Wolf Conservation in Greater Yellowstone

April 16th, 2009

Posted by: admin

In yesterday’s Daily Camera, columnist Clay Evans wrote an editorial criticizing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for delisting wolves from the Endangered Species Act in Idaho and Montana. My critique of Evans’ position was printed in today’s Letter to the Editor:

Clay Evans’ editorial “Delist Wolves: Not So Fast” (Camera, April 15) does a good job of summarizing the most recent incident in a more than 100-year struggle over how wolves should be managed in greater Yellowstone and who gets to decide. However, the focus on Ken Salazar’s decision to delist wolves from the Endangered Species Act is a distraction from the real issue.

It is often asserted — as Evans does — that there are two types of people: those for wolves and those against. While this dichotomy is a convenient explanation for storytelling, a number of studies demonstrate that the public holds a wide range of attitudes towards wolves. Framing the political debate as “yes” or “no” is inaccurate and serves to perpetuate this 100-year conflict.

The most promising long-term solution for wolves is not protection under the Endangered Species Act. Rather, we must reduce the political intensity of wolf management and develop co-existence strategies. Wolves deserve a future no matter who is in political power. The best place to start is where human-wolf conflict actually occurs on the ground. Hint: The real issue occurs far from Washington D.C.

4 Responses to “Wolf Conservation in Greater Yellowstone”

  1. jae Says:

    David: I’m sorry, but I can’t figure out what you are trying to say here. Can you explain better? Is it the Obama mantra that we can just talk it out and everything will be OK? If so, you are nuts.

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  3. David Cherney Says:


    While there are short-term ‘wins’ by vested interest groups, wolf politics in greater Yellowstone is characterized by long-term unresolved conflict and fierce antagonistic political battles. Every year wolf depredation of livestock – primarily cattle and sheep – occurs on both public and private land. Most incidents result in passionate exchanges within the editorial pages of regional newspapers. Dogmatic responses are the norm; the debate is framed in terms reducing/eliminating the wolf population or protecting them under the Endangered Species Act.

    We can continue with the status quo political battle. However, there are those of us who see the possibility for a third way. Rather than the cyclical win-lose cycle between conflicting stakeholders, win-win solutions exist. Win-win outcomes require us to face the problems that real people face on the ground. E.g. minimize/eliminate large carnivore depredation of livestock without eliminating wolves. You may not believe this to be possible. However, examples exist:

    In the literature:


    In practice:


    I am happy to continue this discussion, but let’s keep it civil.

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  5. jae Says:

    OK. I’m just cynical about “win-win” situations where environmental NGOs are involved, because of my experiences and observations concerning forest management (or lack thereof) on the public lands in the West. IMHO, there has been no win-win there; only a win for the NGOs and a loss for the forests (e.g., the bark beetle problem).

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  7. dean Says:

    I think that there is an inherent conflict for NGOs in that the message or plan that forms the most effective fundraising letter does not make for the most progress on the ground in many cases. This is true for essentially all aspects of politics, and is one of the driving factors in political partisanship across the political spectrum.

    When I lived in Colorado I saw ranching and environmental groups get together and make great progress when they each stopped seeing each other as the villain and agreed on a new common villain: ski resorts and their related development. They avoided some of the hyper-partisanship that was plaguing some other western states at the time.

    So I have seen that it is possible. But it requires the environmentalists to see the rural lifestyle and ranching in a different way, and it requires the ranchers to see predators (and their political defenders) in a different way.