Marty Essen asks for balanced management of our forests and wildlife-
We shouldn’t manage Montana’s wildlife like a giant game farm
In response to some recent anti-wolf letters in local newspapers, I’d like to offer an alternative point of view.
Blaming the wolf for fewer elk, without considering other factors, is disingenuous at best. Here’s what scientists know as fact: wolves and elk have a history together that goes back to before humans entered their territory. If wolves were going to wipe out the elk, they would’ve done so long before humans arrived. In a natural ecosystem, wolves and elk exist to the mutual benefit of both species.
The real issue is whether it’s morally acceptable for humans to artificially manage our forests for the benefit of one special interest group: hunters. According to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, 129,708 resident elk licenses were sold in 2008, and there are an estimated 193,484 total hunters in our state. Considering that Montana’s population is 967,440, hunters are a much smaller group than their political influence indicates (and not all hunters are anti-wolf).
On the other hand, many people, including conservation-minded hunters, won’t speak out in defense of wolves because they fear being threatened (I’ve been threatened more than once). That doesn’t mean their concerns should be ignored. Countless people head into the woods each day, hoping to spot a wolf. Yes, the reintroduction of wolves isn’t just for the animals—it’s for people too!
One anti-wolf writer suggested that we have a public vote on the “wolf problem.” In essence, we already had that vote when we banned game farms. If we manage Montana’s wildlife solely to favor human-hunted species, all we’re doing is turning our state into one giant game farm.
The best way to manage Montana’s wildlife is to strive for a natural balance. It’s good for animals; it’s good for non-hunters; and it’s good for hunters who believe in a fair chase.
Author of the multi-award-winning book, Cool Creatures, Hot Planet: Exploring the Seven Continents