Olaus Murie’s son demands David Allen change Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s wolf policy (updated)

Famous family of conservationists says change policy or give up the Olaus Murie Award-

Olaus Murie is often called the “father of modern elk management.” His seminal scientific study of elk and many other kinds of wildlife such as caribou, which he learned about for 6 years in the field with has brother Adolf, was coupled with the recognition that they are part of the web of life.  He was President of the Wilderness Society, the Wildlife Society, and a director of the Izaak Walton League. He authored or co-authored 7 major conservation books.

Donald Murie is his youngest son.  Now Donald Murie has demanded that the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation change their controversial and strongly negative policy toward wolves or stop using Olaus’ name for their major award to individuals who have done exemplary work protecting and improving elk habitat and as a result habitat for other plants and animals.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has changed its position 180 degrees on the matter of wolves in recent years. The change corresponds almost exactly with hiring of David Allen as the President and CEO of the Foundation. Allen has not only taken a strongly anti-wolf position, but he has done it taking an “in your face” way to traditional conservation organizations such as those supported by Olaus Murie, which he now calls “extremist.”  Allen has also expressed contempt for many of the concepts of ecology, as he seemed to be moving the RMEF toward a single species, single value of elk (hunting) approach.  Some critics have also accused Allen of failure to support the concept of public lands.

Here is a copy of the letter sent to Allen and copied to the RMEF Board and numerous other “conservation community leadership.”

Cascaidia Wildlands has a take on the controversy and has been spreading the story about the letter. Muries Rebuke Elk Foundation over Anti-Wolf Remarks.
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Updated July 19. 2012. RMEF quickly decided to change the name of its prize rather than its anti-wolf policy. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation changes name of conservation prize over wolf dispute. Associated Press in the Washington Post.


  1. Tom Page Avatar
    Tom Page

    RMEF started lurching to the right about a dozen years ago, when most of the centrist writers for Bugle mag and some staff were left out in the cold. This trend accelerated greatly with Mr. Allen’s hiring. I finally got fed up enough this year to let my membership run out…it seems they haven’t done nearly as many easement/acquisition deals in recent years either.

  2. Larry Keeney Avatar
    Larry Keeney

    The Murie letter is a masterpiece and should send shock-waves through RMEF and other false conservation organizations that misrepresent true conservation work. Those of us without credentials for such a forceful letter should speak by withholding funds.

    1. Mike Avatar

      ++The Murie letter is a masterpiece and should send shock-waves through RMEF and other false conservation organizations that misrepresent true conservation work. Those of us without credentials for such a forceful letter should speak by withholding funds.
      Reply ++

      BINGO. Very well said.

  3. WM Avatar

    David Allen is a strong personality, and a seasoned PR veteran. It will be interesting to see how he (and the somewhat passive volunteer RMEF board) respond.

    I sense it would not be difficult for them to just matter of factly walk away from the use of the Olaus Murie name.

    As for Tom Page’s comment about fewer conservation easements/acquisitions, I think that might be incorrect. They seem to be doing quite well in that area (and one reason I continue to reluctantly support the organization notwithstanding their scorched earth wolf policy), if their website statistics are accurate.

    And, as for failing to support public lands, it would be nice if critics would come forward with specific examples of this. I haven’t seen it, and in fact most of what I see in print in their Bugle magazine is the exact opposite

    1. mikepost Avatar

      WM, you comments are on point. Regardless of RMEF’s position on wolves, their major mission is permanent land protection for wildlife habitat and they continue to spend their money there. David Allen took over RMEF when it was in dicey financial shape. He has gotten most of the red off the balance sheet and increased membership to almost 200,000. Passive board or not, those are accomplishments that leave him in a strong position within the organization.

    2. Tom Page Avatar
      Tom Page

      Regarding easement/acquisition deals…I didn’t check the website, and I may be incorrect as you say. However, I remember some of the big deals they did in the 90’s, and I haven’t seen those kind of things happening lately. But maybe it was more a function of the down economy. Doing an internet search reveals that they have several large projects in the hopper, and I hope those come to pass.

      I haven’t noticed much of a presence here in Idaho in the last five years though.

      1. elk275 Avatar


        ++Regarding easement/acquisition deals…I didn’t check the website, and I may be incorrect as you say. However, I remember some of the big deals they did in the 90′s, and I haven’t seen those kind of things happening lately. But maybe it was more a function of the down economy.++

        I was at an environmental lunch several years and was sitted next to a representative of the RMEF. I mentioned that the foundation was not aquiring as much land and easements as they did in the late 80’s and early 90’s. His reply was that the price of land and easements had become inceased so much in the last 15 years that the foundation was looking to change it business model. It is not a function of a downed ecomony but a function land values increasing so much during the boom years that willing sellers want the prices of the past.

      2. WM Avatar

        Tom, elk,

        A few more thoughts. RMEF has had a big push in WA state over the last few years. They have done a couple of sizeable deals with Plum Creek Timber (formerly Burlington Railroad with all its checkerboard land) to purchase and deed over to the state, in conjunction with conservation partners such as Nature Conservancy.

        As for the near future and efforts of RMEF or many other conservation groups, if I may use that term for those wanting to preserve habitat regardless of view on wolves, I expect much of the dynamic for acquisitions these days in nearly any location simply has to do with land availability and willing sellers, and of course funds available to cooperating intermediary conservation group buyer interests. The state of WA has no money right now for this, nor do many other states. And the objective of the conservation group like RMEF and Nature Conservancy is to deed over the acquired lands to the federal government or to a state.

