Murie-Elk Foundation wolf fight shows how divided wildlife advocates are

The public fight between the Murie family and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation demonstrates the difficulty of Idaho Fish and Game Chief Virgil Moore’s efforts to get wildlife advocates together.

The foundation pulled Olaus Murie’s name off its top conservation award earlier this month after his son Donald Murie asked them to stop its anti-wolf rhetoric.

Olaus and Adolph Murie were brother wildlife researchers and conservationists who had a profound impact on wild America. Olaus’ research on Rocky Mountain Elk and Adolph’s on wolves in Alaska laid a foundation on which modern wildlife biologists have built.

Along with Olaus’ wife Margaret known as Mardy, they also fought to preserve large tracts of the nation’s backcountry. Adolph played a critical role in keep Denali National Park largely roadless.

I visited Mardy several times at her Moose, Wyo. home. There she served home made cookies and generously hosted throngs of young environmentalists drawn by her inspirational leadership that continued until her death at 101 in 2003.

Olaus and Mardy spent their honeymoon in 1924 skiing through the Brooks Range and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge studying caribou. Olaus helped get protection for the area that still stands. Olaus was executive director of the Wilderness Society and pushed for passage of the Wilderness Act. He died first but Mardy watched President Johnson sign the bill in 1964.

So it made sense that the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation would name its highest conservation award after Olaus, especially because of the ground-breaking research he did in Jackson Hole and Yellowstone. The line between it and other mainstream environmental groups was all but non-existent.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, founded by four hunters from Troy Montana in 1984, has been a conservation group following in a tradition of sportsman-backed organizations going back to the Boone and Crockett Club of the 1880s. It had protected more than 6.1 million acres of habitat for elk and other species and reintroduced elk to seven states and Canadian provinces as far east as North Carolina.

It comfortably sat in the middle of the conservation world in the U.S. along side sportsman groups like Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited and the Izaak Walton League. It often joined groups like the Nature Conservancy in projects, staying out of controversial political fights.

That was until David Allen, a publicist for NASCAR, and pro rodeo organizations took over as president in 2007. The group had been criticized by some sportsman groups for cozying up to pro-wolf groups as the issue was becoming more and more polarized.

With many environmental groups fighting delisting, even as wolf numbers in the Northern Rockies ballooned to more than 1,500, Allen went on the rhetorical offensive.

He wrote that elk are not thriving where wolves are present. He said the reintroduction program, which environmentalists had called one of the great conservation successes of the 20th Century, was “perhaps one of the worst wildlife management disasters since the destruction of bison herds in the 19th century.”

He was also incorrectly quoted as calling for killing wolves from the air and gassing then in their dens. That prompted Donald Murie’s letter , saying the foundation now was “determined to exterminate” (wolves).

“The Murie name must not be associated with the unscientific and inhumane practices you are advancing,” he wrote.

Here’s Allen’s reply.

Allen said in a telephone interview this week that the foundation’s policy is to keep all wildlife management under state-based programs. It is not calling for exterminating wolves.

“We certainly don’t have any disrespect for the Murie family,” Allen said. “We aren’t going to change our wolf policy.”

Whether you take Allen’s side or Murie’s, there is little room for compromise in this debate that is emotional and value-driven on both sides. It is exactly the kind of divide that Fish and Game’s Moore seeks to bridge with his statewide Wildlife Summit Aug 24-26.

Allen, and Defenders of Wildlife President Jamie Clark could take the first step towards finding common ground but it is a task fraught with peril for both leaders. Perhaps they can find their common ground around the North American Model of Wildlife Management, which at its heart argues that wildlife is a public resource.

But some hunters’ groups are now calling this idea “socialist.” And many Defenders’ members reject hunting.

Still, if they and others can’t find common ground then the funding and support for future wildlife management may be a threatened species itself.

Scared for public lands

I don't have a position one way or another on hunting, but the fact that some hunting organizations are abandoning the idea of public hunting to hunt behind tall private fences scares the heck out of me.

