ESCANABA - Anti-conservation groups have assembled to derail sound science in wildlife management in an attempt to once again re-enlist the gray wolf as an endangered species in Michigan.
The Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of Animals and Their Environment (FATE), Born Free USA and Help Our Wolves Live (HOWL), have joined in a request for an injunction against the United States Department of Interior and United States Fish and Wildlife Service for their decision to remove protections of the Endangered Species Act from the gray wolves in the Great Lakes Region.
This is frustrating to state wildlife management agencies as they believe the gray wolf has not only recovered, but exceeded quotas set over 20 years ago. The successful recovery was supposed to be reflected with de-listing this year and the roll out of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wolf Management Plan.
A gray wolf curioiusly checks out it's surroundings at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn., in 2004, just moments after U.S. Secretary of Interior Gale Norton and other officials announced the gray wolf is being removed from the endangered species list for the eastern part of the United States during a press conference at the center. (AP file photo)
In their official position statement: "The DNR has declared success in wolf conservation in Michigan. In a period of just 20 years, the number of wolves in Michigan has increased from one pair to over 520 wolves. This population has far exceeded both state and federal recovery criteria. As of May 4, 2009, state and federal endangered species protections (were) removed for wolves, which will be re-classified as a protected non-game animal. As of May 4, 2009, public acts 2008-PA-0317 and 0318 will go into effect. As of May 4, 2009, when management responsibility for wolves returns to the State, management in Michigan is guided by the Michigan Wolf Management Plan (2008)."
It will take an act of the State Legislature to convert the wolf to a game species at which time population control management can take place.
Now these five entities have joined ranks in trying to convince the courts that the wolf is far from recovered, arguing that the FWS used the Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of Wolves to protect locally (assuming they mean statewide) populations of species that are otherwise abundant.
Any conservationist working with today's eco-system concept of natural resources management would understand that the DPS of wolves, having well exceeded recovered population indexes are looking at a balance of wildlife species that will not only help sustain many other populations of wildlife, but serve to help the future of wolves as well.
A simple example would be to use the food chain wolves need to survive.
If the growing population of wolves is left unchecked or unmanaged as those involved in the lawsuit would desire, the amount of deer, elk and moose in the Great Lakes Region necessary to feed them would be jeopardized. If the wolf population overwhelms the system, they will see stressors including disease and eventual obliteration.
Game harvest (hunting and trapping) is the second best wildlife manager to mother nature. Wildlife managers use their science to sort out problem areas and then, by statute, set game seasons and quotas.
The HSUS et al lawsuit insinuates that if the wolves are delisted, we'd see a return to the days prior to Theodore Roosevelt, where commercial (market) hunting meant the demise of many wildlife species. That remains ancient history and has no bearing on the issues of today.
All five entities contending the de-listing feel that their need for preserving wolves without population dynamics considered, is due to their involvement with the species. Each state that their members "enjoy studying, photographing, and viewing wildlife in their habitat". Furthermore, they all "regularly submit comments to governmental agencies on issues affecting animals, including wolves."
Well then, that makes sense!?!
No it doesn't.
Not one of these groups considered the impact of the wolf as a predator on not only game species, but on agriculture and domestic pets. One even suggested the expansion of agriculture was unfair to the wolves, taking from them their earned domain.
I cannot find where any one of these groups has contributed to habitat concerns either physically or financially to any state agency, or work for the good of eco-system management.
I have viewed financial reports on some of these groups, especially HSUS, who seem to be more in the business of raising money to keep themselves employed and holding a war chest of funds to issue uncontested propaganda to further their cause.
All the money raised to provide suitable habitat and population dynamics of wildlife in Michigan comes from the conservationist hunters and trappers who also offer volunteer manpower for special natural resources projects.
The latest action by HSUS et al, is to me another frivolous ploy on the sympathy of the unsuspecting public. Coupled to this is the legal representation in the lawsuit being provided "pro bono" by the firm of Faegre & Benson.
Tom Morgan, chairman of Faegre & Benson in February confirmed that they "are practicing law in the same challenging economic environment in which our clients are doing business."
Earlier in the month the firm had offered a voluntary separation package to certain non-lawyer staff, and in the coming months, "would be reducing their number of lawyers by 29."
Some might consider their support on the issue, like that of HSUS et al, to be a noble gesture and gain notoriety in the name of wildlife.
To conservationists who've been around the block, it gives the appearance of similar such moves done years ago in Hollywood. Only then it was referred to as a cheap publicity stunt.
The US Sportsmen's Alliance has already teamed with the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association and has asked the Safari Club International Foundation to join the effort to fight the lawsuit.
Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.