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Posts Tagged ‘Montana’

Wolf vs. Man

The Lone Wolf

A conference of Western attorneys generals in Sun Valley has yielded an interesting environmental tidbit: wolves will be shot this year, whether legal or not.

That was the assessment from Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner Randy Budge, according to a story from the Idaho Mountain Express.  He was referencing lawsuits filed by conservation groups following a decision from the federal government that wolves could be hunted.  So far, it looks like Montana will allow up to 75 wolves to be shot, while Idaho hunters may get to take wolves numbering in the hundreds.

Wolves are incredibly noble creatures, rare to see wild, symbolic for many people, and absolutely spine-tingling to hear howl.  They also kill livestock, which even if only a small part of the overall livestock economy can deal significant blows to individual ranchers.

Initially, I planned to write a post about the unnecessary and puzzling need for people to kill wolves, something I still don’t understand if the motivation is simply to kill a wolf.  But the original draft didn’t sit right.  Despite my deep love of nature and disgust at urbanites who move to the woods and then want the trees, bears, coyotes, and every other natural “nuisance” removed, I know ranchers and farmers.  I was raised in sheep country in central Utah, and most of those who raised livestock for a living balanced on a thin financial line.  If they need to kill wolves to protect themselves … killing wolves doesn’t sit right with me, but neither does protecting them at the expense of small ranchers.  (My sympathy does not extend to corporate feed lots or their ilk.  The greater their losses, the better, as far I’m concerned).

So instead of mocking those who need to kill for the sake of killing, I simply make a plea: respect the animal.  If a rancher kills a wolf to protect his herd, the least he could is somehow return that wolf to the natural world.  Don’t stuff it and put it in the living room, don’t turn it into a rug.  If hunting wolves is desirable, at least do it with dignity.  Pursue the wolf through the wilderness, as a predator, instead of flying in a plane and targeting the animals as if playing a video game.  And as with any hunting or fishing endeavor, appreciate the magnitude of what you have done.  Feel the animal’s blood leaving it body, look in its dead eyes.  At least give it that much respect.

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Democrats in Republican-dominated states such as Idaho or Utah are eternal optimists.  After every election trouncing, they still find things to raise their spirits.  Maybe they cheer the fact that they had a candidate in every single “important” race, or that they had repeat candidates who, even if they had lost multiple times, are getting name recognition and campaign experience.  Above everything, they find solace in those rare major victories around the region, dreaming of the day they can actually win the governorship or take over at least one of the legislative houses.

In the last couple of cycles, however, Western Democrats actually have reason for optimism, thanks in large part to a new breed of politician for their party’s regional standard-bearer.  These are politicals who are pro-civil unions, pro-gun, pro-environment, and pro-energy.  They support drilling for oil, but not at the expense of natural treasures.  They support gun ownership, but also realize that many people are actually scared of the deadly weapons and some places (churches and schools, especially) are not appropriate for packin’ heat.

The Western Democrat is also becoming a significant player in national politics, as evidenced by President Obama’s flirations with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson for the VP slot and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s well-received speech to the Democratic National Convention.  For Democrats in those Western states, the national recognition will also mean that, more and more, they may actually have strength at the state levels.  At the very least, it means that the GOP will have to run moderates that may actually support some of the Western Democratic stances, especially on issues such as education funding or green energy initiatives.

Later this month, Democrats from around the region will gather in Denver to plot their next steps in making the mountain states two-party states. The gathering is hosted by Project New West and will feature speakers such as Robert Redford and Nevada Sen. Harry Reid.

Mark Barabak at Top of the Ticket (an amazing political blog run by the L.A. Times) has a post with more details on the gathering and a deeper look at the surge of the Western Democrat.

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