Thursday, February 10, 2011

Not crying wolf

Posted on Thu, Feb 10, 2011 at 4:00 AM

Mr. Bryant attacks conservation groups for continuing to press for a better deal for wolves (see “Moving target,” Feb. 3). If he were the wildlife supporter he claims to be, he might want a better deal too—one that’s based on science. Currently, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana are committed to maintaining just 100 to 150 wolves per state—outdated, unscientific numbers identified in 1987. There is no evidence to suggest those numbers make up a healthy, recovered wolf population.

It would be nice to believe that states would never reduce wolf populations from more than 1,500 wolves in the region to fewer than 500. But Idaho, when asked to stand behind its voluntary plan to maintain at least 500 wolves, immediately withdrew that plan in favor of an earlier one calling for around 100-150 wolves. Meanwhile, Wyoming has been crystal clear it will maintain only the minimum number of wolves and will eliminate them from nearly 90 percent of the state. So far, Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s administration has stuck with its plan to maintain higher wolf numbers statewide but the current Legislature may overrule that plan and the next governor will not be bound by it.

Leaving wildlife populations at the mercy of politics is not a gamble we should take with any species. All wildlife is supposed to be managed according to the best available science. Wolves deserve no less than any other species. That’s why conservation groups continue to work for a science-based plan for returning wolves to state management—one that ensures a healthy population over the long run.

If we abandon core wildlife management principles like science and sustainable populations for wolves, will we also abandon them for other species? That’s the most important question every wildlife supporter should be asking.

Mike Leahy

Defenders of Wildlife

Bozeman

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