Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Brian Schweitzer featured in this column

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer received some more ink in this Joel Connelly/Seattle Post Intelligencer column. Be sure to click on the link to read the rest of the article. Schweitzer ends it with a corker.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005

West is a moving target on wildlife protection


In the buffet line at a Greater Yellowstone Coalition conference a few years back, mogul Ted Turner regaled two young Greenpeace activists on the pleasures of shooting and skinning deer, with tips on preparing venison.

The greenies, both vegans, were turning green by the time they reached the salad table.

Distinctive breeds of conservationists are found in different corners of the West. Where you stand is, in large measure, a function of where you live.

Three events yesterday underscored the point.

# Under sustained pressure from Seattle-area greens, the National Marine Fisheries Service upgraded its listing of Puget Sound orcas from a "threatened" to an "endangered" species.

The listing is the culmination of a 30-year battle against threats to the great marine mammals, from their capture by aquariums to hidden toxic dangers.

# On the same day, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced plans to revoke Endangered Species Act protection from the grizzly bear population around Yellowstone National Park. It argued that the grizzlies have recovered and that bears will get top priority in managing 5.9 million acres of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

The revocation sets up a furious battle pitting on the one hand state wildlife managers and the hunting-oriented National Wildlife Federation -- which support delisting -- against such outfits as the National Resources Defense Council and Earthjustice, which fear "open season" on ursus horribilis.

# The ides of November saw resumption of Montana's controversial bison hunt outside boundaries of Yellowstone National Park. The first buffalo was shot by a 17-year-old who won a coveted license in a drawing.

Animal-rights activists were on hand to film the skinning. They have mounted furious protests at the close-range shooting, describing it as a "slaughter" of animals that venture outside the national park.

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, one of the Democrats' rising stars in the West, has no qualms about the hunt. Schweitzer was one of 6,000 hunters who applied for 50 licenses to shoot a buffalo.

He didn't get a license but has a debt to pay. Schweitzer must deliver five buffalo steaks to Gov. Christine Gregoire as part of a bet on last Saturday's Eastern Washington-Montana State football game. The EWU Eagles beat the MSU Bobcats 35-14.

What to make of these crosscurrents?

Brian Schweitzer is proud that the Big Sky State has the largest population of grizzly bears remaining in the Lower 48 states.

He has also proposed capturing and checking every animal in the Yellowstone buffalo herd for brucellosis, a disease that bison can transmit to cattle on ranches outside the park.

At the same time, the governor owns a 12-gauge, and points out that Montana has one of America's highest gun ownership rates but one of its lowest rates of gun violence.

"We like open spaces, cherish clean water and love magnificent landscapes with few roads," Schweitzer said in an interview during last Saturday's game.

"We also fish and hunt. We like guns. I don't like it when guns get demonized. Hunters are conservationists. People live in Montana, stay in Montana, when they are paid less than elsewhere. Why? Our lifestyle."

Montana has a population of 971,000. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey, done in 2001, 723,000 of them fished, hunted or watched wildlife. Any effort to restrict hunting rights, or cut off fishing access to streams, gets danders up...
For the rest of the article, go here.


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