The senate floor is cold. The voices echo as Jenine calls the roll. Brad Little's voice is low with that lilt of humor he has. Edgar Malepeai gives our prayer, his warm, kind, strong self in every word. People talk on the phone, work on their computers as we read through the titles of bills on second reading, jump through orders of business to appointments. There are supposed to be a few fireworks here today over one appointee to the fish and game commission, I'm not sure which.
Shawn Keough gently reads the first resume. Denton Darrington is fiddling with his microphone but it's Senator Siddoway who rises to debate against the nomination. We do this, he says, to send messages to departments. I'm thinking yes, many here wish we could meld agencies to our thinking. Jeff says this is not about him ranching sheep, but about policy.
I feel a flash back to debating a Human Rights Commission appointment last year. Ruthie Johnson whose palpable distaste for gay people and those who step out of gender norms was alarming. Yet we rarely question appointments, even when it seems Commissioners fail to show up, fail to understand or work to further the goal or work of an agency.
So the gallery is filling with students, Senator Siddoway is talking about wanting to protect his sheep, his property he says, by shooting wolves, yet being allowed to kill one or two only. He has faced real loss but I wonder if wolves are at least as smart as my husky and know who has killed their pack members and if they have picked a fight with him now.
So Senator Broadsword begins her support for the Fish and Game Commissioner by saying something like that she hates wolves as much as anyone. Jeff Siddoway asks for a roll call. People move awkwardly in their seats, worried I think about not being seen as hating wolves enough. We are so far from the days of my childhood when girls hung photos of wolves on their bedroom walls, for their beauty and for their role in an ecosystem, their role in making the wild wild.
Senator Keough closes debate reminding us all that the courts have left us little room. And so the roll call begins, mostly ayes. Senator Goedde interrupts the roll to explain how he has hunted for wolves on his tag and could not shoot one, how Fish & Game even extended the season to allow more wolves to be killed and still the entire quota has not been shot.He points out that higher quotas probably would not have fixed this problem.
Just this morning I sat in JFAC listening to the Military Division present their budget and talk of a new wing coming into Idaho. I thought about a day about 20 years ago sitting in a meadow as a fighter jet flew below the canyon rim, wings tilting. This was inside the Frank Church Wilderness and as the roar faded, an odd sound rose, one voice and then another. I realized those voices, there so far from where people usually wander, were wolves, three of them through the trees at the edge of the meadow where I stood.
This was before wolves were re-introduced. These were wolves who had found their way to the quiet wild of central Idaho. That experience so rare twenty years ago, today is almost common and has brought us face to face with the very meaning of the word "wild." Do we still find anything to admire in the wolf? Are elk herds fewer or just stronger and faster? What and how much do we manage wilderness and the wildlife inside it? Outside wilderness we clearly pick and choose which and how much of each species we prefer exists. We manage the wild out of respect to ranchers like Jeff Siddoway, who in my mind should perhaps be better compensated for his loss. But where does the wild start or end? Do we ever manage the wild for the wild? What should we simply expect to face when we live at the edge of it?