Many conservationists are furious over a recent proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to drop the grey wolf from the endangered species list.
The move is supported by ranchers and hunters, who want freedom to shoot the large predator.
At least one group of supposed conservationists, however, also supports dropping federal protection for wolves.
They are the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, led by hunter David Allen.
“The recovery has surpassed the agreed upon recovery goals by 500%,” Allen told Business Insider. “It is time to let the states do their job.”
Allen’s controversial stance has alienated some former supporters of the Elk Foundation, who accuse him of turning the conservation group into a pro-hunting lobby. The family of famed wildlife biologist Olaus J. Murie pulled money for its annual Elk Foundation award on account of the organisation’s “all-out war against wolves,” according to the Montana Pioneer.
Allen insists that he really is looking out for the environment.
The reintroduction of wolves is one of the leading causes for the decline of elk herds in the Rocky Mountain region because it gave a top predator a kind of “amnesty,” Allen argues.
“ln 1995, [Yellowstone elk were] the largest herd in North America,” Allen said. “It’s probably not coincidental that after wolves were reintroduced, the elk population fell from 19,000 to 4,000.”
Allen would like to see the wolf population in the Rocky Mountain region shrink: “We do feel like the number could be managed downward and not threaten the population overall,” he said.
When asked by the Pioneer about the natural predator-prey relations, Allen said: “Natural balance is a Walt Disney movie. It isn’t real.”
The former marketer for NASCAR is not what you might think of today as a conservationist. Allen poses for photos in hunter camo, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has a page on its site called “The Hunt,” where users can plan their own elk hunts and get game recipes from the “Carnivore’s Corner.”
But he and his cohort maintain that hunters are the original conservationists. They take inspiration from early American hunters and outdoorsmen like Theodore Roosevelt. Founded by three hunters in Montana in 1984, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has acquired 6.3 million acres of land, all of which it has handed over to the public through government agencies.
The proposal to delist grey wolves across the country and return management to the states comes less than two years after populations in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Utah, which cover the Northern Rocky Mountain region, were stripped of Federal protections.
Environmental activists who oppose taking grey wolves off the endangered species list argue that the population has not been restored to its historical range, which once extended across the much of the contiguous United States.
Considered a threat to livestock, the grey wolf was nearly hunted to extinction in the early to mid-20th century. Canadian-born grey wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s and the population has largely recovered due to conservation efforts.
There is a correlation between the rise of wolf populations and decline in elk, but biologists debate whether the grey wolf is responsible.
Allen admits that there are likely many causes for elk’s gradual demise but is convinced that predation is playing its part.
“The wolf is not 100% responsible,” he said. “But when you combine the wolf with two species of bear, mountain lions, and man’s ever-expanding footprint, you get a kind of a perfect storm.”
Allen maintains that he is not trying to eradicate the wolf from the United States, but he is convinced that management should be left up to the states.
“Nobody in their right mind is saying that we should exterminate wolves,” he said.”But we should leave this to the people who live in these states [with wolf populations]. Ultimately they are the ones who have to live with the circumstances and they have to make it work.”
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