Idaho Governor Earmarks $2-Million For Wolf Control - New Conservation Group Wants Drastic Reduction In Wolf Population - But Where Does The Money Come From?
February 24, 2014
Should the Idaho Public Support Wolf Control?
The following was written and sent to LOBO WATCH by former Idaho Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Tony McDermott. These days, it is hard...no, impossible...to accept anything as it has been claimed or proposed to be - especially when it comes to wolves.
In my correspondence with Tony, I shared that I feared the new Foundation For Wildlife Management had no chance of being what it has been proclaimed to be...or to make the impact on out of control wolf populations it intends to have...IF ITS RANKS ARE INFILTRATED BY THE SAME INDIVIDUALS WHO OPERATE PHONY ENVIRONMENTAL AGENDA GROUPS POSING AS "SPORTSMAN ORGANIZATIONS".
Two in Montana are "Backcountry Hunters and Anglers" and the "Montana Sportsmen Alliance". Both are nothing more than political activist groups with an extreme radical environmental agenda.
Another concern I do have is the manner in which IDFG and Idaho Governor Butch Otter are looking for funding for the state's $2-million wolf control plan. One source seems to be asking the "general public" to kick in some of that funding - and many sportsmen feel that is a slippery slope...opening the door for anti-hunting groups to have a say in wolf, wildlife management.
LOBO WATCH will be following all of this very closely, and reporting on every turn it takes...Good or Bad. - Toby Bridges, LOBO WATCH
This is one sportsman, who considers himself a conservationist and environmentalist, responding to the flurry of discussion supporting and opposing the Governor`s proposal for a $2 million state wolf control fund. Governor Otter`s proposal (HB 470) is an attempt to reduce the State`s wolf population to a responsible, manageable and sustainable number.
Why is HB 470 important to the general public? It provides an opportunity for agriculture, timber, business, the sporting community and others to come together for the benefit of all of Idaho`s wildlife. It is no longer the wolf that is endangered, but instead the wildlife the wolves feed upon. In some areas of the state the moose, elk, and deer have all but disappeared. In 2002 the Idaho State Legislature approved a Wolf Management Plan that called for 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs. This was above the projected Federal number for recovery in Idaho set at 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs. At the time, pro wolf organizations such as Defenders of Wildlife (DOW) and others concurred that this was an acceptable number for wolf recovery and delisting under the Endangered Species Act.
The 1994 pre-wolf introduction Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) completed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service stated that 100 wolves would consume 1,650 elk or their equivalent each year. The wolves introduced in 1995 and 1996 to the Idaho wilderness and Yellowstone National Park (YNP) recovered to Federal standards in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho by the fall of 2002. DOW, The Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups prevented delisting and demanded through the Federal Courts a population of 2,000 – 5,000 wolves in the Rocky Mountain Recovery Area. Wolves were finally delisted in the spring of 2009 in Idaho and Montana - only as a result of a Congressional rider attached to the federal budget.
In an April 2010 letter to DOW`s Rocky Mountain Director, Mr. Mike Leahy, the President and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, David Allen stated "The numbers and facts do not lie and they are as follows: (1) The Northern Yellowstone elk herd has dropped from 19,000 elk in 1995 to just over 6,000 in 2008. (2) The moose population in YNP shows a decrease to almost zero. (3) The Gallatin Canyon elk trend count between Bozeman and Big Sky has dropped from 1,048 to 338 in 2008. (4) The Madison Firehole elk herd has dropped from 700 to 108 in 2008." (Source: Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks)
Mr. Allen goes on to say that "the calf survival rate for those same elk herds mentioned above, where wolves and bears are present, is extremely low amounting to as little as 10% or less recruitment or survival rate. Acceptable wildlife science tells us that a 25-40% survival rate is necessary for herd sustainability. Further, a recent MSU study shows those elk that remain in the Northern Yellowstone Herd are in below standard health, as they are not feeding where and how they normally do, and the females are not getting pregnant as they should due to hormonal imbalances. Studies also show that each wolf kills up to 23 elk from November through April. Wolf population goals established at the introduction in 1995 have been surpassed by 300-500%. Yet groups like yours continue to move the goal line and yes, continue to cherry pick your facts and push an agenda."
