Editor’s Note: The following article is republished by permission from the author. “Yellowstone is Dying” was published in Range Magazine back in 2002. Senator Conrad Burns asked Robert Fanning to write this piece and he handed it to Secretary of Interior Gale Norton on June 21 2002. That subsequently resulted in a face to face meeting with Assistant Secretary of Interior, Judge Craig Manson. According to Fanning, he and Rep. Dan Fuchs were promised that; “wolves would be delisted by date certain, Jan 1 2004”
I live on a horse ranch in the foothills of the Absaroka Mountains, 25 miles north of Yellowstone National Park. I exercise my horses and myself in the mountains everyday year round. When I observe and participate in nature it is with the eye of a big game hunter and biology major. I received my degree from the University of Notre Dame, back in the early 1970’s. In those days ecology was a science, now it has become a religion.
I’ve noticed a change in those mountains over the past 7 years, and I’m certain if the American people had any idea what was going on in Yellowstone and the surrounding area, they would be appalled and very angry. Prior to wolf introduction in 1995, there were 19,500 elk in the great northern Yellowstone elk herd, over 300 big horn sheep in the ten square miles around Gardiner, Montana, abundant moose, antelope and mule deer. Now we have fewer than 10,000 elk and 40 big horn sheep. Montana state moose biologist Kurt Alt tells us the moose are all but wiped out. The National Academy of Science, in its’ March 2002 report, tells us that the antelope population is a small fraction of what it was. A Montana Game Warden north of Yellowstone Park tells us the mule deer population is also in real trouble. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Wolf Project Coordinator admits in the press that there are 560 wolves and 150 pups this year with anywhere between 34 to 46 breeding pairs depending on your definition of breeding pair. The Project Coordinator himself, Ed Bangs, says, “There are too many wolves.” Despite intense public pressure to delist and control wolves, the outlook for delisting in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming is very bleak. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife now wants to hold us hostage until Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado gets a good healthy dose of wolves.
Wolf introduction has become a big business. Defenders of Wildlife alone raise over $21,000,000 a year tax-free. Sending bulk mail to urban soccer moms with cross hairs on a wolf puppy telling them to send money to save wolves from being poisoned and their babies from being clubbed to death in their dens by the mean old ranchers. They never mentioned that the mean old rancher that would do this would be convicted of a felony and face a $100,000 fine and a year in federal prison for violating the Endangered Species Act.
Wolf recovery is also big business for biologists. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has created a huge bureaucracy originally formed to introduce 78-100 wolves in Yellowstone Park, but now expanded to put wolves into any rural area in America where there is an agricultural or hunting culture. If you can’t make money in spotted owls, then get into wolves, the DOT.com job for biologists.
Lawyers, especially lawyers, love wolves too! Environmental organizations like Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club and National Wildlife Federation have legal departments that rival IBM and GM in size. They are motivated to sue over ESA issues. The Federal court system routinely awards them fees and costs if they are the catalysts for legal action and win. What kind of lawyers like wolves? Ted Turner hosted 140 lawyers from the “Earth Justice League” at a resort a couple of miles from my home. One out of six called ahead and ordered a “vegan” diet which excludes any animal or fish product. I have no problem with their diet, just when they use the judicial system to impose it on the rest of us.
The organization I formed in 1999 has 3742 members, most of whom live in the area just north of Yellowstone. We have been calling attention to the total annihilation of our game herds for 4 years now and were roundly criticized as alarmists and extremists as the wolf recovery team assured the public through the dutiful press, that the elk herd, which acts as a buffer between predators and our cattle industry, was in fine shape. Eventually our cries for help were heard this year by the Chair and Vice Chair of the Montana House Fish and Wildlife and Parks Committee, Dan Fuchs and Joe Balyeat. Both senior lawmakers accuse the wolf bureaucracy of a cover-up. They came down to count the ratios of calf to cow elk themselves. We went into the field and came up with a ratio of 12 surviving calves per one hundred cow elk. This statistic was verified by the National Park Service survey that was released shortly there after. The 23-year average that proceeded wolf recovery was 33 calves per hundred cows.
