February 10, 2007
In the debate about the wolf, we often hear arguments for and against why the wolf should or shouldn’t be better managed. On the extremes of each end of the debate, we have those that want to eradicate the wolf back into non-existence and those who want to allow wolves complete free reign. We can have neither of these.
What often gets lost in the debate are the livestock owners beyond the loss of their animals. We hear from very unsympathetic people things like, the wolf was here first and wolves have their rights. The greatest misconception is that ranchers get reimbursed for their losses by wolves. The only time that a livestock owner sees any money for livestock losses is when the “authorities” can prove the kill was done by wolves and not a result of wolves merely cleaning up the mess. Proving wolf depredation using the methods today is very hard to do. The percentage of compensation versus kills is quite small.
But we have to feel for the ranchers. They didn’t ask for this. Looking back at the history, we find that as man headed west, he ran into wolves and in time the wolves were for the most part eliminated. We can argue for centuries as to whether or not man should have done what he did in killing off wolves. We can argue that wolves get a bum rap being portrayed as a vicious killer and a threat to man. All of this doesn’t erase history and facts.
As man began to inhabit the west, because of the encounters with wolves and the killing of the settler’s livestock, among other reasons, the wolves were shot, trapped and killed. Once the wolves were gone, ranchers could grow livestock without much fear of predation eating him out of existence.
So for decades the west was absent the wolf. More people moved into the areas. Ranches grew in size and number. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all became dependent on the western ranches to supply much of the countries beef and sheep supplies. We must also mention that during this time of relative peace, elk, deer and other kinds of ranches opened and began to flourish. This too became a valuable resource to local and neighboring states to supplement food supplies and provide for those looking for an alternative to beef.
For the most part, life was good. Then along came the introduction of wolves back into the ecosystem and all hell has broken loose. It has been a political battle and a nightmare for some ranchers. The cost to Americans has been astronomical, not only through loss of property but through the countless lawsuits and court battles over protecting the wolf.
History is history and the wolf is here to stay. But what has gotten ridiculous is the selfishness and greed on the part of animal rights groups to stop the management of the wolf. Wolf recovery efforts have astronomically exceeded anything biologists thought possible and now it is time to reduce numbers as the wolf is having a negative effect on the ecological balance Americans want to have in their wildlife habitats. But the animal rights groups can never be satisfied with original objectives.
With this greed and childish behavior, more and more Americans will find disfavor with these groups and in time they will lose their support both financially and publicly. I wait for that day.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has shown that they are enablers of such groups by continually caving in to their demands. They drag their feet over the wolf delisting while at the same time running contrary to the masses who are saying the wolves are destroying everything man has created over the last hundred years or so. Why?
The states with the largest wolf populations in this region, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, all want to see wolf numbers decreased. Governor Otter of Idaho has been ridiculed and scorned for statements he made about wanting to reduce wolf numbers down to what was agreed on as a recovery number back in 1995.
Hunting groups all across the three states are demanding wolf numbers be dropped. Ranchers and residents see the same need. Organizations such as the Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd are asking for wolf reduction to save the elk. They have offered to team up with Montana to sue the feds and force them to delist the wolf. This comes because the feds have been promising for years the delisting is coming and yet here it is 2007 and all they have is another promise of a removal from protection and guarantees of more lawsuits from animal rights groups. Who can blame them.
Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, spoke up on Thursday, Feb. 8 through an editorial in the Seattle Times about what drastic affects the growing population of wolves is having on that and other states.
Wolves are very destructive of our culture and our ranching and hunting economy. Our culture and heritage of hunting game animals are so important here that they are enshrined in our Montana Constitution. And raising livestock is not a hobby here â€” it is not done only to provide a movie set for tourists, but it is a way of life for many of us.
For a century, hunters in Montana have fostered huntable populations of deer, elk, moose, wild sheep and goats. It is only hunters who have paid millions of dollars and volunteered millions of hours to cultivate our game herds. We think of these herds as a savings account for our children and grandchildren, that we may pass on the traditions of our culture and our heritage to them.
