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NEWS - On the media

Angry talk won’t solve wolf, griz issues



By Gov. Matt Mead and Dan Ashe


Todd Wilkinson, in an opinion published last Nov. 4 in the Jackson Hole News&Guide (“Mead can’t deny the bear, lobo economics”) ascribes to us thinking, motivations, philosophies and disagreements on wildlife conservation that do not exist. Undeniably, we face challenges of staggering scope and complexity, challenges we cannot solve alone. That is why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state of Wyoming have chosen to work together, which benefits the people and the resources we are entrusted to serve.


It is true that we differ in some regards about the management of wolves, grizzly bears and other wildlife protected by the Endangered Species Act. We also differ on whether we are making satisfactory progress in delisting them once we agree the species are recovered. That is to be expected given the differing mandates and authorities under which we operate. However, we agree that Yellowstone grizzly bears and Rocky Mountain grey wolves are recovered.


In all our agreements and disagreements, neither of us has known the other to be anything but genuine in his concern for these species and respectful of their place and value in the ecosystem and economy. In fact, we agree with Mr. Wilkinson that wolves, grizzly bears and other wildlife are important to the economy of Wyoming and the West and that they make this a special place for residents and visitors. To be clear, where we have disagreements they are tactical, not strategic, and they have never prevented us from finding common ground.


We have made progress on wolves and grizzly bears by focusing on areas where we can agree and on finding solutions that work for both people and wildlife. That is made easier because we hold a common vision — that of a Wyoming and the West, where diverse, abundant wildlife populations share the landscape with the people who live here. We understood early in our working relationship that if we wanted to realize that vision we needed to make a place for wildlife while also keeping working families on the land. We needed to understand and reduce conflicts between people and wildlife. Conservation, at its heart, is about the relationship of people to wildlife and the land they share.


Pretending that the views and concerns of residents do not matter is a recipe for division and disaster. Working together at the local, state and federal level, we have largely succeeded because we endeavored to understand and address those concerns, not because we have dismissed these legitimate concerns as “pervasive, irrational and socially reinforced hatred” that will only die with the people who hold those views, as Mr. Wilkinson describes it.


The future of species and the spaces they need will not be met by belittling, divisive or angry speech. It takes the courage of conviction and the extending of a hand in friendship while recognizing that the person on the other side of the handshake has strong opinions and beliefs. It takes strength of character and a willingness to listen to others. Listening may not dislodge those opinions and beliefs, but it can light a path to progress.


The relationship built by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state of Wyoming is strong and will outlast our terms of office. It has already produced other successes, the largest of which is the effort to conserve the greater sage grouse before Endangered Species Act protection was required.


When we speak about the Endangered Species Act we may have differing opinions about its future. More importantly, we agree that the law needs to and can work better. We can set aside rhetoric and set a course to find and listen to diverse and reasoned voices. One of us is using his position and influence within the Western Governors’ Association to host such a dialogue. The other is supporting that effort as the best chance to find bipartisan consensus and possible improvements to the law.


Good public service, as distinct from good public spectacle, is best conducted with unclenched fists. We have succeeded in that endeavor while maintaining our core convictions and integrity.


Grizzly bears, gray wolves, greater sage grouse and other resources are the beneficiaries.

. . . the article in context



This is a piece of pure political propaganda co-written by FWS Director Dan Ashe and Wyoming Governor Matt Mead and published in the Jackson Hole News and Guide.


The aim is to promote delisting of Yellowstone’s grizzly bears by proclaiming common ground (without offering a shred of evidence that it exists) and by simply dismissing naysayers. 


Its complete lack of content was noteworthy.


No mention of science, even though that is what the decision to delist presumably rests on. 


No nod to the Endangered Species Act’s legal benchmarks and how they think they have been met.


No recognition that their audience includes many people who cherish their experiences with Grizzly 399 and her offspring, and look forward to seeing them again this spring and many springs to come.


People are legitimately worried about what will happen to these bears if a hunt is opened up. 


Louisa Willcox

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