Subsequently when the fur started flying in our State Legislature and in the Montana press, Carrie Schaeffer of Michigan Tech University, working under Dr. Rolf Peterson, did a study that came to surface in 1998-1999. She counted 4600 head of elk. This was huge scientific sampling. She concluded that the calf to cow (elk) ratio was zero to ten per hundred, confirming our assertions over the past four years that a biological crisis of catastrophic proportions had been going on. Yellowstone Park knew of the Schaeffer study, withheld the information from the American public in order to protect their wolf bureaucracy, and intentionally lied to the press for 4 solid years. The decision to suppress scientific information was made at the top by Glenn Plumb, Yellowstone’s supervisory biologist.
When wolf recovery was proposed in 1988, Congress appropriated monies to study the proposed experiment. Congress instructed those who made the request to introduce wolves that: hunting should not be hurt, the local economy should not be hurt, and the Grizzly Bear should not be impacted. With these marching orders from Congress, a team of 15 PHD’s [Delphi 15], who specialized in Predator/Prey biology, came back and published “Wolves for Yellowstone? A Report to Congress and the Department of Interior Vol. 1” in 1991.” They said the 250 square miles in and around Yellowstone could hold 78-100 wolves at full capacity if it was done over a 10-20 year period. This esteemed body of scientists insisted in 1991 and again in September 1995, because no one knew for sure what impact a new keystone predator would have on the unadapted prey species, that intensive monitoring of the prey should be done, otherwise the Yellowstone Ecosystem would be forever and irreparably harmed. (See P.11 Peterson, Gassaway & Messier report to DOI dated 9/95) America deserves to know who authorized the wolf recovery team to ignore the Delphi 15. Yellowstone Park and the wolf recovery team admitted in the Bozeman Chronicle in the winter of 2000 that these studies were not done each year citing bad weather, lack of funding, lack of equipment, and lack of qualified personnel.
America deserves to know why the mandated studies were not done. We in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming have jumped through hoop after hoop trying to get the wolf delisted from the List of Endangered Species so we can manage this destructive predator and prolific breeder ourselves.
Like Islam has been hijacked by extremists, environmental organizations have been hijacked by extremists. They now threaten to terrorize us with their biological weapon the wolf. We can look forward to being tied up in court for eternity if we try and delist the wolf as an endangered specie from it’s un-deserved protected status as; “experimental non-essential”. The ultimate strategy is to buy more time for this predator to breed at a 34% rate per year. Each wolf eats a biomass of at least 25 Elk per year; not counting the surplus killing of elk calves. We now have at least 720 wolves; and in 3 short years we could easily be at 1732. This means 43,300 elk per year are going to be fed to wolves without any new replacement calves. Since Montana, according to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, only has 130,000 elk, it wont be long until the wolf turns its attention to beef cattle, in a degree much larger than is already occurring.
Chris Smith, Chief of Staff for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks stated May 31, 2002 to the press after hearing the U.S. Fish Wildlife service presentation regarding delisting the wolf, “this will be tied up in political and legal knots for years to come.”
Our only hope in Montana and the other affected states is asserting our sovereignty over our land and natural resources. I know that if I was to be elected Governor of Montana in ’04 that I would set an agenda that would take our state, its land and its natural resources (of which wildlife is one) back from Federal Agencies and the environmental extremist organizations who have imposed their political agendas on us. Burdensome Federal interference and regulation has cost Montana jobs, tax revenue and impedes growth and development, placing it near the bottom (46) state economies.
It is grossly unfair that the livestock operator has to wait for a delisting that may never occur. It is a violation of the 5th amendment and its “takings” clause to turn these uncontrolled predators on his stock without compensation, going to bed each night wondering how much he will lose through the night. John Paul Hubbard, a rancher bordering Yellowstone Park, estimates that since wolves have been introduced in ’95, has lost in excess of $100,000 but cannot prove his losses. Montana Stock Growers tell us that they believe that contrary to what the wolf recovery people admit to, wolf depredation of livestock in Montana is 500% to 700% more, but again losses cannot be proven.