Marbut describes the efforts of outsiders who came into the region, without an invitation, to reintroduce wolves and jeopardize the years of work by locals. This represents the direction with which our country has decided to head – forcing ideals on others. Is there no state autonomy anymore? Shouldn’t Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and the other 47 states no what’s best for them? Why should one group be allowed to snatch away centuries of hard work for their own pet project. As Marbut says in his article, “Where does common sense enter the discussion?”
The NRA has also joined in the chorus of unending organizations in calling for the feds to remove the wolf from protected status and let the states handle management. In a recent letter to the Montana House Appropriations Committee, Brian Judy, NRA Liaison, urged legislators to pass Bill343(pdf) – to appropriate money to join in a lawsuit to force the USFWS to delist the wolf.
On behalf of the more than 27,000 Montana members of the National Rifle Association, I urge your support for HB 343, the measure that would appropriate funds for state participation in a lawsuit against the federal government regarding wolf-delisting.
There is substantial evidence that wolves are taking a terrible toll on game populations, especially elk. In communicating with hunters, outfitters and guides in states such as Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, the rate of hunter success has decreased significantly in just over two years and they have determined that the explanation is the explosive wolf population, based upon the tracks they have found. Winters have been harsh and browse has been good, especially when it comes to calves â€“ wolves no longer contain themselves to preying on the old and the infirm elk.
Itâ€™s the NRAâ€™s belief that wolves have their place in the natural ecosystem but their numbers have to be controlled in the same manner as all other animals. The best means of control is through regulated hunting.
Without a change, sport hunting will be seriously harmed, as has been experienced in neighboring states.
What is it going to take to get the overwhelming majority of people to realize that enough is enough and speak up? From the beginning there has been opposition to the introduction of wolves, yet the majority conceded. Now with a successful project on the verge of being out of control, many are asking for the freedom to protect what is rightfully theirs. The pro-wolf advocates just continue with their greedy demands, throwing their rotten money at any and all lawsuits aimed at stopping or slowing the process.
The last thing that the states of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming has wanted to do is battle this foolishness out in the courts but the USFWS, because of their continued support of animal rights groups, has left them no options. Let’s end this battle once and for all. People’s futures and livelihood are at stake over an animal.
February 10, 2007
I’ve reported before that New Hampshire can’t continue to fund its Fish and Game Department the way it is currently structured. The debate now is what to do about it.
On Wednesday, people gathered at a meeting of the state House Ways and Means Committee, to voice opinions on how to fix the broken department. The NHFG is seeking 4% of the state’s collection of lodging and meals tax saying that a portion of those taxes are a direct result of efforts and programs administered by the department.
The problem with this request is that removing the 4% allotment, totaling approximately $4 million, would remove the same amount from the state’s general fund. That would mean either raising taxes to cover the difference or making cuts to other programs.
New Hampshire Public Radio covered the event and what came as no surprise to me was a comment made about why the NHFG is short on funds.
For years, the agency has been able to function smoothly with federal funds and fees that come mostly from hunting and fishing licenses.
But sales of those licenses have been declining in the last decade, leaving Fish & Game with fewer dollars for wildlife and fish stock management.
What’s wrong with this statement is the context in which it is being used. It leads readers and listeners to believe that hunting, fishing and trapping are so much on the decline that the NHFG is now $4 million dollars short on funding. I won’t disagree that license sales may be on the decline but not to the tune of $4 million. According to information provided on the NHFG website, revenue from license sales totals $9,796,159 for 2006. To suggest that a $4 million shortfall in revenue is the result of reduced license sales is saying that the number of hunters, trappers and fishermen has been cut nearly in half.
What creates the shortfall is the demand put on the NHFG to perform more duties and create recreational opportunities for those not paying to play. For too long the license buyers have been funding play time for those not willing to pay. That has to stop.
Rep. Peyton Hinkle of Merrimack I believe is on the right track.
maybe the department needs to be reorganized. separate out the hunting and the fishing functions from the other wildlife and conservation functions and search and rescue and that kind of thing. and then have the license fees fund the fish and game part of it. and then have the general fund money fund the other part of it.
