Last Friday, the 18th of March, will be a day forever emblazened into the minds of wolf advocates and supporters throughout the nation, as it was on this day that Defenders of Wildlife and 9 other plaintiffs in the two delisting lawsuits to restore federal protection to wolves, sold out these passionate advocates.
I am in a position, as an up-and-coming freelance journalist, of being both a news writer, as well as an editorialist. My experience, my skills as a writer, and my expertise in areas such as law and wolf advocacy (I’ve been in the wolf business since 1998 as an advocate for wolves, neutral to all other parties) afford me insight into these issues that few others can have. And on this matter, I have upheld the highest journalistic standards in presenting an analysis of the settlement agreement in accordance with my longstanding neutrality.
But now, I get to opine on the matter. Sadly, I must do so without the benefit of comment from Defenders of Wildlife and other parties to the agreement, as none of these organizations responded to my request for comments nor to my direct questions. One organization even had a “vacation message” on the designated contact’s email, despite being the point-of-contact on what they had to understand was a contentious issue.
This settlement agreement was slipped in behind our backs, on a Friday, with only minimal communication about the agreement provided in press releases and on Defenders’ website. And Defenders even went so far as to delete comments on the brief entry annoucing the agreement on their Facebook page, over half by some accounts.
Defenders, in a letter posted to their website, attempts to reassure supporters that the agreement was necessary, and would be highly effective in preventing Congress from passing legislation to undermine ESA (Endangered Species Act) protections for wolves. But if they really wanted to assure us, they would show us something more that this agreement, to which Congress is not a party. There is nothing in the agreement to prevent Congress from passing legislation, with the exception of the agreement itself.
And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather see solid, on-paper assurances. Why can’t, for example, Defenders ask Congress to pass a moratorium as a condition of the agreement? That’s easy to do. If Congress has said they won’t pass legislation, then get it in writing before committing to this agreement.
But even if such a moratorium or other form of credible promise did come about, It’s quite clear that Defenders gave away too much. This settlement agreement, which Defenders insists would prevent legislation, was not the right path. Defenders is “paid” by its supporters to defend wildlife. I don’t know about you, but if I were a wolf, I wouldn’t want a toothless agreement to be all that stands in the way of congressional action. I’d want promises. I’d want Defenders to lobby Congress, and to encourage voters to tell their representatives not to legislate to harm wolves.
For an organization that took in over $28million last year, according to their ***IRS filing for 2009, I personally think they could do a lot better if perhaps they didn’t pay out 43% of their contributions in salary and compensation, including over $360,000 in annual compensation for Rodger Schlickeisen, CEO of Defenders of Wildlife and another $2.5 million for the other 14 officers of Defenders of Wildlife. I think perhaps its time we took a good hard look at these organizations, and especially the money they generate in highly lucrative salaries, and start asking some tough questions.
In the meantime, if Defenders of Wildlife and the other parties to the settlement agreement want our support back, they can start by withdrawing the settlement agreement. Perhaps the settlement agreement should be submitted for public comment on the partcipating organizations’ websites, as the Fish and Wildlife Service must do for any actions they take. And maybe, while we’re at it, we should be allowed to comment on the salaries of these organizations’ officers.
Michael Wolf Defenders’ Wolf Settlement All Bark No Bite Associated Content
Yesterday… Defenders of Wildlife’s Facebook
Roger Schlickeisen 2009 IRS Form 990 Defenders of Wildlife