On Monday, according to Idaho Reporter, Gov. Butch Otter will be in Denver to talk wolves with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the Governors of Wyoming and Montana. A legal morass and election-year political grandstanding have made a mess of wolf management in the northern Rockies, and it certainly needs some high-level discussion.
It isn’t clear what Secretary Salazar will be bringing to the table Monday, but the meeting gives Gov. Otter the best opportunity to reverse his pre-election decision to no longer manage wolves in Idaho. Otter’s nonsensical decision, issued in the heat of his re-election campaign, is almost certain to be reversed. But the question is what political cover will Salazar provide to Otter in order to do so sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, the stalemate is probably doing everyone an ecological favor. Without a public hunt this year, the wolf population has an opportunity to create the interconnectedness and genetic diversity to more firmly establish the species’ recovery once and for all. Meanwhile, in the Idaho panhandle at least, the elk hunting is actually improved. Wolves have evidently driven a healthy elk herd from the upper St. Joe to the closer-in Coeur d’Alene forests, where more hunters are being more successful in hunting more elk.
We’re hoping that some semblance of sanity will reign on Monday. It is past time to settle the issue. Otherwise, long-running lawsuits, long-shot legislation, and ridiculously overheated rhetoric will continue to be the northern Rockies substitute for reasonable wolf management.
(Also worth reading: George Wuerthner on livestock predation. Can ranchers really expect a predator-free landscape?)
UPDATE 11/29: Here is the Spokesman-Review’s AP report on how the meeting went. Nothing resolved, they “discussed a path forward,” but it seems Wyoming may still be a problem.