September 18, 2009

Wolf recovery: been there, done that

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Wolf recovery in the West is “the most successful program ever accomplished under the Endangered Species Act,” writes Mike Medberry, a contributing writer to High Country News. He seems surprised to find himself in this position. But hear him out in this op-ed piece:

“For many years I doubted that wolves could ever be restored to the West. Now, packs can be found in most of the formerly vacant drainages in central Idaho, filling nearly all of their original niches.  But because of their recovery, wolves can now be hunted in Idaho and Montana, where about 20 percent of the wolf population is scheduled to be killed this year.  For just 12 bucks, you, too, can shoot a wolf in Idaho.

In the 1980s, I worked with the Idaho Conservation League, and we challenged the original wolf reintroduction proposal in court because we had evidence that two wolves already lived in northern Idaho. The Fish and Wildlife Service argued that only a reintroduction plan could recover the wolves in the Northern Rockies, and we lost the case. The federal agency was right, however, and its work in wolf recovery is, frankly, an amazing accomplishment.

Lots of folks would disagree. “Wolves need to be managed, but in a responsible way that allows for a healthy wolf population while reducing conflicts, rather than aggravating them. The bottom line is that the federal delisting and state management plans don’t provide for a sustainable wolf population in the Northern Rockies, and wolves should not be hunted at this time — particularly not at the unsustainable levels that have been announced for this fall.” Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife.

— Rita Hibbard

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