Quote, August 27 2012 – Long-term management is the long-term goal; short-term emergency measures are just that, short-term

“The goal is to have these animals come back to the right numbers and then they’re off of it. At that point you go from preservation to management.”

– Wildlife expert and spokesman Jack Hanna, on a recent trip to Great Falls, Montana, quoted in the August 14 2012 article “Hanna Emphasizes Commitment to Wildlife” in the Great Falls Tribune. (Article last accessed August 27 2012)

While I didn’t go into Great Falls to see Hanna speak, I did read the article in the local Great Falls Tribune and it was quite a nice article. Jack and his wife Suzi came across as very nice people who still see themselves as regular people, despite their fame. They towed a camper into town and stayed at the local KOA campground.

In the quote above, Hanna is referring to the Endangered Species Act and specifically how it applies to large predators in Montana such as wolves and bears. Here’s a lengthier quote from that same section of the article:

Hanna said the most critical animal conservation issue in Montana today is the future management of species like the wolf and grizzly bear, and the transition between federal and state oversight.

“The Endangered Species Act was created to bring back animals that were nearly gone,” Hanna said. “What people believe is that to preserve these animals they had to stay protected under the Endangered Species Act. But that’s not what’s good to do. The goal is to have these animals come back to the right numbers an[d] then they’re off of it. At that point you go from preservation to management.”

Hanna said that model was especially important for the future of the wolf in Montana.

“Today’s wolf is very different from wolves 20 years ago,” Hanna said. “Twenty years ago you couldn’t get within 10 miles of wolf. Today, they have become more habituated to humans. Right now the wolf has definitely got to be managed, and that would include all the tools at the disposal of wildlife officials.”

There’s a difference in outlook between various types of environmentalists, depending on whether they are preservationist or conservationist. I’m sure I’m missing some subtleties in my next statement, but from my viewpoint one of the biggest differences is whether the concerns of human landowners and land users should be included in whatever solutions are being proposed (this is the conservationist outlook); or whether human landowners and land users are viewed as inherently greedy & uncaring people whose concerns should be ignored or even actively opposed.

At a recent family reunion I had a very nice time talking to a cousin, Melee, who is very environmentally aware and concerned, but who happily describes herself as being more of a conservationist. She agrees with the original decision to reintroduce wolves in to Montana and other nearby states. And now that they have reached and surpassed the original population goal for a stable population, she thinks the population should be managed.

A few years ago at a gathering of friends in Portland, Oregon, someone there insisted on bringing up the topic of wolf reintroductions in the northern Rockies and efforts at that time to get the wolves de-listed and a hunting season established. I made some comments that were quite similar to Hanna’s arguments: the wolf population had surpassed original goals and the original stated “stable population” number, and had surpassed those numbers by quite a bit, so that meant the government was now able to look beyond an immediate “triage” mentality regarding protecting the population, and move into a longer-term population management mentality, and I thought this was really something all environmentalist should be quite happy about, as it meant the goals of reintroduction had been met and exceeded.

I also noted the wolf populations had gotten large enough that they were starting to prey on domestic livestock, and in cases where that happened government agents were tasked with shooting the problem wolves. I said that to me a hunting season made much more sense since it meant that instead of the government paying hunters to take out wolves, and also having to pay restitution for livestock damage, the government instead got paid by hunters who wanted to be able to shoot wolves. So even in strictly economic terms, a carefully monitored hunting season made more sense than paying a government employee a wage and a livestock owner restitution.

One of the people there that night, a woman named Rita, took what seems to be a typical preservationist attitude: “Well, I think the wolves were there first, so if the ranchers and the wolves can’t get along, then I think the ranchers should move and not the wolves.”

And that brings up one of the problems with people who have the landowners-and-land-users-come-last attitude — it never seems to be them or their neighbors or anyone they care about who is going to be forcibly moved out of their houses and businesses so that someone hundreds of miles away can feel righteous about how much they care about wildlife (including large predators) they don’t have to deal with on a day to day basis. It is going to be someone else far away who has to have their life uprooted. For a number of years now, including during the time when Rita made that comment, mountain lions have been expanding their range in Oregon (this has been allegedly traced back to a law that outlawed the use of dogs in hunting mountain lions, but that is a whole other story) and there have been an increasing number of attacks on little kids at tourist areas and hiking areas by mountain lions because children make a smaller easier target and also because the ways little kids move and run supposedly triggers mountain lion’s hunting instincts more than the movement of adult humans do.

So, would Rita have been happy saying that she and all her neighbors and friends should be kicked out of their homes in Portland if they couldn’t get along with mountain lions who like to attack little kids? Very unlikely.

And that gets back Jack Hanna’s comment:

“The goal is to have these animals come back to the right numbers an[d] then they’re off of it. At that point you go from preservation to management.”

Management is the goal.

On a more personal note, that conversation with Rita was the last time I talked to her in person. On succeeding trips to Portland I made no effort to contact her or be anywhere around her.

Her statements — and the entire conversation — took place at a dinner party at which both she & I were guests. I did not challenge her statement at the time as I thought it rude to the rest of the guests there to hijack their entire evening with a political discussion involving Rita, who had quite clearly demonstrated that she did not care how her views and proposed solutions might affect the lives of anyone else.

I am still not sure to this day if that was a right thing to do, or if I should have gotten into an unpleasant discussion with her right then and there anyway, and to heck with how it would have affected the rest of the dinner guests. But I add this note as a cautionary tale to all of those who feel unable to attend a gathering without bringing up very polarizing current events: please be very careful in doing so, as you really don’t know where the conversation will go or what the long term results of that conversation will be.

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