Trust faces a new challenge
Advocacy is often based on promoting the values that are seldom addressed in the structure, politics and administration of state wildlife management today. Objectives are built on the need for management practices that better represent a broader constituency. State agencies have long enjoyed the luxury of unilateral funding and the subsequent primary self identification as facilitators of hunting.
The story accompanying this tells the tale of an almost unbelievable error on the part of an agency that had recently come under scrutiny for requesting extensive helicopter access into a wilderness area. Several large groups filed objections to the Forest Service when the access was first applied for. The groups not only objected to motorized travel in wilderness but were also suspicious of the intentions of IGFD with regards to wolves. The Forest Service did not give permission for wolf research.
Obviously a very serious mistake was made. You can see this from the string of articles cataloguing the initial objections, the consequent litigation and then the admission by IGFD of mistakenly collaring wolves during an elk collaring exercise.
There is no doubt that we ALL make mistakes, but what is most troublesome about this story is whether IDFG deliberately ignored the limited permission they had been granted to collar elk. There is no doubt that there is passionate anti-wolf sentiment in Idaho which places IDFG in the unenviable position of being attacked from all sides. There is never a good reason to engineer deception and disrespect for any constituents, whether a Federal Agency, an environmental advocacy organization or the employees who were not adequately briefed about the scope of their responsibilities.
It seems from following the thread of the tale that IDFG were, in fact, the first to admit to the error, which the Forest Service is then mandated to investigate. At a time when IDFG and the Forest Service are being challenged and closely scrutinized it would be mind-bogglingly arrogant for an agency to make a deliberate miscalculation of this magnitude.
We actually want to trust those who have been given the authority to be decision makers over our wildlife and our wild lands. We want to build relationships where we are recognized as participants and not antagonists. We want to be able to contribute to funding and become part of a binary system of wildlife administration.
Just as large carnivores are often keystone species, so trust is the keystone of integrity and respect. Incidents like this are not just embarrassing, they are much more serious than that. They open the door to doubt and suspicion. Grizzly bear management will probably soon be transferred to Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, just as wolf management was several years ago. Many eyes will be upon these three states, so firmly rooted in the heritage of recreational killing of large carnivores and omnivores.
There has never been a time when trust is more important or more easily fragmented than now.
The articles whose titles are featured in this post can be found here:
USFS Officials Scrutinize Suspicious Wolf Collaring
Mistake Made During Idaho Fish and Game’s Elk-Collaring Project in Wilderness
Groups Sue to Stop Helicopter Landings in Idaho Wilderness