        Conservation easements, while costing little to nothing, encumber private lands for future owners. That is the nature of the property right. So in this economy if Uncle Bob wants to sell the ranch that has been in the family for generations (but is great winter range, or good wildlife habitat/hunting grounds he would like to allow the public on because he has a good heart), a conservation easement might decrease the price a willing private buyer might offer, or catagorically reduced the pool of potential buyers, eliminating those who do not want property with legal encumberments granting the public access.

        Last, timber companies used to be in the timber business only. Now, many are REIT’s (Real Estate Income Trusts) which manage the land asset more broadly, for all potential land uses/profits, and gain tax advantages that are available only to REIT structure companies. In the end, that may reduce available lands as well.

  4. JB Avatar

    Interesting that this comes closely on the heels of the RMEF-sponsored study (A. Middleton’s work) out of Wyoming indicating that wolves are not impacting elk pregnancy rates and suggesting that grizzly bears and climate are the cause of elk herd declines. David Allen might well abandon Olaus Murie’s name, but you can bet he’s going to be made to eat a lot of crow either way. Moreover, keeping the scorched-earth wolf policy will put him at odds with RMEF-funded science, which won’t sit well with a lot of members. The organization might find the easier move is to simply ask for Allen’s resignation.

    1. WM Avatar

      ++… indicating that wolves are not impacting elk pregnancy rates and suggesting that grizzly bears and climate are the cause of elk herd declines.++

      Or, they could try to distinguish the differences away, for example suggesting this area is not representative of other areas of the West, because of the high density of grizzlies (and their effect on elk calf recruitment). They then might say the bear populations ought be reduced (both grizzly and black). Changing climate, including earlier green up due to higher temps, and less fall forage in some places, is more problematic to explain away.

      The membership mix (moving away from science and conservation as most of us define it) has shifted considerably under Allen, and not for the better, with his affiliation with pro rodeo and NASCAR. I shudder to think of this trend, as nobody has been able to give a satisfactory explanation for what bull riding and nasty, smelly and noisy race cars have to do with conservation of any type. It is all about boosting membership, and creating geographic diversity (RMEF programs have recently focused on re-establishing elk herds in the Mid-West and East.

      1. JB Avatar

        Well, considering they’ve decided to double-down on their bad bet (Allen), they sure have some ‘slplaining to do. It will be entertaining (if nothing else) to watch them explain how the research they funded that doesn’t support their policy isn’t really relevant after all. And I suspect you’re right about pressure to reduce bears (and you might as well add cats). So much for conservation!

    2. Ken Cole Avatar

      Here is a link to the presentation done by Arthur Middleton for his dissertation defense:


      Very interesting stuff. I’m not sure that he totally addressed the controversy over aspen and willow increases since wolves were reintroduced. Just because elk don’t seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time responding to wolves when they are around doesn’t mean that they haven’t changed how they use the landscape in certain places. I’m not sure that has been answered fully in my mind. That being said, there may be other reasons for the changes in willows and aspen too.

      1. CodyCoyote Avatar

        KEN- One thing I need to clarify in anticipation of any lingering question surrounding the genesis of the Absaroka Elk Ecology Study : Arthur Middleton et al did not succumb to obvious pressures inferred or implied to ” build to a conclusion ” ; pressure from his study sponsors ( the sportsmen’s clubs) and support team ( Wyo G& F did a huge amount of logistical work with him ). His field work and science was/is unmolested. There is no evidence I am aware of that the study was skewed in any direction but straight down the road.

        For all the science about wolves and other predators that is ongoing in Yellowstone Park just over the divide from Middleton’s study area , we need to keep those two scenarios separate as well. The wolves and prey elk of Yellowstone get studied constantly in an environment free from hiunting and multiple use management. Middleton’s work was in an area checkerboarded with everything ” multiple abuse” but an oil field or ski resort. He was studying elk in an area heavily used by hunters,recreationists ( and especially ATV-ers ) and populated with second homes and a few McMansions.

        Your question about the Aspen and Willow dynamic in the study area would be very complicated to address , I think. It’s overlaid with a lot of manmade churn and the lingering effects of the Yellowstone Fires of 1988 which came through that area quite ” vigorously”. Everything changed with THAT.

        It is not a represenative study area. It’s a niche with some unique characteristics. I have not sat thru this online dissertaion defense yet , but intend to. I have, however, heard Middleton’s preliminary results from presentations he had previously given.

        It will be worth prodding the sponsorship groups for their considered opinion of Middleton’s conclusions once they’ve had time to digest them. I personally can’t wait to hear what RMEF, SFW, Safari , Boone & Crockett reps and Wyo G&F have to say about it…

        1. mikepost Avatar

          Middleton gave a preliminary report to a large group of RMEF major donors in Cody in June 2011. He was well received if not completely winning everyone over. Can’t judge everyone by the magazine they get.

  5. CodyCoyote Avatar

    Here’s the salient quote from Rocky Mountain Elk’s chief operating officer: ““But we’re not going to change our position,” Triepke added. “We believe in science-based management and that hasn’t changed. We’re not sure what the entire letter’s based upon.”

    “- not going to change ?” In the early days of wolf reintroduction before the RMEF donors grabbed the organization by the short hairs, RMEF actually was supportive or at least neutral towards wolves in GYE.

    ” – we believe in science based management…” Since when and what science are you referring to ?

    “… and that hasn’t changed “. Yes it has . See above

    ” we’re not sure what the entire letter is based on ” . Then read it. Sheesh . What part of ” inhumane” and ” unscientifc” do you not get ?

