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For the week of March 28 through April 3, 2001

Wolf recovery: a search for consensus

Meeting attracts ranchers, hunters, environmentalists

"You can’t publicly attack someone and think they’ll work with you. We all need to learn to meet each other half way."

Bill LeVere, Sawtooth National Forest supervisor

Express Staff Writer

A conference held in Ketchum last Tuesday was a significant step in getting ranchers and environmentalists to reach an accord on wolf recovery efforts in Idaho, but federal wolf and public lands managers said following the conference there’s still a long way to go.

"We need to separate disagreement and disrespect," Sawtooth National Forest supervisor Bill LeVere summarized near the end of the conference. "You can’t publicly attack someone and think they’ll work with you. We all need to learn to meet each other half way."

U.S. Fish and Wildlife wolf recovery coordinator Carter Niemeyer said in a subsequent interview that LeVere really hit home. Some of what he heard at the conference, he said, was unnecessarily inflammatory.

The conference, which was hosted by the Ketchum environmental group, Boulder White Cloud Council, was well attended by environmentalists and federal agency personnel, as well as several ranchers and hunting advocates.

Steps were discussed that could help alleviate the growing conflicts between ranchers and wolves, the most efficient North American predator. Good communication between federal agencies and the ranching community was one of the steps discussed.

Dennis Lehmann, a Wendell-based sheep rancher, grazes his herds in the White Cloud foothills, and last summer, he blithely herded his bands into a snare of wolves in Fisher Creek.

Before the summer was over, Lehmann lost 15 sheep, another rancher lost nine, and one wolf paid the consequences of its pack’s actions with its life. Two other wolves were relocated.

Problems could have been avoided, Lehmann said, if he’d known the wolves were using Fisher Creek as a rendezvous. He said he would not have herded his sheep so far into wolf territory had he known he was headed for the pack.

"If we’d been advised, we could have avoided some problems there," he said.

Warren Ririe, a range specialist for the Boise and Sawtooth National Forests, said his agency was, in part, responsible for the lack of communication that led to 24 dead sheep in the White Clouds last summer.

"We were in the fault, as an agency," he said. "We can establish a communications network and make sure that it’s there."

All of those at the meeting said they thought such lines of communications could help alleviate future conflicts.

Additionally, Ririe said, the Boise, Sawtooth, and Salmon-Challis National Forests are working on regulations that would require ranchers to keep clean camps and avoid practices that might attract wolves or place livestock near wolf "hot spots."’

The practices would be regulated through issuance of grazing permits, Ririe said.

LeVere indicated that the measures will be implemented on the Sawtooth National Forest this summer. Ririe said it might be another year before implemented in other forests.

"We have a long ways to go, but we’re far ahead of where we were five years ago," he said.


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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.