There is a fight intensifying in Utah over wolves. This is a sensitive subject in the West because two powerful groups hate wolves and don't want them in Utah: ranchers and hunters. Ranchers hate wolves because they are viewed as a threat to their livestock. Hunters hate wolves because they makes hunting more difficult.
It has gone so far that state senator Allen Christensen introduced a bill that would have allowed state officials to kills or trap any wolf found in Utah. Sen. Christensen has made the following claims about wolves:
"They serve no real useful purpose."
"Despite what Disney portrays them as, being little fluff balls, they make their living by killing other animals and sometimes they do it just for the sport of the kill."
Both claims are demonstrably false. Wolves never kill for sport. They also serve an incredibly useful purpose ecologically. In Yellowstone, where wolves were reintroduced in the 1990s, the benefit of wolves has been profound. Wolves have kept herds of elk on the move, preventing overgrazing, particularly along streams and rivers. This has increased the stability of the banks and made the water clearer. It has also allowed cottonwood and aspen to grow to maturity which has increased bird and beaver populations. With more beavers damming streams and rivers there is more slow-moving water, which has increased bug populations and further helped birds. Wolves also hunt year-round which means more carrion in the winter to help scavenger populations like eagles and coyotes.
You can only claim that wolves serve no useful purpose if you don't understand science and respect the natural beauty and balance of the Earth.
As for the ranchers, the threat of wolves is overblown. Studies have shown that livestock losses caused by wolves are only a tiny fraction of overall livestock deaths. This simply isn't a big enough problem to justify decimating entire wolf populations.
As for hunters, I just don't have any sympathy. I don't really have a beef with hunters (excluding trophy hunters, i.e. hunting predators, I have a beef with them), but what is best for our ecosystem is exponentially more important to me than what is best for hunters. Wolves and other predators pick off the weakest of the herd, thus strengthening the herd and the ecosystem. Hunters pick off the strongest and biggest, weakening the herd. Plus, it's not a bad thing to give the hunters a little competition, they've had it too easy for too many years. Our early ancestors had to compete with all the other predators to hunt, and thus had to hone their skills and prove their worth. If modern hunters have to try a little harder to kill elk, I say all the better.
Anyway, luckily the bill has been watered down to merely petition the Fish and Wildlife Service to delist wolves as endangered species and allow Utah to come up with its own management plan. The original bill would have been unconstitutional as the federal government has jurisdiction over wolves as an endangered species and a state government cannot supersede that authority. But the fight is not over in Utah. As wolves slowly start to make their way back in Utah after being exterminated in the 1930s, the anti-wolf voices will only get louder.
I hope Utahns will understand that what is best for our state is a healthy wolf population. It will certainly take some adjustment, but if we are truly interested in being good stewards over the Earth we will let the wolves live.