MISSOULA, Mont.—With their latest petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, animal rights activists are preparing to sue for federally mandated release of wolves in every state, warn officials with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
David Allen, RMEF president and CEO, says animal rights groups have learned that introducing wolves translates to major fundraising, and activists have found a way to exploit the Endangered Species Act—as well as taxpayer-funded programs that cover lawyer fees—to push their agenda and build revenue through the courts.
“There are now about 100,000 gray wolves in the U.S. and Canada, and over the past few years in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, activists discovered that every wolf is also a cash cow,” said Allen. “If we don’t get some reform in federal laws very soon, we’re all going to be living in Jurassic Park. This is not about saving a lost species. It’s about money and special interest agendas.”
“Americans need to wake up,” he added, “because when you respond to those fundraising letters with photos of cute little wolf pups, you’re writing a check that our country’s rural and traditional lifestyles can’t cash. You’re eroding the fundamentals of America’s model for wildlife conservation.”
Allen said undermanaged wolf populations in the northern Rockies are compromising the health of other wildlife species—especially elk and other prey. In areas of Montana and Idaho where wolves share habitat with elk, calf survival rates now are too low to sustain herds for the future.
“How do animal rights groups who claim to defend wildlife justify elk calf survival rates below 10 percent? Clearly they have another agenda,” said Allen.
Participation in hunting and the funding it generates for conservation also are being negatively affected, as are local economies, livestock production and potentially even human safety.
Continuous lawsuits by activists have setback wolf control and management efforts, compounding problems and costs for states.
“Now imagine bringing these kinds of impacts to more populated states elsewhere in the U.S., and I think we’re looking at an unprecedented wildlife management disaster,” said Allen.
RMEF has helped to successfully restore elk populations in Kentucky, Tennessee, Wisconsin and other states where habitat is suitable and citizens support the effort. Elk restoration is being considered currently in Virginia and Missouri using these same criteria.
“There are two proven ways to restore a species,” said Allen. “Our way is offering to help with funding and expertise so long as the local public wants the species and the state can manage them. The other way is using lawsuits and loopholes to shove a project down people’s throats.”
Animal rights groups filed a petition July 20 complaining that wolves now inhabit just 5 percent of their former range in the U.S., and that wolf populations should be recovered in all significant portions of that range. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) responded by saying that it is reviewing “what is realistic and where the suitable habitat would be.” The agency’s review could be complete by late 2010 or early 2011.
“We urge USFWS to be very cautious in this evaluation and reject the rhetoric of the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Earth Justice, Humane Society of the U.S. and other animal rights groups. Wolf re-introduction in the greater Yellowstone region was a classic example of ‘let’s get our foot in the door and then move the goal line,’ and should be warning enough. This is a fundraising strategy with anti-hunting, anti-ranching, anti-gun impacts, and the public needs to understand and see it for it is,” added Allen.