Beyond Wolves: The Politics of Wolf Recovery and Management

Beyond Wolves: The Politics of Wolf Recovery and Management

Beyond Wolves: The Politics of Wolf Recovery and Management

Beyond Wolves: The Politics of Wolf Recovery and Management

Synopsis

Since 1995, when the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service released Canadian gray wolves into Yellowstone National Park as part of its wolf recovery program, reintroduction has been widely challenged in public forums and sensationalized in the media. This conflict has pitted western ranchers and property rights activists against environmental groups, highlighting starkly contrasting political perceptives. In this informed account, Martin A. Nie examines not only the future of wolf recovery but also the issues that will define debates around the politics of wildlife management, animal rights issues, and other flash points. The result is a revelatory look at the way the democratic process works when the subject is an environmental hot-button issue. Examining the wolf recovery program from a policy-making perspective, Nie looks at programs in Alaska, the Lake Superior region, the Northern Rockies, the Southwest, and New England and upstate New York. He analyzes the social, political, and cultural backdrop in the areas in which wolves have been reintroduced and explores such contentious issues as the role of science in public policy; the struggle between wilderness protection, resource management, and private property; and the use of stakeholders in environmental conflicts. For Nie, the debate over wolf recovery is above all a value-based political conflict that should take place in a more inclusive, participatory, and representative democratic arena. Wolves, Nie writes, are an important indicator species both biologically and politically, and in Beyond Wolves, he tells an important story of wolves and people, place and politics, that resonates far beyond the fate of America's most misunderstoodinhabitants.

Excerpt

Those who have followed the story of wolf recovery and management in recent years surely recognize that it goes well beyond wolves. Take one public comment hearing held in Duluth, Minnesota, for example. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) invited public comment specifically targeted to its proposed plan to downlist and delist the wolf from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) list in parts of the country. Opening the microphones to a crowded room, three serious FWS officials sat for two and a half hours “soliciting public comment.” Of course, the comments went well beyond wolves, and they usually had nothing to do with the FWS’s proposed plan. The crowd heard stories of federal government conspiracy and urban out-of-touch “wolf lovers,” and both praise and vilification of the ESA. Farmers and ranchers proposed “getting wolves out of farm country.” An equal number of citizens proposed “getting farms out of wild country.” According to one outraged farmer, we ought to reintroduce rats to the homes of wolf lovers and then restrict them from protecting their children from attack. Another speaker informed the crowd in no uncertain terms that he really did not care about the cows, sheep, or turkeys at risk: “No one’s self-interest is paramount over the survival of a species.” As the logic goes, you don’t care about my future, why should I care about yours?

There were also moments of courage, often words spoken by people with complex feelings and a desire to “just move on.” A Chippewa farmer informed the crowd that she would cry if the wolf was again unfairly persecuted, but her family and its livestock also suffered greatly because . . .

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