Bob Brister of the Utah Environmental Congress campaigns to protect Utah's wolves | 5 Spot | Salt Lake City Weekly

Bob Brister of the Utah Environmental Congress campaigns to protect Utah's wolves 

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Bob Brister is the membership coordinator for the Utah Environmental Congress, a group dedicated to protecting Utah lands against over-logging and grazing. Currently, the UEC is organizing a postcard-writing campaign to protect wolves in Utah. On July 26, a wolf was trapped by wildlife agents in northern Utah and another wolf was shot in southern Idaho, close to the Utah border.

What does the UEC do?
The Utah Environmental Congress is a nonprofit environmental-watchdog group that protects the national forests in Utah and promotes native-wildlife conservation. Our Forest Monitoring Program keeps tabs on proposals for mining, drilling, and logging. We challenge projects that violate environmental laws and regulation. We’ve documented over half of the national forest landscape in Utah that should be added to the National Wilderness Preservation System and work to maintain the wilderness characteristics of those areas.

I publish our newsletter, Sylvan Sentinel, maintain our membership database and Website, send out e-mail action alerts, conduct outreach and campaign for wildlife protection, such as gathering postcards in favor of wolves returning to Utah to send to the Secretary of the Interior.

What are the benefits of wolves returning to Utah?
Wolves keep browsers such as deer and elk on the move so they don’t eat up all the vegetation in one place. Wolves will help aspen groves regenerate by keeping browsers from eating all the aspen shoots. Wolves are a great tourist attraction and will benefit the tourist economy in Utah. I would personally love to hear wolves howling in the Uinta Mountains and behind the Book Cliffs. I think wolves will help Utahns more fully understand and respect the complexity of nature. 

What do you hope the postcard-writing campaign will accomplish?
The postcard-writing campaign for the return of wolves to Utah is to restore wolves to their historic status as top predator to maintain a healthy balance in Utah ecosystems. The postcards show the Interior Secretary (the federal government’s top wildlife official) that, contrary to the Utah government, many people in Utah want to see wolves return here. I see this as a long-term campaign, such as the struggle for the abolition of slavery or obtaining the right to vote for women. At this stage we are laying the political groundwork for wolves’ recovery in Utah by educating the public and demonstrating public support for wolves.

How does the public feel about wolves returning to Utah?
From my experience, it is mixed with a majority in favor of wolves. Public polling from 1998 showed majority support for wolves.

What do you think of the Endangered Species Act?
The ESA is a good, strong law. The problem is that the laws are not adequately enforced. Also, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is inadequately funded to list and protect imperiled species.

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