The Wolf Tax – A Brutal Reality

A tax is a sum of money demanded by a government for its support.  Taxes and fees are most often levied upon incomes, property, activities, and sales. The imposition of wolves on rural America will go down in history as the most burdensome tax ever inflicted on human society.

The United States taxpayer funded Grey Wolf re-colonization program has insured that wolf numbers will continue to increase exponentially at the same time game species experience a precipitous decline in our western states.  Hunters are now facing the prospect of paying higher fees for the “privilege” of hunting fewer game animals.  Popular hunting units that used to contain abundant prey species are now declared “off limits” because the few game animals that manage to survive in some of these units are now reserved for wolves.

Our own State and Federal game managers chose to ignore and/or obscure centuries of expertise and knowledge concerning wolf impacts on prey species, livestock, and humans.  We were warned by wolf experts and game managers from other nations, as well as some within our own borders, about the steep declines we could expect in the number of prey species caused by allowing wolves to re-colonize the western United States. In what is commonly referred to as the “predator-pit” scenario, a specific prey population is reduced beyond the ability of the species to rebound unless a significant reduction in the number of predators is achieved before the prey species reaches a point of no return.  Now that wolves have been elevated to the status of “preferred predator”, humans are facing increasing restrictions.  But even a total ban on hunting will not bring back our game species.  Left unchecked, wolves are fully capable of driving ungulate populations deep into the predator pit all by themselves

If the green lobby succeeds in keeping wolves listed as an “endangered species”, hunting license fees for ungulate species may soon become so expensive and hunting seasons so restricted that the activity will once again become a “sport of kings”.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564–1638) “PAYING THE TAX COLLECTOR”

Disenfranchised commoners may soon find that they have been reduced to a life of serfdom spent longing for the days when game was plentiful and life was good.  Some of our more outspoken First Nations people have noted the irony of our situation. [1]

Fighting back, concerned citizens have proposed and instituted changes to their respective state Constitutions specifying the “Right to Hunt”.   While such Constitutional changes protect the rights of citizens to hunt, they may or may not be effective in insuring that game species remain plentiful and hunting affordable.

As noted in this National Conference of State Legislatures bulletin:

Seventeen states guarantee the right to hunt and fish [in] their constitutions, with 16 of those approved via the voters. While Vermont’s language dates back to 1777, the rest of these constitutional provisions — in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming — have passed since 1996.  California and Rhode Island have language in their respective constitutions guaranteeing the right to fish, but not to hunt.  Advocates also consider Alaska’s constitutional language, which states “Wherever occurring in their natural state, fish, wildlife, and waters are reserved to the people for common use,” as meeting the test due to its strong case law history.

2012 Election Update

In November of 2012, voters in four more states – Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Wyoming – overwhelmingly passed legislatively referred ballot measures to add a constitutional right to hunt and fish. The Mississippi legislature referred an amendment to the 2014 ballot. Seven other states – Hawaii, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Pennsylvania – considered legislation to amend the constitution to add the right to hunt and fish in 2012, but were unsuccessful.

Arizona, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Tennessee had measures on the 2010 ballot to enshrine the right to hunt and fish in their state constitutions. The measures in Arkansas, South Carolina, and Tennessee passed, but Arizona became the first state to reject such an initiative.

Green groups strongly oppose such changes to our Constitutions citing that such protections may undermine “scientific” management of game species in order to benefit one particular group of people.  The Humane Society has declared that,

“The constitution should guarantee fundamental democratic rights, not provide protection for a recreational pastime.” [2]

Farmers and ranchers are obligated to pay the wolf tax too.  The numbers of livestock lost due to wolf depredation will continue to rise.  Wolf impacts cannot simply be written off as just another “cost” of conducting business.   Livestock producers will seek ways to pass increased costs on to consumers.  Increases in taxes and fees will be proposed on all citizens as our government tries to spread the burden for wolf monitoring and protection programs.  The cost for livestock loss compensation, prey and predator monitoring, and non-lethal or lethal wolf “management” programs will be borne by consumers.  $25 hamburgers could soon become a reality.

Fishermen, campers, hikers, kayakers, mountain bikers, and any other citizen who enjoys the outdoors will also pay the wolf tax.   Anyone who resides near or ventures into areas inhabited by wolves will be required to change their behavior.  Knowledge of the predatory habits of wolves and the diseases they spread will be essential.   Mushroom pickers, bird watchers, trail runners and other outdoor users who venture into areas contaminated with wolf feces will be exposed to a whole slew of dangerous pathogens, including Hydatid disease.   Ignorance about wolf behavior, or how wolf borne pathogens are transmitted to other animals, including humans, could prove lethal.

The wolf is an adaptable, opportunistic, and extremely high impact top-tier predator species. They are the most useful tool the REWILDING proponents have.  REWILDING advocates understand that expanding the range of this large predator into areas that are in close proximity to agriculture production and rural settlements will likely lead to wide spread land abandonment due to the economic hardships wolves impose.  We are already experiencing increased pressure and restrictions on private property rights.   Arguing over how much we should pay to have wolves live in our midst indicates that we have given up on the larger issue, which is the morality and legality of the wolf tax itself.

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