Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Is Wolf Hunting Really Inevitable in Idaho?

Today at an event sponsored by the Idaho Environmental Forum, two speakers were asked to comment on Governor Otter's recent plan to allow wolf hunting and reduce the wold population to 100 if wolves are de-listed in Idaho. State Senator David Langhorst noted that many of the group Governor Otter was addressing when he made his comments about wolf hunting were in favor of the idea. (No surprise, as he was talking to a group of hunters, by the way. Langhorst is a hunter himself, by the way). Langhorst went on to say that he did not believe that getting wolf population down to 100 animals was going to happen, and that there would be debate on the numbers of wolves to be hunted and the hunting methods to be allowed, but that it was "inevitable" that there would be wolf hunting in Idaho. He said hunting is "required."

Langhorst also stated that he had been involved in some of the initial re-introduction efforts and that "pro-wolf" people had recognized that hunting may be a necessary part of wolf population management. He encouraged "pro-wolf folks" to remember this "part of the bargain" and said that there was not going to be a way to manage the wolf population without allowing hunting.

Nate Fisher, with the Office of Species Conservation, managed to avoid direct comment on the Governor's plan (understandable, I suppose, as he reports to Otter). He instead addressed the fact that Idaho's wolf population has been explosive, and that there is a need to avoid animosity between the wolf-advocates and the anti-wolf people so that a calm dialogue can take place. He noted the original agreement to have 10 wolf packs in each of three western states and pointed out Idaho has done well in its mission and de-listing will likely occur. He recognized it was an emotional issue and seemed interested in diffusing it.

I agree that there is a need for rational dialogue and discourse on the subject. Because it is such an emotional one, it is particularly un-helpful for our State's leader, Governor Otter, to make inflammatory and outrageous statements and outline a clearly ludicrous "plan" to eliminate all but 100 wolves. If he wanted to give the "pro-wolf folks" something to get excited about, make a polarizing statement, and generally anger conservationists, he certainly succeeded. Too bad he doesn't share more of the mindset of Mr. Fisher and seek to promote reasoned dialogue.

The truth is, it's not an easy problem. But the solution won't be found through glib, politically popular or unpopular sound bites. And if we are going to get interested parties to the table, Otter needs to shut up and leave the wolf speeches to those in his administration who can avoid further polarization....and make amends for his idiotic comments. Alternatives to hunting must be explored, and the recovery effort must be thoroughly examined to ensure that it is not setback or undermined to a point that we undo all the long, hard progress undertaken to protect this species.

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