  16. Ken Cole Avatar

    Okay, I’m not going to remove any comments, but please, for the third time, I ask people to drop the issue of threats, violence and Millage and get back to discussing what I think is the real issue here.

    All that other crap is a distraction.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      I agree with Ken Cole.

      Yes people on all sides have probably been the target of those who can’t hold their anger in a reasonable way.

      This tells me is that folks should calm down.

    2. jon Avatar

      No problem Ken.

  17. nabeki Avatar

    I was spammed in February 2010 by several hunting sites that sent me over three thousand nasty comments in one day. THREE THOUSAND. Luckily Word-press has an excellent filter and none got through…still when someone threatens to kill you, a person that doesn’t even know you, it’s pretty shocking and scary. And all because I believe wolves have the right to exist without being persecuted and scapegoated. I fear the mood is more like 1910 then 2010.

    I have NEVER been to a hearing or meeting in Montana or Idaho where pro-wolf people shouted anyone down. BUT I have been to many hearings and meetings that the antis threatened, booed, yelled and generally acted hostile. That’s the reason most pro-wolf people don’t show up for those meetings because they are intimidated. It’s a fact and anyone that lives here who is pro-wolf has experienced this first hand. Why do you think Rehberg held his “listening sessions” in Hamilton, Dillon and Kalispell, stacking the panels with as many anti-wolf orgs and people as he could? He created a ready made hostile environment. Toby Bridges was invited to sit on the Kalispell panel. You can’t get more blatant then that.

    Comparing a few nasty comments made to Millage, to the relentless anti-wolf, anti-environmentalist mood in the Northern Rockies, is like comparing David to Goliath.

  18. nabeki Avatar

    Ooops…I didn’t see Ralph and Ken’s comments before i posted my little story. Well nuff said.

  19. SEAK Mossback Avatar
    SEAK Mossback

    Wow! I guess there isn’t much substantive left to discuss on this issue. I have no similar stories but will ask again: What is the point of “settlement talks” in the realm of the ESA, other than trying to appear reasonable?

    1. JB Avatar


      Great question! I don’t know that I have a satisfactory answer. I think one of the fundamental issues with delisting that has arisen in the case of wolves revolves around the call for decisions to be made based upon the best available science. What makes this phrase so problematic is that agencies are otherwise shown a wide degree of deference by the courts. This deference is, in part, an acknowledgment that agencies are influenced by politics (via directives of the executive branch). Granting agencies deference ensures that different administrations can exercise different prerogatives over time. However, in the case of the ESA, those different prerogatives suggest that agency decisions were (at least in part) driven by politics (which, of course, they were/are) rather than the best available science [if the latter were the case, we would expect consistency in decisions over time, which we do not get]. Of course, science cannot be used to make policy decisions without some sort of explicit directive (e.g. biodiversity concerns “trump” all other interests). At best, what we hope for is that listing decisions are informed by the best available science.

      Regardless, holding “settlement talks” to come to some sort of compromise would likely be viewed by the courts as subverting the ESA’s mandate that listing decisions be based upon the best available science–that is, any decision that resulted from such talks would be seen as being based on political pragmatism rather than science.

      1. SEAK Mossback Avatar
        SEAK Mossback

        JB –
        Thanks much, you’ve answered my question.

      2. JimT Avatar

        Thanks for the very cogent reply, JB.

        Of course, if folks like Baucus are successful, they could amend the ESA to include political calculations as well as criteria for listing. I shudder to think what would happen to the ESA and candidate species then.

      3. Elk275 Avatar

        This is what the majority of voters in Montana want and he represents the voters of Montana. I want the state to be able to manage all of their wildlife without outside influence.

      4. SEAK Mossback Avatar
        SEAK Mossback

        I think JB’s thoughtful answer really shows how ridiculous it is to personally blame the groups that have sued to enforce the ESA, either for suing or not settling out of court. It should be presumed that any determination will always be fully litigated and the ultimate say on delisting determined from a judicial bench. It does necessarily put the agencies, the other player, in a tough position on some issues that have huge practical and political consequences — sometimes made worse by political pressure applied down the chain by an administration like the prior one.

        Also, the “best available science” is not 100% clear-cut. It may require several thousand wolves in the NRM, as stated above, to achieve 100% certainty of indefinite genetic viability, at least according to some population models, but on the other hand there may not be the habitat or prey base to support it. Then you can get into “pragmatic solutions” like supplementation to boost the total number toward a theoretical numerical goal, that can actually be detrimental to long-term population survival — like continually using hatchery production to boost a salmon population that’s limited by its habitat and would be best left alone to adapt as best it can to that habitat.

