Bruskotter et al (BioScience)A Role for the Social Sciences in ESA Listing Determinations

Family values: Why wolves belong together

Dear Mr. Allen,

I write concerning false and unfounded claims you have made in print about Western Wildlife Conservancy or me personally. I believe that respect for truth is necessary if we are to work successfully together toward resolving issues of mutual concern.
You say that groups such as ours keep moving the “goal line” for what counts as wolf recovery in the northern Rockies. This is not true. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is statutorily charged with making these determinations and must do so on the basis of the best scientific information currently available.
As this knowledge has advanced, the goal line has perforce receded. True wolf recovery throughout the northern Rockies will require healthy core populations of wolves and genetic connectivity among these populations. While this is not a simple matter of wolf numbers, widespread killing of wolves in order to suppress local populations can prevent recovery.
Furthermore, it is not true that Western Wildlife Conservancy is a party to the law suit challenging the current delisting rule; and neither are many similar organizations that support wolf recovery.
You say that the reintroduced gray wolf is “not endangered.” This, again, is not true. Before the gray wolf was reintroduced into central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park it was, in the words of the Endangered Species Act, “in danger of extinction throughout . . . a significant portion of its range,” having been extirpated from the northern Rockies.
Perhaps you do not regard the reintroduced wolves as belonging to the same species as those eradicated, which may be why you insist on referring to them as “Canadian wolves,” but this again is not true. I challenge you to find a single reputable wolf biologist who will agree with this view. In fact, a small number of wolves from Canada had already moved into Montana prior to reintroduction.
You say “It is likely that your groups have reaped large donations from your campaign to keep wolves on the endangered species list.” This is not true of Western Wildlife Conservancy. We have not solicited any donations for working on wolf recovery and protection issues, nor have we received any. Can the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation say the same with respect to its efforts to oppose wolf delisting and to have wolves killed?
You refer to us disparagingly as “animal rights groups” and say that our real objective is to end hunting altogether. This is not so. Western Wildlife Conservancy has never taken a stand in opposition to all hunting. Our view is simply that wildlife should be managed on an ecological model rather than on an agricultural model that services special interests by favoring one or a few species at the expense of others.
You report me as having claimed that wolves are causing an increase in the number of elk. I did not. What I said on the record before the Utah Senate Natural Resources Committee, citing data published by RMEF showing that elk numbers in the northern Rockies had steadily increased between 1990 and 2009, is this: “. . . if you were to base a conclusion on these data alone, you might conclude . . . that the presence of wolves has caused an increase in the elk population.”
The point, of course, is that this type of reasoning is fallacious, as it is when hunters immediately cry wolf because the elk population falls below objective in their favorite hunting unit.
Hopefully foolish things will soon be put aside in favor of truth and reason so that we can begin to work together on behalf of healthy ecosystems and all wildlife.

Sincerely,

Kirk Robinson
Executive Director, Western Wildlife Conservancy