In this week’s edition of the Roundup, we are focusing on wildlife. First of all, it’s a timely subject for October. Second, wildlife is playing a larger role in the lives of those people who make their livings in agriculture. We can’t talk about wildlife without involving the Wyoming Game and Fish, the state agency whose mission is to manage the state’s wildlife. You’ll find a lot of quotes and information from their staff within the pages of this week’s publication.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department may have the toughest job of any state agency. Some say it’s an agency in a “no win” situation. I disagree with that statement — they have too many good people in the agency and at some point all of these endangered species issues will have to be solved. I think we’re all hopeful that meaningful solutions will be found to the craziness that currently surrounds the ESA.
Being a wildlife manager in Wyoming has a lot of similarities to managing livestock. That’s especially true in western Wyoming where public lands dominate the landscape. Much of the general public finds both wildlife and livestock managers easy to cuss and discuss and that’s especially true when public lands are involved. It usually comes down to numbers as we debate the question of “too few or too many?”
The greatest relationship between wildlife and livestock managers in recent years may hinge on frustration with the Endangered Species Act. As individuals with legal training make wildlife management decisions instead of those who understand wildlife, the impacts become increasingly erroneous. Recent headlines surrounding wolves and the grizzly bear stand as proof of this dilemma. Wyoming is being asked to manage for more grizzly bears in a habitat that the federal government has allowed to be devastated by pine bark beetles.
The strongest link between wildlife managers and livestock managers, and the greatest opportunity for partnership, lies in our dependence on a healthy landscape. We’ve seen numerous scenarios where what’s good for livestock is good for wildlife and vice versa. In the years to come, I hope we see these types of partnerships grow whether it’s through rangeland management, water development or otherwise.
Numerous challenges lie ahead — wolves, grizzly bears, sage grouse, brucellosis, whirling disease, West Nile, Chronic Wasting Disease, pine bark beetles and climate change. In most, if not all, of those scenarios wildlife managers and the agricultural community have mutual concerns. Both entities will share in the decisions made surrounding how we’ll respond to the challenges.
There always will be issues between wildlife and livestock managers. After all, they compete for the same range and habitat, but when managed properly there is plenty for both. Before you start throwing rocks at one another, think about the similarities we share. I hope Game and Fish Director Steve Ferrell will continue Terry Cleveland’s legacy in recognizing the contributions of agriculture to wildlife. Cleveland’s respect for private landownership was greatly appreciated by Wyoming agriculture.
Speaking of respect, I’ve noticed more trespassing on private lands this year. Some think a hunting license and a gun gives them the right to hunt anywhere. I hope this is a trend that doesn’t continue into the future.