Tuesday, April 14, 2015

#Wolf opponents focus on human impact of predators

Matthew Weaver
Capital Press
Matthew Weaver/Capital Press Steve Alder, executive director of Idaho for Wildlife, talks with Kettle Falls, Wash., resident Susan Fleischman during the Washington Residents Against Wolves rally April 11 in Spokane.
The Spokane nonprofit group Washington Residents Against Wolves says "unconventional" methods to inform the public about the impacts wolves can have on ranchers and ungulate populations.

SPOKANE — A group of wolf opponents says it will use “proactive and unconventional outreach” on social media to inform Washington state residents about the impact wolves have on ranchers. “It’s not about money, it’s not about having the right politician in your pocket, it’s about being smarter about how you play the game,” spokeswoman Jamie Henneman said April 11 during a Washington Residents Against Wolves rally in Spokane.

The controversial billboards the group paid for in Spokane in November and December were a first step, Henneman said. “That’s really how this battle is being fought — it would be nice if it was completely logical, but it isn’t,” she said. “What’s not being told is the story about people being affected every single day, and how that should make us feel.”

Henneman said people are “highly motivated” and connected through social media. WARAW will make use of those tools on its website and Facebook page, she said. Roughly 30 people attended the rally. Board member Luke Hedquist said the group has 60 to 70 members. WARAW’s rally included Idaho and Oregon speakers sharing their own experiences with increasing wolf numbers.

Steve Alder, executive director of Idaho for Wildlife, said it would require killing 70 to 80 percent of that state’s wolf population each year to rebuild declining elk populations. “Maintaining pre-wolf ungulate harvests in a post-wolf landscape is a fantasy and is incompatible with so-called ecosystem management,” Alder said.

Speakers from Oregon Wolf Education in Joseph, Ore., talked about their frustrations in getting state wildlife officials to confirm wolf depredations on livestock. “They have certain criteria they need — they need tracks, bite marks, evidence of the herd being attacked, telemetry,” rancher Lori Schaafsma said. “If one of those components isn’t there, they can’t (confirm). That’s political, where we have other agency personnel on the ground saying, ‘We know what happened here, but we can’t confirm it because A,B,C, isn’t here.’ That’s all politics.”

It’s easy for wolf supporters to dismiss data points or statistics, Henneman said. “You can make an economic argument, you can make a political argument, but in the end, this issue is a human argument,” Henneman said. “When you watch (Oregon or Eastern Washington ranchers’) life’s work being destroyed by this animal, if that doesn’t make you feel strongly, then you are not plugged in.”