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Controlling the Livestock Industry Before Wolves Perish

Lately, our focus has been on the wolf situation in Colorado. We are not forgetting Idaho or Montana. But what is occurring continues to show the power of the Livestock industry moving on a path towards making public lands private and using wolves and other wildlife as pawns in their profitable relationship with trophy hunting interests.


We have seen this move forward in Montana under Greg Gianforte's radical agenda, large blocks of land by billionaires like the brothers who made their fortune in fracking: the Wilks Family. In Montana, they own more than 358,837 acres of land and profit from hunting those lands; in Idaho, they own more than 300 square miles of property. People like this are waiting to buy public lands and support trappers and trophy-hunting interests. They are no friend of wolves.


These are indications that make what is occurring in Colorado so avoidable. Historically, in Colorado, only one person nominated by the Governor to be on the Game Commission has ever been turned down; this past week, western slope Democrats and all Republicans turned down two in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. The two were Jessica Beaulieu and Gary Skiba. Beaulieu manages the University of Denver's Animal Law program, which aims to "protect the interests and well-being of non-human animals. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation worked hard to prevent these appointments as the group is radically anti-wolf. The irony is that ranchers and these groups felt the nominees did not support the outdated North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and supported animal rights. Imagine the irony, given that the Game commissions of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming are controlled mainly by ranching interests and trophy hunters, with no interest other than killing wildlife. Governor Polis was working to create more balance on the commission.

This was after the nominees groveled themselves to ranching interests and made it clear they supported a hunting season on wolves, and still, that was not enough. Their future will hang in the full legislature, but a no-vote now does not bode well.


The media and legislature in Colorado are being swayed by the same old, tired rhetoric of ranchers, and they are controlling the messaging. The conservation community, as usual, was pushing hard to get wolves on the ground, but again, they were making a critical error. The endless push to work with livestock interests is a failed mission. It has failed throughout our history, especially in these new times. Ranchers have a long history of killing predators without logic and science. Many ranchers on the western slope had grandparents who wiped out wolves 80 years ago and take it personally that wolves are returning to their range.


Yet groups with large mailing lists, like the Sierra Club, continue to dodge the issue. They are setting the stage for Colorado to follow its northern states and slaughter wolves to appease ranchers. Here at Bold Visions Conservation, we have pleaded with the Sierra Club, lobbied the legislature, and are working with representatives to introduce a sane bill of co-existence and non-lethal controls to stop such a slaughter.

What we want to make clear is that we must fight. Not for the sake of fighting but to harness the energy and drive that resulted in so many victories in the life of the conservation movement. We must fight because we are the frontline of defense of all wild creatures. Our goal at Bold Visions Conservation is not to be liked by our opposition but to make clear we are in this to win. Winning is what the earth needs now; it is what all wildlife is begging for, and we face an opposition that is filled with arrogance, contempt, and a desire to kill for fun or to destroy all that is wild.


The conservation community’s emotional withdrawal from all that is wild comes at a cost; it zaps the emotional fire from fighting for all you love and instead substitutes it with logic, compromise, and mixed messaging. It shows the weakness that has become part of a narrative of endless political correctness and resignation.


Wolves are charismatic animals, their story compelling and uplifting. To lose battles on behalf of this animal is a disgrace. It comes, as it did from the start, by trying to compromise instead of winning and moving forward. If we do not start fighting, we will soon see the reality of our nebulas march, loss of wilderness, public lands, and wildlife.

Many larger groups have opposed introducing such legislation at this point. That is their right; they feared the commission appointees might not get through confirmation, yet even without the bill, the appointments have failed.


What must change with our movement concerning wolves is we must work together instead of in separate packs, no pun intended. We must rally around one message, not fifteen. Every group profits off the backs of wolves, but the lack of fight and real media investment to push back on livestock interests and the trophy hunting industry is dooming wolves' ability to thrive, and we must bear responsibility.


Wolves deserve far better. Trying to work with livestock interests does not work on a large scale. It may be with wealthy ranchers near Sun Valley, Bozeman, Burn, or other idyllic locations. But ranchers in far more rural locations do not share such interests as predator killing, trapping, etc., as part of their daily routine. However, they can be incentivized to use tools to cut down on livestock depredation incidents.


Democrats on the western slope are not getting the pushback they need to keep voting to destroy wolves. Even representatives in liberal Boulder are on the fence, they should be pounded with calls and emails on this issue.


Let's pull back the curtain on the wolf issue, let's start fighting, and stop trying to pretend that we can all work with ranchers. We could wear a cowboy hat and buck hay. Such actions are degrading and are received by ranchers as bogus. Our work on wilderness and National Monuments made that very clear.

Ranchers are not helping public lands; they are enjoying tremendous subsidies paid by taxpayers. Many despise the very government that gives to them so generously. Riparian areas and landscapes in places like New Mexico are being destroyed by such grazing.


It's not about putting them out of business but beginning to push back if we are going to allow wolves to thrive. If ranchers are enjoying such largess from the federal government, and in Colorado, they will be paid $15,000 for a cow killed by a wolf, a ridiculous sum; why are they allowed to kill predators, period? They should be banned from such activities as part of their grazing lease. With the co-existence offers that ranchers can receive for free, why do they continue to push to kill? My belief is that up until now, the conservation community's response has been weak. Our goal at Bold Visions aims to change that.


What continues to happen in Idaho and Montana is a disgrace; ranchers, hunters, and rural misinformation are clouding recovery, wolves are being tortured, and family packs are being destroyed. How, then, can we not fight like hell for wolves in Colorado, a state with a liberal governor and a legislature that is 65% Democratic-controlled? If we cannot here, then we are libel in the wolves' suffering.


We at Bold Visions Conservation refuse to play by such standards; like us or not, we want to work with other groups and support the long-term reintroduction of wolves that do not turn into hunting seasons. Wolves are self-regulating. Not for the sake of fighting but because history is full of mistakes made due to collaboration.


Colorado voters clearly voted for wolves to return to the land; we must work hard for these beautiful and dynamic creatures. They define the wildness that must never leave our public lands, and we cannot allow our public lands to be sold to the highest bidder. That requires our focus and our fight.


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