His four page response to DOW continues with "Idaho`s elk numbers in units where wolves exist are far worse, with two units showing over 80% decline since wolves were introduced. If wildlife conservation was your true agenda you would not stand for such losses of any species. The facts are there – the numbers do not lie! Our elk herds cannot be sustained if wolf numbers continue to expand without proper predator management."
Recommend that those interested in finding out about the impact of wolves on the Lolo Zone elk herd to read an article by a North Dakota hunter, Mike Muscha; "Where have all the elk gone/Lost elk of the Lochsa" published in two parts of the outdoor section in the Coeur d` Alene Press on January 30 and February 7, 2014. I also spent the entire twenty two day 2013 hunting season in the Lolo Zone with horses and mules, and believe wolves will eat every last elk before they are finished and move to adjacent areas.
An information paper prepared by IDFG`s Deputy Director, Sharon Kiefer, titled, "Idaho hunting license sales and revenue changes due to wolves", dated December 7, 2010 was submitted to the Senate Natural Resource Committee. The purpose of the paper was to address the 2009 calendar year Idaho big game license sales decline by 2,634 nonresident elk tags, 4,460 nonresident deer tags and 4,405 nonresident hunting licenses compared to 2008 sales. Hunter concerns about the effect of wolves on their prospects of success and the reduction of specific big game populations combined with the Nation`s economic down turn and a nonresident fee increase were the reasons for decreased sales. In 2008 IDFG`s elk tag sales were 13,035 and in 2013 they were 8,020 a loss of approximately 40%.
This paper went on to discuss Economic Impact Analysis of Gray Wolf Reintroduction-State Wide Assessment. "Using the most recent estimate from Cooper et al. (2002), a day of elk hunting in Idaho is worth $127.40/day for direct expenditures in 2008 dollars. The 1994 EIS estimated that between 14,619 and 21,928 hunter days would be lost due to wolf reintroductions in central Idaho. If the reduction in hunter days was linearly related to wolf populations then the loss of hunter days associated with 824 wolves (minimum number reported in 2008) would be between 120,400 and 180,686 resulting in an estimated value of the foregone benefits to hunters of between $15 and $24 million." This $15 – $24 million represents loss income to the State of Idaho for the 2008 calendar year.
Assuming Idaho lost millions associated with the decrease in nonresident hunters coming to Idaho, who suffered the loss?
To answer this question one must look at areas of Idaho where wolves have severely impacted deer, elk and moose populations. Start in the Panhandle Region of North Idaho at St. Maries and move east across hunt units 6, 7 and 9. According to the Regional Biologist, Jim Hayden, elk numbers have been reduced 70% over the past five years in these units primarily as a result of wolf predation. IDFG was forced to terminate the general cow season that the Panhandle had been able to sustain for the past 40 years due to [now] depressed elk number in these units. Turn south to the two Zones mentioned by RMEF`s David Allen and you cross Big Game Managements Units (BGMU) 10/12 referred to as the Lolo Zone. The Elk population in this Zone has been reduced by 90% (16,000 to 1,500) over the past 10 years, again primarily due to wolf predation.
Continue south through along the Idaho/Montana border through the Selway, Middle Fork, Salmon, Sawtooth portion of the Southern Mountains, Beaverhead and Island Park Zones, then move west back across the center of the state through Fairfield to Idaho City to Cascade, Council, Riggins, Grangeville, Orofino and back to St. Maries to complete the circle. This circle describes what was at one time, prior to introduction of wolves, the premier elk hunting area in the country.
It is now an area that, in some portions, is devoid of elk with cow/calf ratio`s among those that remain in the single digits.
If the area described above is where the majority of the nonresident hunters who once hunted in Idaho, but now no longer return to Idaho, what has been the economic impact of their absence? I had a discussion with the owners, David and Tina of Banderob`s Wild Meat Processing Plant located in St. Maries, concerning the damage that wolves had caused to their small business. In 2005 the Banderob`s processed 205 elk, the majority for nonresident hunters. In 2013 they processed 31 elk for mostly resident hunters. Tina reported that nonresident elk hunters have quit coming to St, Maries because the elk are gone. The dollar cost to their meat cutting business comparing the years of 2005 and 2013 is (174 X $250) $43,500. The state share of this loss at 6% was $2,600.
