In a crowded room at the Santa Fe Community College last Thursday, we were witness to the latest failure of a commission designed to support and enhance wildlife in our state. The question before them was the continued use of Ted Turner’s ranch as a staging area for the release of the Mexican wolf.
This commission was clearly wary, after an earlier meeting in November on this subject; they found themselves shouted down by citizens, who were disgusted by the commission's actions, and their determination to slaughter all wolves in our state. This time they took great strides to state that wolves were here to stay, that really the issue here was a technicality; one that their arcane system sadly could not support, but, hey, we can find a way forward at a later date.
Translation: we will defuse the situation now, and continue to obfuscate wolf recovery in every way possible. Our newest commissioner, Elizabeth Atkinson Ryan, an oil and gas attorney from Roswell and a member of the Safari Club ( a group that kills wildlife internationally for trophies,) made a long and grating explanation of why they could not change the Chairman's decision to deny permit renewal for Turner's Ladder Ranch. At times, other commissioners chimed in with their message that they supported wolves but “unfortunately” they could not support Turner, well because, they just could not break ranks with the Chairman, but hey, “we support wolves.”
This was met with 'sardonic' laughter from the audience, many of whom have witnessed the complete slaughter of wildlife at the hands of these seven republican cowards. Several minute later, they voted 7-0 to end the release program at Turner's Ranch, while loudly inviting them to reapply and “meet this commission half way.”
The real question in all of this is clear: how much longer must we allow this commission to exist? How much longer can we allow the indiscriminate killing of wildlife to continue?
Aldo Leopold fought our Governors at the turn of the last century to allow the choice of the Game Warden to be controlled by sportsmen. After a bruising battle, he lost and the Governor continued to select Wardens; usually a perk to a major donor. Little has changed in the past century, only now we have a commission of seven people, none of whom have a real concept of biodiversity.
It is biodiversity that must be at the core of every decision; that is why the concept of a commission has long ago grown "archaic," in Chairman Kienzle's own words. We do not need a commission controlled by sportsmen, ranchers or oil and gas interests. We need an agency run by a director, that is given a clear mission: every action we take must be taken to enhance biodiversity.
Wolves in our state face one clear future if commissions such as this remain; there will be a hunting season and that is a disaster for wolves in the wild. There will be a trapping season on wolves and that is a moral outrage. There will be a continued spreading of ignorance and fear about an animal that is perfectly designed to enhance biodiversity and improve the natural balance of wildlife, while improving the land.
At Bold Visions Conservation, our mission for the past several years has been to disband this commission. Their actions and appointments are slaughtering wolves, bears, mountain lions and coyotes. They are not here to enhance wildlife, but to cater to special interests in the livestock, oil and gas and fringe farming communities. They speak of hunting as though it was a 365 day a year enterprise. They want our children to learn to kill, to trap and to carry the same disregard for animals that they display every meeting.
The saying goes you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig. This commission represents nothing but pure evil. They are a group of political insiders that relish their role in the slaughter of innocent wildlife. There is no redemption, no reason to hope things will change, and we must simply end their reign of terror.
We must also work to change the charter of the State Game and Fish Department which currently is a rambling statement of support for off-road vehicles, shooting wild game, support trapping, etc. This mission needs to focus like a laser on one thing: enhancing biodiversity!
Disbandment and Game & Fish Department reform will not happen overnight, but if we are to truly help wildlife and improve our lands and waters, we cannot accept the status quo. We must create this change for the next generation; it is our gift and our moral imperative for our children and the generations to come: a gift and action of respect, to the animals that so enhance our lives.
by Stephen Capra
So a week has passed and we have witnessed a standoff continue that should never have started. The motley crew led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy, sons of the terrorist Cliven Bundy continue to laugh and mock the very Government that has fed their families for generations.
There remain many shocking aspects about this “armed standoff” with this group of home grown terrorists. Most of it however should be focused on the federal government response. I think it can be viewed along the lines of the “Affluenza defense.” You see in this case the government has done all it can for far too long to allow this group of its spoiled, lazy, bored and angry children to thrive. Examples include: endless subsidies, low to no interest loans, the endless destruction of public lands and waters at the hands of cattle and sheep and the well documented killing and torture of wildlife, all to appease their endless whining and inability of the majority to move cattle and employ measures to limit predator confrontations.
Let’s talk for a minute about how agencies like the BLM or forest service, lower their standards and allow endless violations and seemingly always bend over backwards to keep ranchers happy, while naturally ignoring conservation concerns. Finally, the response and this is crucial.
