"IDAHO IS SHOWING WHAT A MISTAKE IT WAS TO LIFT THE SHIELD FROM WOLVES TOO SOON."
Editorial 12.29.2013, and letter to the editor 1.2. 2014 reposted from the New York Times
Photo credit: Tom Vezo/Minden Pictures, via Corbis
"A wolf in Idaho, one of the states where
wolf hunts have resumed."
The New York Times
The Opinion Pages| LETTER
Saving the Wolf
JAN. 2, 2014
To the Editor:
Re “Wolf Haters,” by Lawrence Downes (Editorial Notebook, Dec. 29) see below this:
Idaho’s Wolf Derby is a prime example of why wolves still need federal protection. For a population to be successfully removed from the endangered species list, it must be both biologically recovered and adequately safeguarded from becoming endangered again. The Northern Rocky Mountain wolves aren’t there yet, thanks to the behavior of certain two-legged mammals.
When the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act because the law had worked so well, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called it “hubris” and noted that places with greater racial polarization need stronger measures to prevent discrimination. It is similar with wolves. States where antipathy toward them runs high are unlikely to carry out effective conservation measures. Instead, we get the Wolf Derby, and the gleeful slaughter of a keystone species.
Until state management plans are based on logic and science rather than on hatred and the hubris of political expediency, wolves remain endangered, and federal protections must remain robust. Wyoming’s wolves are next to be considered for delisting. Let’s hope that we’ve learned something from the failure in Idaho.
Berkeley, Calif., Dec. 29, 2013
The writer is the author of “Promise of the Wolves” and “Secrets of the Wolves.”
EDITORIAL | NOTEBOOK
By LAWRENCE DOWNES
Published: December 28, 2013
The federal government removed the gray wolf from the endangered list in the Northern Rocky Mountains in 2011, essentially leaving wolves’ fates in the hands of state fish-and-game departments, hunters and ranchers. The predictable happened: hunting resumed, and the wolf population fell. In states like Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, an age-old antipathy to wolves flourishes, unchecked.
In Idaho, two recent developments have alarmed those who want to protect wolves and see them not as vermin, but as predators necessary for a healthy ecosystem.
First was the hiring, by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, of a hunter to travel into federal wilderness to eliminate two wolf packs. The reason: wolves kill elk, and humans want to hunt elk. Normally the agency would just rely on hunters to kill the wolves, but because the area where these packs roam — in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness — is remote, the agency decided it would be more efficient to bring in a hired gun. A photo last week in The Idaho Statesman showed the hunter, Gus Thoreson, astride a horse, with three pack mules, looking like a modern-day Jeremiah Johnson.
Advocates for wolves are angry at the United States Forest Service for giving a state agency free rein to practice predator eradication on protected federal land — meaning, of course, our land — without public comment or review and in apparent violation of well-established wilderness-management regulations and policies. They point out, too, that it’s not clear how many wolves are there for Mr. Thoreson to wipe out, and little evidence that wolves in that area have done any damage to elk herds or livestock.
The other example of wolf-animus will be on display this weekend outside Salmon, Idaho, at a Coyote and Wolf Derby sponsored by a group called Idaho for Wildlife. A not-too-subtle poster for the event shows a wolf with its head in the cross hairs of a rifle scope and announces $2,000 in prizes to defend “our hunting heritage” against “radical animal-rights groups.” Organizers say they want to raise awareness of the potential risk to humans from a tapeworm that wolves — as well as elks and dogs — can carry. State officials say there are no known cases of people contracting tapeworm from wolves.
Environmentalists sought a court order to block the event,
saying the Forest Service violated federal law and failed to follow its own procedures in allowing the killing contest. But a judge on Friday said it could proceed. The derby’s ugly depiction of wolves as diseased predators is a throwback to the bad old days when wolves, like coyotes, were vilified and bounty-hunted nearly to extinction.
It’s a sad coincidence that this weekend is also the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, which was signed into law on Dec. 28, 1973. That act sought to enshrine sound science and wise ecosystem management over heedless slaughter and vengeful predation. Idaho is showing what a mistake it was to lift the shield from wolves too soon.