Thursday, December 09, 2010

How America is learning to live with wolves again

There have been mornings when Jim Stone has woken up to the sight of wolves within 100 yards of his front door. And there have been afternoons, many of them, when the wolves have prowled along the thin electrified cable that delineates the southern boundaries of his cattle ranch, just watching and waiting. Stone says he can live with that: "They are a part of the chain of life. They were here before we came so it probably makes sense that they are here [now]." It is not the reaction one might expect from a man whose livelihood depends on keeping the wolves away. There are 200 head of cattle on Stone's 2,500-acre ranch of gold-tinged grassland that rolls out from the high peaks, across a narrow strip of road, and back down behind his barn to the Blackfoot river below. Nor is it a typical reaction in Montana, where the governor has been pressing the Obama administration to end federal protection for a rapidly expanding wolf population, part of an intense backlash against government wildlife protections not just in Montana, but in Idaho and Wyoming too. Locals say that the wolves are threatening elk and other wildlife, and harassing their cattle, and they want to declare open season on the predators. But Stone and other landowners involved in the Blackfoot Challenge, a conservation alliance of ranchers, environmentalists and government officials, want to make up for the first white settlers, who drove the animals almost to extinction, by finding a way to live with wolves...more

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