Money collected from the sale of licenses for hunting, fishing and trapping should be used to manage and provide opportunities for these groups. Those fees should not be paying for the opportunity for wildlife viewing, hiking trails, parking lots, search and rescue and all other costs associated with non-game functions. Out of a total 2006 budget of the NHFG of $23 million, just over $2 million goes into wildlife management. Where is fish and game in that equation?
It is indefinitely time for New Hampshire to reorganize and get those paying for what they use and get it off the backs of the license buyers. Restructuring is in order. They need to take search and rescue out of the budget of NHFG along with snowmobile and ATV costs for administering. In short, fish and game should be just the way it used to be, fish and game.
February 10, 2007
The Montana Senate moved a bill quickly through the hall on Thursday that would provide the opportunity to hunt wolves and grizzlies when the two animals are removed from the endangered list. Read more here.
February 9, 2007
In a move that is reminiscent of a bold chess strategy, Dale Hall, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director, told Wyoming’s legislature, in a letter, to change its wolf management plan. The USFWS and Wyoming cannot reach agreement on a plan so that the feds can go ahead with delisting the wolf in that state. They intend to begin the process for Idaho and Montana but most people don’t expect the delisting to be finalized for quite some time – perhaps several years as wolf lovers intend to take the issue to court again.
And court is where the issue between the USFWS and the state of Wyoming is going to end up. Wyoming has already filed suit and while both sides are awaiting the process to run its course, some thought talks, gestures and proposals might solve the problem making the lawsuit unnecessary.
The Governor of Wyoming, Dave Freudenthal, has expressed frustration in negotiating with the feds saying he doesn’t know who he can and can’t talk with and who has the authority to negotiate.
It now appears nearly certain that after this letter from Hall to Wyoming, the decision will have to run its course in the court system. Although time consuming and expensive, perhaps this is the best thing. Maybe Wyoming will even challenge whether or not the feds can actually dictate to the state how wolves will be managed.
This may take decades but in long run, maybe its all for the better. Pull up a chair, pour some hot coffee and get ready for a long-running feature presentation. The clock is ticking and the next move goes to the Wyoming Legislature.
February 9, 2007
Everyone agrees there are too many elk in the Rocky Mountain National Park and consequently those elk spill over into Estes Park, Colorado, where residents there find it common place to spot elk with Christmas lights, bicycles and lawn chairs hanging off their neck and heads. What isn’t agreed upon is what to do about it.
As time marches on, it may becoming clear wherein lies the problem. Last year officials of the RMNP announced they had a plan to reduce the number of elk. They were going to use park staff and hire a few “sharpshooters”, equip them with silencers, prowl around at night and kill a few thousand of them over 20 years costing taxpayers around $18 million.
Many have suggested that closing the park for a handful of days each year and let hunters pay for the privilege to hunt the elk would an effective method and wouldn’t cost the taxpayers much money, if any at all.
Back in July, the Colorado Division of Wildlife Commission recommended that the park use hunters and the expertise and experience of the DOW to manage the elk herd. This wasn’t met with much enthusiasm by park officials.
Yesterday, the DOW Commission held their regular meeting to discuss what to do about the elk situation in Estes Park. The meeting was attended by Vaughn Baker, RMNP superintendent, who sat in on the meeting to hear suggestions and proposals by the commission. It was at this meeting that commissioner Rick Enstrom gave Baker a piece of his mind.
“You and the Division of Wildlife have a hell of a problem” with the elk population, thundered Rick Enstrom, an eight-year wildlife commissioner attending his final meeting. Enstrom was barking at Rocky Mountain National Park superintendent Vaughn Baker, who sat in a lonesome chair before a U-shaped set of tables filled with Colorado wildlife officials.
“I can’t understand why you’re not willing to use the Division of Wildlife,” he said. “We’re very frustrated.”
Park officials and other animal rights protectors keep attempting to drum the lie into the public that it is a federal law to hunt in National Parks. Although the RMNP may not permit hunting anywhere inside the boundaries, there are several instances where hunting has been allowed in national parks, for situations similar to this one. It is my understanding that the park superintendent does not have the authority of allow hunting in this case. It has to be done at the federal level but it certainly is an achievable goal.