    Here’s what Donald Murie said: ” In a letter to RMEF President David Allen, Olaus Murie’s son, Donald Murie, said the organization’s “all-out war against wolves” is “anathema to the entire Murie family.”

    “We must regretfully demand that unless you have a major change in policy regarding wolves that you cancel the Olaus Murie Award,” Donald Murie wrote. “The Murie name must never be associated with the unscientific and inhumane practices you are advancing.”

    The Bottom Line is: it is going to be really difficult for RMEF and the other sportsmen organizations to call themselves ‘ wildlife conservationists’ if they do not acknowledge the place and role of predators in the wildlife dynamic. Or put another way , it means sportsmen and especially trophy hunters must not only tolerate wolves, grizzlies, black bears, and cougars, you must support those species’ habitat and needs as well. Good wolf habitat is good elk habitat , and that sentence reads both ways.

    This should make for a lively discussion here at Wildlife News. I wonder how it will play out elsewhere , closer to the gun shops and species fundraising banquets…

    My own thoughts are if Teddy Roosevelt came back today , he would encourage sportsmen to also be supportive of predators to a great extent, and conserve them the same as trophy big game. So it comes down to your working definition of “conservation “. RMEF has some ‘ splainin to do on that….

    1. jon Avatar

      Cody, Teddy Roosevelt hated wolves. He said that the wolf a “beast of waste and desolation” and hunted it mercilessly. Teddy Roosevelt also killed animals like tigers and elephants for sport among other amazing animals. A lot of people do not view him as a conservationist.

      1. Bob Ferris Avatar

        I have thought quite a bit about this issue and think that Teddy was a bright and progressive guy and would have come around to understand the role of predators just as Leopold and Murie did. Context is very important when looking at Roosevelt and the surrounding science of his day.

        1. jon Avatar

          Maybe you are right. What was the reason why John Muir stopped being friends with Teddy?

          1. CodyCoyote Avatar

            I was under the impression that Teddy did hate wolves—at first . Later on , like two decades or so, he came around to understanding that predators needed to be in the big game/wildlife mix, and admitted he had been mistaken. If someone knows more, please elucidate.

            Fast forwarding to current times – I just found out by reading the CC: on the Murie letter that we have an RMEF board member here in Cody WY . I did not know that . She will be likely be hearing from me with a polite question or two.

          2. JB Avatar

            Muir dropped Gifford Pinchot after Pinchot publicly supported sheep grazing in Forest Reserves (the precursor to National Forests) in the late 1890s. He fell out with Roosevelt when Teddy decided to support the Hetch-Hetchy dam to secure a water source for San Francisco (Raker Act of 1913). Roosevelt was in a political bind because of the fires that burned throughout the city after the 1906 earthquake, and San Francisco’s growth was outpacing the city’s ability to provide fresh water.

            Today’s reality: We need both Muir-style preservation (as in Wilderness and National Parks) and Pinchot’s utilitarian conservation (National Forests and Public Land).

            1. elk275 Avatar

              My favorite was George Bird Grinnell.

            2. JB Avatar

              Elk: I don’t often say this, but “Amen!”

  6. WM Avatar

    It seems RMEF (Allen and the Board) made the quick decision to walk away from affiliation with the Murie name, and leave no doubt about its continuing position in opposition to expanding wolf populations.


    I found it interesting the article made reference to the Murie family not having any contact with RMEF at all for some time, and then suddenly dropping the bombshell. Smells like a quick lobbying job on the family. with intended shock effect (were there any discussion prior to the letter?). From the article:

    ++Several other conservation groups have challenged RMEF’s wolf position, including Eugene, Ore.-based Cascadia Wildlands. Organization director Bob Ferris said he reached out to the Murie family to get the letter written.++

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    I can’t imagine the Murie family thought a tough letter would change RMEF’s policy and it’s new sources of money. It’s more likely they already felt continued association of their name with the Foundation was embarrassing to their family’s reputation, and so they decided to use an inevitable disassociation to not just conserve the family heritage but cause some pain to RMEF.

  8. Carter Niemeyer Avatar
    Carter Niemeyer

    I was a member of RMEF for many years, of course not being any major donor as some. I confronted David Allen about two years ago and called BS on RMEF’s obsession with killing predators, wolves no less. He didn’t give an inch so I disassociated myself with the organization. Too bad because I like contributing to conservation groups who focus on habitat issues and conservation easements. One parting line that convinced me that Allen was way off base was when he wrote in his response: “At the current pace neither you or I or anyone else will be doing much elk hunting at all in 10 years”. I don’t know about him but I know I will be.

    On another note the RMEF sponsored Jim Beers to come to Boise a year ago and spout off his misguided delusions about wolf management, wolf diseases and anti-government rhetoric which really gave me a sigh of relief that my donations weren’t paying for that performance.

  9. Bob Ferris Avatar

    I did indeed talk with the Murie family about this, but I would not call it lobbying in any traditional sense. It started when I ran my earlier piece on RMEF (http://www.cascwild.org/rocky-mountain-elk-foundation-fewer-10-gallon-hats-and-more-10-pound-brains-needed/)by Donald and Jan to make sure that I had not overstated the family’s views. That led to a dialog and the end result was this letter. This is all part of a larger debate between what I would characterize as the Leopold/Murie camp of biodiversity advocates and the descendants of the traditional single species game managers. RMEF leaned at one time more towards the biodiversity direction with the hopes that biodiversity enhancement would ultimately benefit elk and the wilderness experience. David Allen not having a deep understanding of this adopted the older, easier model. He immediately blames wolves for localized elk reductions not understanding the intricate interplay between climate, predation, and habitat quality. Had he a history and grounding he would have seen similar boom and bust cycles in the absence of wolves. It is sad where David’s uninformed ego has taken this group.

