New audio documentary investigates history, challenges and future of sharing Western landscapes with wolves

By most metrics, wolf recovery in the lower 48 is a conservation success story. But not everyone sees it that way. The first season of a new podcast from Montana State University Extension and the Western Landowners Alliance digs into why, and what that means for the future of wolves, and working lands, in the Western U.S.

Jared Beaver, MSU Extension wildlife specialist, and Alex Few, Western Landowners Alliance Working Wild Challenge program coordinator, host the show, titled Working Wild University, which takes listeners out onto the range with the ranchers, biologists, outfitters and advocates at the heart of the struggle to sustain productive, resilient and connected rural landscapes, wildlife populations, and human communities.

“We set out to make a show that really dives in to the nuance of these complicated issues,” said Few, “without losing the landscape and the people at the heart. So you’ll hear the working lands of the West, in all their struggle and glory, in each episode.” The 13-episode season was recorded in eight states over more than 8 months, with visits to dozens of ranches and conversations with scores of historians, biologists, ranchers, agency personnel, and other experts. Meanwhile, both Beaver, a PhD in wildlife biology, and Few, who has a decade of experience with USDA-Wildlife Services and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, bring considerable expertise of their own to the hosting duties. Yet their friendly banter, and Beaver’s occasional dad jokes, keep the show relatable and fun.

COVID-19’s impact on face-to-face interactions led Beaver to look for new ways to reach more Montanans with important wildlife management information. “Podcasting is an especially important tool for modern agricultural extension,” noted Beaver, “especially in the West where a lot of producers have a lot of windshield time.“ The extension value of the show shines as the hosts dig into how producers and wildlife managers across the West are coping with expanding wolf populations, and how that relates to wolf behavior and biology.

This extension focus drove the team to create a show that can provide value to both the city-dwelling wildlife enthusiast and the seasoned rancher: something Few calls “bridging the rural-urban divide.” Without a shared vision for “the future of Western landscapes in general, and wolves in particular, I fear battle lines will only harden. Polarization isn’t helpful for the kind of deep curiosity and creative thinking we will need to create a future where landscapes, wildlife and people all thrive,” said Few.

Working Wild University joins Deer University, Fish University, Fire University and Habitat University on the Natural Resources University podcast network, a suite of shows from wildlife extension specialists around the country. The first three episodes of Season 1 — Wolves in the West — are now available, with new episodes releasing weekly into 2023. Readers can find more information, listen and subscribe at workingwild.us

Working Wild University was produced thanks to the generous financial support of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and Western SARE.

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Would you like to interview Jared Beaver or Alex Few about these issues?

Contact

Louis Wertz
Communications Director
Western Landowners Alliance
415-676-0122

louis@westernlandowners.org

Links

https://workingwild.us  – Working Wild University website

https://westernlandowners.org  – Western Landowners Alliance

https://www.msuextension.org/  – Montana State University Extension

https://naturalresourcesuniversity.libsyn.com/ – Natural Resources University

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