Thursday, November 10, 2011

Shoot, shovel, and shut up

The "3S's", or "Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up", is a term commonly heard among many rural ranchers. It is becoming even more common among those situated near habitats of predatory animals such as wolves, mountain lions, and bears. It's a motto that generally captures the rural attitude of self reliance and independence. The policy of "shoot, shovel, and shut up" is very often attributed to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973.

President Nixon signed the ESA into law in order to protect various species of animals and plants from extinction. Many conservationists attribute the survival of many animals such as the Grey Wolf, manatee, Grizzly bear, and the bald eagle to the implementation of the ESA. It's true that many animal populations have increased since the ESA was put into effect, but the existence of the ESA has created other problems for endangered animals that wander too close to human's property.

The Grey wolf is one of ESA's greatest comeback stories, having been officially removed from the ESA's list on March 28, 2008. Many critics of the ESA question whether the Grey wolf should have been protected by the ESA to begin with. Currently there are approximately 9,000 Grey wolves in the United States, and that number is rising. The Grey wolf's population of 9,000 does seem small, but what's often overlooked is the fact that approximately 60,000 of them are roaming in Canada. Part of the ESA also involved reintroducing animals back to an area they had once inhabited. Grey wolves were eventually reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and all over Idaho. As they flourished in their new homes, they often clashed with the current residents, mainly farmers, ranchers, and hunters. Additional info concerning the Grey wolf can be read in rural states that cry, "Wolf!".

Although no attacks on a human have been reported, the number of attacks on livestock and other local game has increased. The ESA has a $1,000,000 budget to help compensate ranchers and pet owners of any proven predation by the wolves, but many local communities see it as more of a hassle to obtain than any consolation for their loss. From this the "3S's" were born. Rather than deal with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the process to either obtain compensation for a loss or to seek relief from menacing wolves, people are taking care of the wolves in their own way.

Shoot, shovel, and shut up became a common suggestion when asked what to do with problem wolves. Although northern Idaho Sheriff Giddings doesn't explicitly endorse the shooting of wolves, it appears he doesn't see it as a bad thing either. To outsiders it seems cruel, but the residents of Grangeville, Idaho saw it as a solution to their wolf problem. Other rural communities share similar sentiment. T-shirts and stickers have even made in support of doing so.

On April 8, 2011 Idaho lawmakers approved a bill that would allow the state to kill any wolves they felt posed a danger to people, livestock, and property. The bill was passed with the support of residents from all parts of Idaho. Many complained of the cost and threat to livestock, others told stories of being in personal danger from wolves. The loss of tourism was also included as a reason to rid the state of some wolves. The bill will hopefully do what it is intended to do by reducing the need for citizens to shoot, shovel and shut up, while still allowing wolves to inhabit the area.

Similar problems between rural residents and Grizzly bears have been discussed in these blog entries: Rural burdens to bear(s) and The uninformative rural mystique.

Another animal closely related the ESA and the "3S's" is the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. The Red-cockaded Woodpecker makes its home in old growth pine trees, usually trees that are older than 70 years. Being listed by the ESA, the woodpecker's habitat of old growth pine trees has been fiercely protected, both from average landowners hoping to clear space on their property and from timber companies harvesting trees for profit. With the woodpecker's habitat in mind, the ESA's goal was to save as much of it as possible from destruction. The idea has often backfired, as property owners are harvesting trees earlier than normal in an effort to harvest the trees before the woodpeckers move in. Other landowners are following the "3S's" and getting rid of birds when they are first spotted in order to retain control over their property.

The ESA has left a bitter taste in many rural residents' mouths as it often restricts what they can do with their property or in defense of it. Many view it as an intrusion by the federal government where it doesn't belong. Bill HO343 was Idaho's fix for what they viewed as a state problem. It remains to be seen if other states will follow or if Idaho made the correct decision. Time will tell if the ESA has done what it was designed to do or if a new approach will more fully protect endangered species from rural residents simply shooting, shoveling, and shutting up.


princesspeach said...

Do you know what the requirements to receive compensation for wolf destruction are? The link did not provide anything and a cursory search on google did not turn anything up. There was another blog on here about the “Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up” method. The blog was about someone getting a heavy fine for shooting a bear. If this is really a hassel to co-live with the animals, I’m surprised the government hasn’t set up an office in the area to deal with these issues. Or even streamlined to make the process of reporting incidents easier.

Scarecrow said...

Oregon coastal cities would probably like a nautical equivalent of the "shoot, shovel and shut up" doctrine. California sea lions have learned that they can do whatever they want on area docks because of their protected status. As a result, dock owners have to close off sections where the sea lions decide to set up shop.

The problem is that these guys are really big and it would be hard to dispose of a body. Some ports employ noise devices to "haze" the sea lions, but other ports worry that such behavior crosses the line that causes harm.

This has an economic impact when the sea lions decide to take over docks during tourist season, leaving some boat owners unable to take visitors out on the water.

Azar said...

Reading the link that you attached to your segment about the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, I was pretty alarmed. You have property owners intentionally destroying their own property to avoid having to be subject to land-use regulations. Brilliant. Now the woodpeckers lose their habitat AND the people suffer. If that isn't the definition of bad policy, I don't know what is.

Anonymous said...

It's all about money. Who benefits? It costs money to pay cowboys to scout and protect and it costs money to post flags to deter. It makes me sad that we have power over animals, but do not care to balance actions with a desire for money and notoriety.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if it's fair to say Wolves should not have been protected simply because they are found in Canada. This is great for Canada, aspects of the welfare of the American eco-system can be connected to the welfare of Canada's. However, those Wolves are located in Canada not America and not fully helping the American eco-system. It just seemed like a weak point in your argument.

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ePhoenix said...

I don't want other people to be plundered in order for me to get rid of a problem. Requesting a financial aid only endorses the extortion racket. If a species has to go extinct because I need to protect my property then so be it. I don't miss the dinosaurs.

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Anonymous said...

Idaho and other states with wolves as pests should implement hunting. Hunting pays for itself: hunters pay a modest fee, receive permission to bag limited # of animals, report the kill, and helps the state wildlife commission keep track of population. The animals are allowed to exist, but populations are controlled. Win-win.