    1. CodyCoyote Avatar

      I have to ask : Is Dave Allen leading RMEF away from ” multispecies biodiversity ” towards single species advocacy , or are the major donors dragging him there with a chain and a brass ring in his nose?

      I’ve heard it both ways.

      Only met the guy once myself , at the Cody anti-wolf rally in May 2010 when he gave an embarrassing sermon to the choir. I would never have picked him out of a lineup as being the brains of the outfit.

    2. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Thanks, Bob!

      It takes a lot of wisdom at the top for a single species organization to not become a thorn in the side of conservation. Therefore, David Allen would be a bad CEO from a general wildlife viewpoint even if he had a more pleasant attitude. As you say, he has an uninformed ego (in addition).

      Where does that leave us with single species groups for various carnivores? They can fall to overemphasizing their favorite animal too, though I think the danger is somewhat less because most carnivores need a variety of prey and less human disturbance too. Advocates of grizzly bears, for example, have to be concerned about much more than transient large bear populations to be successful protecting bears. In fact, they do need to care about elk, deer, trout, salmon, conservation of wilderness, etc.

      The same is true of wolf advocates. They have absolutely no reason to hope for a permanent decline of elk numbers, deer numbers, moose numbers, etc. (with the exception of a few places where abnormal numbers of these prey have been encouraged into existence).

    3. jon Avatar

      Hi Bob, I think you nailed this perfectly.

      “Ferris said Allen’s background as a sports marketer for NASCAR and the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association didn’t provide him with the experience necessary to respect the complexity of wildlife ecology. He said comments such as those Allen made to the Idaho Statesman newspaper – that states should “shoot wolves from the air and gas their dens” to control their populations – showed his disregard for the species.”

  10. Bob Ferris Avatar

    There is obviously a need for biodiversity groups and also single species groups, but the list of true single species groups seems to be shortening. Ducks unlimited certainly focuses on ducks but really works on wetland systems that benefit a whole host of species same with the Ruffed Grouse or Wild Turkey folks. Some of this is changing in this manufactured acrimony by folks like Mr. Allen, but I remember being asked to come to a meeting in Alabama several years ago by a wild turkey biologist who was concerned about dropping quail populations and wanted to look at red wolf restoration as a solution to problem with nest predation by foxes. While he certainly started from a turkey perspective and understood that problems for quail could soon become problems for turkey, he was looking at the system and all the potential components. You have to have long and broad grounding to understand the potential dynamics–that takes a biodiversity driven perspective. David Allen is never going to understand that and therefore he is a much better candidate to be development or marketing director than president.

  11. Ida Avatar

    “In addition to his books, Adolf Murie published numerous articles against predator control programs and excessive human intrusion on wilderness areas. He wrote letters and submitted testimony to Congress regarding Isle Royale, Jackson Hole, Mt. McKinley, and other wilderness areas threatened by development or predator control programs, including an article against pesticide use in Grand Teton National Park in 1966.” Wikipedia

    Thank goodness the family stopped the association of their name by this outfit. It’s exactly the opposite of what they would have wanted, to have their name associated with anti-wolf crowd predator extermination. Mr. Allen does seem to run his organization like he’s marketing a product, not based on “sound science”. I read somewhere that he could now offer “The Dale Earnhardt Conservation Award!”

    1. Bob Ferris Avatar

      He does already offer that award. It is their most prominent.

  12. Mike Avatar

    Any group that aligns itself with the NRA is inherently anti-conservation.

    1. Bob Ferris Avatar

      It is interesting to look at the inverse relationship between NRA ratings and LCV rankings. You are absolutely correct.

  13. Robert R Avatar
    Robert R

    What or who is really a conservationist (hunter outdoorsman or environmentalist)I think both but that is in the eyes of the person them self.
    Is the definition of conservation made by the group or organization that wants to protect habitat or an animal the way they see best fit.
    Where did conservation start? Was it someone who was a hunter or environmentalist.
    Ask yourself if your ancestors were hunters or food gathers that lived off the land and provided for there families.
    There are a lot of what (if’s) from back in the 1800’s to present day. If only they could have looked into the future to see the outcome of habitat and game management.
    The pros and cons of modern game management be it fish and game services or special interest groups is really scary to look at the long term affects. Do we protect them in such a way that hunting is not allowed to cull the numbers or do we let them populate such that over population occurs and a possible mass die off happens because of disease. Some will say this is the natural way of nature and maybe so but we can preserve what have by some sort of management.
    If both sides could work together for the better of the habitat and animals they both would benefit. I know some of what I say falls on deaf ears because what you believe is gospel, but please look at the pros and cons and make your decision.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Robert R,

      I pretty much agree with you, and I am disappointed that the Wildlife News has not been able to bring hunters and anglers together on common issues with those who appreciate wildlife and the outdoors in other ways.

      Having said this I have to agree the NRA is, though it wasn’t always that way, an anti-conservation organization. It is far more interested in guns than game and especially interested in a right wing position on social and cultural issues than just about anything.

