July 19, 2012
HELENA, Mont. — The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation removed the name of Olaus J. Murie from a conservation award after the family of the man known as the father of modern elk management objected to what they called an all-out war against wolves.
The demand came after the foundation backed removing federal protections for wolves, donated money to kill wolves that prey on livestock, and supported wolf hunts and trapping.
"The Murie name must never be associated with the unscientific and inhumane practices you are advancing," Donald Murie, youngest son of Olaus Murie, write in a letter to the foundation.
Foundation president David Allen said Wednesday the foundation would no longer call the honor the Olaus J. Murie award.
"We are going to accommodate the request because we are not going to change our position on wolf management," he said.
The foundation created the award in 1999 for individuals who demonstrate tremendous accomplishments in wildlife research and conservation.
It was named after Murie, a famed naturalist, author and wildlife biologist who conducted groundbreaking field work on many large North American mammals, including elk and caribou, in the early part of the 20th century.
Murie and his wife Margaret helped create the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and as a founding board member of the Wilderness Society, he fought a proposal in the 1940s to construct Glacier View Dam, which would have flooded more than 10,000 acres of Glacier National Park.
Donald Murie said Tuesday he only recently became aware of the foundation's position on wolf management and later read a quote attributed to Allen in an Oregon newspaper suggesting states would have to hold hunts, shoot wolves from the air and gas their dens to keep wolf populations in line.
Murie described the foundation's position on wolf management as an "all-out war against wolves" that would lead to their extermination.
Allen said the quote was taken out of context and the foundation has never promoted or suggested that wolves be exterminated.
"All I'm saying is if people don't get on board with using the approved state management plans that have been in place for almost a decade then the alternatives down the road are really unattractive," he said. "They have to stop managing wildlife with personal emotion, and use the science."
Several other conservation groups have challenged the foundation's position, including Eugene, Ore.-based Cascadia Wildlands. Director Bob Ferris, who communicated with the Murie family about drafting the letter, said they were sending a message to the foundation that it should base their positions on science.
"(Olaus) Murie, Aldo Leopold and a handful of other pioneers were the first proponents of biodiversity and preservation," Ferris said. "For the family, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's position just drove them crazy."