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For the week of May 24 through May 30, 2000

Federal official, conservationist clash on wolf recovery

Nez Perce leader brings Native American perspective to wolf debate


Roy Heberger and Jaime PinkhamRoy Heberger of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, left, and Jaime Pinkham of the Nez Perce tribe, talk about wolf recovery at the Wild Idaho! forum held at Redfish Lake over the weekend. Express photo by Kevin Wiser. Federal official, conservationist clash on wolf recover issue


"It’s not that wolves are good or bad, they just are."

Roy Heberger, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Idaho wolf recovery leader.


By KEVIN WISER
Express Staff Writer

REDFISH LAKE—As the controversy surrounding wolf reintroduction heats up in central Idaho, both sides are drawing battle lines with no compromise in sight.

Ranchers want more control actions to be carried out by the Fish and Wildlife Service while conservationists demand a moratorium on the killing of wolves.

Amid the territory of the Stanley wolf pack, along the shores of Redfish Lake, wolf recovery officials spoke at the Wild Idaho! 2000 forum Saturday before a conservation-minded crowd upset about recent lethal control actions taken against the neighboring Twin Peaks and White Cloud wolf packs.

In the hot seat Saturday afternoon were the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Idaho wolf recovery leader, Roy Heberger, and Nez Perce tribe spokesman Jaime Pinkham.

"For a lot of people, wolves are not predators, they’re a symbol of their value system," Heberger said. "Others see them as ravaging monsters.

"I see them as a predator just as the mountain lion or grizzly bear—-an endangered species that needs to be recovered. It’s not that wolves are good or bad, they just are."

Since the beginning of this year, Heberger has authorized the killing of four Twin Peak and five White Cloud wolf pack members following livestock depredations on ranches in the East Fork of the Salmon River.

His decisions were sharply attacked by a widely known environmentalist during an afternoon forum attended by more than 100 people on the shore of Redfish Lake.

"I stand here and I’m outraged at what Roy has done," declared Lynne Stone, executive director of the Boulder-White Clouds Council, a conservation group that supports the reintroduction of wolves into central Idaho.

"Lynne, you jumped to the bottom line," Heberger said. "It might be good if you understood the process."

Heberger referred to the wolf management plan and guidelines for control of problem packs that prey on livestock.

When a depredation is confirmed, Fish and Wildlife first attempts to relocate the wolf, Heberger said, noting that there have been incidences where relocated wolves have returned to their original territories to kill again.

He said he was pushing to give ranchers the use of non-lethal control (rubber buckshot) to deal with problem wolves at any time. Currently, ranchers can shoot wolves only when they are attacking livestock.

"If I had this tool, I probably wouldn’t have had to go to lethal control in the Twin Peaks and White Cloud packs," Heberger said.

"We don’t think we have problem wolves," Stone retorted. "We have problem ranchers and a problem managing agency."

The crowd howled like wolves.

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When asked how he viewed the wolf, Pinkham said the wolf is a central figure in Nez Perce legend and lore and a source of spiritual strength for the tribe.

The Nez Perce Nation has been designated by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service as a partner in the recovery plan.

In an interview following the forum, Pinkham, a member of the Nez Perce Tribal Council, said the tribe is trying to ensure that recovery goals are met while being sensitive to the concerns of ranchers.

"Our long term concern is that if we rely more and more on lethal control, does that put our recovery goal in jeopardy?" Pinkham asked.

Pinkham said that from the tribe’s perspective, the wolf management plan looks more like a control plan.

"We need to come up with ideas that are yet to be born on how to reduce the conflicts between wolves and livestock," he said.

"We’ve made some grave mistakes in our pioneering spirit," Pinkham said. "Unfortunately we tried to play God in the removal and decimation of the wolf…. I think we have a moral obligation to make things right, to try to restore things back to their balance."

 

See environmentalist Lynne Stone’s guest editorial on Page A9.

 

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