Wolf Rally features wildlife, hunting facts
Cody – The Wyoming Wolf Impact Rally drew over 250 people to the Cody City Park on May 22 to discuss the past and the future of canis lupus in the Cowboy State.
It was a cool, blustery day in Cody, but the rally was peaceful, with individuals sporting signs that read, “state wildlife management now,” “where did our moose go,” “save our Wyoming wildlife” and “delist the Canadian wolf now.”
“It’s not about getting rid of wolves,” said Randy Blackburn, board member for Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife (WSFW), explaining that rally organizers desired to educate the public about wolves, for Wyoming’s wolf management plan to be accepted, and the state to assume control of wolves immediately.
“The state of Wyoming has a management plan that was approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS),” commented outfitter Tim Hockhalter of Cody. “It was thrown out for political reasons… by a judge in Montana. I would hope Judge Johnson will go back to rule of law…and give management of wolves back to the state of Wyoming forever.”
Sportswoman and landowner from Wapiti, Arlene Hanson quoted statistics saying wolves caused at least $3.6 million dollars in loss to livestock producers in Wyoming from 2000 to 2009. “The economic impact to the Wyoming economy was a loss in sales of $8.7 million dollars due to ranchers having less money to spend, decreasing the amount of dollars local businesses have to spend, amounting to a loss of $2 million in lost wages and fewer jobs.”
Nearly every wolf pack in existence has killed cattle, and the federal government does not compensate for losses from wolves.
Jim Magagna, Executive Vice President of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said, “I’ve lost over 60 head of sheep to wolves over the last seven years, and I’ve learned the meaning of the Defenders of Wildlife’s (DW) compensation program. It is not a compensation program, it’s a public relations program. They will compensate you to the extent it enhances their public relations. Beyond that, folks, you’re on your own.”
He added, “A recovery goal is very much a moving target, as we’ve seen. There is one consistency, and that is that the recovery goal is always farther than where we are.”
“When Congress was debating if the wolf should be introduced – I stay away from term ‘reintroduced’ because (Canadian grey wolves) were never here – in the Northern Rockies, I had the opportunity to be on the Larry King show with an individual who brought her pet wolf in. I argued with producers I should be able to bring a young lamb on that show too. They told me repeatedly this issue wasn’t about livestock or wildlife, this issue was about wolves. I think we’ve all learned it is about livestock. It is about wildlife. It is about our way of life. It is about our economic survival. It’s about a hell of a lot more than just about wolves,” Magagna exclaimed.
“It’s about much more than the wolf for those people who keep pushing this issue, keep filing court suits, keep forcing the FWS to back down. For most of those people it’s not about the wolf, it’s not about endangered species – it’s about controlling our way of life, land use control, and having the federal government dictate how we live in western states.”
Magagna said numerous groups in Wyoming have invested considerable dollars in litigating the wolf issue. “Even if we win a lawsuit, there will always be another one. While we need to continue this fight, we need to resolve this issue once and for all with action from Congress, so these groups will no longer be able to stand before a favorable federal judge and argue that we need a few more wolves, we need a little more habitat, a little more connectivity before we proceed.”
Bob Wharff, Executive Director of WSFW, commented, “We’ve labored tirelessly to ensure Wyoming has a valid, scientific, and biologically sound wolf management plan that would be accepted and approved by FWS. They ensured they would defend it, but the reality is when they went before Judge Malloy in Montana, the Department of Justice sent an attorney who had no ability to win or prevail, and basically threw the case.”
The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance ran a full page ad and an article in the Jackson Hole News and Guide recently, stating, “Northern Yellowstone elk herd has remained fairly stable since 2006.”
“That’s a true statement,” said Wharff, “but they forgot to tell you that herd has been reduced over 60 percent since the introduction of wolves.”
The article states Wyoming is over objective statewide on elk numbers. “That’s also true statewide, but they don’t tell you elk in the Gros Ventre are 69 percent of objective, averaging 13 calves per 100 cows on the Upper Gros Ventre, with 41 calves per 100 cows on the lower Gros Ventre. That is a stark difference. One known factor is a higher wolf density in the Upper Gros Ventre than the Lower Gros Ventre, and agency action has removed some wolves in the Lower.”
Wharff added, “The Greater Yellowstone Coalition says, ‘wolves may have a localized impact on cow/calf ratios, but overall herd numbers and hunter success remains high.’ Once again, they tell the truth… but they don’t say there were 6,400 elk hunters in Wyoming in 2000, and in 2009 we only had 3,800. That’s a 60 percent reduction.”
Cody gubernatorial candidate Colin Simpson said, “The FWS has forged the shield of ESA protection into a sword that is annihilating elk, deer and moose populations in northwest Wyoming. That was never the intent of the ESA. The terrible impacts on the elk and moose by the grey wolf is evidence enough to make me believe this agency has lost any perspective it may have had with regard to a non-essential experimental species.”
Fort Bridger gubernatorial candidate Ron Micheli said, “I believe you and I are witnessing the greatest disaster in wildlife management since the 19th century when we destroyed the buffalo herds in this country. We have to be engaged in this process. We must protect the dual classification (trophy game status for wolves in northwest Wyoming and predator status in the rest of the state). The ESA no longer has anything to do with the promulgation of a species. It has everything to do with power of people to take away your private property rights, and power to get us off the public lands, and we can’t allow that to happen. Some believe we can not fight the federal government; that we can’t win. To those people I would ask the question that Ronald Reagan asked, ‘If not us then who? If not now then when?’”
The Cody Country Outfitters and Guides Association hosted the rally. Sponsors included WSFW, Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association, Wild Sheep Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep.
WSFW hosted the first Wyoming wolf rally in Cheyenne before Judge Johnson heard arguments in the latest round of wolf litigation, followed by a wolf rally in Jackson. They are considering another rally in western Wyoming and one in Cheyenne when Judge Johnson announces his verdict in the wolf case that remains under his consideration.
Echo Renner is field editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.