It's like a bad horror movie where the monster keeps coming back no matter how many times you think it's been killed. In Hollywood, the worse the villain, the more times they come back to haunt you until it becomes painfully obvious that you'll need a silver bullet to solve the problem once and for all.
With the fall of Judge Donald Molloy's gavel, the gray wolf was re-listed as an endangered species.
It happened a year after the slaughter of 120 sheep on a single weekend at the Rebish/Konen Livestock Ranch near Dillon. The culprits, three adult gray wolves and five pups, left most of their victims uneaten to rot on the ground. Unfortunately, this is all-too-common throughout the West.
In the latest sequel, the gray wolf was re-listed despite sound science to the contrary and expert advice from folks on the ground. Wolf populations have far surpassed even the revised recovery goals established by the Endangered Species Act (30 breeding pairs and 300 wolves for eight consecutive years), and recommendations for delisting by both the Bush and Obama Administration. After years of cooperative work, we're right back where we started.
I've held 72 public listening sessions across Montana and have visited all 56 counties so far this Congress, which gives me a unique perspective when it comes discerning statewide public sentiment. There is no better way to learn what folks across the state are thinking than to hear it from the proverbial horse's mouth. Next to the economy and deficit spending, the status of the gray wolf as an endangered species has been a top issue on the minds of Montanans. The public response to Molloy's ill-conceived ruling has been met with disapproval from across the state.
That's why I've started to gather public input to forge a final management solution for gray wolves. What will it look like? Frankly, that's up to you. I've always said that when it comes to crafting legislation, the first step is to listen.
I've already launched a "Wolf Management" section on my website (rehberg.house.gov) to solicit public input. You can also weigh in at my ongoing online town hall via Facebook and Twitter. In the near future, depending on when Speaker Pelosi schedules votes, I'll be holding several hearings around the state on the issue. I want to hear from people on all sides so that when I bring legislation to Congress I can say it's truly a made-in-Montana solution.
There's a big difference in Washington when it comes to writing and passing laws. Some in Congress prefer to create laws first, then hold public meetings to convince the public that the laws they passed were good. By the time they hear from the people they represent, it's too late. Their meetings aren't about gathering input - they're about defending unpopular votes.
I take the opposite approach by listening first, and then acting based on what I hear. For example, Montanans overwhelmingly opposed federal bailouts, the nearly trillion dollar spending bill that has yet to stimulate the economy, and of course Obamacare. It's because I was listening before I voted that I'm the only member of Montana's delegation who voted against them all.
Too much Western land policy is coming from Washington, D.C., after it's shaped by special interests and powerful urban interests from places like San Francisco and New York. This policy is too far removed from the grizzly scene of 120 dead sheep strewn about a pasture - just one example of the real impacts these policies have. There are critical policy questions that need to be addressed, and I can think of no better place to start that conversation than here in Montana.
Questions like: What is the responsibility of the government to reimburse producers for livestock killed by predators that are protected by federal policy? The private funds that have been used for these reimbursements in the past ended on September 10, 2010.
Do we want to use a legislative scalpel to address the gray wolf issue narrowly, or is it time for a much broader reform of the entire Endangered Species Act? One option will be easier and faster, but the other may prevent similar fights down the road.
Is it better to focus only on Montana for now, or should we expand our effort to national solutions that will include other impacted states like Idaho and Wyoming?
These questions are by no means exhaustive and I look forward to all comments so together we can create a workable solution. Listening is the first step to bringing this horror flick to an end once and for all.
Denny Rehberg is the U.S. representative for Montana.