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Wolves and the Culture War


As some of you may know, the book I’m mostly working on is a history of the Pacific Northwest since 1960. I wasn’t entirely sure what the thesis was going to be when I started, though I knew it would be focused on class and environment in the context of the region moving from one of political moderation to one of polarization. Well, as it turns out, I can’t read any of this without it all going back to the culture war. Take wolves. There are real reasons why Idaho and eastern Oregon/Washington ranchers are struggling economically. Basically, they are tiny players in a huge globalized meat machine. There cows grazed on cheap Forest Service leases just aren’t worth much. It’s what is happening to small operators in any number of businesses. But a few wolves eating a few cattle? That’s the monster and devil incarnate and thus the reason they are struggling, if you ask them. It’s not true, but when does truth matter in the culture wars. So with Trump delisting the wolf from the Endangered Species Act in most of the country, Idaho is ready for a massive extermination campaign.

The Idaho Senate approved a bill this week that would permit the state to hire contractors to kill up to 90 percent of Idaho’s wolves with the goal, supporters said, of protecting cattle and other agricultural interests.

“These wolves, there’s too many in the state of Idaho,” State Senator Mark Harris, a Republican, said on the Senate floor before the vote on Wednesday, after telling a story about a “gentleman rancher” whose livelihood was jeopardized when a pack of wolves scared off his cattle.

Idaho’s Wolf Conservation and Management plan calls for the state to maintain a wolf population of at least 150 wolves. At last count, Mr. Harris said, 1,556 wolves were roaming the state.

“They’re destroying ranchers; they’re destroying wildlife,” he said.

The bill would give the state’s Wolf Control Fund an additional $190,000 to hire contractors to kill wolves — on top of $400,000 previously allocated toward killing wolves in Idaho. The bill also would remove a limit on the number of wolves a hunter is permitted to kill.

Biden needs to act on this NOW and relist the wolf. This is totally unacceptable.

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