Few would have come up with this idea on their own in Idaho where so much hunting and everything else is done on our public lands like the national forests. I think the Koch Brothers and people like them are behind the private hunting and what looks like an attempt to grab our public land and put up "no tresspassing, private property of some billionaire."

Free lunches

There are no free lunches as the saying goes.

Mike, please realize you pay for public lands in one way or another.

Now, consider just "the concept of a government owning land" for some purpose other than the mission of a government. Should a govt agency own an amusement park? I would say no. An amusement park is not within the scope of a govt functions right? It would be nice to have an inexpensive place to recreate, to make yourself and your kids laugh, to simply enjoy the setting. But it's not something anyone would encourage a government to build, buy, or own.
So why does any government own forest lands for the purpose of recreation? It's nice, right? I agree it's nice to go up the into the forest and use and "not have to pay anything"... remember nothing is free.
But if I use it every weekend and pay only a little bit, then I'm getting a good deal right? But I'm still paying for the use. How is that different than a large land owner simply charging for use of the land. The owner decides whether to have roads, hunting or just bird watching. So that land owner gets to decide how to best manage the property for the desired 'return on investment' that the owner chooses. That return can be cash, or it can be peace of mind.

Some people use it more than they are paying for it. Some people are paying for it and not using it at all.

Disneyland or Yellowstone? Choose your entertainment.
Both cost money to use.
But only one of those does not cost you money if you don't go there.
Do you like the idea that Disneyland is 'just there' even though you may not ever go there? Great send em some money for improvements- they might need it.

Also, Idaho is unique for public lands. Ya know what? Private ownership works in the states East of the Mississippi, what makes anyone think it can't work here?

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Don't get me wrong though. I do favor some public lands. Owned by the States, not the federal government.

Public lands spell freedom

These lands belong to the American people. The government holds them in trust for us. They are a source of great freedom. Freedom that people back East do not have.

I pray to God they will never fall into state hands because they will be quickly sold off to foreigners and nasty billionaires by our corrupt and treasonous politicians.

breaker breaker 1 -9

2 things Mike

You say the lands belong to the American people. Then you say that people back East do not have that 'freedom'.... Do you think the "American people" somehow ends at the Continental Divide? Mississippi?
A bone here-- people back east have that EXACT same freedom you do. They just have to drive fa rther. Unless of course, you were poor. :-(
Then they may have more "freedom" than you do to access our public lands.

Point here is your first conclusion is seriously flawed. And that is likely to indicate your second conclusion is also seriously flawed. It's like when a thief says they didn't steal the gum- is there any reason to believe them when they say the gum doesn't taste yummy?

So let's consider your second conclusion- state lands are a bad thing.

Please keep in mind in 1890 (let me type that again- 1890- more than 100 years ago) Idaho received 3.6 MILLION acres of state land. EVERY other state west of the Miss. got a relative amount of state land too. Have those lands been "quickly sold off"???
No, of course not. So your second idea is also seriously flawed.

And even IF they were sold off- so what? Local govt (Democrat Bieter and Company) have traded and sold public CITY land to private holders- did you lose sleep over those deals?

Mike, Stop drinking the kool-aid and have some beer instead. You will feel much more relaxed.

OMG - f a r t is not an allowed word here.

tru dat

"Public lands spell freedom"

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True and freedom has a cost.

YOUR public lands cost YOU money.

In the same way, PRIVATE lands spell freedom IF you are willing and able to pay the money.

Try to prove otherwise.

Red Neck Nut

There are not 50 different ways to manage public lands --- or wildlife. Federal management is a good thing and the only answer.

Private property

Wild Animals are a public resource owned by "the people"?

Timber growing on the land is owned by the landowner.

A seed blows into my property from your property and sprouts a weed, that weed is belongs to the landowner.

Water on the property is owned by the landowner.

Oil, gas, and minerals under the land are owned by the landowner.

Wild animals- why does anyone think the rules should be different?

If you believe in privatization...

Then drive up to the locked and video protected gate at the Delamar mine site. Formerly public land, now the site of a poisonous lake and denuded landscape, all for a few jobs that lasted a relatively short time and removed the mountain forever.