Spokane Wildlife Conference received criticism for including ‘animal extremists’ groups

Nov 6 – The highly respected wildlife conference is under fire from some in the hunting community after the inclusion of two advocacy groups focused on reforming the state’s wildlife management.

“Everyone is welcome,” Ed Arnett, CEO of the Wildlife Society, said in a voicemail message shared with The Spokesman-Review.

Conference organizers notified law enforcement and conference security while reminding attendees to adhere to the organization’s guidelines for professional conduct. Given the size of the annual conference, it is “standard procedure” to do so. He said in an email that there was no evidence of a specific threat.

He said the Wildlife Society has been in touch with the Spokane Police Department and convention center security to make sure “everyone is safe at our convention.”

“I don’t expect any bluffs, but I think we’re ready for it,” he said.

Most of the week-long conference schedule is read as syllabus for the Master’s level course in Ecology. For example: “Harnessing data ranging from landscapes to individuals to advance environmental and wildlife conservation” or “Biometrics and Population Monitoring III.”

But two events raised the ire of hunting defense groups. On Monday night, Washington Wildlife First — an organization dedicated to reforming the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife — will host a meet-and-greet and screening of an animated film based on a poem by Spokane-based defender Hanky ​​Sepp.

Then on Thursday, Wildlife For All—a national organization also dedicated to reforming the state’s wildlife management—hosts a panel discussion titled “Transforming State Wildlife Management To Be More Environmentally Focused, Democratic, and Compassionate.”

“This session will explore the suggestion that the current system of wildlife management in the United States is incompatible with modern environmental understanding, public attitudes, principles of public trust and standards of democratic governance, and that systemic problems are hindering states from meeting the challenge of protecting wildlife today,” he said. Board.

The controversy began when Sportsmen’s Alliance wrote an article in late October titled “Extremists Allow Animals to Have a Seat at Science Conference.” The national organization focused on fishing protection and access to fishing and criticized the inclusion of the two groups.

Both groups are calling on state wildlife agencies to focus more on species and habitat conservation and less on hunting and hunting opportunities. They widely argue that climate change and biodiversity loss mean that the North American wildlife management model – which is largely attributable to pulling many species from the brink of extinction in the 20th century and relies on sales of hunting and fishing licenses to fund conservation work – is outdated. Neither organization says it is anti-hunting, although some in the fishing community disagree.

“The Wildlife Society, the organization responsible for ensuring that science is used in wildlife management, allows an organization bent on destroying a century of scientific management to spread its anti-hunting beliefs at a national convention in front of a crowd of biologists,” the Athletes Alliance article states. “I say the belief system because Wildlife For All does not have science to support their positions or beliefs. Instead, they have theories…theories that not only conflict with the North American model of wildlife management, but…the Wildlife Society itself.”

The Wildlife Society, which has about 12,000 active members, is dedicated to preserving “wildlife populations and their habitats through science-based management and conservation.” In 2020, the society published a position paper on the philosophy of animal rights calling it “incompatible with the conservation and management of wildlife on a scientific basis.” The community is generally well respected by hunters and fishermen.

“Make no mistake, the Wildlife Society has very strong policies that strongly support hunting and fishing,” said Gordon Batcheller, a retired New York State biologist and president of the Wildlife Society.

“This conference, for us, is all about professional growth, inclusivity, and a willingness to hear views we may not agree with.”

Samantha Brueger, executive director of Washington Wildlife First, said the Sports Alliance article along with a series of other articles critical of her group prompted the Wildlife Society to alert security at the convention center and the Spokane Police Department. The Wildlife Society also posted its Guidelines for Professional Conduct prominently at the top of its web page and emailed it to attendees.

Bruegger shared a voicemail from the CEO of the Wildlife Society with The Spokesman-Review Friday. Spokane Police spokeswoman Julie Humphries said it was “pretty normal for us if we were notified of large gatherings” although she did not know details of the Wildlife Society’s conference, on Saturday.

Bruger called the Athletes Alliance article a “dangerous rhetoric” and urged inclusion.

“I think we are all stronger when we are civilized and able to have these kind of difficult discussions in a safe way,” she said.

Dan Wilson, co-chair of Washington-based Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, believes organizations like Washington Wildlife First focus more on social issues and less on science.

“It can be difficult to be an organization that reduces science-based management to a secondary role in wildlife at a science conference,” he said, adding that the inclusion of these two groups “seems to undermine their values.”

In particular, he noted the decision to end bear hunting in the spring in Washington – a move that Washington Wildlife First supported, despite the fact that the state’s biologist recommended continued hunting and said it was environmentally defensible.

“This is really embracing a lot of social or cultural attitudes into a scientific management model,” he said.

However, Wilson noted that the convention can invite whoever it likes and that it still has “a lot of respect” for the Wildlife Society.

Kim Thorburn, the Washington Fish Department’s Wildlife Commissioner, from East Washington, is a frequent and outspoken critic of the views espoused by both Washington Wildlife First and Wildlife for All called “animal rights theorists.” She wrote to the Wildlife Society’s organizers to express her concerns. She said the organizers were unaware of the Washington Group’s efforts to undermine state administration before selling them booth space.

However, Thorburn defended the existence of the groups.

“My position is that they should not be prevented from being there, especially as I have learned that the community does not currently have procedures in place to screen conference applicants who hold political positions harmful to wildlife conservation and management,” she said in a statement. E-mail. “I really hope, and that was the question in my letter, that the community makes it clear that, as the National Professional Association of Wildlife Scientists and Managers, these people represent an ideology that is incompatible with their profession.”

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