REFORM WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT
Wildlife management remains a disgrace in much of the United States, seemingly geared towards rewarding trophy hunters and those with personal wealth. It allows for trapping when it goes against any semblance of “fair chase.” The reality is that state wildlife management has not matured as accredited wildlife biologists have learned more about the science behind nature. The truth is that wildlife is generally self-regulating. In Italy, there are three thousand wolves, but no hunting. Why? Because the wolves themselves regulate the wolf population.
In addition, because of the Pittman-Robertson Act, a surcharge on guns and bullets remains the main income stream for state agencies. So there is no stopping the killing of predator species.
Yet, this type of quasi-management ignores that wildlife feels pain and grieves the loss of their pack or family members. The slaughter of wolves in Montana is a case in point; not only is the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks the agency charged with their management denying sound science, but they are allowing the pressure from livestock groups and the Montana legislature to dictate policy. Their means of counting wolves have proven flawed; they continue an 18th-century mentality by allowing for bounties on wolves. They have allowed many of Yellowstone’s iconic wolves to be killed by so-called hunters who use bait and calling devices to draw wolves from the park.
Beavers are being slaughtered without limit, despite their critical role in battling climate change. Many endangered species are “accidentally” killed in traps, and now grizzly bears and their cubs are at serious risk.
How we can make fundamental changes:
First, we must begin rebuilding these agencies from the ground up. They are outdated and need to instill a conservation ethic, not driven to kill more and more species without solid science.
These agencies all have commissions that are appointed in Montana by the Governor. These jobs are generally perks for contributions to the campaign and may reflect an ideological bend that the person in power has presented.
What needs to occur is that these commission appointments are not related to the interests of livestock or politics but should instead be biologists and conservationists that will work to support wildlife and our lands.
Hunters and conservationists should be on level footing. The Montana government’s catering to trophy hunting interests must stop. It is wildlife that must be the focus.
We cannot continue to slaughter predator species. They must be protected as they are vital to the health of our lands, waters, and wildlife.
Funding for the agencies should come from the state general fund, not through a Pittman-Robinson or other sources that favor one group or another. Missouri has adopted this approach, and it has been a good start.
The legislature should never be able to influence Fish, Wildlife, and Parks; their efforts reflect a goal of privatizing wildlife and eliminating wolves and grizzlies.
Wildlife needs far less management; it is self-regulating.
It is people that need management.
We must continue to fight for justice for wildlife while working to expand the protection of lands they need to survive.