It simply makes no sense to me why Baker is willing to spend $18 million of taxpayers money to achieve a goal that can be accomplished by hunters for next to nothing. As a matter of fact, some have surmised the park could turn a profit and put the money back into improving the elk habit within the park.
There are some 3 million visitors to RMNP each year and certainly, to close the park, if it’s even necessary, for 3 or 4 days a season, would be a very small imposition to ask of anybody.
Because of Baker’s balking on this issue, one begins to wonder who owns him or whether or not he is allowing his own personal agendas to influence his management of the park. We know that he is under the gun from animal rights groups, in particular Sinapu, a group that wants wolves reintroduced to Colorado and specifically into RMNP. In response to the meeting yesterday of the DOW Commission and their offer to help RMNP deal with the elk problem and manage the game, Sinapu, a group whose function is to restore wolves, posted a blog on one of their websites.
This is the latest installment in the soap opera playing out as the Park Service tries to deal with the ecological effects of not having wolves in the system to help keep the elk moving around. Notably, the very problem that Rocky Mountain National Park is trying to solve (the decline of aspen and willow because of too much browsing pressure by lazy elk) has been dramatically solved in Yellowstone in less than a decade. The solution: restore wolves to the Park.
What a totally absurd idea! Look at the mess that Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and parts of neighboring states are in now dealing with the much predicted problems of the reintroduction of wolves. And with the track records of these groups, we have learned that some is never enough. Even when wolf numbers have exceeded restoration goals by as much as 1000%, they still fight to protect the wolf at the expense of other wildlife and livestock growers all across the west, even human safety in some cases.
Under no circumstances should Colorado or the RNMP consider bringing wolves into this mix. There are too many elk in this area because they have gone unmanaged. Now it is time to do something about it. The intelligent thing to do is to insert some common sense into this equation and demand that the park be closed for a short length of time once during the season and let hunters pay for the privilege to stock their freezers.
As the old saying goes, Mr. Baker needs to lead, follow or get out of the way.
February 8, 2007
In today’s Idaho Statesman, John Gahl, a one-time conservation officer or game warden, tells of his days in the 1970s when he saw bad things on a game ranch.
Back in the 1970s, I was a conservation officer (game warden to most people) in the Cascade area. Some of my duties, among many other things, was to work with an individual who ran “canned hunts.”
You can tell immediately the tone of the opinion piece. I’m not going to make any attempt at disproving Mr. Gahl and what he saw or how he feels about what he and his ilk refer to as “canned hunts” or “shooter-bull operations”. Mr. Gahl is entitled to his opinion and because I would have no reason to believe he would lie about what he saw, I’m not going to question any of it.
There are two things that I will address. The first is to make a statement that I believe is a fair assessment of things today compared to 30 years ago. Things have changed a lot since Mr. Gahl’s days of beating the bush. I’m not naive enough to believe that there are not abuses that exist today concerning domesticated animals of all kinds. We can’t rid our world of bad acting people as much as we would like. But I think there are far fewer cases of animal cruelty today than back in the 70s. So let’s put that aside for a moment.
The second issue begins by me asking a question. Does Mr. Gahl believe that because he was once a conservation officer he has the power to rule over others and dictate or legislate hunting ethics? By his comments he makes, I think he has some serious issues with certain “types” of people.
First of all, we need to understand who participates in these canned hunts. (Don’t be fooled, “shooter-bull facilities” are just a more polite way of saying canned or guaranteed hunt.) As an officer, I checked U.S. senators, princes, sports writers and a myriad of more “common” folks. They had money but really weren’t interested in fair chase or what a real hunt entailed.
I guess money determines hunting ethics.
I think Mr. Gahl typifies the average Joe who wants hunting on ranches stopped. The reasons are basic. One, they want to force their own ethics on other people while at the same time sitting in judgment of the character of anyone who opts to try it. Secondly, the more liberal view of hunting and hunting ethics, proposes to throw out the baby with the bath water. Because one ranch 30 years ago abused animals, we need to ban ranch hunting. Think about the logic behind this for a moment.
When we get in our cars and head down the highway, we see bad drivers. We see lawbreakers, speeders, those driving to endanger others, we see running of red lights and we see some automobiles that are obviously not safe to be driving. Do we banning driving?
