Will 'wanton killer' lope into Colorado?

  • Wolf

    Erwin A. Bauer
 

EAGLE, Colo. - Wes Schlegel, a lifelong rancher, just couldn't figure it out: "If my dad and granddad could have heard what was said here tonight, they'd be rolling in their graves."

What he'd heard was praise for wolves, now gone from the Flat Tops Wilderness some 30 miles from here. Schlegel lives about 15 miles from the Flat Tops.

Schlegel said he'd heard stories growing up about a wolf pack that in 1912 or thereabouts arrived from Wyoming; he never heard anything good about those wolves. The killing of one of the last wolves in 1923 was of such significance that people still think of that as a benchmark year, he said, the year the land became safe for ranching.

Few genuine ranchers remain in Vail-dominated Eagle County, but a dozen like Schlegel turned out Oct. 23 for this meeting at the 4-H Exhibition Hall. They had been promised the "facts" about bringing gray wolves to Colorado and elsewhere.

Their interest is not academic. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study issued in 1994 concluded that, if wolves were to be reintroduced in Colorado, the Flat Tops would be one of only two sites in Colorado that made sense. The other was the San Juans, in southern Colorado.

Leery of the "facts" that would be delivered, some 15 members of Sinapu, the Boulder, Colo.-based group dedicated to gray wolf recovery, also showed up to ask questions, causing ranchers such as Schlegel to shake their heads in puzzlement.

Both sides, it appeared, heard what they had expected to hear as Troy Mader of the Wyoming-based Abundant Wildlife Society of North America methodically faulted wolf reintroduction. Restoration efforts were motivated mainly by romantics who dream of hearing wolves howl in the night, he told the group.

"The wolf is being used to sell the Endangered Species Act," he said. "We're spending money on megafauna when we should be spending the money on other species that need to be saved." If wolf recovery stands any chance of real success, he continued, the program must be built out of incentives, not disincentives, with acceptance by the livestock community essential. Much of Mader's lecture, however, was intended to prove that wolves have no place in much of the United States since they "kill wantonly': Four once killed 200 deer in one night in Minnesota, he said.

Sinapu members took issue with Mader, and it was hard to tell how well his arguments played with the ranchers. His economic argument, however, proved effective. Providing the buffer between wilderness and the rapidly urbanizing second-home cities of the Vail Valley, these ranchers have resented gentrification of their enclave and resisted cashing out to hobby ranchers. They see wolves as just more predators for their livestock.

"I want to know why you want to bring wolves back," Schlegel demanded of Sinapu outreach coordinator Rob Edward. Edward shared his conviction that wolves are the engines of evolution, helping trim the gene pool in prey species, including deer and elk, of less competitive strains, which sport hunting does not do.

Schlegel doubted that, and he recalled seeing a mother coyote kill six sheep "for the sole purpose of teaching them to kill."

"It's certainly a theory," Edward responded. "Some of this stuff we have to know by common sense," Schegel rebutted.

To many members of Sinapu, though, common sense said that the goal of Abundant Wildlife Society was to kindle animosities and drive a wedge in the way of genuine dialogue.

For more information, contact Abundant Wildlife Society of North America, 12655 Highway 59 North, Gillette, WY 82716 (307/682-2826), or Sinapu, Box 3243, Boulder, CO 80307 (303/447-8655, fax: 303/447-8612); e-mail [email protected] - on the Web at: http://www.sinapu.org/.

Allen Best is managing editor of the Vail/Beaver Creek Times in Avon, Colorado.

High Country News Classifieds
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks a friendly, detail-oriented, and self-motivated Development Coordinator to provide administrative support to the Development department. This position will report to...
  • FIELD ORGANIZER, MONTANA
    Help Northern Plains Resource Council protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Work hard, meet good people, make the...
  • FOR SALE
    Successful llama trekking business with Yellowstone National Park concession for sale! A fun and enriching business opportunity of a lifetime! Call 406-580-5954
  • ALBUQUERQUE VACATION HOME
    Centrally located. One bed, one bath, lovely outdoor patio, well-stocked kitchen.
  • NEW AGRARIAN PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Quivira (www.quiviracoaltion.org), a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that aims to shift current practices of agriculture and land stewardship to those that produce good food, support meaningful...
  • SPECTACULAR SCENIC MOUNTAIN VIEW HOME BUILDING SITE
    Located on top of Sugarloaf Mtn. 5 mi W of downtown Colorado Springs, CO. $80,000.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    opportunity in Eugene, Oregon! To learn more and to apply, visit our website at www.bufordpark.org.
  • FUNDRAISING & OUTREACH COORDINATOR
    Does the prospect of working to protect one of the Southwest's last remaining flowing rivers get you excited? Join the team at Friends of the...
  • DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT SPECIALIST
    Position Summary Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks a dynamic, organized, and creative Digital Engagement Specialist to be an essential part of our growing Communications Team....
  • NORTH IDAHO FIELD REPRESENTATIVE
    Founded by sportsmen and women 1936, the Idaho Wildlife Federation (IWF) is a statewide nonprofit dedicated to conserving and enhancing Idaho's natural resources, wildlife, habitat,...
  • SMALL HISTORICAL FARM FOR SALE - NEW MEXICO
    23-acres, adobe home, shop, barn, gardens, pasture, orchard. https://www.zillow.com/homes/222-Calle-Del-Norte,-Monticello,-Nm_rb/ or call 575-743-0135.
  • NEW MEXICO GILA NATIONAL FOREST HORSE RANCH
    43 acres in the Gila National Forest. Horse facility, custom home. Year round outdoor living. REDUCED to: $1.17 MM 575-536-3109
  • GRANTS MANAGER AND EDITOR
    Are you a strong communicator who excels at building relationships, writing winning grant proposals, and staying organized? You sound like a good fit for our...
  • REPORTER
    The Wallowa County Chieftain, has an opening for a reporter. Experience with and understanding of editorial photography also required. Journalism degree or equivalent, an understanding...
  • 2017 JOHN DEERE LAWN MOWER Z930R
    15 hours on it, 3 years warranty, 22,5 HP, $1600 Sale price. Contact: [email protected]
  • OWN YOUR OWN CANYON - 1400 SF STRAW-BALE ECO-HOME ON 80 ACRES - 3 HOURS FROM L.A.
    1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • HEAD BREAD/PASTRY BAKER AND ASSISTANT POSITIONS
    Hiring Part/Full time for Summer Season - entry level & experienced positions. Year round employment for optimal candidates. Pay DOE.
  • EVERLAND MOUNTAIN RETREAT
    Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • COUNTRY ESTATE NEAR KINGS CANYON AND SEQUOIA PARKS
    Spectacular views of snowcapped Sierras. 15 miles from Kings Canyon/Sequoia Parks. 47 acres with 2 homes/75' pool/gym/patios/gardens. 1670 sq.ft. main home has 3 bdrm/1 bath....
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST NEW MEXICO
    Beautiful off-the-grid passive solar near the CDT. 9.4 acres, north of Silver City. Sam, 575.388.1921