Letters from the West

Wolf lovers meet with Otter at Idaho Capitol protest

Spiritual leader Jimmy St. Goddard holds lighted wheatgrass in front of the Idaho State Capitol during a small protest against the killing of wolves in Idaho. Monday May 19, 2014
Spiritual leader Jimmy St. Goddard holds lighted wheatgrass in front of the Idaho State Capitol during a small protest against the killing of wolves in Idaho. Monday May 19, 2014 kgreen@idahostatesman.com

National pro-wolf advocates didn’t get the 250 protesters they hoped would join their call Monday for Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s resignation for allowing Idaho to kill hundreds of wolves.

And they dropped their plans for civil disobedience Monday after Otter’s staff and then Otter himself met with them to discuss wolf policy. Only 19 people showed up at the Capitol carrying signs and howling in protest of Idaho’s policy to reduce wolf numbers by official killing, hunting and trapping.

Led by Blackfeet traditional chief Jimmy St. Goddard, of Montana, the group of mostly Baby Boomers from the Wolf and Wildlife and Action Group, called on Otter to stop the killing of wolves or resign.

The wolves belong to the American people, the indigenous people,” said Clarisa Damron, one of the protest’s organizers from Kansas.

Eventually they worked their way into the Governor’s office where Steve Goodson, Otter’s natural resources specialist met them and brought them to a conference room to discuss their issues. Meanwhile Otter finished a meeting with Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and was chatting with me in the hallway. Damron came over and asked him if he was going to protect animals indiscriminately killed by snares aimed at catching wolves.

Otter suggested she talk to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, then explained Idaho's concerns with protecting endangered species and Otters. Damron didn’t get it right away but then Otter laughed and she laughed with him.

Then Otter told her he and Idaho were keeping their commitments to protect wolves at a minimum number of 150, reminding her he and the state government never wanted the wolves in the first place.

More of the group joined the conversation and Otter remained pleasant, eventually breaking off to return to his office.

I wrote earlier that if pro-wolf advocates wanted to help Otter build his credibility with the anti-wolf elements of the Idaho GOP they couldn’t have found a better way than to plan civil disobedience on behalf of wolves the day before the Idaho primary election.

Since most of the Republican Party in Idaho has opposed in one fashion or the other the reintroduction and the remarkable growth of the wolf population over the last 19 years, the protesters may actually may help Otter in his primary race against State Sen. Russ Fulcher, and now perhaps Harley Brown, the biker whose Idaho Public Television debate performance last week made the nation laugh and may help him to become a factor in the race.

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