      1. mikepost Avatar

        Ralph, I must agree with you. The NRA has always been ready to throw hunters under the bus when it came to gun issues if they conflicted with hunting ethics or fair chase.
        That said, the anti-gun folks and the anti-hunting folks don’t mind collaborating from time to time to achieve their individual goals. The strategy is to chip away, a small piece at a time, at either issue with the end game being no guns and no hunting. Certainly not science based but deeply philosophically based. If they are successful then what is left is that government will be left doing the conservation work that RMEF and others have been doing. Can you imagine HSUS buying conservation easments to protect wildlife? I think not. It is definately not a perfect world but we need to acknowledge what organizations, however flawed, have achieved, and be ready to replace them with our sweat and dollars if they disappear.

        1. Bob Ferris Avatar

          The conflict here of note is not between the HSUS types and RMEF but between RMEF and their colleagues in the conservation community. Allen has alienated all of us by his outlandish statements. Sierra Club, Audubon, NRDC, The Wilderness Society, Defenders of Wildlife, etc. All who used to work with RMEF and who are organizations with long associations with the Murie and Leopold families. Conservation/Biodiversity groups that Allen is incorrectly labeling anti-hunting and animal welfare groups because they disagree with his positions.

          1. WM Avatar

            Bob Ferris,

            Forgive the candor here, but I have to strongly disagree with you. (And, incidentally, I expect to get alot of backlash with the following comment, from the usual suspects.)

            But for the association of HSUS, Defenders and a bunch of other national groups like Center for Biological Diversity and some regional conservation groups as plaintiffs in the very long string of lawsuits keeping wolves on the ESA in the NRM (and the Western Great Lakes for that mattter) it is doubtful RMEF, through David Allen, would have taken the scorched earth position on wolves that it has. It does not justify his position, including some rather embarrassing words he had for Judge Molloy and decisions he was compelled by law to make. It does explain it to some degree. And we should remember RMEF initally took a wait and see position, because there was disagreement within its membership ranks.

            And, I think it is very hard to tell who among current conservation groups has a veiled and somewhat subversive motive to eliminate hunting altogether (even if only chipping away at the edges).

            I don’t know how long you have been monitoring this forum, and the issues we have touched on here for years. However, promises were made to the states by FWS in the reintroduction plan and in the 1994 EIS, on which they could not deliver under their interpretation of the requirements to meet the ESA.

            1. Mike Avatar

              The NRM states put wolves on the list to begin with, and they’re pushing the wolf back yet again. they do this through por treatment of trapped animals and extremist positions with little regard for reason or science.

              The NRM residents have proven they cannot responsibly manage wolves. Twice.

              Blaming enviro groups for trying to protect an animal that was wiped out by poaching, hunting, and trapping is just so far off the mark it’s indefensible.

              Once could easily make the case for their righteousness when looking at the response to the wolf being off the list (aggressive, year-long seasons, hound-pursuit, electronic calls, no tag limits, etc).

            2. Bob Ferris Avatar

              I was a director of species conservation for Defenders in 1994 and oversaw their wolf and grizzly bear programs as a result. So I have certainly followed this issue and know the history. The ESA and recovery plans are fairly straight forward in pushing towards recovery goals but delisting for these three populations was always a three state deal. Wyoming was always a problem and we had concerns about Idaho and Montana as well. Idaho recently issued 43,000 wolf permits applied towards a population of a 1000 or so animals. This clearly is not a scientifically defensible or responsible management path. It only demonstrates our fear that the states would not take their responsibility seriously and do their best to drive populations towards their minimums rather than seeking a robust population. This has nothing to do with anti-hunting and everything to do with having legitimate concerns about future state management.

            3. WM Avatar


              No hard feelings. I just think this is one area where you and I will just have to disagree. For example, I have followed and interacted with Defenders for decades. They can have a stated policy that they can point to and say, “see, we are neutral on hunting.” Yet, their membership composition, and day to day stands, campaigns and specific issue positions, and leadership, lead me to another conclusion. They would eliminate hunting in an instant if given the opportunity. Same is true of CBD (which doesn’t show up on the list in your link).

            4. JB Avatar

              We will disagree then. I think there are too many hunters (or wives of hunters) 😉 in their membership. Now trapping…

          2. Ralph Maughan Avatar
            Ralph Maughan

            Mikepost, Bob Ferris, WM and all,

            There is a obvious rhetorical strategy by anti-conservation groups to refer to all traditional conservation groups that either do not like hunting, or who are neutral on hunting, or may support hunting but with “insufficient enthusiasm,” as “extreme animal rights groups.” Then groups like NRA, RMEF, even oil companies, call themselves the “true conservationists.” This is called “carving out a false middle ground.” News reporters who have a strong point of view will employ this tactic frequently — saying that they are in the middle of some controversy when they are in fact active proponents of a point of view.

            Many groups who want to conserve our wildlife have no position on hunting at all. While RMEF has bought a lot of land one way or another, there are perhaps a thousand land trusts that acquire lands and waters. Most of them have no policy on hunting or animal rights. In fact hunting vs. animal rights is a false dichotomy. You can oppose hunting and yet believe animals have no rights and vice versa. “Animal rights” is used as a term of abuse by some groups like the NRA. They apply the term promiscuously to all they disagree with.

            1. JB Avatar

              I agree with Ralph 100% here, and would add that “animal rights” is the new label that is slowly replacing “environmentalist”, now that the latter is no longer a dirty word. I also hear the term “antis” (as in anti-hunting) more and more frequently assigned to groups that haven’t taken a position.

              My view: Roosevelt era conservation happened despite the philosophical disagreements between leaders (such as Pinchot and Muir) because the people in the trenches saw the truth–they needed each other. Polarizing people interested in conservation into “NASCAR Hunters” and “animal rights” will not serve our collective interest–the long-term conservation of species and the habitats on which they depend.

