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Press Release: Murie Family Cautions Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Over Anti-Wolf Rhetoric

Murie Family and Former Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Magazine Editor Denounce “all-out war against wolves” (posted 7/26/12)

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While the information below is not specific to Mexican gray wolves, the actions taken by the Murie family and David Stalling address a more widespread problem affecting the political debate about wolves everywhere: that many so-called “sportsmen’s” organizations have abandoned true wildlife conservation principles and science-based management in favor of strident anti-wolf rhetoric. It is important that the voices of true conservation sportsmen like the Murie family and Stalling be heard.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 18, 2012

For more information contact:
Bob Ferris (Cascadia Wildlands) – 541.434.1463
Josh Laughlin (Cascadia Wildlands) – 541.844.8182

Murie Family Cautions Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation over Anti-Wolf Rhetoric—America’s first family of natural history asks RMEF to return to science and reason


Glendale CA—The Muries—arguably America’s first family of naturalists—sent an open letter today to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation asking them to either curb their anti-wolf rhetoric or stop using the Murie name in association with their organization.  The Foundation currently uses the Murie name on their website and other materials as well for their periodic granting of the Olaus J. Murie Award honoring the work of elk scientists.

The letter from Donald Murie—Olaus Murie’s son—was the result of a growing dissatisfaction with anti-wolf statements made by David Allen president and CEO of the elk conservation organization.  Mr. Allen is a vocal proponent of aggressive wolf control that he says could include aerial shooting and even gassing wolves in the dens.  

“[Y]your organization has declared all-out war against wolves; unreasonable, with no basis in science at all, wholly emotional, cruel and anathema to the entire Murie family,” said Mr. Murie in his letter to Mr. Allen. “We cannot condone this.”

Mr. Murie was particularly critical of RMEF’s apparent dismissal of the importance of the role of large predators such as wolves both to elk populations and to ecosystem function—his father and uncle providing some early scientific underpinnings in this field of study.  He argued in the letter that the Foundation’s public posture on wolves, “…is in total opposition to the findings of careful independent research by hundreds of scientists. Wolves have always been a necessary part of a functional habitat for elk and other game animals. They have been re-introduced into areas where their absence has resulted in ecological imbalances. Now you are determined to exterminate them once again.”

The Murie family is known primarily through the work of the four senior Muries: brothers Olaus and Adolph and their wives Margaret (Mardy) and Louise.  All were accomplished naturalists and wilderness advocates whose collective and individual efforts resulted in the creation or expansion of national parks and refuges such as Denali National Park, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and additions to Grand Teton National Park; numerous scientific and popular publications on natural history; and a collection of awards from nearly every major conservation organization as well as the Aldo Leopold Memorial Award Medal (Olaus), Presidential Medal of Freedom (Mardy) and the John Burroughs Medal (Adolph).  The last of the four senior Muries—Louise Murie McLeod—passed away recently at the age of 100.

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The statement below comes from The Wildlife News by Ralph Maughan

David Stalling worked for Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for a number of years. For 10 years he was conservation editor of Bugle, their magazine. He was also President for two terms of the Montana Wildlife Federation and presently is a grassroots organizer for Trout Unlimited. …

Here is David Stallings' statement:
In a sad, but justified move, the family of Olaus Murie recently demanded that the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) cancel the organization’s Olaus J. Murie Award because of the RMEF’s “all-out war against wolves” that is “anathema to the entire Murie family.”

I conceived and created the Olaus J. Murie Award (with coordination and approval from the Murie family) on behalf of the RMEF in 1999, when the RMEF was a science-based conservation organization. The award recognized scientists working on behalf of elk and elk habitat in honor of Olaus Murie, who is widely considered the “father” of modern elk research and management for the ground-breaking work he conducted at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in the 1940s. He also wrote “Elk of North America” – the first, most thorough and comprehensive scientific treatise on elk and elk management, which has since been updated several times by the Wildlife Management Institute.  (I have read Murie’s book several times, and was honored to have had a chapter published in the most recent edition.)

Since then, the RMEF got rid of all the good leaders who not only helped create and shape the RMEF, but had solid, impressive backgrounds in wildlife biology, ecology and science-based wildlife management.  The organization now ignores and defies science and panders to outfitters, politicians and hunters who have little understanding of wildlife and, in particular, interactions between wolves and elk.  The group has abandoned principle for income and popularity.

During my ten years as the conservation editor for RMEF’s Bugle magazine, I wrote many award-winning science-based articles and essays regarding wildlife, ecology, natural history and wildlife management.  Several of those stories focused on science that the RMEF itself helped fund showing clear, solid evidence of improvements in the health of habitat and elk herds living among wolves; how wolf predation was mostly compensatory and not additive; how elk behavior, habits and habitat choices changed in the presence of wolves, and many other interconnected complexities that factored in such as habitat conditions, habitat effectiveness, vulnerability,  bull-to-cow ratios, breeding behavior, calving and calf survival rates.  In those days, the RMEF helped convey and disseminate accurate information to keep people informed, supporting the kind of good, solid science that Olaus Murie himself began and would have been proud of.

Today, the RMEF is run by a former marketer for NASCAR and the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association, with no understanding of wildlife or elk ecology, who has called wolf reintroduction the “worst ecological disaster since the decimation of bison herds;” continues to erroneously claim wolves are “decimating” and “annihilating” elk herds; who viciously attacks anyone who disagrees; and does what he can to keep the truth from being published.  (Myself and other science-based writers have all been banished from writing for Bugle, with no explanation.)

This, despite the tremendous recoveries and improvements to elk and other wildlife habitat in Yellowstone thanks to wolf recovery; that there are now more elk in Montana (and more hunting opportunity) than ever; that I see as many elk as always in the country I hunt, and that Montana outfitters are claiming the best elk hunting success in years.

Good for the Murie family! The RMEF has become a disgrace to the good, science-based research and management that Olaus Murie began and promoted.