The St. Marie`s motel, gas stations, restaurants, grocery, sporting goods stores and local outfitters were similarly impacted. Assuming a 20% hunter harvest rate, the 205 nonresident hunters in 2005 came in groups of four and spent on average $127.43 per day for their 10 day elk camp experience in the St. Maries area. The overall dollar loss to small business in the St. Maries area becomes more significant and understandable. Apply the same analysis to similar businesses in Avery, Kellogg, St Regis, Lolo, Salmon, Rexburg, Stanley, Challis, McCall, Council, Riggins, Grangeville, Orofino, and back to St. Maries and you begin to understand that the negative economic impact and real cost of wolves to Idahoans is huge, in the range of $60 to $120 million over the five year period from 2008 to 2013.
In March of 2013 IDFG reported, in a required Annual Progress Report, to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service that Idaho`s year-end population in 2012 was estimated at a minimum of 683 wolves. What does this minimum number really mean? According to department biologists this minimum number that is reported for end of year accounting isn`t an estimate or the actual on-the-ground number, it is the number that IDFG biologists have been able to actually document at the end of the year. The real number is somewhere between the minimum number of 683 and 1,200. Most IDFG`s biologists that I have talked with believe the real number of wolves in Idaho is closer to 1,000 than the reported 683.
I would also refer the reader to the 2013, 81 page, Idaho Wolf Progress Report available on IDFG`s web-site for detailed information on the number of known packs containing 683 wolves are located. The USDA-APHIS Wildlife Service`s agents classified 73 cattle, 312 sheep and 2 dogs as confirmed wolf kills in 2012. Nineteen cattle and 25 sheep were considered probable wolf kills in this report.
Do extreme environmental animal rights organizations who have made the wolf a national icon have a bigger agenda? I would submit that they do. In 2004, the Humane Society of the United States` (HSUS) President, Mr. Wayne Pacelle, stated "If we could shut down all sport hunting in a moment we would."
Adding, "HSUS has a staff of 30 attorneys and a network of over 1,000 pro-bono attorneys that have used much of the litigation citing the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to force continued protection of wolves and grizzly bears from hunting."
They were a lead plaintiff in the case that convinced Federal District Court Judge Donald Molloy on August 5, 2010 to re-list the gray wolf as an endangered species in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming even though wolves had far exceeded recovery goals. (Source: The Secret World inside the Animal Rights Agenda by Lowell Baier, President, Boone and Crockett Club)
The Education and Outreach Director of Friends of the Clearwater (FOCL), Mr. Bret Haverstick has announced a pro wolf conference to be held in Gardner Montana on June 28 and 29, 2014, with the below listed stated goals: "(1) No killing of predators period; (2) Removal of all livestock from federal public lands; (3) Banning trapping/snaring on all federal public lands; (4) Abolish Wildlife Service`s – The Federal wildlife killing agency; (5) Restructuring the way state Fish and Game agencies operate. Science and democracy are sorely lacking in these departments." (Note: LOBO WATCH is organizing a counter conferenece at the same time at the same location...Plan to be there! Let's outnumber the anti-hunting environmentalists at their own conference. It is being held on public property. For ongoing coverage and details, go to the LOBO WATCH Facebook page at - https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Lobo-Watch/213339158676640 )
Do the research on these extreme organizations and you will conclude that they are all interconnected, notwithstanding their separate niches, work together and play off each other`s tactics and agenda`s. They are extremely well funded and united in their attempts to protect and expand wolf populations on Federal and public lands. They have maintained a continuous assault on the North American Hunting Model. Sportsmen, not these extreme organizations that have made a mockery out to the Endangered Species Act, are responsible for funding and recovery of endangered wildlife populations using sound wildlife management principles.
