You know how I feel about extremists, and how extremism–in any fashion, from any political perspective–quells sensible debate and brings emotion, vitriol and unproductive rhetoric to any discussion. This week's Adversary of the Sporting State would have you believe he's a sportsman, himself. Truth be told, he's just another foam-at-the-mouther with an axe to grind.
Toby Bridges runs the website Lobo Watch, I'm assuming out of his mom's basement in Missoula, Montana. He's an affirmed hater of the gray wolf (honestly, this isn't just another post about wolves), but his hatred, of late, is being shotgunned around the conservation world, and he's challenging some organizations that have built their reputations on protecting wildlife habitat and hunter and angler opportunity in this country.
One of Toby's latest manifestos is aimed at the National Wildlife Federation and its state affiliates, specifically the Montana Wildlife Federation. If you believe the rhetoric coming from Lobo Watch, you likely think the NWF and the MWF are front organizations for Earth First! and are a hindrance, not a help, to the sporting public. Truth be told, there might not be a more effective, more moderate conservation organization in the country, but don't tell that to Toby. He's convinced this national conservation organization and its Montana state affiliate are out to shut hunters down.
If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that in 2009, wolves were taken off the Endangered Species List and hunters in Montana and Idaho collectively harvested about 250 of the predators during legal hunting seasons that year. This was the product of a collaborative process that did two things: First, it guaranteed the long-term presence of gray wolves in the Northern Rockies ecosystem; and second, it also guaranteed that hunters would be able to help keep population numbers in check. This provided the needed relief some big game herds required to remain viable for human harvest (and it provided a bit of help to ranchers near the wildlands interface that were, and still are, dealing with wolf-livestock conflicts), and it provided another sporting opportunity in those two states (Wyoming would have been have been the third state, but its political leaders were too busy falling on their sword and insisting wolves be managed as vermin to be part of a reasonable solution to this politically charged issue).
You also know that the extreme right and the extreme left, whether they knew it or not, worked together to ensure wolves were once again protected under the Endangered Species Act (way to go, Toby). The left-wing zealots immediately retreated to the courts, and the right-wing whackjobs, specifically those in Wyoming, refused to budge an inch and allow wolves in that state to be managed as game animals and harvested according to a science-based quota. So, enough review.
Toby is convinced that NWF and MWF are out to bring down the American big-game hunter, simply because the groups openly support wolf management in the Northern Rockies. To be clear, both the NWF and its Montana affiliate support wolf management that includes hunting and harvesting based on sound science, and not on the rabid, slobber-on-the-microphone ramblings of slob hunters who are convinced wolves are but one step above the devil himself.
Here's a little exerpt from Toby's latest missive: "In the past, NWF has worked hand in hand with some of hunting's worst enemies to file some pretty frivolous lawsuits, and has pushed for a nationwide ban against lead shot. As long as the National Wildlife Federation continues to forsake the health of America's big game herds to openly support growing wolf numbers, the sportsmen of this country would be well advised to send their donations to and become members of efforts which clearly see the need for tight control of major predators - namely, the wolf."
Let's take a closer look. First, there's not a hunter out there with a conscience who hasn't considered swapping out his lead for other ammunition that doesn't have the trickle-down impact on non-game wildlife, specifically scavengers like California condors or eagles or any other critter that depends on carrion for all or part of its diet. Not all of us have made the change, but the vast majority have taken the time to investigate alternatives and, in time, many of us will switch to something that will kill only the animals we harvest and not unintended targets. Anglers, too, are starting to come around. Hardly an extreme position.
Second, the NWF and the MWF support wolf management, which is what the moderates essentially achieved in 2009, before the far left took the issue to court and got the wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho stopped, and the wolf relisted under the ESA in those two states. It's important to note that neither the NWF or the MWF were part of that lawsuit. Here's proof (and more proof that, if you're willing to do your own homework instead of just falling back on rhetoric popular with the extremists, you can actually find the truth). You'd think groups that "openly support growing wolf numbers" would fall all over themselves to be a plaintiff in that historic lawsuit, right?
In the same manifesto, Toby makes a few more exaggerated claims about the Montana Wildlife Federation, specifically the conservation organization's support of the proposed expansion to the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. And here's where it gets interesting.
From Toby's "press release" in early January: "According to the folks at Montana Wildlife Federation, the expansion would provide visitors, "...open spaces, quiet areas, wilderness experiences and sustainable biological values." Unfortunately, it would shut hunters out as well, even though it has been their dollars which have been spent to build the wildlife resources there, and everywhere else in this country."
For clarity, hunting is perfectly legal on the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument. From the Bureau of Land Management's UMRBNM website: "
An expansion of the national monument would only add to our country's hunting resources (although I propose an amendment to this expansion that would only prohibit Toby from hunting in the Missouri Breaks). Again, proof that if you take your information gathering into your own hands, you can actually learn a few things. But, hey, it's easier to have some radical spoon-feed you false information because you don't have to click your way through a Google search to find the truth. That's just too much to ask, huh, Toby?
Sadly, Toby's rabid website is chock full of misinformation, and not just about NWF, MWF or other moderate and reasonable organizations that understand the connection between an intact, functioning ecosystem and hunting and fishing opportunity. For instance, Toby claims we have 10,000 wolves in the Lower 48. Counting every wolf from the Great Lakes region west to the northern Rockies, and including all 42 known Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico, we might have 6,000. Again, this information is but a click away (I can hear Toby now ... "That's a government website. We don't trust the government. That's why I have all these guns and knives, ya know." Is that the sound of a whetstone I hear in the background?)
So, for his wanton disregard for truth, justice and the American way–and for being a willing purveyor of propaganda, misinformation and the construction of poorly written prose–I hereby award Toby Bridges with this week's Adversary of the Sporting State designation. Congratulations, bud. You've earned it.
And tell your mom I said hello.
(P.S. I'm taking nominations for next week's A.S.S. Comment with ideas.)