            2. WM Avatar

              Ralph, JB,

              I think it is accurate to say HSUS is an animal rights group who never wants wolves delisted anywhere. They have stated this position formally in writing. Defenders, by repeated enuendo in their propaganda and in their advertising campaigns for fund raising and membership drives, has pretty much taken the same position, as has NRDC and groups like WildEarth Guardians, and CBD. Maybe there is no adopted “anti-hunting” policy, but there is strong evidence they support one by their very actions (maybe even by a cross-section of their member base). I might also suggest many groups purposely do not adopt such a policy to avoid the label and the focus it would draw for opponents. Others obviously have a more middle of the road view, but I think do not advertise it for fear of not being able to recruit and retain members and funding for specific issue campaigns.

              BUT, by association as co-plaintiffs in the various lawsuits, press releases etc., it makes it easy to lump them together with an “animal rights groups” moniker- call it improper stereotying, if you will. No doubt some/much is inaccurate, as regards the position of some of the individual groups. So, the likes of David Allen, or some Congressional types get easy targets.

              While there are/may be shared goals among the various true conservation interests, as JB suggests, I tend to believe the wolf issue has been a (perhaps THE)catalyst for divergence from many shared goals and visions. The polarization has also served the interests of those who are at either end of this continuium, whether they are labeled “animal rights” advocates or “anti-wolf/anti-animal rights” (or by association supporting NRA type interests which always seem to be associated with the far political right.

              And, to address Ralph’s point about no formal policy on hunting, an article from 2003 (this issue is not new), an animal rights group goes after the Nature Conservancy, with no policy on hunting a belief by the them that it is a “friends of animals” kindred spirit, but is allowing hunting on some of its managed properties:


              Then, less than 2 years later Nature Conservancy’s carefully crafted response (possibly fearful of losing some funding support):

              ++In general, the Conservancy does not take a formal position either for or against hunting or fishing.
              Because our primary focus has always been to protect the entire spectrum of native biological diversity, we do not encourage hunting or fishing on the majority of conservation sites that we own or manage. At the same time, when these activities are carried out within the guidelines of applicable state and federal laws, we would not oppose those who wish to take part in them. ++

              One needs to read this statement carefully to get the true meaning.

              But, on the other side of the issue, the Nature Conservancy teamed up with RMEF and the State of WA to obtain the Rock Creek/Bald Mountain properties from Plum Creek Timber, north of the Oak Creek Game Range, where hunting, especially elk, is allowed.

              It’s complicated.

            3. JB Avatar


              National Shooting Sports Foundation aggregated positions of wildlife-related groups on hunting (here they’re provided on Animal Liberation Front’s site): http://www.animalliberationfront.com/AR_Orgs/Wildlife%20Organizations%20Positions%20on%20Hunting.htm

              An observation:
              The groups that are pro-hunting are not wildlife advocacy groups–they are HUNTING advocacy groups. Of course, conservation of habitat and wildlife is a necessary component of hunting. The groups who don’t take a position on hunting are WILDLIFE (or biodiversity) advocacy groups–hunting is not necessary to advocate for wildlife or biodiversity (of course) but habitat conservation is–thus these groups share a common goal. Likewise, some of the animal rights groups’ interests are also served by the preservation of habitat (which aligns them with both hunting and wildlife/biodiversity) and by the legal activities of wildlife/biodiversity groups–i.e., when they seek ESA protections for species (because of the prohibition on take).

              All this is to say, it really isn’t that complicated. Wildlife/biodiversity groups stay neutral on hunting because (at times) both hunting advocacy groups and animal rights/welfare groups align with their interests. It’s smart policy.

  14. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan


    Co-plaintiffs and co-defendents on lawsuit can give the impression that the principals are on the same side on many issues, but this is an impression drawn by those who are naive about lawsuits because multi-party suits often include a lot of “strange bedfellows.”

    Our recent conclusion (WWP) is that great care needs to be taken joining with other plaintiffs or defendents. They can and sometimes do end up pursuing a thick-headed strategy you can’t easily divorce yourself from. They can also suddenly make a separate settlement, basically screwing you to advance their own objectives.

    1. WM Avatar


      I am fully aware of those differences/agendas/etc., that unite or separate those involved in litigation, and the complexities and later regrets in choosing affiliations that can be divergent from the start or emerge down the path (that is why some groups simply cheer from the sidelines, offer strategic support or funding). This underscores my earlier assertion that “its complicated,” when referring to alliances pursuing what at one level were common goals.

      1. Bob Ferris Avatar

        Defenders position–and I am only talking about when I was there, but it is likely true now–is difficult for insiders and outsiders to discern unless you look at biodiversity as the core driver. It is still confusing when you do that but makes more sense. Certainly the organization takes positions that agree with the positions of animal rights groups–particularly when it comes to trapping and Wildlife Services. Defenders enters that arena for biodiversity but frequently the marketing of the projects are not always consistent with the intent. That said we also advocated for lethal control of mute swans on the Chesapeake. HSUS was at that table and agreed too. But we disagreed on control of resident geese and there was some flap over feral cat control. It is a complicated world.

  15. CodyCoyote Avatar

    …and for some cavalier summer reading on this topic, traipse on over to that fount of foofawraw, The Black Bear Blog , for this post:

    ” Top 10 Wolf Hunting Tips from Rocky Mountain Elk FOundation members ” Yup.


