The Call (or Cull?) of the Wild

Thursday, June 30, 2011
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In the latest PERC Reports, James Workman lays out a provocative plan for wolf management in the West:

As a hunter, lifelong environmentalist, and wolf advocate at the U.S. Department of the Interior during the 1990s, I have a modest proposal: de-politicize the warmblooded wolf by trusting its fate to cold market forces; let Montana and Idaho sell their peer-reviewed scientific quota of wolf hunting permits but ensure each license can be bought and sold on an auction block open to all U.S. citizens.

Central to Workman's proposal is that licenses must not only be auctioned to in-state hunters, but to any U.S. citizen:

Indeed, an out of state “tree-hugger” or “animal rights nut” could bid $351 or, hell, $9,351 for that same permit in order to let the formerly marked wolf run free for another year. The extra $1 (or $9,001) raised could help endow a national fund to compensate livestock owners.

Just as cash bounties (often from the government) largely killed off the wolf, cash brought wolves back. When Defenders of Wildlife, led by the efforts of Hank Fischer, began offering compensation to livestock owners for documented wolf kills, they paved the way for wolf reintroduction in the West. Workman continues: 

Couldn’t an open auction just trigger a nationwide bidding war between hunters and howlers? Wouldn’t competing groups and individuals start offering tens of thousands of dollars to decide whether a single wolf lives or dies? Might it unleash a crass commercial value on whether we stop or spread the call of the wild? Should amoral transactions determine how much an untamed howl is worth to us as a nation?

Yes, yes, yes and, absolutely and emphatically—yes.

Read the article here and let us know what you think.

Shawn Regan is a research fellow and PERC and the director of outreach and publications. He holds a M.S. in Applied Economics from Montana State University and degrees in economics and environmental science from Berry College. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Quartz, High Country News, National Review, Reason, Regulation, Grist...
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