We, the people of the ‘Wolves Of The Rockies’ organization support the recent decision to close all wolf hunting and trapping in two small but important geographic areas north of Yellowstone National Park (YNP).
Our support is not an attack on the Montana Wolf Management Plan and the hunting season that is part of that plan. Our support is directed at protecting both the costly scientific investment being made in wolf research, and at protecting the legitimate interests of wildlife viewers who come to the Park from all over the world to see wolves among other wildlife of the Park.
We are not advocating the end of wolf hunting. We have only asked for a slight modification to the state wolf management plan to accommodate other legitimate values in this specific locale. Remember, regardless of one’s views on wildlife management policy, Montana’s wildlife is owned by ALL the people, not just hunters. That fact should not get lost amid the dust storm of rhetoric stirred up by the Commission action.
By making the decision to close these areas, that do not contain any Montana resident wolves, the FWP Commission has given us at Wolves of the Rockies some hope. Hope that we can at last find ways to work together with hunters and other wildlife interests to meet human needs while serving both wildlife viewers and users alike.
So really, are we that different in the overall goal that we cannot come together, and find the balance that is necessary to keep us from bouncing in and out of litigation? Must we forever take our failures to cooperate to federal court? The preservationist and conservationist have a very common thread – we all believe in the sustainability of this land, our land here in Montana.
We at Wolves of the Rockies understand and acknowledge the importance of hunting as a tool for managing wolves, and we stand beside the ethical hunter in doing so. We also value science which creates data to make the best possible choices in the sustainability and viability of all wildlife. Therefore, we stand firmly by those who conduct scientific research for the benefit of all.
As we move forward with the Montana Wolf Management Plan it is inevitable that we will encounter obstacles and disputes. Managing wolves is a new experience for Montana and often you will hear biologists use the phrase “learn as we go” when discussing wolf management. Well, we have encountered a disputed obstacle in how to treat wolves moving in and out of YNP — specifically, the large-scale killing of collared wolves just outside the park boundaries.
These YNP wolves were collared at great effort and expense to provide important information to both the park and the surrounding states for ecological studies, conservation and management purposes. This invaluable data that the Yellowstone Wolf Project provides includes; tracking wolf movements, the study of the wolf-prey dynamic and the ecosystem effects wolves have, reproduction and mortality, obtaining counts, and allow both the Park and the states to track the movement of wolves in areas with livestock operations.
While these Park wolves benefit science they also have a substantial economic effect on businesses surrounding the northern territory of YNP such as; outfitters, hotels, tour guides, restaurants and stores. These include, but are not limited to the towns of Bozeman, Livingston and Gardiner MT.
We are very aware of concern among hunters about elk populations around the Park. Many factors are negatively impacting the total number of ungulates, some of which we cannot control. We have fragmented lands and habitat, and drought conditions that suppress important nutritional flora for the sustainability and viability of our wildlife. This list is long and dreadful.
Now let’s look at the things we can control; we can set quotas, create wildlife management units, improve habitat and water quality, change accessibility to lands, acquire and preserve land for future generations.
Perhaps the most important thing we can, and must control, is our anger over the few personal differences that divide we Montanans on wildlife goals. A bit of chilling out with some civil dialogue would be for the common good of all our wildlife, and for our future generations of Montanans.
Whether you are walking your dog on the many trails, hunting, fishing, saddling up or viewing and photographing wildlife, we all need a slice of what Montana has to offer us.
Marc Cooke, Stevensville, President
Kim Bean, Helena Vice President
Wolves of the Rockies