Tuesday's U.S. election may make the difference as to whether the Yellowstone and central Idaho wolf recovery continues, or whether it sinks under lawsuits and political opposition.
Most critical are the elections in the states of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, \ where unfortunately, the wolf has become a Republican versus Democrat issue. Republicans are usually fierce opponents of the wolf and Democrats usually lukewarm defenders.
There are close senate contests in all three states. There is a close contest in Montana for the lone U.S. House seat being vacated by wolf supporter Democrat Pat Williams. In Idaho "famous" or "infamous" wolf, grizzly bear, and public lands opponent Helen Chenoweth is in a tied race with young Democratic challenger Dan Williams.
Wyoming's lone member of the U.S. House, Barbara Cubin, a Chenoweth clone, is in a close race with Democrat Peter Maxfield. The race is also close in Wyoming for the seat of retiring Republican Senator Alan Simpson, a wolf opponent. Here, Democrat Kathy Karpin faces mineral industry supporter and wolf opponent, Republican Bob Enzi. A new issue at the end of this race is whether Wyoming Republican senator Craig Thomas struck Ms. Karpin at a recent forum.
In Montana, Democrat Max Baucus, lukewarm on wolves, faces a tightening race is his bid for a 4 th term in the U.S. Senate. His opponent, Dennis Rehberg, is negative on wolves. Details of Rehberg's positions on all issues are hard to come by because he is one of the few congressional candidates who refused to respond to Project Vote Smart's questionnaires. Montana Democrat Pat Williams, the state's one representative, retired. The contest to replace him is a tossup between Native American Bill Yellowtail, a wolf supporter, and Republican Rick Hill. Yellowtail had been the regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In the Idaho Senate race, challenger Walt Minnick, a strong conservationist, faces one of the Senate's brownest members -- Senator Larry Craig. Some polls show the race to be within a few per cent. Others show Craig well ahead.
It is a foregone conclusion that the Wyoming and Idaho legislatures will remain firmly in the grip of agricultural interests who don't like wolves.
Control of the U.S. House and Senate is also important. Under the Republican control of the last two years, the key committees that deal with wolves are controlled by Alaskan anti-wolf Republicans -- Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Don Young. Both will be elected, but will they be reelected as committee chairs?
© 1996 Ralph Maughan
Not to be reprinted, archived, redistributed, etc., without permission.
© 1996 Ralph Maughan