Some reports have said that employees at Malheur were told a week in advance that this group of radicals was coming and they cleared their offices. If true, why clear the office and leave, rather than block the entrance to the refuge with enough police and federal officials to make this ragtag group turn and leave?
Second. Given what occurred in Nevada last year, why are we waiting them out. Sure, lots of talk has been given to Ruby Ridge and other such sieges. Yet, in no other criminal activity in America with this level of publicity, have we witnessed the police or federal officials give the criminals such opportunity, such incredible leeway. This appears to be a decision by federal officials that plays right into the “affluenza” defense. By not charging Cliven Bundy last year after guns were pointed at federal officials (a felony) and ignoring all the money owed to the government (more than one million dollars). The federal government is allowing the rhetoric of these radicals-that the federal government does not own these lands or has any say in controlling ranching efforts, to begin to have validity.
So why is the government not acting? In part perhaps because republican lawmakers went crazy a few years ago at the mere effort by some experts to speak about domestic, home grown terrorism, the type we are now witnessing. The results, if you’re Muslim, leave the county, if you are a radical rancher- no charges. Furthermore, the vortex of guns, religion, flag waving, anti-environmental, constitution preaching, anti-government fervor is being exacerbated by a lack of a solid government response to such hostile ignorance.
What this occupation has done is created an opportunity, the chance to finally awaken the public to reality of public lands ranching in 2016. The goal: to raise grazing fees, to place a methane tax on cows, to demand a federal buy-out program and to end once any funding for predator control or killing.
But none of this can happen until the government and our President make clear that these acts of violence must be stopped. This Tuesday, the President will deliver his final State of the Union Address. The chair next to the First Lady will be empty, a symbol of all Americans lost to gun violence. The President must make clear in his speech what America plans to do with these home-grown terrorists and should also make clear the importance and constitutional right of our spectacular protected public lands for all Americans.
Finally, our National Parks, Wilderness areas, Refuges remain to many a scared trust. These lands, many stolen from our Native American brethren, are a symbol of life. Much like the Statue of Liberty has appeared to those seeking a new life; our protected lands are a place for the heart and soul to revive, and for wildlife to thrive. This takeover is made more heinous, because it desecrates this place of beauty and peace.
Let them rot in prison.
by Stephen Capra
If 2015 can be remembered for one thing, it’s the unique images we have witnessed from space. During the course of the year images from galaxies and those of Saturn and Pluto stand out to give us a sense of beauty and the idea that we truly are explorers in a universe that seemingly has no boundaries. I mention this, because this past week I had the chance to once again visit what is truly earth’s version of a Martian landscape called Ah-shi-sle-pah.
We have spent the past two years working to protect this wild and otherworldly landscape from becoming a coal strip mine. Try to wrap your hands around that for a moment; this otherworldly landscape of hoodoos and mushroom-shaped rock formations, where a winter storm can carve new streams that last hours or days, a place where the sky is the envelope that encapsulates the magic which is the land and the sounds of songbirds and wind. On this land of beauty, there are those that seek profit: in this land that holds the footprints of dinosaurs, surrounded by the Navajo, they come not for reverence, but to despoil.
It is the story of the West, one that has changed little since the first steps of white men began the carnage of what was once perfect. On this day the sky was overcast, the wind almost calm. The first quarter mile takes one across massive sagebrush plains. To the north the mountains of Colorado are breaking out of the clouds, to the south long lines of mesas and a sea of sagebrush defines this land which is sprinkled with hogans, small dirt roads and remote evangelical churches that still work to shift a culture.
After crossing this sage country, the land suddenly descends into this new world of shapes, colors, and textures that seem foreign to the mind. In places there is mud, which is slick and dense. In others the land opens but is sprayed with petrified wood, some pieces small, other larger, some coated with yellow lichen. As you walk though and over these formations you are greeted by strange standing rocks, the undulations of sandstone, tired and weathered into large eroding mud-like formations. The colors are subtle and shift with the refraction of the sky, which on this day shifted as the sun appeared and then was consumed by the storm front that was moving into our area.
After a time we came to the broad opening of the hoodoos; more of a large plain. In it we found smaller rock formations no more than a foot or so high, stretched out, resembling that of a spine or a tail. Patterns of rocks that seemed to tell a story lay on this dry and barren surface formed by water and wind, leaving an image like abstract designs on the desert floor.
Climbing out of this plain, we entered a tight series of canyon-like hoodoos. Here on varying scales one could see the sheer magic of this land, for there were more shapes and sizes of rock and sandstone, erosion that created designs leaving one experiencing a sense of the psychedelic. Here the ground exposes small pieces of coal, protruding twisted pieces of petrified wood, and the bones of a cow, that met its fate in this narrow stretch of space that has been transplanted here to earth.
