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Hunters talk about wolves

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How do we cultivate a common understanding, to protect wildlife, wild lands, and the primal experience of hunting, whether for meat or for mushrooms?

Mule deer © Paul Bannick
Mule deer © Paul Bannick
From the fall 2012 edition of the Conservation Northwest quarterly
by Derrick Knowles, Columbia Highlands campaign director

Hunters and conservationists have worked well together on wildlife and habitat issues in Washington and around the West for decades. But different views and approaches to wolf recovery have strained relations between these two nature-oriented groups of people who otherwise share many common conservation values.

We can’t afford to lose a major potential ally over one highly emotional issue that’s relatively small potatoes in the grand scheme of global environmental challenges.

Being an eastern Washington conservationist who grew up hunting and fishing long before I even knew what an “environmentalist” was—or that I’d one day be labeled one—I’ve had a steady interest in finding ways to increase the level of common ground between sportsmen and conservationists. Today that goal has me trying to explain some common concerns about wolves that many hunters share and why conservationists should pay attention....

We really are all in this (meaning fish and wildlife conservation) together. Given the shrinking number of people engaging in traditional outdoor activities and tracking conservation issues, we can’t afford to lose a major potential ally over one highly emotional issue that’s relatively small potatoes in the grand scheme of global environmental challenges.

It is often noted, mostly by sportsmen conservation groups, that hunters and anglers were the original American environmentalists responsible for early land protection and wildlife recovery wins. Through taxes they pay on ammunition and sporting goods and revenue from state hunting and fishing licenses, sportsmen continue to drive a lot of conservation efforts that benefit game and non-game species. This gives them considerable clout and credibility in the eyes of public lands and fish and wildlife management agencies.

Wolf recovery and management issues have the singular potential for dividing hunters and non-hunting conservationists here in Washington even further in the coming years, which is extremely unfortunate given that it’s the rare hunter who subscribes to the “smoke a pack a day” mentality towards wolves, just as it’s a minority of conservationists who believe wolves should not be killed at any cost....

Read more, pages 8-9
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