IntroductionWhen it comes to the management of gray wolves in the Western United States, the issue is far from a simple one. The wildlife management policy case study presents the different factors that must be taken into consideration when looking at the management of policies governing the treatment of wolves (Ryan, Hausman, Meretsky, & Anderson, 2017). Under the Endangered Species Act of 2008 (ESA), gray wolves were classified as an endangered species due to their dwindling population within the continental United States (Ryan et al., 2017). Gray wolves were reintroduced in areas where lacking, as needed, and the species started to thrive under the protection of the ESA (Ryan et al., 2017). In 2012, when it came time to reassess the matter, the gray wolf population was identified as a recovered species, no longer in need of protection under the ESA. In spite of continued controversy regarding the treatment of these animals, protections for the animals were removed, creating still further debate among the different stakeholder groups (Ryan et al., 2017). Dozens of groups have sued in an attempt to regain protections for the wolves, but without success (PBS, 2010). Ranchers are concerned with the impact that the increased wolf population is having on livestock (Rehberg, 2010), and hunters are ecstatic about the opportunity to shoot wolves once more (Sportsman Channel, 2012). Those who live within the cities and have never had an experience or interaction with wolves are for their re-protection, but there are those who caution that it is that lack of experience that is creating a romanticized notion of the wolf, preventing the addressing of the underlying problems that these wolves cause within the daily lives of those who are required to interact with them (Richardsom, 2014). Native American tribes in many regions are concerned with the lack of protections for wolves in light of the rich history and symbolism of the wolves in their cultural heritage, causing outcry against the delisting of the species (ICTMN Staff, 2014). Each of the different stakeholder groups regarding the dilemma with American gray wolves has a different perspective on the matter, which in turn translates to a careful balancing act that must be completed by policy makers, in order to ensure that the best course of action is being taken by and for all involved parties, including the wolves.
Members of wildlife management at both the state and federal levels have been attempting to ôbalance the needs and desires of (the) various stakeholder groups that they serveö including those previously mentioned, as well as photographers, ecotourists, hikers, landowners, and wildlife enthusiasts (Ryan et al., 2017, p. 3). The ESA allows states to manage the different species on the endangered species list that reside within their own borders under their own jurisdiction, with oversight at the federal level; however, when an animal is delisted, the state can allow for the management of the animal or species in any way it so chooses, as long as the state does not allow actions that will result in the species being relisted on the endangered species list, with monitoring still occurring at the federal level as a means of working to ensure that such an occurrence does not happen again (Ryan et al., 2017). Many of the states only create regulations that prevent the killing of such species to an extreme level, regulating the amount that can be killed and failing to provide for recovery efforts to ensure the management of the species, maintaining the population at desired levels (Ryan et al., 2017). Efforts are made by policy makers to ensure that the laws governing the management of non-endangered species are designed to provide the best course of action for the region as a whole while taking into consideration stakeholder concerns, but court rulings, combined with state law and federal regulation can create difficult guidelines that can be contradictory in nature, at times (Ryan et al., 2017).
The primary issue discussed within the context of the Ryan et al. (2017) case study are the different considerations that must be taken regarding the care and management of the gray wolf population within the United States following the delisting of the gray wolf from the ESA. Following the delisting of the gray wolves from the ESA, the management of the gray wolf population reverted to the states that had gray wolf populations present (Mech, 2010). Of the lower 48 states, six of the states have viable wolf populations, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho (Mech, 2010). Oregon and Washington have breeding wolf populations, and gray wolves have been seen in Utah, Colorado, North Dakota, and South Dakota (Mech, 2010). Within some states, in spite of public outcry against such behaviors, wolf hunting has become legal once more; each of the states that has made wolf hunting legal has done so by setting specific seasons for hunting, and placing limits on the number of permits that can be issued and wolves that can be shot (Mech, 2010). While there are those both for and against the practices, Mech (2010) argued that such harvesting practices should be limited to populated areas in which conflict has occurred with gray wolves and human populations, allowing for the management and facilitation of population growth, while working to contain that growth and reintegration of wolves into the regions by limiting harvesting to areas in which conflict between the human and wolf species have occurred. Way and Bruskotter (2012) explored the matter in greater detail, arguing for the application of human dimensions in order to determine when to best employ the use of lethal management, the promotion of increased efforts toward the tolerance of the wolf population, the implementation of preventative measures for the protection of pets and livestock, and only the selective use of sport hunting. These suggestions made by Mech (2010) and Way and Bruskotter (2012), respectively, work to address all of the considerations of each of the different stakeholder groups, yet, ultimately, the decision falls to those at the state level to make decisions, and such decisions are often made by those groups that have the loudest voices, or the deepest pockets, regardless of the ethics associated with that type of policy manipulation (Shafritz & Russell, 2016).
