Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Foaming at the Mouth

I learned a new term this week to describe the rabid extremists out there. Thanks to the blog, Eat More Brook Trout, I now have a phrase to describe the over-the-top folks who want things their way, or no way at all. Foam-at-the-Mouthers.

I love it, and I'm shameless commandeering it from that blog (my apologies). And it applies to both extremes of the political spectrum, especially in the sporting and environmental communities. I'd lump in the nuts at PETA with the equally egregious anti-wolf whack jobs who are intent on trying to convince the huddled masses that the wolves reintroduced into the Northern Rockies are a subspecies new to the American side of the border (because, you know, with tightened security at the check station, they weren't able to cross over into the United States for lack of valid passports).

Extremism is a bad idea in any form, but to legitimate hunters and anglers who understand that habitat is the great equalizer, not whether we have too many–or two few–predators on the ground, the extreme right-winger can be just as harmful as the hard-core green weenie. These extremists are the guys who have identified a scapegoat (wolves, for instance) and have zeroed in on it so closely that they've lost touch with the big picture.

As most good hunters and anglers know, habitat is the key to a healthy ecosystem. The things that really matter are water quality, availability of cover and forage, access from winter range to calving and feeding grounds and back... you know, HABITAT. If you have good habitat, you'll have good game herds, no matter what country the wolves in the neighborhood have stamped on their passports.

But to the "foam-at-the-mouthers," like this dude over at Lobo Watch, it's much more convenient to play the blame game. He's been spouting off about the evils of environmentalists and the "non-native" wolf subspecies that now occupies parts of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming as significant obstacles to hunting success.

Let's be clear. Wolves do have an impact on big-game herds, particularly elk. That's a simple fact that shouldn't be ignored. But to blame wolves for all the environmental ills in the region (and that seems to be the preferred route for the "foam-at-the-mouthers") is disingenuous. Why not consider some of the other environmental factors that might play into the overall success or failure of the big-game population in an effected area?

For instance, when's the last time a forested drainage had a significant fire? Fire, destructive force that it can be, actually helps create habitat. In the Northern Rockies, particularly in parts of Idaho and Montana, fire has been suppressed for generations, allowing for a closed canopy and a general lack of forage. That's not ideal game habitat–every hunter worth his salt knows that. Throw wolves into an unhealthy situation to begin with, and you've compounded a habitat problem, not a predator-prey problem which, in time, will balance itself out.

How about outside stimuli? Is an area overrun with motorized vehicle trails? Is an area under development for oil and gas? Big, industrial-grade projects will drive deer and elk away (look at western Wyoming, where half the mule deer herd is gone thanks to virtually unchecked natural gas drilling). Wolves on top of that mess will only complicate matters.

The point is, much like the nut-jobs who are out to kill sea lions as they gather at the base of Bonneville Dam on the Snake River because they eat too many salmon, demonizing the predator when the habitat is the problem simply amounts to addressing a symptom, not the root cause. Is there any doubt that Idaho would once again see hundreds of thousands of salmon and steelhead charging up the Clearwater, Snake and Salmon rivers if we were to remove four largely unnecessary dams on the lower river that hinder passage to and from the ocean?

Only a "foam-at-the-mouther" would answer "yes" to that question. Open your eyes, folks. Look at the big picture. The real villain in the battle to protect our hunting and fishing doesn't have four legs, but two. He doesn't come from Canada, he comes from the board rooms of the consumptive industry that simply will not check its greed in order to protect a unique part of our Western heritage.

Am I advocating for a halt to industrial development in our nation? Certainly not. But before you start "foaming at the mouth" over some perceived threat, consider the big picture, and start demanding some accountability, especially when it comes to how our public lands are used. Remember, these are places that belong to every American, not just the ones who have please investors on Wall Street.



  1. Well said. If we focused all that angry energy out there on fighting to improve, expand and protect habitat, and on making it a significant voting issue, we'd be a lot better off than with simply advocating for wolf extermination programs. But wolves are always an easy, populist target, guaranteed to polarize.

    It never ceases to amaze me how many hunters continue to support anti-habitat candidates. We, as hunters and anglers, need to get past scapegoating "environmentalists" and make habitat protection an issue we, as sportsmen and women, can stand proudly behind.

    It would also be great to see more hunters getting their lazy asses off of their ATVs and learning how to hunt on foot again. And yet they blame wolves when they don't see any large ungulates...

  2. Thanks for putting the "foam at the mouth" phrase to good use, and I particularly like the extremism notation–I once heard U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson say exactly that, and for good reason. A Republican, the extreme left is actually standing in his way in his attempt to pass a landmark bill in Idaho that would create wilderness, allow for ample ORV access and, most of all, respond to a collaborative, cooperative process.

    Can't have that, can we? Good luck with your blog. Feel free to steal anytime;)


  3. Damn. Love to see more sportsmen and women speaking out for reason and solid wildlife management. Well done on all fronts.