    1. Bob Ferris Avatar

      You should view it in the original from the RMEF site where it is complete with member speculation and anecdotal information about wolf problems. Nice product placement. http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.rmef.org%2FNewsandMedia%2FNewsReleases%2F2012%2Frmefwolfhunttips.htm&h=0AQGPd0Rq

  16. CodyCoyote Avatar

    Jim Beers—the retired Fish & Wildlife Services biologist and very vocal anti-wolfer who will come give a speech to your group for a fee—has written a response to the Murie piece in the Missoulian discussed here. However, Beers’ letter is not available online . I poached this copy from aforementioned Black Bear blog which stated Beers’ response was in fact printed by the Missoulian.

    Submitted in full for the purposes of discussion and debate. If Ralph pulls it, I would understand.


    Dear “entire Murie family” & Cascadia Wildlands:

    Your recent public denunciation of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for annually honoring Olaus Murie (not “the family” and certainly not a radical organization like Cascadia Wildlands) calls for a public response. While your sneering reference to Olaus & Aldo et al being replaced by Dale Earnhardt on some award makes a searing response very tempting, this response will adhere to the high ground.

    The Murie family, the Leopold family, and all the wolf advocacy organizations in the world have no control of what free men and women decide about wolves in their presence. Using “science” and “the entire Murie family” as some sort of chiseled-in- stone commandments carried out of a wilderness somewhere as rules that must be obeyed to avoid an address in hades is just plain foolish. Despite the haughtiness of these would-be environmental mavens, free men and women always have and always will be the final arbiters of the animals encouraged, discouraged, and tolerated where such men and women live.

    Olaus and Aldo were correct that any system of non-domestic plants and animals will change over time. Some species will increase, others will decrease. Weather, climate, fire, humans, and many other factors will affect change. Preservation of such systems is an admirable human goal and certainly predators are a “natural” part of such systems. That the United States, in the 1960’s and as a result of its affluence and human benevolence, established several “Wilderness Areas” to recognize Aldo and Olaus’ (families take note that I am not using “your” name) BELIEFS is a credit to us all.

    Do you relatives and your environmental/animal rights “partners” really think Olaus and Aldo envisioned your nightmare? Wolves “endangered” and forced wherever federal overseers want on behalf of radicals? Government “taking” without compensation for plants or animals based on contrived “science” paid for by government? Federal ownership of 20-30-40-50-(?) percent of the Nation? Federal easement control of another 10-20 percent of the nations’ land with federal funds and radical “partners”? State governments that are increasingly subservient to federal bureaucrats spending federal money? State hunting management money STOLEN by federal bureaucrats that went unpunished to introduce wolves that Congress refused to condone? Dead dogs, livestock losses, and disease situations resulting from government- introduced wolves for which the government claims no responsibility? Human stress and worries in rural families as kids go to school buses or women go to mailboxes in wolf country? Disappearing elk and moose hunting (and the revenue and taxes and traditions and meat, etc.) where wolves are now established? Wolves and grizzly bears forced on rural Americans and private property at the threat of arrest, fines, imprisonment, and loss of voting and gun rights? Federal enclaves becoming little more than federal fortresses forcibly spreading radical federal dictates much like Russian military bases scattered all over Hungary, Poland, etc. during The Cold War? Of course not!

    Finally, I would like to express a word of thanks to the current leadership of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Five to ten years ago I wrote often about how Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (and DU, PF, TU, and other nefarious outfits) were in bed with the environmental/animal rights agenda to the great expense of the hunters and fishermen that were mistakenly paying them to protect their hunting and fishing. Mr. Allen changed that in recent years. Instead of continuing to warble about how wonderful it is to hear wolf howls at night in your elk-hunting cabin, Mr. Allen and RMEF began acknowledging the drastic decline of elk and moose (despite all the twaddle from retired feds selling books and University “scientists” “Hoovering-up” every nickel of federal money to build graduate student brothels and obtain tenure) and trying to do something about it. As a hunter, all I can say is God (not Aldo or Olaus) Bless him and his efforts. Elk hunters have done a lot worse with other poseurs in their corner. The fact that the radicals demean his background instead of admitting to or offering alternatives to maintain elk hunting and all the other things wolves diminish in rural America; says volumes.

    RMEF, Local governments and State governments working together are our best hope for determining the acceptable scope, control methods and distribution of wolves. Federal politicians, federal bureaucrats, and urban elites may dress-up like Aldo and Olaus and dance around singing “science” but we are no longer fooled like Goldilocks about what is really under their disguise.

    As to a “Dale Earnhardt Award” I like the ring of it: it represents the American public and not the elites. One of my daughters is a NASCAR fan and she assured me long ago that Mr. Earnhardt was a great guy, a hard worker, and a good role model. It will take winners like Mr. Earnhardt if we are to win this battle to pass along hunting to our children and grandchildren. If Olaus and Aldo are to become caricatures of radical agendas; dropping such names from real wildlife achiever’s awards is a good thing.

    Jim Beers

    19 July 2012


    Beers retired to Egan Minnesota

  17. Carter Niemeyer Avatar
    Carter Niemeyer

    Jim Beers touting his same guilt-trip propaganda that netted M David Allen, governors, legislators and fish and game commissioners into their current misguided thinking. Throw it out there, just in case something bad happens, so that our “leaders” must hesitate and “risk” gambling that the sky probably won’t fall but just in case we better buy into Beers hogwash. Very effective method and I can see his disciples using this tactic on the upcoming Idaho Fish and Game Summit. Paint a dismal picture of big game herd numbers plummeting, hunter numbers declining, predators spreading across the landscape like locusts and all because of conservation leaders, wildlife biologists, scientists, NGOs and academics who are trashing the real working men trying to feed his family through subsistence hunting or raising food and fiber for the rest of “us”. Radicals, terrorists, environmentalists, we are. A real, genuine Pied Piper.