The wolf is a nocturnal hunter, the “blood on the paws” policy of reimbursement places the burden of proof on the livestock producer. The heavy burden of identifying the ACTUAL PREDATOR rests squarely on the shoulders of the livestock producer. Just think about it, a criminal breaks into your home and kills a loved one and you are obliged to prove their guilt to law enforcement. There are a lot of criminals doing life in prison after a weaker standard of evidence was presented at their trial. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 specifically forbids the act be used for economic or social reasons. The predator Program should be acknowledged for what it is; a biological means to undercut the Taylor Grazing act, destroy the ranching business, and confiscate land when those businesses fail. Sounds like a conspiracy theory? You be the judge.
Mike Phillips, the movie star handsome, media savvy biologist who introduced the wolf into Yellowstone Park in ’95 spoke to a group of 600 people from 44 states and 24 countries in Duluth, MN., on February 24, 2000. He said the goal of wolf introduction was to drive 30,000 ranchers from public lands. His power point presentation was video taped by the University of Minnesota and the International Wolf Center, Ely, Minnesota reported 2/25/02 on Page A20 of the “Minnesota Star Tribune”, and the May edition of “Wyoming Agricultural”. Three of “Friends of The Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd.” Paid $206 to attend. Bob Hanson a retired investment banker memorialized the remarks in affidavit form. Now, fully realizing the implication of making those remarks in a public forum, Phillips vehemently denies he made them. Mike Phillips and former Yellowstone National Park Superintendent, Mike Findley now work for Ted Turners’ Endangered Species Fund, an organization that vigorously promotes wolves. Turner is a self-described socialist and Americas’ largest private landowner. The public has a right to know why former Yellowstone National Park Superintendent ignored Congress’ instructions and the warnings given by Delphi 15. Only a Congressional investigation will be able to determine whether or not there was a Quid Pro Quo exchanging jobs for our wildlife, achieving a political end.
The American people apparently agreed with the early premise of wolf recovery into Yellowstone Park, and have learned to love wolves as featured on nature programs. They are entitled to know both sides of the story, not just the side that would be told by Aldo Leopold. Aldo Leopold, conservationist and bio-ethicist was born in 1887, the dawn of Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation movement. At that time game herds, predators and natural resources were decimated to the point of crisis. Leopold wrote “you cannot love the game but hate the predators. You can regulate them, but not abolish them.” Wolf recovery advocates aspire to be apostles of Leopold. L.David Mech, the wolf biologist, for the past thirty years is his best-known disciple. Mech wrote in his book “The Wolf”, that, “unfortunately, there still exists in certain elements of human society an attitude that any animal (except man) that kills another is a murderer….to these people the wolf is a most undesirable creature”, fostering an attitude of us versus them, he went on to write “these people cannot be changed.” If the wolf is to survive the wolf haters must be out numbered. They must be out financed, and out voted.” You’re either a wolf hater or you’re in complete agreement with their science, values, press releases, tactics and philosophy. This leaves those of us who live in wolf country following the revolution in quite a dilemma. How do you clean up the mess made by zealots who overreached and exceeded the instructions of Congress and the parameters set by their own PH.D.s, known as the Delphi 15.
What Mech forgot to mention is that since 1937, when the Pittman-Robertson Act began collecting $6 billion from sportsmen, that Americas’ game herds are in the best shape ever. Despite this fact, wolf advocates who want to feed our wildlife to their wolves are convinced that they and only they should have the exclusive say in Leopolds’ version of regulation. When wolf advocates control the regulatory process, agendas and values that are anti-ranching, anti-property rights, and anti- hunting can be implemented.
Anyone who questions them is an enemy to be marginalized, attacked and diminished as in extremists, alarmists, or just plain ignorant. It is this exclusion from the adaptive management process, this arbitrary, arrogant, self-righteousness that has polarized people in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, brought law abiding citizens to the verge of civil disobedience and laid the ground work for what is commonly known as the “war for the west”. What is the root of all this distrust?
