A Divide as Wolves Rebound in a Changing West

A Divide as Wolves Rebound in a Changing West. New York Times. By Kirk Johnson

The New York Times article today writes of how the West has changed since wolves were introduced 13 years ago with an influx of people who do not have the old fashioned ideas about wolves and are more likely to value them.

This is true, but the article neglects to analyze how the political systems of Idaho and Wyoming are fossilized, even going backwards in terms of wildlife management.

Cultural attitudes are important, but in terms of policy they are not very relevant unless they are also translated into political attitudes and these political attitudes then organized into a group or groups. Everyday politics is the clash of groups. Group organization to maintain wolf restoration hasn’t happened. As a result, the stockgrowers associations can ignore the attitudes of almost all the citizens of their states. They can even be unpleasant about it, and nothing will happen.

Idaho and Wyoming wolf management plans were written to appease a few minorities, even to appease certain individual stockgrowers. In unrepresentative political systems this should not surprise us, but it certainly should be recognized.

One thing that can be done is suggested by the article — private action. It is likely that those who have purchased large and/or critical parcels of land may keep hunters, and more importantly government agents from using their land as access or entering their land. We many see this play out soon regarding bison, the new owners of much of Horse Butte and the Montana Department of Livestock’s annual bison harassment/killing farce.

Eventually the old order will make a serious error, it will get the attention of those who can organize groups, and the unrepresentative old order will be vulnerable.

Idaho’s Governor Otter, other governors declare war on cheatgrass

Otter, other governors declare war on cheatgrass. They want 500 volunteers to help collect native seeds, so threatened areas can be replanted. Idaho Statesman. By Rocky Barker.

Controlling cheatgrass is absolutely critical. If they don’t have enough native seed, they need to encourage the production of native grass and forbs for seed as an agricultural crop. This could be a new agricultural activity for these states and one relatively benign.

The dangers are that the cheatgrass fire cycle is already too advanced, and, probably more likely, is that the objectives will always be in danger for being changed into cow welfare rather than wildfire reduction — planting the wrong species (including exotics and cultivars), grazing the new growth too early, keeping cattle on areas that will always be unsuitable for cattle grazing, building fences that hinder or stop wildlife migration.

Cattle grazing could disappear on much of this cheatgrass country with no macroeconomic impact. In fact, it is already much reduced because of the unsuitability of cheatgrass as forage except for the short period before it starts to develop seeds.

Photo: cheatgrass monoculture

Video Game Looks Into World of Wolves

It looks like a biologically accurate video gamea about wolves (yes, they are in Yellowstone Park) has been produced by the Minnesota zoo. Video Game Looks into the World of Wolves. By Steve Karnowski. AP

You can download the game at: http://www.wolfquest.org 

Rocky Barker: Salmon, roadless and wolves will come to a head in 2008

Rocky Baker at the Idaho Statesman makes some predictions about 2008. Salmon, roadless and wolves will come to a head in 2008
While I don’t cover the salmon issue a great deal, there is potential for real economic cost and benefit here (unlike wolves which are cultural issue).