Skinner’s Ignorance of Wildlife Policy Stunning

When an opportunity comes along to get non-hunters to help pay for wildlife management, we should be embracing it.

Dave Skinner’s recent article titled “Howling Stupidity” might not have been meant in a self-derogatory way, but it certainly shows his own ignorance on issues related to wolves. I suppose that’s to be expected, given his repeated displays of “howling stupidity” over the years.

His complaint that people who appreciate wolves “won’t even pay for livestock loss” is the first sign of ignorance. Loss of livestock due to wolves is funded by the state General Fund to the Livestock Loss Mitigation Board, housed at the Department of Livestock. So, in fact, wolf lovers do support wolf management financially through their tax dollars. So, Skinner is just flat wrong. Every Montanan who pays taxes pays for loss of livestock due to wolves.

Secondly, FWP is legislatively mandated to spend $900,000 per year on wolf management. That means collaring, paying for wolf managers, funding the federal agency Wildlife Services and helping ensure that the state manages for a sustainable number of wolves, lest we fall back under the heavy hand of the Endangered Species Act.

Third: Who cares if wolf advocates want to help shoulder the burden? I for one welcome this new stamp. While my own experiences with voluntary stamps shows them to be underperformers generally, it is supremely arrogant to think that by advancing a way for non-hunting citizens to help pay for funding, we should immediately get the pitchforks. Wildlife management funding faces a growing amount of challenges. Some people see the economic benefit wildlife has to the state and want to steal it for themselves, like they did in Utah, through transferable private hunting licenses and wildlife welfare. Maybe that’s Skinner’s real goal: End public hunting by starving our Fish, Wildlife and Parks agency.

Fourth, Skinner’s childish vendetta against any wildlife federation is tiresome. Here’s the truth: If not for the Montana Wildlife Federation, wolves would still be on the endangered species list. It’s a simple fact that MWF worked with Sen. Jon Tester to delist the wolves. Former Congressman Denny Rehberg along with Skinner’s other buddies at “Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife” and “Big Game Forever” opposed this effort because they feared losing their main money maker. And when they successfully underfund a state wildlife agency, their solution is to be given tags for sale and giving some of that back to the state. That’s how SFW and Big Game Forever have made millions of dollars – by selling the public’s wildlife.

Skinner himself even opined against the wolf delisting measure saying that it wouldn’t lead to hunting or management. Obviously, his political prognostications are as well formed as his knowledge of how FWP’s budgets work. Today, we’re successfully hunting and trapping wolves, thanks to the hard work of Tester, Rep. Mike Simpson and MWF.

The Montana Constitution tells us that wildlife is a public trust that is managed for all citizens of this state. This is a core tenet of how we manage wildlife in North America. Everyone has a seat at the table when it comes to managing this resource. The experience of every state that has broadened funding beyond just license buyers demonstrates that involving more people in funding this system makes it stronger for hunters, anglers, and everyone else. For years hunters have criticized non-hunters for not pitching in for public wildlife. When an opportunity comes along to get non-hunters to help pay for wildlife management, we should be embracing it. That is, unless you’re a petty pundit like Skinner who wants to perpetuate the broken system he loves to complain about.

Support the stamp, buy your tags and hunt those wolves. Or don’t. This is America and we should celebrate options rather than try to deride someone who comes up with new solutions to old problems.

Nick Gevock, conservation director
Montana Wildlife Federation