Monday, March 12, 2007

Update on the Wolf De-Listing


Last Tuesday the U.S. Fish & Wildlife service held a public hearing to accept testimony on the proposal to de-list the wolves in the Northern Rockies, including Idaho. The hearing, held in Boise, drew nearly three hours of public comment, despite comments being limited to 3 or 2.5 minutes per person. The testimony was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping federal protection for the wolves.

In favor of de-listing were cattlemen, ranchers, Indian tribes, Idaho Legislators, and hunters. Opposing de-listing were wildlife photographers, biologists, environmentalists, conservationists, outdoorsmen, and a wide variety of people from other disciplines, including a few ranchers. I was pleased that the Defenders of Wildlife and National Resources Defense Council made appearances, and the Sierra Club sent notices to members to attend.

My favorite testimony was from an elderly woman who said that she was alive in the 1930's when the government paid people to kill wolves, and she remembered seeing them hanging, dead, until they were all gone. She said if the government allowed that to happen again it would be stupid, and tragic.

The sad thing is that there is a need for federal regulation when State and local government can't be trusted. The best analogy is de-segregation in 1950's Alabama. The Governor of Alabama at the time was a huge proponent of segregation and was elected largely by the KKK and supporters of keeping blacks and whites separate. Coming from a background of years of prejudice against African Americans, many in Alabama were not at all interested in integration of the races - especially not Alabama's outspoken Governor, George C. Wallace.

Butch Otter is outspoken against the wolves, saying he wants to be first in line to kill one. He is prejudiced against the wolves, comes from a background of backward thinking prejudice, and so do the majority of people who elected him when it comes to wolves. (A poll in North Idaho would almost certainly result in overwhelming support to kill all the wolves). He cannot be trusted to ensure protection of the wolves, nor can the Idaho Legislature, which has already supported hunting tags at less than $10 each and passed a resolution supporting the elimination of wolves altogether.

De-listing other species does not result in people waiting in line to kill them. This is a unique situation and one that the federal government seems woefully unprepared to deal with, as their criteria for de-listing fails to take into account plans of humans to eradicate the species once it loses protection.

On the one hand, I wonder how much public input will matter. In many cases, public hearings appear to be a show designed to make the public believe it has input, when in fact the decision has already been made in a back room. One certainly gets the impression the decisions has already been made to de-list wolves. But, we can't decline to participate in the political process because it may be rigged - that's the equivalent of not voting, and it's silly. You have to start with the vehicles in place to effectuate change, and you have to start with participation - ideally on as may levels as possible.

Written comments on the proposal can be submitted until May 9, 2007 via email to WesternGrayWolf@fws.gov or via mail to USFWS, 585 Shepherd Way, Helena, MT 59601.

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