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Weis: Legislature wastes tax money on phony wolf battle

Published July 8, 2013 4:54 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It is not so surprising that, as Brian Maffly reports, Big Game Forever (BGF) cannot account for the $300,000 provided to them by the Utah Legislature to lobby against gray wolf protections. ("Anti-wolf group vague on how it spent Utah taxpayer funds," Tribune, July 3)

The tawdry means by which our politicians are bought and sold does not lend itself to close scrutiny. And yet every legislator who voted for this allocation, and the governor who signed the budget handing over these funds, knew exactly what and how they were buying "influence."

What is surprising, though, is why the Legislature is so flush with cash that it would want to fund a "solution" for problem that does not exist.

Utah does not have any established wolf packs. Wolves that do wander into the state either exit for greener pasture or, as local rumors attest, meet the "shoot, shovel, shut up" brigade.

Grazing interests may be up in arms against wolves but they will suffer much greater losses in the coming years to loss of grazing habitat due to climate change than they could dream of losing to marauding wolves.

Sen. Ralph Okerlund (who, by the way, got a $6,500 campaign contribution back from the people running BGF) likes to justify the monetary outlay to BGF by describing the loss of elk in the Lolo region of Idaho from wolf depredation without actually acknowledging the fact that the elk herd numbers crashed in Lolo before a wolf even entered the area.

Study after study shows the most important factor in influencing the size of big game herds is habitat, which encroaching housing developments and climate change in the West will hurt.

Predators, on the other hand, are vital to maintain the genetic health of the species, a fact that coyote and wolf alarmists ignore but any high school biology student can understand.

Members of the Legislature, though, are not the only ones throwing good cash after a stupid cause. The Division of Wildlife Resources has also paid $100,000 to BGF, claiming that influencing the national dialogue on wolf recovery is in its best interest.

This is the same DWR, by the way, that is so strapped for cash that it could not restrict access to its fish brood ponds, so happy naïve anglers stripped them of their fish stock. That money foolishly given to BGF could have instead been put to good use building fences and installing signs, thus saving the lives of those poor muskie and embarrassment for the agency.

Whether or not BGF can actually account for the hundreds of thousands of dollars provided to them by our state government is a problem for the accountants, not me. And I hope those accountants have sharpened their pencils for the upcoming review. My greater concern is that this is my tax and license money being stupidly flushed down a gopher hole both by the Legislature and DWR.

Surely there are legislators and administrators with a modicum of financial sense that can find more productive ways to spend this money. I would be happy to provide suggestions.

John H. Weis is a resident of Salt Lake County and has yet to catch a muskie on a fly.






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