Hobbled federal wolf program attracts friends and money

  • Alpha Male No. 10 in Yellowstone National Park

    Barry and Teri O'Neill/NPS
 

With a little help from their friends, another batch of Canadian wolves will be released in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho this winter, despite congressional budget action designed to halt the project in its tracks.

Environmental groups have pledged $40,000 so far, enough money to find and identify about 30 appropriate wolves in British Columbia this January. Canadian agencies are donating staff time, makers of radio collars have offered discounts, and a camera company is donating equipment, according to Ed Bangs, wolf-recovery coordinator in Montana for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Even Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., a leading foe of wolf restoration, sounds resigned. "They've made up their mind to do it," Burns said. Burns had ushered through Congress a $200,000 cut in the federal wolf budget, lopping off a third of the agency's wolf money.

He got the cut, but he didn't halt the project.

The agency "took the pain internally," Bangs said, by cutting staff instead of projects. Now, private and government wolf advocates are raising money to make up the difference.

Defenders of Wildlife, the Idaho Wolf Education and Research Center and the Yellowstone Association have promised the first $40,000, and more money could be forthcoming from other sources.

Bozeman, Mont., artist Dan Smith has donated the proceeds from a limited-edition print of the Yellowstone wolf killed in Montana last spring, raising nearly $20,000. "(Wolf) Number 10 being shot has created an incredible martyr and served as a story line" for talking about wolves in Yellowstone, Smith said (HCN, 11/27/95).

Kurt Hawkins, a Salt Lake City publishing executive, organized a Nov. 18 fundraiser, called "Wolfstock 95," at the Sundance Resort. It raised $23,000, Hawkins said, "and over half of those people were Republicans."

He is now planning a springtime "Wolfstock 96" in Park City, Utah, which he thinks could raise over $100,000. His other plans include major corporate sponsorship, celebrity endorsements, a benefit concert and a possible fundraising link to the upcoming winter Olympics in Salt Lake.

Mike Phillips of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said fully funding the Yellowstone portion of the project would cost about $335,000 a year. Yellowstone's 1996 wolf budget now stands at $104,000.

To make up the difference, Phillips talks about "privatizing" the wolf program. "We think it's right to move away from the almighty tax dollar," he said.

Such talk doesn't sit well with everybody. "I don't want it to set a precedent," said Dan Ferris, spokesman for Defenders of Wildlife in Washington, D.C. "We as Americans should fund the laws we've got on the books."

Both the administration and Congress ask bureaucrats to "be entrepreneurs' and raise money for popular programs, said Yellowstone Park researcher John Varley. Yet success in doing so often results in budget cuts.

Such programs also won't work with less charismatic animals, Varley predicted.

"Try to do it with the Preeble's shrew," he said. "It's part of our biodiversity, but I don't expect a $100,000 check to come rolling in."

Wolves are a special case. Bringing them back to Yellowstone has attracted sympathetic attention all over the world. Plus, the program's first year was a success, with two of the three packs reproducing and no confirmed livestock kills. One more year of such success could put the wolves on the path to full recovery, Bangs said. "We're ahead of schedule," he added.

With Park Service support, Barry O'Neill, a Golden, Colo., photographer, has formed an organization he calls the Call of the Wild Foundation. It kicked off a fund-raiser in Denver two weeks ago.

While there is little he can do about the private wolf efforts, Sen. Burns doesn't like them much. He called projects like Wolfstock "an arrogant and elitist mindset" and said he resented people "imposing their will" on Montana, and thereby ranchers near Yellowstone to bear the costs of wolf reintroduction.

Kurt Hawkins replied that many politically conservative people have donated to Wolfstock. "Wolves are acting as a metaphor for those from the right to get involved in environmental issues," Hawkins said. Politicians like Burns, he added, "are dead wrong in their reading of this."

The writer works in Montana for the Bozeman Chronicle.

Donations to help wolf recovery can be sent to the Yellowstone Wolf Project, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190, or the Call of the Wild Foundation, 2381 Juniper Court, Genesee, CO 80401.

High Country News Classifieds
  • NEW AGRARIAN APPRENTICESHIP
    Quivira Coalition's 2020 New Agrarian Apprenticeships in Regenerative Ranching and Farming -Apprenticeships run 4/20 - 11/20 Applications accepted 10/15/19 - 12/1/19 NAP partners with skilled...
  • PHILANTHROPY DIRECTOR
    Wilderness Workshop seeks a full time Philanthropy Director to raise funds for our team. Learn more: www.wildernessworkshop.org
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT WITH WESTERN RESOURCE ADVOCATES
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks an enthusiastic and organized problem solver to join our growing team as an Executive Assistant. The Executive Assistant is instrumental...
  • WYOMING OUTDOOR COUNCIL
    Two positions: Development Director OR Development Writer, Communications Director. Full job descriptions at https://wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org/careers.
  • CONSERVATION PROJECT MANAGER
    Great Land Trust seeks to hire a Conservation Project Manager. Position is full-time, based in Anchorage, Alaska. First review of applications will be on October...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eagle Valley Land Trust Executive Director Position Description Summary of Position: The Executive Director, working with and reporting to the Board of Directors, has overall...
  • FINANCE & LOGISTICS COORDINATOR
    The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, founded in 1928 as an independent nonprofit organization, is a biological field station located near Crested Butte, Colorado. Our primary...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    See Full Job Description
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Position: Development Coordinator Responsible to: Executive Director Time Commitment: 15-20 hours per week, or as otherwise agreed upon General Description: The Development Coordinator assists the...
  • EDUCATION CENTER MANAGER
    Friends of Cedar Mesa seeks a full-time Education Manager for the Bears Ears Education Center to provide day to day operational and administrative oversight. See...
  • TROUT UNLIMITED SCP SOUTHWEST REGIONAL DIRECTOR
    Seeking to hire an experienced advocate/manager to oversee the organization's sportsmen/women-driven advocacy in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Open until filled
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    for northern AZ collaborative conservation ranchlands group
  • AMAZING PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    If you're an amazing Program or Education Manager looking for an exciting and fulfilling position with an organization that makes a difference in the community,...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Partners are seeking an experienced and energetic Executive Director who is excited about the opportunity to lead our growing organization! A full description of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    High Country News Seeks an Executive Director to advance its mission, grow its audience and influence, and strategically and sustainably guide the organization through a...
  • 2 PROPERTIES ON THE WESTERN EDGE OF THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Organic farm, hot springs, San Francisco River runs through both. [email protected]
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • SOCIETY FOR WILDERNESS STEWARDSHIP BOARD MEMBER
    Join the SWS board and help us broaden, diversify, and engage the wilderness community.
  • NEW MEXICO BIRDER'S PARADISE.
    Fully furnished 2B/2B home near Bosque del Apache NWR, great for nature lovers.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.