Letters From the West

Hunters, animal lovers speak out respectfully at Fish and Game wolf hearing

Zachery Jones took his entire three minutes to stand quietly with his back to the audience in front of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission with his sign.(ROCKY BARKER/rbarker@idahostatesman.com)

Zachery Jones took his entire three minutes to stand quietly with his back to the audience in front of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission with his sign.(ROCKY BARKER/rbarker@idahostatesman.com)

Stabe Hedges of Boise spoke quietly before a crowd of 150 people and the Idaho Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday.

But he spoke for hunters across Idaho who no longer find it relatively easy to find elk in the place where they have hunted since their youth.

“I know what we used to have here and I know what was lost,” Hedges said.

As Hedges looked around the room, most of the people were there to protest Fish and Game’s elk management plan authorizing the agency to hire a hunter-trapper to eliminate two packs of six wolves in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. John Robison, public land director of the Idaho Conservation League, asked the people filling the Washington Group Center auditorium for a show of hands for people angry about the killing.

The majority raised their hands.

“Its upsetting to me that so many people support an animal that has decimated the state,” Hedges said.

Despite the great differences in opinions, hunters and animal lovers passionately expressed their feelings about wolves and elk but also listened to each other. The hearing was a far cry from the angry confrontations that have marked past hearings on wolves in Idaho and perhaps reflected the shift since the animal was removed from federal protection and opened to hunting.

“Restoration must include predator harvest on a consistent basis as research indicates that wolf populations can withstand human-caused mortality of 30 to 50 percent without experiencing declines in abundance,” said Grant Simonds, executive director of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association.

Boise resident Pam Marcum told the commission to “please have some grit to cancel the wolf eradication.”

And Jen Pierce, a geology professor at Boise State University, read a statement from 15 scientists, including professors at the University of Idaho and Idaho State University, protesting the killing.

“We feel your decision to hire a professional hunter to exterminate two wolf packs in the Frank Church Wilderness does not demonstrate informed management, both economically and ecologically, and contradicts the mission statement of the Idaho Fish and Game,” Pierce said. “Sending in the hunter-trapper prior to the IDFG state elk management meeting on January 16th is also perplexing.”

So far the agency’s hunter-trapper has killed nine wolves in the wilderness area, said Jon Rachael, Fish and Game’s big game manager.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West