Montana's Next Governor Must Challenge The Federal Govt. & Control Wolves
Editorial News/Press Release
April 9, 2012
Gubernatorial Candidates Share The Need For More Stringent Wolf Control
As wolves have continued to take an ever bigger bite out of Montana over the past ten or more years, top elected officials in this state have also continued to do nothing about the problem, or even to truly acknowledge the severity of the problem. Anyway, at most, close to nothing. Even Montana's Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks has remained pretty much in denial about the negative impact wolves have had on big game herds, and on livestock production. The agency has been repeatedly accused of purposely downplaying the true number of wolves in the state, and accused of working hand in hand with radical anti-hunting environmental agendas.
Citizens of the state have watched many big herds in the western half of the state dwindle dramatically as wolf numbers increased just as dramatically. A number of once great elk herds are now barely 20-percent of what they were before wolves were allowed to spread and increase at an inadequately controlled pace. And without that wild prey base, wolves are now stepping up their predation of cattle, sheep and other livestock. Where continued pressure from wolf packs has forced remaining wildlife to take up residence in human inhabited areas, the wolves have followed - and are now showing up within the city limits of large communities such as Kalispell and Missoula.
Many registered voters of Montana are now looking to the 2012 elections to hopefully find resolution for what many are now referring to as "The greatest disaster of their lifetime." An ever growing number of candidates for various offices are now listening. Following is a look at how some of the candidates for the Governor's office claim they would tackle the wolf problem.
Late last month, Rick Hill's campaign office released his "Wolf Management Plan". This gubernatorial candidate says, "Right now we are at a tipping point with wolves, the point where we won`t be able to manage the population anymore because there are too many of them. The number of wolves in Montana continues to grow and the population is spreading."
His plan would include splitting the state into two separate zones for wolf management - a Wolf Aggressive Management Zone, to control the population in Western Montana, and a Wolf No Tolerance Zone that does not permit wolves to spread to Central or Eastern Montana. To comply with the mandate of the Endangered Species Act to maintain a minimum number of wolves, Rick Hill feels the number should be held as close to 150 as possible. He says current control methods are not adequate, and that Fish, Wildlife and Parks needs to adopt more aggressive steps to immediately control wolf numbers in order to make an immediate and dramatic reduction in those wolf numbers.
Hill's plan also calls for a change in the culture and leadership at the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Last Fall, gubernatorial candidate Ken Miller openly made it clear that he was not happy about the destruction of our wildlife resources due to wolves, or the impact wolves were having on ranching. He says that the "Wolf Management Plan" outlined in Hill's release does not go far enough to truly take care of the problem in an expedient manner. Miller feels that in order to get wolf numbers down quickly, first the wolf has to be treated as a predator - similar to the coyote. He feels that splitting the state into two different zones is not the answer, and that the wolf needs to be treated as a predator statewide. That would allow hunters and ranchers to shoot a wolf pretty much on sight - 365 days a year.
Referring to MT FWP's "at least count" of 653 wolves, and allowing for 10- to 30-
percent more "likely" wolves, Miller says, "Montana's current wolf plan calls for maintaining 15 breeding pairs and 150 wolves. Why would we allow for 700 more wolves than the plan calls for?"
Ken Miller also feels there needs to be some serious changes made within Fish, Wildlife and Parks. He feels that a new FWP Director needs to be hired - who is not a political appointment. He says that person would need to understand FWP's mandated mission under Article IX, Section 7 of the Montana Constitution, which states, "Preservation of harvest heritage. The opportunity to harvest wild fish and wild game animals is a heritage that shall forever be preserved to the individual citizens of the state and does not create a right to trespass on private property or diminution of other private rights."
He goes on to proclaim, "Washington D.C. insiders gave us this crazy idea of wolf reintroduction and management. This should not have been allowed, and I pledge to see that it is reversed." Adding, "Generations of effort and hundreds of millions invested in wildlife restoration should not be erased in our state."
Lt. Governor candidate Ryan Zinke, running mate of gubernatorial candidate Neil Livingstone, likens the Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Project to the bison fiasco in and around Yellowstone National Park, or the introduction of non-native mysis shrimp into the lakes and streams of Northwest Montana. Zinke says, "This is another example of the Federal Government fumbling the ball in its attempt to manage from DC. The program from the beginning has been fraught with errors, starting with the introduction of a larger and more deadly non-native species."
"I recall FWP recently stating there are around 140 verified packs, which represents a number far greater than the original target. I have talked to ranchers and hunting guides across the state and they put the population in the 2500-3000 range. No doubt, the woods now belong to the wolf, and the game and other predators are feeling the pressure. First, we need to get an accurate number so they can be effectively managed. Second, we need to protect the ranchers and restore the depleted game herds by reducing the number and range of the wolf. Third, we need a sustainable state and locally controlled management plan based on ground truth and common sense," states Ryan Zinke.
Libertarian candidate for the Montana Governor's office, Ron Vandevender says that before he could, as governor, establish the number of wolves allowable as the "maximum population" level, he would have to first figure in a number of factors. That would include existing wild herd populations, the successful birth and survival rates of game populations, allowable harvest by human hunters, the impact of urban development, and range dedicated to cattle grazing - creating competition with elk and deer for available feed.
