| It struck me this morning reading Matthew's post here that in the recent discussions we've had about wolves, there's been something missing. Many words have been posted in reaction to Brian Schweitzer's letter to Interior Secretary Salazar, but no links to or text from the actual letter itself. Let me correct that right now:
Governor Notifies Interior Of New Wolf Management Directives.
You knew I wasn't bring this up without a point, didn't you? So let's get to it.
In your February 16, 2011 letter to the Secretary of the Interior, and in numerous follow-up interviews with local and national media outlets, you suggested that Montana did not intend to follow federal law, nor honor its commitments under either Montana's wolf management plan or its memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with respect to wolf management. Your statements could jeopardize Montana's continued authority to manage wolves under its cooperative agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
What Schweitzer actually wrote:
Therefore, I am now going to take additional necessary steps to protect the interests of Montana's livestock producers and hunters to the extent that I can within my authorities as governor.
to protect the elk herds in Montana's Bitterroot Valley that have been most adversely affected by wolf predation, I am directing FWP, to the extent allowed by the Endangered Species Act, to cull these wolves by whole-pack removal to enable elk herds to recover.
More troubling, your statements may incite Montanans to violate the Endangered Species Act.
In Northwest Montana, it is illegal for anyone other than authorized wildlife agents to harm, harass, or kills wolves.
Fair enough. Save that Governor Schweitzer writes:
for Montana's northwest endangered wolves (north of Interstate 90), any livestock producers who kill or harass a wolf attacking their livestock will not be prosecuted by Montana game wardens. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) wardens will be directed to exercise their prosecutorial discretion by not investigating or citing anyone protecting their livestock.
There is a point here, just not one that's palatable to many environmentalists. What Schweitzer just "incited" was civil disobedience. Schweitzer paraphrased: 'if your livelihood is at stake, you can choose to trust the government which has failed you time and again, or take steps to protect yourself, and I won't fault you for the latter'. Though it's probably a discussion for another time, I would point out that his decree is the same as argued by many progressives with remarkable frequency. If Salazar wishes every wolf kill to be investigated by the FBI, then he'd best get off his ass and do something about it, yes? All Brian said is that he ain't gonna do the dirty work for the federals.
Nowhere is it permissible for individuals to kill wolves in a response to an alleged threat to elk herds.
You have to love good hyperbole. Read Schweitzer's letter. At no point does he call for any such thing. Note please, as Earthjustice glosses over, that it is within the power of Montana FW&P to do such a thing as directed by the Governor.
I am directing FWP to respond to any livestock depredation by removing whole packs that kill livestock, wherever this may occur.
Still further, to protect the elk herds in Montana's Bitterroot Valley that have been most adversely affected by wolf predation, I am directing FWP, to the extent allowed by the Endangered Species Act, to cull these wolves by whole-pack removal to enable elk herds to recover.
I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a little bit of fun seeing environmentalists get poked in the ribs a bit. I find it a little to a lot fun to poke any true believers, myself. I'd also be lying if I didn't find these pronouncements from Brian to be rather loathsome. But there are a few things that might need to be dealt with.
First, wolves are social predators. Learning to predate on stock animals can't be 'unlearned', just because one or two of them get shot. There are times that removal of entire packs could well be necessary. I hate that fact, but accept it for what it is. It never fails to surprise me how many who hail biology as the arbiter of animal husbandry have a great blind spot to the nature of the animal in question.
Second, and this is the biggie, Elk populations in the southern areas of Montana, especially around Yellowstone, continue to decline. Wolf populations in some regions continue to decline as well. But the silly political point is this: Most folk have made up their mind. While biologist waffle, shrugging their shoulders and saying "Idunno", the people who own, rely on and hunt the elk become increasingly frustrated. (Own in the sense that the American people own the elk, not biologists or environmentalists.) Biologists beg more money to study, while people grow fearful. The real biological cause of decline may not matter, and won't a whole people crow and cry if it is wolves taking the young? This is a powder keg, and it's easy to say that the common person doesn't understand.
Here's what they do understand. Their elected representatives are supposed to serve their interests. Lawsuits cost them money, and their interests still aren't being served. Schweitzer writes:
While almost everyone acknowledges that the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf population is fully recovered, as the Governor of Montana I am profoundly frustrated by the lack of any actual results that recognize Montana's rights and responsibilities to manage its wildlife. Montana has for years done everything that has been asked: adopting a model wolf management plan; enacting enabling legislation; and adopting the necessary implementing rules. Our exemplary efforts have been ignored. I cannot continue to ignore the crying need for workable wolf management while Montana waits, and waits, and waits.
Is he really that wrong?
UPDATE: Steve Kelly left a comment below the implications of which have been weighing on me, a lot. Let's assume, for a moment, that doing nothing is not an option. No cheating, just do it. Let's likewise assume that reacting to wolves in the same violent manner that has been demonstrated before is not an option. I ask sincerely, how then do we deal with this animal in Montana? If anyone wants to do a diary about this question, I'm eager to promote such ... hint hint. And for the record, this might be the reasoned debate that JC and I both wish to have.