Montana culture at stake with wolves

An editorial comment by
Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association

Imagine if we in Montana had the political muscle to ban coffee, the Mariners and cars throughout western Washington, enforcing with the power of the federal government.  The people of Washington would be plenty upset that outsiders had the gall and power to forcibly revise the local culture and economy.

In Montana, we feel exactly that way about the imposition of wolves, which are very destructive of our culture and our ranching and hunting economy.  Our culture and heritage of hunting game animals is so important here that it is enshrined in our Montana Constitution.  Raising livestock is not a hobby here, not done only to provide a movie set for tourists, but a way of life for many of us.

For a century, hunters in Montana have fostered huntable populations of deer, elk, moose, wild sheep and goats.  It is only hunters who have paid millions of dollars and volunteered millions of hours to cultivate our game herds.  We think of these herds as a savings account for our children and grandchildren, that we may pass on the traditions of our culture and our heritage to them.

Without so much as an apology, much less an invitation, outsiders have brought wolves to Montana with the clear intent to feed wolves with our carefully nurtured game herds – our savings account for our grandchildren.

Wolves are decimating our game herds.  A 30-year game warden with a career invested in the area just north of Yellowstone Park told a legislative committee in Montana that wolves are pouring out of the Park “like locusts” and turning the country they invade into a “biological desert.”  When wolves have consumed the game, they won’t feed on grass and bark, they will disperse and turn on the livestock that supports Montana’s ranching families and communities.

What of the rationale’ that wolves were here once, so they should be here again?  Hey, Grizzly Bears are also on the endangered species list.  The most notorious Grizzly habitat in the U.S. is the Los Angeles basin.  The first colonies of non-Indians established there starved out because Grizzlies killed the colonies’ livestock.  Because Grizzlies were there once, notoriously so and also the California state animal, does that mean that we must reestablish a thriving population of Grizzlies in the Los Angeles basin?  Where does common sense enter the discussion?  Or is the right explanation simply the theory that because we don’t have many voters in Montana that we have no rights, some sort of a plantation theory of Whites and Blacks where dominance may be asserted by overbearing political will regardless of rights?

Are we angry about wolves?  Do we resent being bullied by outsiders?  Will we fight to maintain our cherished culture and traditions?  Absolutely.

We don’t try to rearrange your culture or your economy.  We promise no attempt to ban the Mariners.  By the same standard, kindly allow us to maintain the culture and traditions we live and love.