Those who are promoting Idaho’s wolf population management plan as some kind of compromise like to point to its provision for “wolf watching areas” as proof that it is a true compromise and a balanced plan.
The reality is these areas are what students of politics term “symbolic rewards,” more commonly called “tokens” or even “chump change.”
The plan really does provide for wolf watching areas. However, none are designated by the plan, and no permanent wolf watch areas will be. Here are the actual criteria for the watching areas (direct quote from the draft plan) :
1. Primarily public land, or private land where landowners agree to low or no wolf harvest.
2. No, or heavily controlled livestock grazing or agreements with landowners and producers that allow viewing and acknowledge a high risk of wolf predation.
3. Any livestock conflicts will be addressed through an incremental approach of proactive nonlethal management, lethal removal and compensation for livestock losses.
4. Provisions exist to protect domestic dogs from wolf attacks.
5. Provisions exist for harvest or lethal removal of wolves if conflicts with ungulates or livestock become excessive.
6. Outfitters in the area agree to the strategy and are eligible for financial compensation, through non-government organizations, to offset differential losses between hunting opportunity and wolf viewing revenue.
7. Viewing areas will not be considered permanent and may be moved around the state as needed to address biological and social issues. [emphasis mine]
As someone who has viewed wolves many times in Yellowstone Park and have successfully tracked wolves in Wyoming (outside Yellowstone Park) and in Idaho too, I am convinced there is only one possible place where people have a reasonable chance of seeing wolves in Idaho for viewing purposes, wolf hunt or not. That place is the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and its near environs. This is the upper reaches of the Wood River, north of Ketchum, Stanley Basin, the Sawtooth Valley, Capehorn Meadows and the low mountains to its east on north to Bear Valley Creek. The rest of the state is too mountainous, forested or roadless.
Once wolves are seriously hunted in an area under the provisions of Idaho’s plan, even if most of the wolves remain alive, the chances of seeing them will become mere chance for all but the most experienced observers.
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For those who have seen wolves in Yellowstone Park, consider this. What if Yellowstone’s northern range was managed the way Idaho proposes wolf management?
Yellowstone Park wolves would be hunted from October through March. Then every once and a while a sign would erected here or there, saying “wolf watching area,” and the hunt would not be held in some corner of the Park for a year or so.
Would all the wolves be dead? Likely not. Would you visit Yellowstone with expectation of seeing any wolves?
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I have a general distaste for 100%er’s. Those people who don’t know that “half a loaf” is usually better than none at all. There seems to be a growing number of these kind of folks in American politics.
Much more common, however, are those who are satisfied by mere symbols — gestures, reassurances, speeches, and being stroked a bit in public, while in the backroom those who really won grin and slap each other on the back.
If you comment on Idaho’s plan, I urge consideration of this.