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For the week of June 21 through June 27, 2000

Idaho wolf recovery leader Roy Heberger retires on July 3. Express photo by Ron Soble

Idaho wolf recovery leader to retire


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

Idaho’s wolf recovery program is about to lose its leader.

Roy Heberger. Express photo by Ron SobleU.S. Fish and Wildlife official Roy Heberger will retire on July 3, after five years at the controversial program’s helm.

"I’m going to miss it," Heberger, 55, said in a Monday telephone interview. "I really like what I’m doing, but I’m not leaving anything. I’m going to something. I just know that I’ll do it on my terms now."

A replacement has not yet been hired.

Heberger has made a living in natural resources management, and he said he will probably end up working during his retirement as a natural resources activist.

"I see more finger pointing going on than solution finding. I see it at every level," he said.

Helping to facilitate resolution on controversial natural resources issues will be a retirement goal, Heberger said.

On the state’s wolf program and where he’s leaving it, Heberger said "there’s a long way to go yet."

"The social differences [in Idaho] are so engrained. It’s just going to be a social clash," he said. "But before you ever get to a solution, you have to experience the best and the worst of the democratic process. It’s always good to try to understand the other person’s viewpoint."

One of Heberger’s most difficult moments was his recent decision to eradicate the White Cloud wolf pack near the East Fork of the Salmon River.

The pack had been preying on cattle. Heberger’s final decision came after discussions with federal and state officials and individuals involved in the wolf recovery program.

As for his successor, Heberger said the individual will have to deal with the everyday "bumps in the road" while keeping an eye on the wolf recovery goals.

"It’s a day-to-day management thing," he said. "On any given day of the week, your whole day can change with the first phone call. To me that’s fascinating.

"The whole program is just problem solving. It’s finding solutions and getting through the bumps in the road, and there are going to be a lot more bumps in the road before we get to wolf recovery."

Heberger, a self-declared people person, said dealing with the people of Idaho has been one of the most pleasurable aspects of his job over the past five years.

But the people also help manifest the more stressful aspects, too, he said.

"Human beings, on balance, are pretty good folks," he said. "If that’s been the down side, it’s not all that bad."

And the people of Idaho—the best and the worst of Heberger’s day-to-day job activities—are also going to pose the best and worst for Idaho’s wolves, he said.

"I don’t see wolf recovery as a biological challenge at all," he said. "As long as people tolerate the wolves we’re going to make it. What’s going to be the real challenge are the social capacities. Wolves are going to be limited by human tolerance, not by habitat or food."

 

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