He claims, "There is no way with all these factors figured in that we can support wolf populations anywhere near what use to be in the early 1900's or before. If I had to take an educated guess I would figure somewhere around the 450-500 range max. That is just an estimate though."
Gubernatorial candidate, and former head of the Montana Department of Transportation under outgoing Governor Brian Schweitzer, Jim Lynch says, "It is now time to ensure Montanans that Montana authorities, hunters, farmers and ranchers will manage the wolf population. I will instruct Fish, Wildlife and Parks to include the wolf in the state's vertebrate pest program, and Fish, Wildlife and Parks hunting programs. The wolf needs to be hunted year round until the numbers are brought under control. Farmers, ranchers and hunters need to be free to protect their livestock, and wildlife populations, without fear of retribution from unnecessary state and federal regulators."
Lynch goes on to establish, "As Governor, I will appoint my Lt. Governor, Dr. Al Olszewski to lead the coordination of individuals from the public, individuals in Fish, Wildlife and Parks who are involved in wildlife management, individuals within the Department of Livestock, and medical professionals in the Department of Public Health and Human Services to educate the public about the dangers of wolf-carried Echinococcus granulosus tapeworms. A plan will be immediately put into place to monitor not only wolf harvests but also big game harvests to determine the incidence of Hydatid cyst disease in our wolf, deer and elk population. We will educate our hunters on proper handling of wild canine carcasses to avoid infections from inhaling or ingesting tapeworm eggs. Finally, the wolf packs found to be infected with Echinococcus granulosus tapeworms need to be de-wormed or eliminated in order the break the life cycle of this organism."
Lynch feels this will be considered a major public health problem for our citizens that can be prevented only by a pro-active program. Currently, of the wolves that have been checked for the tapeworm, more than 60-percent have tested positive.
When it comes to fighting for wolf control and wolf management, one 2012 gubernatorial candidate stands out as a true veteran - Robert Fanning, founder of Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd. He began his battle to save Montana's elk and other big game herds from wolf depredation 13 years ago, and has been in the fight just about every day of his life since. He has some extremely strong thoughts on the problem, about those at fault, and what it will take to regain control of these aggressive and destructive predators.
Fanning says while we weren't looking, wildlife management has changed. He claims, "Fish and Game Departments are no longer that, despite the many , many billions of sportsmen's dollars that sportsmen have poured into wildlife and our wildlife agencies entrusted to protect the game in our states. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks needs to focus on the original constitutional and lawful intent of the creation of their department under the North American Wildlife Conservation Model, the only one of its kind in the world. The model`s two basic principles—that our fish and wildlife belong to all North American citizens, and are to be managed in such a way that their populations will be sustained forever."
As Governor, Bob Fanning states that his appointees , agency and relationship with the counties will have a creed; "People above predators". This creed will be enforced to cleanse our wildlife agency of agenda driven, non -consumptive promoters, who have had their way for far too long. The adherence to the creed and the success of the fish and game department can only be measured by the return of the Shiras moose, the restoration of big horn sheep numbers, and healthy elk and deer herds, based on multiple standards in each traumatized district, adhering to 50 year averages from the brink of wolf caused near extinction. This will be a condition of employment,on a going forward basis, for our game managers who will be mostly native Montanans . Fanning believes that schools of higher learning now pump out individuals who don't know or respect the North American Wildlife Conservation Model... or our Montana values. He refers to how the latter was codified into law in 2005 as House Joint Resolution 29.
"Our customs , culture, traditions and values are guaranteed in the National Environmental Policy Act, which is the governing law above the Endangered Species Act. Due to a decade of flawed , fraudulent science as a result of court delayed wolf control we are now in a wildlife emergency state . As governor I will declare that emergency," proclaims Fanning.
He adds, "My Administration will make its policy clear between sport hunting on public lands and predator control on private property, in defense of private property. Land owners will not be required to seek permission, fear prosecution, or be confined by licenses or bag limits. Land owners will be given wide discretion to determine the need for lethal predator control."
Bob Fanning says that under his watch, land owners can hire professionals when there is the need to remove problem wolves. Since the wolf problem has now moved into the realm of "control" rather than "management", Fanning points out that wolf control on private lands will no longer be bound by the ethics of "fair chase" sport hunting.
He says, "Those engaged in predator control must be allowed to operate during all hours , not just daylight. Electronic or other calls can be used, illuminated optics, artificial light, night vision, sound suppressors, bait, same-day fly and shoot."
Whoever is elected the next Governor of Montana will take that office fully knowing that the extremely negative impact of wolves and other predators on wildlife resources and livestock production is a very major issue in this state. Resolving that problem could very well become the No. 1 Task of the next administration - requiring someone with the backbone to challenge the federal government and to claim Montana's sovereign rights as set forth in the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution. Many state residents feel that regaining control of this and numerous other issues plagued by federal intrusion will also resolve a lot of other problems now destroying this state's economy and lifestyle. - Toby Bridges, LOBO WATCH