We turn on our television sets and there are some good family programs and there are some bad ones, full of violence, sex, foul language, etc. Do we ban televisions?
There are billions of people in the world, some good some bad. What do we do about that? I played Little League baseball. There were good coaches and bad coaches. Did we ban baseball?
There are millions of people in the United States who fish. There are good fishermen and bad fishermen. Do we ban fishing? The majority of fishermen condone and actively support “put and take” fishing. This is where fish and game departments farm fish and dump them into lakes and streams so fishermen can fish them out. A lot of fishermen see that as unethical but do we ban it? Does put and take fishing give fishermen a bad name?
There are millions of different kinds of hunters all over the United States. Some consider themselves to be a “purist” by making their hunt as primitive as possible while others use every tactic legally available to increase their chances for success. Is the purist a better hunter or person because they chose that method? Some view shooting game over bait as unethical. Do we ban hunting?
The point to all this is simple. I’m not God and have no right to sit in judgment as to what is ethical or not. As an American I am guaranteed certain rights and I don’t take kindly to those who have no respect for those rights simply because they may not agree with them, in this case hunting behind fences. This IS America!! America has remained strong because people fought to keep our freedoms not take them away.
We don’t ban automobiles, baseball, fishing, and television. We work to make them better and in many cases we work to allow people a choice. Choice is an important part of the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. Nobody makes me drive a car with all the crazies on the road. I choose to do that understanding there are risks and there will always be bad drivers.
I have a choice as to what I watch on television. I see some television as good and some bad. My next door neighbor sees different things and he has a choice as to what to watch. I don’t try to ban certain channels because I think they are wrong.
We should be working to make sure that hunting ranches offer a reasonable amount of “fair chase” opportunities while limiting animal abuses. The owners of ranches have rights guaranteed them under our constitution to conduct business and pursue happiness, even if we don’t always agree. Certainly we can all think of some kind of business we don’t like or question whether it’s good for our community but do we ban it and strip others of their rights in the pursuit of happiness?
Instead of seeking a ban, we should be working to improve an American business for the good of all.
February 8, 2007
There’s one thing about this job that makes it a bit like Christmas morning. As a kid you wake early and scurry downstairs to the tree to see what Santa left for you. In the mornings or after I’ve been away from my computer for a spell, it’s like Christmas as I open my mailbox(es) and see what treats are in there. Sometimes it is coal, big black pieces of dirty smelly coal. Other times the gifts are priceless.
Once I returned from the garage after dropping off my Camry to get a front main oil seal replaced, my mailbox was full. I have yet to open up all the presents but I did find this one intriguing. For whatever the reasons, the writer wanted his last name left off but had given Pete Ellsworth, president of the Concerned Sportsmen of Idaho permission to pass it around. So I’m passing it around.
IDFG Commission Stand On Domestic Elk Ranches
After reading the IDFG Commissions unanimous stand in the Wild Idaho News on domestic elk ranches I was appalled. What makes them think they are qualified to tell anyone what qualifies as a ‘fair chase’ hunt?
They say absolutely nothing about an outfitter and guide on a private ranch where, they are the only ones allowed to hunt â€œwildâ€ elk. Then they pick up a “hunter” take him out and walk him up to where the elk are and even call the elk in. He shoots the elk and he is a real hunter and on a ‘fair chase’ hunt. This hunter doesn’t know a whitetail track from a moose track or one thing about where the elk are or why they are there but since IDFG is getting their money that is a ‘fair chase’ hunt.
But if it happens on a private domestic elk ranch where the rancher bought and paid for the elk, fed them in bad winters, protected them from wolves, bears and mountain lions, didn’t kill so many that he had too few for anyone to hunt, gave them injections to prevent disease and checked annually to make sure they didn’t have any contagious diseases but a hunt there isn’t ‘fair chase’; according to the IDFG Commission. Regardless of the how the hunt conditions are it isn’t ‘fair chase’ because they said so. They are such hypocrites.
The IDFG claiming that domestic elk herds present a threat to wild elk herds is just too far a stretch for me and the majority of other knowledgeable hunters to believe. I have to wonder what makes people say and do the things they do.
