Often, our job seems like an exercise in futility. Today, KEA sent yet another set of comments regarding wolf management to Idaho’s Department of Fish and Game. Shielded from lawsuits (maybe), the Department is free to push the state’s wolf management balance back toward extinction.
On the table at the quarterly meeting of the Fish and Game Commission’s meeting in Salmon this week, are hunting and trapping seasons for wolves that we believe go far beyond what would be reasonable and sustainable. With no limits on taking wolves in some regions – including the panhandle – the plan isn’t really much of a plan.
Fundamentally, we continue to oppose a wildlife management philosophy that so strongly favors an un-endangered class of animals at the detriment of an endangered or threatened one. The balance between predator and prey is one that will reach equilibrium naturally if left alone to do so. Indeed, we think that predators should return naturally to their fundamental ecological roles instead of the heavy-handed human interventions to adjust nature to our preferences.
Nevertheless, we acknowledge the political desire for more active management. We would just prefer that management be based in facts, science, and transparent honesty.
The current stated target population for wolves in Idaho — 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs — is not based in science, but rather old school ideas about what minimal wolf populations should be. Of course, Congressionally-established immunity from judicial review helps. Still, accepting arguendo the premise that there should be specific numeric targets, having no hunting quotas or limits whatsoever in certain zones is arbitrary and indefensible.
Idaho’s plan proposes tracking and monitoring wolf kills, with the Commission supposedly able to review and adjust the plan at its November and January meetings. But the plan gives no indication as to how the adjustments would be made, and under what criteria. Indeed, we suspect that there are secret harvest quotas in each of the no-quota zones, but that the Department and the Commission do not have the political courage to honestly announce them.
Instead, we have a season that quite literally relies on the failure of hunters. While complete extermination of a wolf population in a particular zone might be cheered by some, it would be a disaster for wolf management, and it would probably not survive federal scrutiny. Even if there is reason to be emboldened by the recent Congressional intervention, the Commission should not so blatantly test the limits of federal interests if it wants to continue state control over wolf management in the long run.
Sure, other animals are managed without limits. But the Department’s rationalizing analogy to management of black bears and mountain lions, for example, is inapposite. Other species have longer histories of much more robust, stable populations, with well-established and similarly stable hunting seasons. Also, black bears and mountain lions are not as endangered.
To be completely clear, Kootenai Environmental Alliance is not opposed to sustainable management of sustainable wolf populations if such management is based in fact, sound science, and honest transparency. In this instance, though, Idaho Fish and Game has proposed no such plan.