The underlying cause of this problem is several fold. The base problem is what to do about the gray wolf population now that it has been delisted from the ESA (Ryan et al., 2017). As a result of this problem, several issues have arisen, each directly tied to the other, and all leading back to the underlying problem. Special interest groups feel as though their voices are not being heard, that their beliefs or considerations do not matter (ICTMN Staff, 2014; PBS, 2010). They are forced to watch as those who have won the right to hunt for sport gleefully post videos of their wolf kills online for all to see (Sportsman Channel, 2012). Still others take the matter deeper, concerned about their livestock and their livelihood and the effects of the growing wolf population on their way of life (Rehberg, 2010). Each of these different groups has a voice, but not all of the voices are being heard equally. Policymakers are required to act ethically, reviewing all sides of each given concern and working to craft solutions that are designed to offer the best course of action for the greatest number of people (Shavritz & Russell, 2016). In spite of the lofty goal of ethical policy making, policy makers in action do not always succeed in these endeavors (Shavritz & Russell, 2016). In some cases, the situation becomes so intolerable to those faced with dealing with the effects of policy makers, the very individuals who work with the regions affected may turn to lawsuits in order to work for what is right, counteracting adverse considerations (OÆLeary, 2009). In other situations, however, there is still no clear answer, as in the case of the gray wolf. States dictate the policy regarding delisted species, and the result is a widespread variation in legalities from state to state, created with the stakeholders in mind. There is one catch, however; stakeholder groups have the ability to lobby politicians, and it is the groups with the largest backing that are those that are heard the loudest (Shavritz & Russell, 2016). This creates the potential for legislations geared in favor of those who have the most to spend, as opposed to protecting those with the most to loose.
This begs the question of what the best course of action would be, asking for the identification of where to go from here. If I personally were involved in the situation, I would take the ideas put forth by Mech (2010) and Way and Bruskotter (2012) respectively and, utilizing that information, run a comparative analysis against individual state policies regarding the treatment and hunting of gray wolves within the state borders, looking at areas in which the actions being taken are skewed in the favor of those who do not have the best interests of the wolves in mind. Following the identification of the areas of discrepancy, I would review those areas, determining the specific ways in which those clauses, rules, or regulations might be skewed toward the favor of those who would hunt the animals for sport, looking for alternative means of allowing the species to thrive while at the same time taking steps to ensure the sanctity of the species, the preservation of the symbol, and the livelihood of the people within the region. I believe by implementing a solution that would work to decrease the amount of harvesting, increase the amount of animal management, and allow for the more humane treatment of animals, creating an environment where the two species could more peaceably coexist, the potential to reduce the damage that was done when the wolves became endangered, while still maintaining and meeting the needs of the human population would work to appease all of the stakeholder groups. It is possible that the hunters would be less pleased with the arrangement than other stakeholder groups, and while sport hunting does serve a purpose, it does not serve a purpose within a recovering population, thus decreasing the need of that particular stakeholder group below other stakeholders.
Following the identification of the areas of discrepancy, I would redraft the laws in the manner previously described. This redrafted law would then be presented in meeting to other policy makers, allowing it to gain a following at the state level and ultimately replacing current legislation. The primary potential point of failure I see with this particular course of action would stem from the hunter stakeholder group, occurring in the form of poaching. This may mean more arrests, but in light of the seeming desire to post images of these kills or videos of these kills online (Sportsman Channel, 2012), with efforts from local law enforcement these individuals could be quickly caught, tried, and sentenced based on their actions. One of the main downsides to this proposed solution stems from the fact that implementation of the same would require additional manpower and man hours to make the changes and to track and monitor for lawbreakers, but such is the case with the implementation of many new laws, and budgetary considerations often allow for such accommodations. I would monitor the implementation of this recommendation through the use of tracking and monitoring, using statistics at the federal and state levels (Ryan et al., 2017), in conjunction with additional tracking statistics obtained from environmental groups. In time, I believe that such changes would allow for the successful appeasement of all involved parties.
- ICTMN Staff. (2014).áMinnesota ignores Indians, allows wolf hunting.áIndian Country Today. Retrieved from https://hubert.hhh.umn.edu/WolfMgmtPDF/IndianCountryMinnesotaIgnoresIndians.pdf
- Mech, L. (2010). Considerations for developing wolf harvesting regulations in the contiguous United States.áJournal of Wildlife Management,á74(7), 1421-1424. Retrieved from https://hubert.hhh.umn.edu/WolfMgmtPDF/ConsiderationsForDevelopingWolfHarvesting.pdf
- O’Leary, R. (2009). When a career public servant sues the agency he loves: Claude Ferguson, the Forest Service, and off-road vehicles in the Hoosier National Forest.áPublic Administration Review,áNovember | December, 1068-1076.
- PBS. (2010).áHunting wolves, saving wolves.áPbs.org. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/609/
- Rehberg, D. (2010).áDenny Rehberg hosts wolf impact hearing in Hamilton. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiMjL4e7UHA
- Richardson, L. (2014).áWho’s afraid of the American gray wolf?.áthe Guardian. Retrieved from https://hubert.hhh.umn.edu/WolfMgmtPDF/GuardianWhosAfraidOfTheAmericanGrayWolf.pdf
- Ryan, G., Hausman, A., Meretsky, V., & Anderson, W. (2017).áWildlife management policy.áHubertproject.org. Retrieved from https://www.hubertproject.org/hubert-material/386/
- Shafritz, J., Russell, E., Borick, C., & Hyde, A. (2016).áIntroducing Public Administrationá(9th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
- Sportsman Channel. (2012).áFirst wolf harvested on film in lower 48! Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYbLakmuKYA
- Way, J., & Bruskotter, J. (2012). Additional considerations for gray wolf management after their removal from Endangered Species Act protections.áThe Journal of Wildlife Management,á76(3), 457-461. Retrieved from https://hubert.hhh.umn.edu/WolfMgmtPDF/AdditionalConsiderations.pdf