I am more than disappointed in the IDFG Commission, I am ashamed of the propaganda that I have seen on this subject much of it coming from the IDFG sources.
I am not sure where they started this but when any agency that is primarily funded by hunters money joins the largest group of anti-hunter organization in the nation, don’t you think they should check where they are headed? Maybe their Compass tells them when the game is all gone they will still have jobs. I hope I never need any position or anything so bad I have to support anything like this.
Please Join Us Jan 16 for Camo Day to Help Stop Canned Hunts in Idaho.
Please join The Humane Society of the United States for an important …
February 8, 2007
As a result of learning more about the facts surrounding the debate in Idaho over proposals to ban elk farming and “high-fence” hunting on those ranches, members of the Concerned Sportsmen of Idaho have revised their official stance on the issue. CSI president Pete Ellsworth has written a formal letter stating the organizations positions along with some suggestions, that has been sent to Idaho Governor Butch Otter.
Governor Butch Otter
Dear Governor Otter:
The Concerned Sportsmen of Idaho, Inc. (CSI) after much discussion and learning a great deal more on this issue CSI offers the modified positions and recommendations which are outlined below regarding domestic elk ranching and domestic elk shooting operations in our great state of Idaho. The CSI categorizes such operations and associated enterprises as follows:
1. domestic elk ranching â€“ High fenced ranches that are similar to yet different from domestic cattle, sheep, horse, mule and exotic breed operations. Where agricultural products, both live and processed, are sold for financial gain.
2. captive domestic elk shooting operations â€“ High fence operations that vary in size (acreage) where customers pay to shoot domestic elk under various conditions, directly linked to domestic elk ranching.
The CSI does not oppose domestic elk ranching provided those ranches comply with Idaho Department of Agriculture regulation.
The CSI does not oppose captive domestic elk shooting operations provided those operations comply with Idaho Department of Agriculture regulation.
Concerns and Related Recommendations:
1. CSI recommends, because of the unique industry features and requirements of domestic elk ranches and captive domestic elk shooting operations a system of licensing or a fair and more effective rule enforcement system be established.
2. CSI has a concern that domestic elk must have a positive identification. (This is now in effect with ear tagging and one other form of identification. We want to make sure that it will continue in effect.)
3. If the Idaho Legislature or the Idaho Elk Breeders decide fair chase guidelines should be adopted, CSI believes the State of Utah Domesticated Elk Hunting Parks Rule R58-20 or the Safari Club International domestic game ranch policies may assist in that effort.
CSI members have expressed a broad spectrum of opinions related to domestic elk ranching and captive domestic elk shooing operations. The CSI is always willing to work with the agricultural community and other members of the hunting, fishing and trapping communities to bring about successfully negotiated solutions to any issue.
February 7, 2007
Thanks to Jim Redlin for the news tip. I’ll have more information on this as I get it.
February 7, 2007
Three petitions were rejected by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission earlier this year. Two petitions to put an end to elk and deer ranching came from MAD Elk and the Oregon Hunters Association and one from the elk ranchers that would allow the industry to continue.
According to the Statesman Journal, the 12-member advisory group would be made up of quite an array of representatives.
If approved, the group would be made of representatives from the Oregon Elk Breeders Association, the Department of Agriculture, the Oregon Hunters Association, the MAD Elk Coalition, a non-Fish and Wildlife biologist, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and Oregon Farm Bureau.
If this proposal passes and the group is formed, their task will be to look at various aspects of the elk and deer ranching business and then make a recommendation to the OFWC, sometime in June during the regular meeting of the commission.
Among the issues that the advisory group would study are diseases, permit transfers and permit fees, fencing standards, genetics (both the animals and semen), the state’s response to escaped animal and economics, including record-keeping and reporting requirements.
At least it appears Oregon’s approach is a bit slower and willing to collect information and not acting hastily by being pressured by special interest groups. Let’s just hope the information this group gets to make its recommendation on is good science and doesn’t get bogged down with fear, hearsay and personal perspectives.
The meeting that should decide about the group is scheduled for Friday in Seaside.