When it comes to natural resource policy in the West, the moderate, middle-of-the-road citizen lacks a voice. That's because the extremists on the far left and the far right get so worked up that they monopolize public meetings, spit vitriol into microphones and spend a good portion of their time holed up in their rickety cabins hammering away at their manifestos.
Unfortunately, the sad reality is that the extremists have more numerous and more effective avenues from which to preach their message, and, quite frankly, they're sensational behavior is more sexy to the press. But what those of us who gather closer to the center of the political spectrum are beginning to realize is that the far left and the far right have more in common than they do with the people who listen quietly, ponder important issues and then work to actually get things done. Our voices might not be loud, but we tend to get the heavy lifting done, even if it takes a while.
It's amazing how the far left and the far right can approach the same issue and, from their own perverted sense of altruism, work together (although likely not consciously) to oppose it. In other words, they're so far to the left or the right that they're circling around behind the rest of us and meeting up. That's when the moderate crowd needs to clench up and prepare to get screwed.
This is perhaps the signature issue in the West these days, largely because the press has devoted so much attention to the extremists. Thanks to that, the moderates, left and right, have been left to do the bulk of the actual work, and when we had a solution in place, the foam-at-the-mouthers swooped in and peed all over our parade.
In 2009, wolves in Idaho and Montana were taken off the Endangered Species List and their oversight was transferred to the respective states' game management departments, where wolves were then handled as big game. Tags were sold, and the wolves were to be harvested according to a quota system that would allow hunters to take a wolf while still guaranteeing the animals' persistence in the ecosystem. Wyoming decided not to play ball–so it's wolves were left on the protected list, and Wyoming hunters were not allowed the opportunity to chase these apex predators.
Well, the very idea that wolves would end up in the crosshairs of hunters caused the far left enviro crowd to light their own hair on fire. At the same time, the far right was busy doing the same thing. Wolves were vermin, not game animals, and they should be shot on sight (that was the Wyoming stance, by the way). Or so the logic goes.
Lawsuits were filed, more microphones were slobbered on, more manifestos were drafted that included rhetoric about the genetics of Canadian wolves vs. the wolves that were extirpated in the mid-1900s, and more romantic notions about wolves were spewed over high-speed internet connections. The result? Hunters in Montana and Idaho got one crack the wolves in 2009. The court ruled that the government violated the law when it took the wolves off the list in Idaho and Montana.
So here you have the far left, enlisting a cadre of Earth Justice lawyers, and the far right busy making kitschy videos about wolves killing elk for pleasure. The rest of us were just disappointed that this issue persisted. We had a solution, one the far right and the far left despised, but one reasonable folks could live with. I remember the hard-core right-wingers expressing their doubts that hunters would be interested in chasing wolves if they were managed as game (about 250 wolves were killed). I remember the uber-left bleating about how hunters would abuse the hunting season, and the game managers would turn a blind eye to misbehavior. Didn't happen.
Now we're back to where we were, with lots of emotional tripe in the press, and dipshits riding around with "Shoot, Shovel and Shut Up" bumper stickers on their jacked up pickups. The unwashed left is promising more court action if the wolf is delisted, because we can't live without the romance of the wild wolf in the northern Rockies.
And most of us in the middle are fed up. Truthfully, ethical and appreciative sportsmen would rather hunt in an intact ecosystem, and wolves are part of that equation. But we also understand that we are limiting factors to the natural order of things, and that if it takes science-based management to meet wolf population goals, and if that management involves hunting, we get that, too. And we understand that there are other uses of the land that don't necessarily go hand-in-hand with a ballooning population of wolves (ranching, for instance).
Maybe our problem is that we don't foam at the mouth enough... we don't spit into microphones and point fingers or ride around with the slogans that define our political views pasted to our trucks (you know, so we don't have to think for ourselves... wouldn't that be nice?).
But there's logic behind our moderation. We're educated. We're informed. We're involved. We understand that compromise is a wonderful tool to achieving a workable solution, to bringing disparate views closer to the middle. For a lot of us, it works. We reach out for information rather than let some crackpot spoon feed it to us.
Eventually, this wolf situation will work out, and I'm betting it works out pretty much like it did before, with wolves managed as game animals, and harvested according to science-based quotas. Because the biggest threats to wolf recovery and their long-term presence in the northern Rockies are the extremists on both sides who want it their way, or no way at all. They'd rather fight it out in court and in the media than reach any sort of conclusion that involves one or the other giving an inch.
Frankly, it's easier being an extremist. It's easier to let someone else do your thinking for you. It's easier to buy into the rhetoric that seems to match your mindset, without bothering to educate yourself. It's easier to put a bumper sticker on your rig and wear your politics on your sleeve, and act like a zealot whenever a microphone or videocamera appears.
But you're not getting a damn thing done.