Time right to challenge Endangered Species Act, says wolf policy expert
Firebrand Jim Beers, the former federal fish and game worker now known for his anti-wolf, anti-government crusade, delivered a message of hope to a crowd 200 strong at Boise State University Wednesday night.
“The possibility of reform has not been so great since … the 1960s,” Beers said, exhorting those present to mobilize to beat back wolves, and federal intervention, at the event sponsored in part by the Idaho Freedom Foundation. “The environment is right for challenging the E.S.A.” ESA (Endangered Species Act).”
The energy to challenge federal tyranny is at a peak, he said, but added that the forces conspiring to deny state control are well-entrenched – the government is infiltrated with people bent on personal advancement, and money. Beers said the takeover began in the late 1960s, a time of “free love, drugs, and a lot of turbulence.”
“They’ve got their own staff in there,” he said, referring to those who reached high positions by playing along. That gang now “feels a commitment to change the way you live,” Beers said.
Per his reputation, Beers didn’t hold back Wednesday; he heartily ripped into government officials, environmentalists, and the notion that wolves are not a big problem. Part of his mission is to get across “the raw truth of wolves, the havoc they wreak.” Graphic posters set up around the room drove home the point. “Wolves will eat their prey alive; or worse eat a portion of the animal and leave it to suffer,” read one caption to a photo of a disembowed elk. Another photo showed a dog with its head chewed off. “How would you feel if this was your best friend?” the caption read. ”Every summer they’re grabbing kids in the backyard and dragging them back to their dens,” Beers told the crowd.
Beers provided a history of wolves around the world, and in the Americas, including the era of reintroduction in the United States, which started small in northern Minnesota but has since spread. Way back when in northern Europe, wolves, as they do now here, did “just what they do today, killing people, killing dogs, killing sheep …” Beers said places like Africa are “not as evolved” as Europe because Africans have failed to achieve dominion over the beasts native to their land — in contrast to Russia, where helicopter gunships have used wolf packs for target practice.
Beers called for an end to federal control, and a nullification of the Endangered Species Act. His message resonated with many in the crowd, and the half-dozen members of the Idaho Legislature on hand.
Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, said he supports efforts aimed at gaining state control over wolves, and everything else.
“Anything that can allow local control is a possibility,” he said. But, Barbieri said, such efforts do not mean he wants to see a dissolution of the United States, as some Democrats have charged.
“Autonomy does not mean disintegration,” he said.
Boise resident Mike McCollough, 60, got fired up by the talk and vowed to spread the word. “I’m sick of it … losing our rights as citizens,” he said.
Gary Gill, a 67-year-old cattle rancher from Owyhee County, said he hasn’t lost any animals to wolves, but he knows people who have, and he fears the same happening to his herd.
Like Barbieri, Reps. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, and Phil Hart, R-Athol, said they would support formal actions to pry the state from federal clutches. Hart told IdahoReporter.com that he plans to introduce legislation calling for a declaration of support for Gov. Butch Otter, and new laws that would make civil fines possible for those who investigate, arrest, or prosecute someone who kills a wolf in Idaho. A similar bill died in committee last week, amid concerns that the move would hurt wolf-management negotiations.
“I very much appreciate where Gov. Otter has taken us. I’d like to see the Legislature back him up,” Hart said.
Perry, co-owner of a Boise gun shop, said hunting is hurting in the Gem State; the opportunities to take elk are dwindling, she said. Indeed, the population of elk has plunged from 16,000 to 2,000 in the Lolo zone of north Idaho, according to the state Fish and Game Department. The federal government has preliminarily granted the state’s request to hold a hunt for 60 wolves in that area.
Brian Kelly, the United States Fish and Wildlife Idaho supervisor, told a Montana newspaper that “wolves are a factor” in the elk decline. ”They’ve tried more liberal hunting seasons on other predators like black bears and mountain lions. They’ve tried habitat improvements, changes in the hunting framework for elk – and they’re still not seeing a response,” he said.
Perry said Idaho and neighboring states should team up to thwart federal control, to nullify endangered species regulations.
The nullification notion got a boost Wednesday when Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer said that he was ready to order state game officials to kill off entire wolf packs in defiance of federal protections under the Endangered Species Act, according to Rueters.
In a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Schweitzer said he was his duty “to protect their property and to continue to enjoy Montana’s cherished wildlife heritage and traditions.”
Schweitzer said he acted out of an urgent need to assist ranchers and sportsmen left unable to control wolves, according to Rueters.
“If there is a dang wolf in your corral attacking your pregnant cow, shoot that wolf. And if its pals are in the corral, shoot them, too,” Schweitzer said. “I cannot continue to ignore the crying need for workable wolf management while Montana waits, and waits, and waits,” the governor wrote in his letter.
Note: IdahoReporter.com is published by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.