    1. Laura Governali Avatar
      Laura Governali

      Carter, you have ever been one of my heroes ~ and I couldn’t have said it better. And none of us who love and respect the wolf and his place in our world could have said it more eloquently (I personally wouldn’t have been nearly as gracious in my response.) Kudos!

  18. Maska Avatar

    Wow! If Mr. Beers is taking the “high ground” in his response, I wouldn’t want to see where the low road would take him.

    1. Nancy Avatar

      Totally agree Maska!

      “despite all the twaddle from retired feds selling books and University “scientists” “Hoovering-up” every nickel of federal money to build graduate student brothels and obtain tenure”

      Gee… I wonder who he’s talking about?

      “Despite the haughtiness of these would-be environmental mavens, free men and women always have and always will be the final arbiters of the animals encouraged, discouraged, and tolerated where such men and women live”

      What a narrow-minded, pathetic excuse for a human being. Maybe Mr. Beers is spending WAY to much of his time in a recliner, watching cars go round and round and round 🙂

      Thanks for posting this CC.

      1. Ida Avatar

        “free men and women always have and always will be the final arbiters of the animals encouraged, discouraged, and tolerated where such men and women live”

        Very true. I’m sure in that assessment he’s included whether he and his ilk will be encouraged, discouraged and tolerated also. 😉

        I meant no disrespect about NASCAR nor Dale Earnhardt in my comment above – just that the RMEF sounds like a more “sport” oriented group today (I’m not familiar with their history and whether they have changed at all), and a sportsfigure whether he is environmentally inclined or not would be more fitting for naming their award for. Misleading the public and associating themselves with good deeds and scientific methods by naming an award for a pioneer(s) in elk, wolf and environmental biologists is disingenuous and would not be appropriate.

        1. mikepost Avatar

          The family was well aware and consented to the creation of the award. Lobbying of the family by folks oppossed to RMEF’s position on wolves generated the letter. The award has been in existence for many years and long before the wolf issue came to center stage. Nothing misleading or disingenuous ever took place. People and organization evolve and what was once a good match later became less so.

  19. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    Beers’ condemnation of federal ownership of land and his assertion above that Aldo Leopold and Olaus Murie would find the present land ownership situation a nightmare illustrates one reason why I think David Allen is slowly moving against public hunting.

    If Beers knew anything about the history of our public lands, or was honest, he would know that the proportion of the country owned by the federal government today is less than during the time when Leopold and Olaus Murie flourished.

  20. Carter Niemeyer Avatar
    Carter Niemeyer

    Some reading suggestions from a friend that might shed some light:
    …For a little insight into both the content and style of Mr. Beers’s diatribe, check out this link and the one that follows to two essays by Dave Foreman. In order to read the entire essays, you’ll need to click on the “attachment” link at the bottom of the pages. Here’s the first, from January 2008. http://rewilding.org/rewildit/489/dave-foreman%e2%80%99s-around-the-campfire-anti-intellectualism-in-america/
    Dave Foreman’s Around the Campfire – Anti-Intellectualism in America

    ‎…and here’s the other. http://rewilding.org/rewildit/493/dave-foreman%e2%80%99s-around-the-campfire-the-paranoid-style-in-american-anticonservation/
    Dave Foreman’s Around the Campfire – The Paranoid Style in American Anticonservation

  21. Nancy Avatar

    Not trying to go “off track” here but it is NASCAR related. Heard this story earlier today on the local radio news, so did alittle digging:


    Hopefully not an example of a “die hard” NASCAR fan 🙂

  22. jerry collins Avatar

    opinions, opinions….here’s the hard cold facts of life. Teddy Rosavelt and hundreds of others have tried to raise wild game without the presence of predators. not once has it ever worked except on “shoot for pay” farms. In every case you end up with scrub animals, like the deer in alabama. Ky Va and a few more states prevent this problem by introducing huge farm raised bucks into the gene pool every year. Bass fishermen have wised up by releasing the HUGE breeding stock fish, and eating the small stuff. You cannot continue to pick off the top without culling the sick, old and deformed. This is exactly what top predators do. They don’t take a healthy animal at the risk of getting their heads kicked off. I only wish humans were as smart.

  23. jerry collins Avatar

    Mr. Beers talks so much without saying anything, Has so many words without any intelligence, has a big mouth with no ears. Fact is that only nature can balance nature. If you look at areas like Cherynobyl, Russia where mankinds intervention is gone, nature turns it into a paradise. Perhaps in a perfect world where self proclaimed sophisticates like Mr Beers no longer exists, there could once again be tranquility

    1. louise kane Avatar

      thanks for sharing Jerry

  24. Bill Kiefer Avatar
    Bill Kiefer

    Mr. Allen is only doing what the majority of RMEF members want him to do and that is take the issue head on. Although I personally think Mr. Allen has the personality of a wolf, and that is not all bad, and ironically it was needed to save the organization from financial ruin. I served in many capacities with the RMEF and have great respect for its’ founders and many of its’ members, but any organization like RMEF that allows its’ board of directors to be hand picked selections of its’ leader will always be polarizing and controversial. In closing anyone who surrounds themselves with yes people will never hear no, any organization that puts the entity above the cause will become misguided, or as the the Good Book says “so shall yee sow, so shall yee reap!


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan