Monday, March 09, 2009

Ken Salazar--A Bad Choice

I was chagrined when Obama named Ken Salazar as his Secretary of the Interior. With clearly superior choices like Raul Grijalva floating around out there, picking a conservative Democrat seemed unnecessary. I figured it would result in bad environmental policies. And so it has.

Salazar is upholding the Bush Administration's decision to delist wolves from the endangered species list in the northern Rockies and Great Lakes region. This allows the states to adopt hunting plans that I have little doubt will send wolf populations plummeting and force their relisting in the next 10 years. Hatred of wolves among the ranchers who still dominate political life in the Rocky Mountain states is rabid. They opposed reintroduction and continue to oppose the existence of wolves. Delisting becomes an open season on wolves. In New Mexico and Arizona, wolf poaching has not allowed the species to recover; the more isolated lands of the northern Rockies, with significant wilderness areas and national parks, has given wolves a great chance there. Wolves are beginning to expand into their old range, extending as far as Oregon and Colorado.

From a game management perspective, wolves are hated because they kill deer and elk--i.e., animals that hunters like. Much of the West suffers from deer and elk overpopulation. Occasionally, mass starvation of deer takes place because of a combination of drought and eating everything in sight. Wolves play a key role in ecosystem health. But state wildlife departments rarely take such crazy ideas as ecology into consideration. For them, it's all about increasing the size of trophy animal herds to bring in money from hunting licenses.