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Comments heard during a recent hearing on the proposed sale of non-hunting wolf stamps are indicative of just how polarized and closed-minded debate can get when it comes to lightning rod issues like wolves.

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks has proposed the sale of the $20 wolf stamps, not only as a way for non-hunters to contribute to wildlife management, but also to create a new revenue stream for wildlife management in the face of declining hunting license sales.

But some hunters who took part in the statewide teleconference hearing were having none of it. They voiced unbending opposition to the idea, arguing that accepting money for wolf management from non-hunters would give wolf advocates “a seat at the sportsmen’s table” and somehow influence wolf management policy decisions.

But here’s a news flash: When FWP accepts comment on proposed wildlife management initiatives, anybody can and does chime in – and that includes wolf advocates. They don’t need a $20 stamp to buy them the privilege, nor would a $20 stamp buy them any more influence over the process than they have now.

What it would do is recognize the fact that far more Montanans than just hunters enjoy and benefit from wildlife. The state Legislature recognized this in 1983 when it passed a law allowing Montanans to check off a portion of their state income tax refund for nongame wildlife research and management. That program raises tens of thousands of dollars a year. And the non-hunting wolf stamp would create another avenue for non-hunters to contribute to wildlife management.

It’s worth noting that Gallatin County led the state in tourist traffic last year, with tourism responsible for nearly a billion dollars in economic activity that supported some 9,000 jobs. It’s a safe bet that a lot of those tourists were drawn here by Yellowstone Park and the possibility of seeing wild wolves.

FWP recognizes the fact that wolves are here to stay. Through setting hunting seasons and quotas, the agency tries to strike a balance between the survival of the species and minimizing stock and game species losses to the predators.

And that’s not going to change because non-hunting individuals interested in wolves are given the chance to buy a $20 stamp.

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Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

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