Minimum Becomes Maximum: What happens when states take over Wolf Policy. One of the most contentious controversies over wildlife concerns whether states should dictate policies concerning predators such as wolves and grizzlies. States claim that they can manage the populations better and that they will protect these predators from extinction. The USFWS has essentially bought into this argument albeit with restrictions on the need to maintain a population of these predators at a minimum level. Critics of this Federal minimum emphasis and state takeover claim that these minimum levels are not sufficient to guarantee the long term survival of these populations—over time, inbreeding and other threats could lead to endangerment and possibly extinction. This debate occurred during the Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama Administrations. However, the issue has become sharper with the advent of the Trump Administration in which Zinke and others who had the Department of Interior prioritize hunting above all over activities as well as the move in Congress to alter and weaken (and perhaps eliminate) the Endangered Species Act. The story from the Wall Street Journal by Nate Blakeslee illustrates the looming danger to predators. He says that “The state game department’s goal is to reduce Wyoming’s wolf population from an estimated 269 (not counting the roughly 100 inside Yellowstone, where hunting is never allowed) down to 160, a number just above the bare minimum guaranteed to keep the wolf off the Endangered Species list. Wyoming will, in other words, kill as many of its wolves as it legally can.” In short, the minimum becomes the maximum. The problem is that the minimum number is an artificial number—politically set to satisfy those influential humans who dominate predator policy in states like Wyoming—i.e., hunters who don’t want competition and ranchers, especially Federally-subsidized ranchers who herds graze Federal public lands. The situation is even more serious when you study the voting behavior of the few Democratic senators who hold office in Western states with wolves and grizzlies—they are in favor of delisting and state control because they are frightened of the anti-predator coalition. Polls show that the anti-predator coalition is small in numbers but will the larger public that accepts predators ever exert pressure on both Republicans and Democrats to change western state policies towards them? Check out the article by Blakeslee (who is the author of a forthcoming book on wolves) at: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-plight-of-the-wests-wolves-1507302000
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