by Stephen Capra, Executive Director, Bold Visions Conservation
This past week, I drove to Boise, first to meet with legislators and also to be at the Fish and Game meeting. Our organization is dedicated to working both in Montana and Idaho. The trip over was foggy and rain-filled, and in reality, that is how it felt once I arrived.
The legislature is housed in a state capital that was renovated several years ago; faux Italian marble is the look. Everything is new, and the rooms for various hearings are new and well-appointed. In contrast to Montana, the legislators do not compete for the best American flag tie or wear polyester. They are well dressed, and decorum is more enforced.
Yet the capital is mostly empty, with very few lobbyists, which is weird and strangely quiet. In the meeting with the very few Democrats that exist, there is an empty stare and a need to work across the aisle on some of the worst legislation in the nation.
What we witnessed was a well-oiled machine that was working on sometimes radical legislation, one that demands control over wildlife, and much as the Montana Governor and legislature do, they actively work to control their Fish and Wildlife agency.
The Governor, Brad Little, married into a very prominent sheep ranching family, thus the zealousness to kill wolves and other predators. He appointed a group of Game Commissioners that made clear to me that wildlife MUST be managed and intensely so. The first night, there was a chance to comment, where we made clear wolves were being tortured in their state, which allows a 12-month hunting and 7-month trapping season. While they were welcoming, it was clear they knew who they worked for and were all too happy to smile and ignore what was being said. Many spoke about wolves and asked for sanity, but others promoted trapping and basically thanked the commission. One man was concerned that their 6 and 7-year-old boys could not pull a bow to kill deer, and he asked that they consider allowing air guns to kill deer so his boys could kill.
After the public hearing, we spoke with several commissioners, and they made clear that wolves were fine. I told them their counting of wolves was flawed and that no pack could thrive in such circumstances. They again spoke of management; when I mentioned wolves were self-regulating, they scoffed.
The next morning, the formal meeting started where the commission extended the trapping season for otter, mink, muskrat, and beaver. They then go into the Tri-state management plan for grizzlies. After a lengthy presentation that spoke glowingly of the use of Ipom to count bears, which we know is flawed, they went on to talk about how there are way too many grizzlies and that the sweet spot of the states of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana and that delisting was coming soon. Then, there would be hunting of both male and female grizzlies.
After that, they voted 7-0 to adopt the plan with no comment allowed. When we approached a commissioner later, we asked how they could allow such a great animal to be killed; he said it’s important to manage wildlife. All of this occurred in a new Fish and Wildlife building, like the capitol, was well appointed, but the results for wildlife are even worse.
Over the past few legislative sessions in Montana, we have made real progress and are moving on the offense. In Idaho, the groups there have made strides but are not as forceful as many think are needed. There is no question we need to fight in Idaho, and we must stop this insane slaughter. We asked a commissioner: tell me one other animal you torture or, as you say, manage this way? He just gave me a blank stare.
What is occurring in Idaho is wildlife torture, plain and simple, and they do this with a smile and a backslap in a pristine environment. Bold Visions plans to be there to fight for wolves and grizzlies and any creature that is so abused by this level of ignorance and evil. This legislature and commission must be stopped. It will not be easy, but we will fight for justice for all wildlife in that state.
Let your voice be heard!