Wednesday, January 23, 2008

?Hostiles? speak out about BLM travel plan

John DeLorenzo is a lifelong hunter who also enjoys downhill skiing and cross-country skiing. He lives in Bellevue.


I am writing in response to several inaccuracies in a Jan. 11 article regarding the BLM Recreation and Travel Plan meeting entitled, "Motorized Users Express Outrage." Some of my friend's paraphrased comments (Bill Ward) were attributed to me, but more importantly in my opinion this article inaccurately characterized many speakers as hostile and disrespectful of Fish & Game. Since my name was prominently used in the article, I feel some clarification is in order.

First of all, it said "many of these speakers said the only impact on wintering deer and elk is the area's growing gray wolf population. They claimed snowmobiles do not harm deer or elk in any way." To my recollection, no one said that wolves were the only impact on wintering game nor that snowmobiles never harm big game in any way. Such a statement would be silly. But, let's take note that Fish & Game representatives at the meeting said they did not have any reports of such incidences (snowmobile impacts) in this area and the Ketchum Forest Service representative stated that big game hardly pay attention to passing vehicles and snowmobiles compared to people walking with dogs.

Concerning wolves, I can only say that although there is evidence wolves are impacting deer and elk negatively they are obviously not the only impact. Calf elk are being killed by wolves in Yellowstone (out of 100 cow elk less than 20 calves survive wolf predation) and additionally a recent study by wildlife biologists proved that many cow elk are not able to carry pregnancies to full term due to harassment by wolves. In addition to wolves preying on and stressing animals at their most vulnerable times in winter, it is clear that loss of key winter habitat also has a huge impact on their survival. I commend Fish & Game for opposing the Cove Ranch development, an area of critical winter range for many species. Quigley Canyon is just as important of a critical wintering area for wildlife and careful consideration is needed before development in this area as well. The trophy homes and golf course proposed there are going to disrupt one of these animal's last refuges and should be opposed.

I do want to commend the commissioners, the BLM and Fish & Game for listening to public comments and greatly changing the overall play from virtually closing everything to all human access to only closing specific areas when conditions warrant. The article said I was apparently questioning the validity of Fish & Game science. My point was that in the past some areas have been closed for nebulous reasons in areas where no game was present (Queen's Crown example was cited at the meeting). I have and will continue to actively support Fish & Game criteria for closing specific areas when conditions reach the thresholds they have set and that were finally made public at the second meeting.

The article calls me a "motorized recreationist." While I am not opposed to those who ride snowmobiles in the mountains just for fun, my purpose is to use it as a tool to access the backcountry where I have enjoyed the wild lands, wildlife and hunting mountain lions and other game for 10 years. Once out, we leave the snowmobiles far behind and spend the day on snowshoes. In this last 10 years, I have harvested only one lion (with bow and arrow) and have been able to take photos of many magnificent lions. Let's note that the fact that these animals are hunted keeps them respectful of humans and less likely to come into town or eat a jogger, hiker or bikers, as is happening in California, where hunting has been restricted. That there are careless, reckless snowmobilers is not a question just as there are careless skiers, drivers or CEOs.

But, for my own part, I am very concerned about the survival of deer, elk and other species. As a hunter and backwoodsman that most of the Fish & Game officers know by name and see at meetings taking part in the setting of hunting quotas, opposing over-harvest, volunteering my time radio-collaring elk for study, opposing development in critical areas, supporting conservation groups, etc., I am very involved in the preservation of our wildlife, like many of my friends.

I spend weeks alone in the mountains, sometimes my only camp a parka and a big tree. I hunt mostly with a bow and live off the venison in my freezer. My point is that I take offense at the comments in the "Our View" editorial that appears to label myself and others as part of "less civic, unthinking outdoors groups unskilled in the ways of nature" with a "need for speed." (Heck, my snowmobile can literally only get up to 25 miles per hour downhill if the wind is with me.) Don't self-righteously tell me that you are concerned about protecting wildlife from a few snowmobilers when hardly anyone lifts a voice to protest huge new developments with trophy homes and golf courses smack dab in the middle of some of the last sanctuaries for wildlife such as Quigley Canyon.

Lastly, I do agree, as stated in your editorial, that "this is a time to work together for what's good for wildlife."

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