Last night, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game held it’s Idaho Wolf Population Management “Open House” followed by a hearing conducted by Blaine County commissioners in Hailey Idaho. For wolf advocates in attendance this night proved to be a remarkably uplifting experience. A diverse group of wolf advocates, hunters, and citizens of Blaine County joined in overwhelmingly condemning the plan and in giving wolves in Idaho a robust advocacy.
and my take below the fold…
I attended and documented three of the IDFG’s “open house” forums in Idaho for WWP. The initial forum in Jerome conducted by IDFG’s Big Carnivore director Steve Nadeau, the forum in Boise conducted by Jon Rachael, and last night’s forum conducted by Regan Berkley.
The first two open houses were administered with a peculiar urgency that held public participation to the occasional brief question. Attendees were shown a slideshow, questions were held to a brief amount of time after the slideshow, then the room was opened for public to browse around and speak individually with IDFG employees. Most of the employees were unable to do much more than recite that “wolves are here to stay” and “hunting probably won’t kill that many wolves.”
Hailey’s meeting was conducted with Blaine County commissioners in attendance, a variable/oversight that must have contributed to the markedly more significant public participation than previous meetings’ format.
Regan Berkley, who braved the crowd with admirable effort and good-faith, barely got through the first slide before responding to a question from the public, opening a critical can of worms that would not be contained throughout the evening:
‘Why did the Department survey 2/3 (1/3 livestock, 1/3 hunters) anti-wolf interests? Why did the 1/3 “Public survey” find more hunter respondents than non-hunter despite little more than 1/10th of Idahoans purchase of a hunter’s license last year? And how can you take these biased numbers then claim in good-faith that “everyone supports hunting wolves in Idaho” ?’
‘What is the biological basis for the plan? What is the biological basis for the acceptable number of wolves? Why will hunting and other controls only be restricted when wolves are reduced to near extinction? Is there a single member of IDFG hired to manage who has spent time with wolves learning from wolves ?’ etc. etc. etc. No good answers despite the effort.
One of my favorite questions was, ‘How do you determine “low conflict”, “moderate conflict”, and “high conflict” ? ‘ There was no real answer, let alone a scientifically informed response by anyone from IDFG. This question was particularly apt after having listened to a representative of Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife (sic) at the Jerome open-house mention that the anti-predator group was actively lobbying IDFG to raise each conflict level across the state a full conflict level (i.e. “low” to “moderate” and “moderate” to “high”), a move which would mean even more aggressive measures to kill wolves in Idaho.
The outcry continued through the Blaine County commissioners hearing held after IDFG’s presentation. The format of the commissioners’ hearing was perhaps more like folk are used to. Each member of the public was given a few minutes to comment in a format where everyone in the room was obliged to listen and in which everyone had the opportunity to contribute. This exchange demonstrated the thoughtful concern of a community of Idahoans whose voice about the plan’s inadequate representation of their interests, inadequate application of science based management, and a strong suspicion of politically charged development was next to universal.
Most importantly the county commissioners learned of an Idahoan hunter who appreciated the added dynamic of wolves as enhancing the experience of his hunt. Several people voiced their experiences of encountering wolves in Idaho as memories that they will never forget, that they value, and that they hope to pass on. Some suggested the economic contribution that wolves could have to communities in rural Idaho was worthy of consideration. Others noted that we were just beginning to learn the extent of the critical role that these top-predators contribute to Idaho’s vibrant ecologies.
The room was charged with reason, critical concern for the lack of science-based development, and a genuine value for wolves in the wild of Idaho – left alone in places – to be wolves.
Just before the last person left, a member of the public asked the IDFG commissioner in attendance, Wayne Wright, whether he would still support killing 600 wolves and what he thought of the public’s concern.
Idaho Deparment of Fish and Game’s commissioner Wayne Wright, representing the Magic Valley Region, responded:
“God gave us the ability to manage wildlife.”
Just like that ~ Blaine county’s concern sloughed off the back of the commissioner’s conscience.