In April, the US Congress voted to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list, even though a federal judge had earlier ruled that the animal should retain full protection.
The vote means that this fall hunters will begin shooting and killing wolves.
In Idaho, game officials are already distributing licenses to kill wolves. But unlike fishing and hunting licenses in most states, the names of hunters in Idaho are kept secret. That's because last year Idaho officials passed a law that redacts the names of people who have purchased tags for hunting. The law supposedly was passed to protect hunters from "harassment" by wolf defenders.
Some hunters in the Rocky Mountains say that killing wolves is part of their culture. If so, then what do they have to hide?
Write to Idaho Governor Butch Otter and tell him that the people who are killing wolves should at least have the guts to do so publicly.
Dear Governor Otter:
I am writing to express my disappointment that Idaho allows the names of hunters to be kept secret and to ask that you work to repeal the law that allows hunters to hide.
Usually, hunters and fishermen are proud of their game kills and their catches. They take pictures of their trophies, send them to friends, and post them on the Internet. It seems strange, then, that hunters in Idaho are hiding in the shadows rather than standing proud. Allowing the names of hunters to remain secret is a violation of the spirit of public records laws and is contrary to the freedom of information that makes our country great.
As you know, last year the Idaho legislature passed, and you signed, House Bill 531 to amend Idaho's reporting requirements for fish and game licenses. The legislation's proponents said the change was necessary to protect the confidentiality of wolf hunters, who allegedly were being 'harassed' by wolf advocates. This is ridiculous. A public complaint about wolf hunting -- or even an attempt to shame wolf hunters -- is not 'harassment.' It is First Amendment-protected free speech. And when it comes to this emotional issue, most of the harassment has gone the other direction: Wolf advocates across the northern Rockies have experienced threats and intimidation.
Keeping confidential the names of hunters and fishermen in Idaho also violates the ideals of open government. Wildlife is a shared resource that all Idahoans have an interest in stewarding; fish and game are, in a sense, public property. So all citizens have a right to know who is taking that property -- just as they have the right to know who hasn't paid their property taxes, or who has a license to practice medicine. This freedom of information is essential to maintaining a government that is open and accountable to its citizens. So I urge you to work with the state legislature to repeal House Bill 531.
Fundamentally, this comes down to an issue of integrity. If hunters -- especially wolf hunters -- are scared of being identified, then perhaps they shouldn't be hunting in the first place. After all, if they aren't doing anything wrong, then why do they feel they have to hide?