As a judge in Montana considers whether to permit Montana and Idaho to continue hunts to manage mushrooming wolf populations that have decimated big game herds, Defenders of Wildlife has sought to triple the number of wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming and the Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned Interior Secretary Salazar and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide for expansion of wolf populations across the entire United States.
In response to these actions and the strong grassroots desire of sportsmen, outfitters, ranchers, and many others all across the US to insure that wolves are de-listed from the Endangered Species List and managed by all states where they are found, Big Game Forever, a political action arm of nationally-respected organization Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, has drafted legislation to remove wolves from the Endangered Species List. Big Game Forever is now working with a growing number of Congressmen and Senators to have the bill introduced early in 2011. The bill will allow needed wolf management measures to stop the decline of some of the West’s and upper Midwest’s most important herds of elk, moose and deer and help rebuild those herds.
“The decision to remove wolves, one of North America’s most abundant and successful predators, from the endangered species list by both the Bush and Obama administrations will not be respected by animal rights and a handful of environmental groups, even though excessive predation on big game has caused at least $100 million damage to the economies of states where wolves are found,” says Ryan Benson, National Director for Big Game Forever.
“Wolves are being exploited in an attempt to remove the rights of sportsmen to have access to and use of renewable wildlife resources. Notwithstanding the experimental nature of wolf reintroductions and repeated declarations that wolf populations have expanded far beyond recovery objectives, these groups continue to make millions of dollars suing the federal government on technicalities within the Endangered Species Act. It has become clear that there will be no end to the litigation despite the unprecedented damage to wildlife, surplus killing of livestock, and attacks on pets and guard dogs in the West and Upper Midwest. Ultimately those most affected by the ongoing litigation continue to be Sportsmen and wildlife, including the very wolves the anti-sporting groups proclaim to protect,” Benson says.
The federal government is currently spending $3.7 million dollars yearly to remove problem wolves that kill domestic livestock in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. This is money that should be used for wildlife conservation, including restoration of elk, moose, wild sheep and deer that have been decimated by rapidly-expanding wolf populations in many areas, Big Game Forever asserts.
The proposed legislation will provide assurances of agreed upon wolf population numbers in states where experimental reintroductions have reached sustainable populations spelled out in original enabling mandates. “State wildlife managers can either manage for abundance or scarcity,” explains Benson. “In the last 10 years, sportsmen have contributed $20 Billion in federal wildlife funding in an attempt to restore healthy big game populations and waterfowl populations. In addition to federal funding, State wildlife agencies, which are largely if not exclusively funded by sportsmen’s dollars, spend hundreds of millions annually in the West to restore and protect habitat, and manage wildlife populations.”
“Sportsmen have worked tirelessly and put their money where their mouth is in an effort to restore healthy wildlife herds to the West,” says Don Peay founder of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife www.sfwsfh.org/. “Decades-long recovery efforts by states and sportsmen’s groups are being erased in herd after herd. We will not stand by and watch our efforts wasted by an anti-management agenda that has proved to be a failure for elk, moose and even the wolves they proclaim to protect.”
Congressional intervention provides a mechanism to ensure that states can fulfill their mandate to manage all wildlife populations for the use of its citizens. Benson explains, “Wolves are here to stay. The same state agencies that successfully manage balanced numbers of mountain lions, bears and other large predators are well-positioned to maintain balanced numbers of gray wolves while protecting abundant prey populations.”
To document the groundswell of support for wolf de-listing, Big game Forever has launched an online petition at biggameforever.org that has already drawn thousands of signers. Some of the early supporters of the petition include entertainer Jeff Foxworthy, former NBA all-star player Karl Malone, Hall of Fame baseball player Wade Boggs, President of Hoyt Archery Randy Walk, Randy and Coni Brooks of Barnes Bullets, and David Allen, CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
ABOUT BIG GAME FOREVER
For the last 15 years, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife has endeavored to restore abundant wildlife populations in the West. SFW has worked tirelessly to reintroduce Bison, Big Horn Sheep, Elk and Mountain Goats to their original habitat while also putting millions of dollars on the ground across the West to restore almost 1,000,000 acres of habitat. Big Game Forever was created in 2010 to facilitate political action. Big Game Forever and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife believe that protecting the western way of life can only be accomplished through the involvement of American Sportsmen in the political and legal process.