Drs. Taylor and Walters warned in July ’89 in a report to YNP and the Dept. of Interior of the potential for major conflict arising from wolf introduction. They called for thoughtful interaction among scientists, wildlife managers (state and federal) and resources users (ranchers and hunters). They concluded that “to introduce wolves before adaptive management has reached maturity and consensus would be irresponsible”. Needless to say these warnings and recommendations not only went unheeded, but anyone who was not in the wolf introduction camp; livestock interests, state legislatures, fish and game authorities, outside scientists with a different opinion, or hunting interests, were systematically excluded from the process and routinely lied to.
It is because of this premeditated exclusion that our wildlife in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho have been decimated and our livestock industry which relies on the wildlife as a buffer between predators is at great risk due to uncontrolled predators, especially that prolific breeder, who has no natural predators, the wolf.
Why in this time of national peril that follows the tragedy of 9/11 are we not unified in our democratic republic when our survival depends on it? In my view it is for one reason, it is over a theory, the theory of Natural Regulation. Remember that once there was a theory that the earth was flat. The theory of Natural Regulation is just as invalid, just as flawed and just as widely accepted as the flat earth theory was in the dark ages. The theory of natural regulation is the philosophical cornerstone of the social engineers in the extreme green movement. Without the theory of natural regulation, wildlife and forest managers would be accountable to the American public and responsible for their actions or inaction. The deep ecology movement has decided that man’s presence, participation in, and stewardship of nature is unnatural and all wild places must be off limits to human activity. It is absolutely essential to those who politicize science in order to make it fit agendas, such as the special interests of environmental groups or that of governmental agencies, i.e. USFWS and NPS, to exclusively control the definition of natural regulation. For example, if forest fires wipe out a third of Yellowstone Park with a holocaust fire like it did in 1988, or wolves kill half the great Northern Yellowstone elk herd, it was just nature doing its’ thing. No one to blame, no government jobs lost, no public outcry, no conflicting values from various stakeholders, no outside scientific debate or peer review.
This past March ’02, the National Academy of Science made a profound impact that resonates throughout the scientific world. In a report that was dedicated to the study of alleged overgrazing of Yellowstone National Park the esteemed body of scientists categorically refuted the long held belief, that environmental organizations used to justify wolf introduction, that YNP was in crisis from overgrazing.
The highest scientific voice in the land, that rescued water starved ranchers in Klamath, Oregon, stated that the policy adopted by park authorities in 1971 of “Natural Regulation” was invalid and should be abandoned. Imagine how the proponents of the U.N. Wildlands Project or those who believe the entire Yellowstone ecosystem should be turned into a national park must have reacted!
Take away the theory of natural regulations from the social engineers of the deep ecology movement and you have taken away the thing they most rely on, public sentiment that drives funding for their organizations, their lawyers, and political support for their anti-property right, anti-ranching, anti-hunting, anti-second amendment extreme vegan agenda. (For the entire report visit the academies website at www.nationaacademies.org)
We can only hope that YNP Superintendent Lewis will hold to her word and “follow the committees’ recommendations”, especially on page 103 where scientists from NAS advise regarding wolf and game herd management.
“Resolving these conflicts will require all the vision, intellectual capacity, financial resources and goodwill that can be brought to bear on them”. We certainly hope so, Ms. Lewis because as this piece is written, we are told that we must rely on wolves naturally regulating their own numbers!
Since the Endangered Species Act has become a vehicle that is undermining the republic and state sovereignty over natural resources, allowing urban majority to impose its’ political will on the rural minority, contrary to the intent of the Framers of the Constitution, it must be rewritten with all the affected stakeholders; state wildlife authorities, ranchers, hunters and private property holders at the bargaining table. To this point they have been systematically excluded from the process by the tax-exempt environmental foundations, their legions of lawyers incentivized to file lawsuits, and career bureaucrats who politicize science.
Only when the adaptive management process is followed prior to the listing or introduction of wolves (or any other real or manufactured endangered species) into your state should you even entertain the concept, otherwise you will suffer the same thing we have experienced in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem; an unmitigated, unmanageable debacle which has long term implications and unintended consequences associated with this experiment gone horribly wrong with no end in sight.
Copywritten & Submitted for Publication 6/01/02
Robert T. Fanning, Jr.
Chairman and Founder
“Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, Inc.”