Friday, April 8, 2011

Westerners have become wimps

It doesn't take much prompting to get Westerners to talk about their forebears, to recount how they came to the West, the hardships they surmounted and how they survived and prospered.

The stories always involve homesteading, mining, logging, disease, drought, blizzards, floods, food shortages, insect invasions, cave-ins, explosions, injuries from falling big timber and outlaws.

Westerners are proud of the persistence and bravery of their ancestors. But Westerners today—especially in Idaho—have become weak, whiny and terrified of the Big Bad Wolf.

With lightning speed this week, the Legislature rammed through a bill that calls on the governor to essentially declare open season on wolves.

The debate on the bill was laughable.

Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, said women are going to the mailbox and being held hostage by wolves surrounding them. He said people are living in fear of their children being attacked by wolves at school bus stops.

Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, said residents feel threatened by wolves and Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, said she won't let her grandchildren play outside for fear of them.

Even though it's bunk, supporters didn't let that get in the way. Nor did inconvenient technicalities stop them, like the fact that the wolves are federal property protected by the federal Endangered Species Act and that they live on federal land. Or, that the bill may violate the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government.

The Legislature's disaster emergency declaration calls on the governor to enlist local law enforcement agents to help kill wolves if he decides they are a risk to humans, livestock, outfitting businesses or wildlife—a laundry list that invites broad application by Gov. Butch Otter, who's been outspoken about hating wolves.

The debate on the bill reflected none of the self-reliance Idahoans supposedly prize. It portrayed us "brave" Westerners as a bunch of wimps.

It's true that wolves have attacked livestock and big game in Idaho—just like cougars and coyotes have—but not humans. Wolf attacks on humans are very rare.

The chance that someone will ride on a commercial airliner whose top will peel off or develop a hole is higher today than being attacked by a wolf. Or, the chance that when someone takes a redeye, the sole air traffic controller at his or her destination will be asleep.

Where are the Legislature's emergency declarations on these dangers?

Here's a hint for the kind of Westerners we've become: Don't look under the bed

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