The letter below was sent to Director Maurier of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. It would be gratefully appreciated if it could be printed in its entirety in your paper.
Dear Director Maurier,
As an interested citizen and taxpayer, I tried to call your office today, only to have my call immediately forwarded to voice mail. Thus, I write to you now with great concern and with the expectation that your response will be expeditious.
It is my understanding that Yellowstone wolf 692F was poached by Mr. Branson Mace on Nov. 5th in Jardine, MT – an area that was closed to hunting. Although Mr. Mace stated that he did not know the season ended, as I am sure you will agree, it is the hunter’s responsibility to be aware of the pertinent game regulations. It is also my understanding that Mr. Mace’s penalty was a $135 fine.
Mr. Maurier, have you ever heard of the public trust doctrine? According to this doctrine, a state is obligated to preserve wildlife for the benefit of the public. This duty has been cited by the US Supreme Court on several occasions, including several cases involving wildlife as well as waterways. According to the doctrine, states are compelled to ensure a sustainable population of wolves or, indeed, any species.
Although MtFWP seems to prefer the voice (and money) generated by hunters’ groups, please remember that more than $35 million was brought to the Greater Yellowstone area (including Montana) as a result of wildlife watching; wolf-watching in particular is, by far, the most popular reason that tourists statewide, nationwide and internationally visit the park, as well. Thus, I am sure that many Montanans join me in valuing wildlife as a source of income via tourism as well as for the vital ecological role it plays in the maintenance of healthy ecosystems. As you may already know, the number of hunters who participated in this year’s hunt declined rather dramatically while Yellowstone National Park registered record-breaking attendance again this year. Will MtFWP ever recognize that wildlife watchers – both Montanans and other American taxpayers – have a voice?
If MtFWP wants to maintain the integrity it sought when it accepted the mission of state management of wolves, then I request that further action be taken regarding the poaching of wolf 692F. Mr. Mace’s ignorance of the regulations is no excuse for his woefully irresponsible behavior. In fact, his ignorance is a clear indication that he is incapable of using a fire arm safely; his gun should be confiscated and his hunting privileges should be revoked until it is determined that he could appropriately follow the law. It is MtFWP’s responsibility to enforce the laws; poachers should receive stiff penalties that serve as a deterrent to prevent future irresponsible and unsafe actions. Frankly, Mr. Mace’s penalty is an egregious affront to all citizens who abide by the laws – including other responsible hunters!
Wolf 692F was an especially well known and photographed wolf, and she will be sorely missed. Many are familiar with her story as another wolf in the long line of Agate pack females – one which has left us so tragically. She made it for so long on her own and was able to withstand anything nature threw at her. But nothing in her life prepared her for a bullet – a poacher’s bullet, at that! Her life was taken for one human’s joy in killing an animal and to having bragging rights in his hometown.
Mr. Maurier, I grow increasingly concerned about Montana, in general, and the ethics of MtFWP, in particular. Has the State of Montana included 692F in its hunt harvest quota? With such a ridiculously light wrist slap, what kind of message is Montana sending about the value of wolves in the state? In a related matter, how does Ravalli County’s “SSS Raffle” fit into MtFWP’s commitment to its management of wildlife? Is this raffle’s “tongue in cheek” jab at poaching and breaking the law acceptable to you and the agency? If so, this is an epic failing on all counts.
As a taxpayer, I look forward to your prompt response. Thank you.
Diane Bentivegna, Ed.M.
National Wolfwatcher Coalition