        I’m not sure exactly what level of probability the ESA requires for delisting, but if it’s too high (far above the recent population in the 3-state area) it could end up being a problem in several ways. The Isle Royale population has done amazingly well for decades from a tiny founding population, although it clearly has serious issues as far as probability of long-term viability. On the other hand, can you even justify the original listing of Great Lakes wolves based on population level when there were several hundred left even at the low point (and those well-connected with a much larger Canadian population) after decades of persecution and severe winters in the early 70s that wiped out much of their prey? All of those negatives have been reversed for decades with major area expansion, and yet it still cannot be delisted.

        I agree things have gotten ugly in the NRM in terms of the states either refusing to play or moving quickly toward rolling back the population. However, anyone looking for hope that delisting and state management could eventually occur and remain in place certainly won’t find it in the Great Lakes area. On one hand, leadership in the NRM states has not appeared rational enough to exercise the restraint and patience required to get to delisting (although some here have convincingly argued that their actions have been very rational in political terms), while on the other hand . . . . where is a successful model showing it will make any material difference?

      5. JB Avatar

        Thanks, SEAK. I appreciate being able to have a thoughtful conversation about these issues, rather than getting caught in the trap of ideological tit-for-tat (which I certainly am not immune from!). I have had several conversations with Ed Bangs about this issue over the years and I think there is some reasons to believe that wolves would be “safer” off of the endangered species list. On the other hand, it seems that every time one of these western politicians opens his mouth (are there any women involved in politics in the West?), he provides ample evidence of just how tenuous wolf recovery is in the West.

        – – – – –

        Elk: Management responsibilities are already essentially being carried out at the state level (due to 10(j)). I have stated elsewhere that I have great faith in the state F&G agencies to devise sustainable management plans for wolves; unfortunately, I have little faith in state politicians (and that includes wildlife boards/commissions) to allow state management agencies to implement plans that provide for sustainable management.

        Re: outside influence–If states committed to maintaining populations that were sufficient to support wolves without the cooperation of the other states, then I would have no problem with state-driven management. However, if they are going to be allowed to reduce populations such that each state is not viable by itself, then regional coordination (i.e., outside influence) is required.

      6. JimT Avatar

        They have legal control over wildlife, but also have extensive responsibilities under FEDERAL law to ensure the health of ALL species,not just game animals who are fun to hunt and kill and make money for the state, ELK 275. You live in a combination of Federal and state governments, and I think it works pretty damn well for the most part. As much as you might like to see it, the Sagebrush Rebellion ain’t happenin’ anytime in the near or distance future. This effort by Baucus and others is akin to spot zoning where sweetheart deals are given to certain developers or homeowners at the expense of others who are no different legally. This is a very bad idea and eserves to be killed in committee.

      7. JimT Avatar

        SEAK Mossback (one of the most interesting handles I have come across, by the way),

        You make several good points. Let me add one more. Often what concerns environmentalists most when a listing or delisting is in play is the aftermath of de-listing. What happens if the habitat suddenly changes? If disease (in this case, distemper, mange) decimates populations? Is there a way to quickly re-institute listing? Is this something that should be done in the original listing decision, an “emergency trigger”, if you will.? How long should monitoring go on to ensure viable populations?

        The behaviors of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, both by private groups as well as the state officials, has shown wolf advocates that we must be very very vigilant in any delisting decision. Currently, the states have shown they regard this as a wedge to conduct additional hunts, ramp us WService killings, introduce disgusting and painful ways to kill such as poison, gas and traps.

        They have been their own worst enemies with their extreme behaviors. They are providing more and more evidence to resist delisting at all costs.Siimply put, they have shown they can’t be trusted to fulfill their legal obligations under the law, choosing to try an ill-advised attempt to write special exemptions into the law that will, in all likelihood, cause political and legal havoc in ESA proceedings for decades to come.

      8. Elk275 Avatar

        Jim T and et al

        What would happen if Baccus and other Western senators put a rider on a bill exempting wolves from the ESA.

        Are the wolf people going to court and would there be grounds for any court action or would that be the end of it. As far as sweet deals in zoning they happen all the time, money talks.