The past 30 years of environmental activism is not a pretty picture. The introduction of wolves combined with the intent of restricting hunting, timber harvest and sound management principles dealing with federal lands have been a disaster. The deceit and hypocrisy of organizations like DOW, the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds, Friends of the Clearwater, Wilderness Watch, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Howling for Justice and many others is a serious threat to all Idahoans who value sound management of our state's renewable natural resources. Americans founded this country to escape persecution of their beliefs, and these organizations are hell bent on imposing their narrow minded agenda on the customs, culture and heritage of the majority of Idahoan`s.
It is undeniable that well planned management practices involving timber harvest and livestock grazing on public lands have had positive effects on the Idaho economy and our society. The results to name a few are reduced weed problems, better access for improved fire management and better feed for all ungulate wildlife, especially in the spring when young are born and depend upon productive habitat. These are some of the management tools that have been responsible for the health of Idaho wildlife. What has followed has been a continuous parade of litigation from so called environmental organizations such as Western Watersheds, Friends of the Clearwater and others who have openly deceived the public into believing that they are the ones who should be trusted with the care of Idaho`s environment.
A "grass roots"
organization called The Foundation for Wildlife Management
) originated in the Panhandle in 2011. Its purpose is to actively help IDFG recover elk, moose and deer populations that the gray wolf is systematically destroying. The members of this organization understand and agree that wolves in Idaho are here to stay. They have watched elk, moose and deer numbers decrease year after year in the Panhandle. In November of 2013 they elected to expand into other regions which have hunt units that have been adversely affected because of excessive wolf predation. On December 31, 2013 there were 252 sportsmen members who willingly paid $35.00 for an annual membership knowing their dollars would be used to reimburse a trapper for his expenses of up to $500.00 for each wolf legally harvested. Hunters who harvest wolves by hunting from December 1 through March 31 will be paid for their expenses as well. Again, check www.foundationforwildlifemanagement.org
for specific details of how this program works. This group has made a huge difference in Region One and has expanded the concept to other areas of the state where deer, elk and moose numbers are below management objective. As of February 10, 2014 membership had grown to 361 which include sportsmen from 10 different states. (Photo Above Left - To the radical environemntal groups, elk herds like that above are nothing more than fodder for "their" wolves.)
Wolf numbers have far exceeded what sportsmen, ranchers, wildlife conservationists, and the public at-large were told was a legislatively established and a desirable goal. The misconception that excessive and uncontrolled numbers of wolves benefit the natural state of wildlife is absolutely false. Wolves are prolific reproducers like the wild dogs of Sochi, and unless environmental activists are willing to catch and adopt the excess population of wolves, Idaho`s wildlife is in big trouble. I just started reading and highly recommend a copy of The Real Wolf, written by Ted Lyon and Will Graves, which is filled with factual accounts dealing with the greatest destruction of wild game in since the near elimination of the bison in the late 1800s.
It is going to take a significant amount money, public will, and the use of all the tools available if the current out-of-balance wolf population is to be brought under control. I submit that we are all in this situation together; sportsmen, ranchers, farmers, meat cutters, business organizations, outfitters, guides, timber producers, wildlife lovers and political representatives. Mistakes, missteps and bad decisions were made by many in the past dealing with the introduction of wolves. The past is the past and there is no chance for a do over so let`s organize, come together and get on with doing what has to be done. Given the millions of dollars in damage that wolves have created for the Banderob`s and hundreds of other Idaho business, Governor Otter`s request for funding needs the public`s support.
Together we must rally support for the Governor`s wolf control bill and do everything within our power to assist IDFG in reducing the state`s current wolf population to a level that is acceptable to those who value all of Idaho`s wildlife. Please let your legislator know how you feel today by stating your support for HB 470. Tony McDermott (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Idaho Fish and Game Commission (2005—2013) Member of the Board of Directors,
Foundation for Wildlife Management LOBO WATCH Note: On 2/21/14, HB 470 (to establish the WOLF DEPREDATION CONTROL BOARD) passed the Idaho House of representatives with a 49-16-5 (yea-nay-absent) vote. Now it goes to the Idaho Senate.