State Wildlife Management Needs a Makeover!
Problematic Mission and Orientation
The primary goal of state wildlife agencies is not to conserve all species and ecosystems, but rather to produce a “harvestable surplus” of game animals comprised largely of large hooved herbivores with antlers or horns. States seek to minimize populations of large carnivores that they wrongly see as competing with hunters for game animals or as threats to livestock. Above all, they work to protect the interests of a minority of hunters, anglers, and trappers over the much larger majority of people who appreciate wildlife for aesthetic, scientific, and other reasons that respect other sentient beings.
Even the celebrity grizzlies such as “399” of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, would not be spared. Recent petitions from the Governors of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho to the US Fish & Wildlife Service to remove ESA protections for grizzlies and turn management over to the states underscore the continued hostility of state politicians towards bears and the people who care about their survival.
For more information on the problems of state wildlife management, see this essay by David.
Gunning for Grizzlies
Since the early 1990s, state politicians and wildlife managers have pressed for removal of endangered species protections so they can fully control the fate of grizzlies, reduce the size of their populations, and open a trophy hunt designed to give a handful of affluent white men the opportunity to hang a grizzly bear head on their wall. Environmental groups, including Grizzly Times, have fiercely opposed delisting because it would allow many more grizzlies to be killed and reverse the hard-fought progress towards recovery that has occurred during the last 40 plus years.
What the States Should Do
State politicians and the managers who operate at their behest should expand efforts to promote existence between people and grizzly bears, give conservationists and others who do not hunt seats on Commissions, and stop agitating for removal of ESA protections.
What You Can Do
Faced with continued losses of traditional revenue sources as well as their relevancy to the general public, state wildlife agencies face a choice. They can embrace a new paradigm, which includes a more comprehensive mission and a broader constituency, or they can double down on the status quo and worsen the crisis. Unfortunately, in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, the states are pursuing the latter course.
At this juncture, your opportunities to reform policies are limited: if you are not a resident of Wyoming, Idaho or Montana, you will likely be disregarded. And even if you are an in-state resident, commission meetings can be intimidating, especially if you are a woman, don’t hunt, or are a person of color. Odds are, if you fall into any of these categories, you will likewise be dismissed.
This means that the best tactics for those interested in promoting reform of state wildlife management are to:
Become a member of Wildlife for All, a new group demanding reform of state wildlife management. The Wildlife for All website provides lots of information that can help you engage with this complex issues: https://wildlifeforall.us/
Support the courageous regional groups that are doing their best in a really tough climate. They include:
Wolves of the Rockies: https://www.wolvesoftherockies.org/
Wyoming Untrapped: https://wyominguntrapped.org/
Footloose Montana: https://www.footloosemontana.org/
Trapfree Montana Public Lands: https://tfmpl.org/