      9. Save bears Avatar

        I seriously doubt the bill(s) will stand on their own, but I have a strong feeling, they will be attached to an important bill that the President will have to sign and then it will get through, such as the firearms bill did, they may be shady in congress, but they are pretty smart when they have pet bills to get passed.. These various bills are really no different than the pork that gets attached to bills all the time

  20. JimT Avatar

    Authors of the piece,

    I would like to ask your permission to forward it on to a few folks in the nationals that would be interested in an excellent summary of the information…

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      I’ve revamped a few things in the article to make it more understandable by people who haven’t been following the issue. I may add a couple more things but I have a meeting in 10 minutes.

      1. JimT Avatar

        Oh, these folks know the issues, Ken. I find it is useful to remind them of how folks on the front lines feel and think from time to time…:*) and they appreciate it, even if they don’t always say they respect the effort of grassroots folks.

  21. JimT Avatar

    Thanks Ralph et al.

    From the DOW website…

    “””””Over in northeast Oregon, a two-year-old male wolf was illegally killed by an as-yet unidentified poacher. The wolf was one of four adults in the Wenaha pack—the smaller of Oregon’s two confirmed wolf packs—that had been collared in August by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (click here to see a photo taken at the time of collaring). FWS officials have not disclosed details about the killing and continue to investigate.””””””

  22. Virginia Avatar

    For those who choose to respond to this story with negative and uncivil comments about wolves, I would like to remind you that in the introduction to this blog is an invitation to all who read and write here to “Join with Us to Restore and Protect Wolves.” It also promotes the Wolf Recovery Foundation, supported by a wildlife conservation group, the Western Watersheds Project. There is a lengthy explanation of the history of the 1995 Wolf Reintroduction and their fate. Yes, there is also a disclaimer that this is not a pro-hunting or an anti-hunting blog. So, if some of you have forgotten the purpose of Ralph’s blog when you post these disparaging and negative remarks about wolves, it might be a good idea to read again the posts on the upper left hand corner of the blog when you first enter it. Just a reminder.

    1. Craig Avatar

      That’s a nice thought Virginia but this blog is read heavily by many Hunting forums as well as the Fish and Game. Just like many pro wolf people read all the hunting forums.
      If it’s on the net it’s open range for everyone, get over it. Ralph knows this and it’s a way to get his message out to the mass population pro or anti!

      1. Virginia Avatar

        My nice thought goes out to those who only post anti-wolf messages and are never heard from again regarding any other wildlife issues. I definitely disagree that this blog is just a way for Ralph to “get his message out to the mass population pro or anti” – nope, don’t see it at all.

      2. JimT Avatar

        Theoretically, yes, though there are restrictions of the use of people’s words even on the Internet. But that doesn’t mean that civility, restraint, and good manners are to be abandoned when you log on. Strong disagreements, absolutely. Name calling, threatening….should be first self-edited, and then blocked if that doesn’t work.

        Even Arizona is re-considering open range laws…;*)

  23. jburnham Avatar

    Nice article. It’s good to see an articulate defense of the pro-wolf postion.

  24. JerryBlack Avatar

    JimT Says:
    October 12, 2010 at 10:34 AM
    Oh, these folks know the issues, Ken. I find it is useful to remind them of how folks on the front lines feel and think from time to time…:*) and they appreciate it, even if they don’t always say they respect the effort of grassroots folks.

    Okay, Jim……name ONE from Defenders that “appreciates it” and doesn’t disrespect grassroots efforts and the people behind the efforts.

  25. JimT Avatar

    Bob Irvin in the DC office.


  26. JimT Avatar

    Jerry, what’s your beef with Defenders?

    1. JerryBlack Avatar

      JimT……..be happy to talk about this anytime.
      I’m sure you have the resources to acquire my phone#.
      Also, you can always get my phone and or email from Ralph.

  27. Marc Cooke Avatar
    Marc Cooke

    The amount of fund raising on behalf of wolves is disproportionate to what is spent defending wolves. Why is DOW focusing on Oregon??? The fights not in Oregon the fights in Montana! If Montana falls so will the others. Although, I have total admiration and respect for the local people on the ground in Oregon. The truth is they have twenty wolves. In defending and bringing attention to wolves I and several of my close friends attend many wolf meetings at County, State and Federal level. I have seen a DOW Representative at one!

    1. Craig Avatar

      That is a great question Marc! Is it Hunters pay more to protect Wolfs than the tree huggers who bitch about everything and don’t contribute?

  28. Virginia Avatar

    Ralph, Brian and Ken – your article about the government disdain for wolves is on Counterpunch today! I hope that means some of those people on the coasts and mid-America will be reading this excellent article.


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.

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