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THROUGH A WOLF'S EYES

Guest article from Pat Andreasen, HUPC member from Smithfield

August 17, 2000, dawned with hope that followed a path through frustration, irritation, and dismay. What started on that Thursday has swung to incredulity, distrust and wariness.

On Tuesday of that week, I read a short piece in the local paper announcing a meeting of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to discuss the issue of reclassifying wolves. Awfully short notice, I thought, but my daughter and I rearranged our schedule so we could attend the meeting in Salt Lake City.

I should tell you that I am passionate about wolves. Seen by many as Teachers, perhaps if we two-leggeds paid more attention to what they have to teach, this meeting would not have been necessary. My passion for wolves is matched by mistrust for any program that asserts it knows better how to deal with "nature" than those who live in it in this case, the wolves. My perspective is not free of prejudice. You might say, I see with wolf eyes.

Having not met Mr. Ed Bangs of the FWS or any of the people attending the meeting, other than my daughter, granddaughter, and Margaret Pettis, I arrived at the evening meeting curious yet willing to trust and believe. Within ten minutes of our arrival, I recognized that old song and dance routine: determine the position of the audience and then tell them whatever you must to keep them happy. Send them away feeling that their input will effect any decisions made and that you are sympathetic to the plight of, in this instance, the wolf.

As noted by a member of the audience, this meeting was meant to appease us and Ed Bangs and the FWS have basically made their decision. They are going through the motions, and we will not realize it and will think we may actually be heard. Except for Idaho, Montana, and Yellowstone, where they reintroduced the wolf, the FWS wants to downgrade the status of the wolf in the Rocky Mountain region from Endangered to Threatened. Mr. Bangs said that from Threatened, the wolves would be De-listed , a position with no protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). He consistently invoked the argument that the ESA was only meant to cover the wolf until it reached the Recovery Stage- a point not defined in the ESA but set at 30 breeding pairs of wolves by the FWS. Stating that the ESA did not apply to areas currently without wolves, he emphasized that "no evidence of wolf activity in Utah exists at this time."

The money spent on wolves, Mr. Bangs stated, needs to go to other species protected under the ESA. Besides, he reassured us over and over, reclassifying wolves as Threatened actually gives the USFWS more leeway to help any wolves who may move into Utah through natural dispersal. By down-grading the wolf, the restraints the ESA Endangered rating would place on a Utah Wolf Program would be minimized, if not voided.

Mr. Bangs avoided directly answering any questions dealing with moving wolves from Threatened to De-listed -- the intention of which is clear in a FWS news release. He said that the Utah Wildlife Board would set up the wolf program under the auspices of the USFWS Wolf Recovery-Rocky Mountain Region, for which Bangs is the coordinator. Sounds fine, until you remember, or in my case, learn, that Utah Wildlife Board members are predominately marionettes for livestock interests, hook and bullet sportsmen, and the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR.)

Any chance at an honest plan for wolf protection is extremely low. Our only hope rests in keeping the wolf Endangered and binding Utah to the ESA. [See the DWR wolf white paper within the bear management plan segment at www.nr.state.ut.us/dwr.] Wolves are on the agenda at the October and December RACs and UWB meetings on October 11 and in December.

A coldness surrounds my heart at the thought of reclassifying any wolves who make it to Utah. That cold tells me that only a heartbeat stands between Threatened and De-listed. According to Mr. Bangs, we don't have any wolves here yet, and the chances of them making it through natural dispersal are next to zero. Current natural dispersal of the Idaho packs southward would tend to indicate that W. Bangs would like us to join him in whistling Dixie.

Some food for thought: The USFWS is charged with protecting Endangered/Experimental wolf populations under the ESA, which requires not only the species but its biological environment be protected and gives wildlife values precedence over grazing. Yet in Idaho the FWS has allowed the building of a private residence on the original rendezvous site of the Ninemile pack and sheepmen to move 2,000 head into Pole Creek, established wolf territory. As FWS Wolf Recovery coordinator for the Rocky Mountains, Ed Bangs is a part of the system that allows this to happen. I suggest HUPC members reread "What Will Become of Wolves in the Uintas?" (LYNX, June 2000) and then ask yourself where you stand.

Personally, I distrust an agency that places wolves in an area, side-steps protecting them and their environment, and then wants to downgrade their Endangered status before they have met the required 30 breeding pairs or reach our area.

You are wrong, Mr. Bangs; the wolf is coming to Utah, and without our help, he/she will be met by fear and death.

On behalf of my wolf friends, I urge you to attend; no, I implore you. Our numbers and passion will tell the FWS that we are not impressed with their song and dance routine or their attempt to appease us. They need to know that we expect to be heard and to have an active part in what happens to our wolves. The low number of people in attendance (12-14) will not induce Mr. Bangs, the FWS, or the Utah Wildlife Board to take us seriously.

Don't wait until they get here to protect Utah wolves. Don't trust the Fish and Wildlife Services to protect Utah wolves. Don't trust the Utah Wildlife Board to protect Utah wolves. Attend the meeting. Speak up for our four-legged Teacher.


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