As we began to leave this place of land and sky one begins to feel the tug of the spirit, the sense that like a fine paint scraper, we have cleansed ourselves from the hectic, noise driven insanity of modern life. For a few hours, with the phone silent, the mind sharp, we spent time working on that part of ourselves that needs the harmony that only wild land can give the soul.
Ah-shi-sle-pah is such a place, a land that cleanses and rejuvenates. This Martian relative is truly a place that speaks to the ancients. It is a land that connects us to Chaco Canyon and brings wonder to all that are lucky enough to walk into its sacred, intergalactic grounds.
Take a moment and write Senator Heinrich: tell him to support the Bold Visions’ 39,000-acre proposal to protect Ah-shi-sle-pah! Click here to let him know! Do it today, before this area is forever lost to big coal.
by Stephen Capra
This past week has shown the potential of humans to grasp our basic failures and commit to real change. Paris it seems has been a chance for a rebirth. Many articles have appeared since a consensus was reached with 200 countries and the headlines have stated “the end of fossil fuels” Or what now for Big Oil?”
If you choose to read the NY Times or any major paper there is consensus that the days of oil are limited. However, if you take the time to read the Tulsa paper, or one in North Dakota, or perhaps some in Texas, you will find a different feeling.
In this scenario, oil has propelled our nation for generations; it also moved us out of a recession in 2007. What you will read is not that oil should remain in the ground but rather America must come to the defense of Big Oil. I mention this with what we have seen with the Republican Party as a background.
We all understand that oil must stay in the ground, that fossil fuels are dead and that their demise cannot come soon enough. We also understand that real energy alternatives are where investment must go. But like any industry seeing its impending demise, there will be more blood spilled before we can end their reign.
It seems clear that Big Oil and the high paying jobs they have represented will not go quietly. It also seems clear that they will invest even more heavily in the upcoming Presidential campaign. The reason is obvious; they want an Administration that will protect them.
In New Mexico alone they remain the economic engine that the state drinks from. So while Paris has been fantastic, in fact, it may well be game changing. The concern some feel is that our work has just begun and the mission is to push the change with all our hearts. To block the oil industry at every step and push elected officials’ to move beyond oil!
No industry has a footprint as large; no industry has done more to harm the environment, no industry has operated with the arrogance of Big Oil. Paris is real, the planet has demanded more. Yet, with any politics, reality is what we see on the ground. Oil is dying, but it is not yet dead, hospice has not arrived, and Big Oil will take any cure, refuse to remove the feeding tube, and fight the reality that their reign is over.
So we will be tough, smart and cut off their oxygen until the rigs stop and our land can finally heal. This action will have limited impact on our generation. No ending the madness of Big Oil is our gift to the next generation and those that will follow.
Paris has handed us a torch, a moral imperative to demand an end to fossil fuels. As this is happening, shale oil projects are moving forward in Colorado, Tar Sands in Utah, and across our state the holes continue to be sunk, the communities that abut development face the reality of cancer, childhood asthma and other respiratory ailments.
Our planet is literally screaming and only now are we listening. The coming years will show who is the fighter. My bet is that we win. My only concern is our push, our ability to use our moral imperative to fight the lies, money and deceit that this industry has perpetuated on America and the world.
The investment world sees the future, so do the banks, but oil will continue its sham, its plague on the World, until the last rig is removed.
Paris has spoken, now it is our turn. For the sake of wildlife everywhere, for that of people the world over, for our oceans and our Arctic worlds, fossil fuels must end and the world needs to see clearly that it can happen far sooner than most people can comprehend. The key is a serious investment by governments, corporations and in research and development of the life giving energy supply we call alternative energy.
It’s not an alternative; it is earth’s medicine for life.
by Stephen Capra
As the year comes to a close, we focus not just on the year ahead, but on what has transpired. The year for conservation focused on many issues and Paris rises to the top of many peoples thinking. Yet, in my heart the focus remains the Grey and Mexican wolves of the West, they are the flesh and soul, the living, breathing wildness that we continue to lose at the hands of ignorance.
From the heart of the Lamar Valley to the ponderosa pines of the Gila, the prints are in the mud and the elk are on the move. As the snow flies the packs are working their magic, working in unison to bring balance to our natural world.
Here in New Mexico, while our Governor gets drunk and eats pizza, her hand-picked assassins on the Game Commission continue their efforts to kill the lifeblood of our forests. No matter the Western State, we see Game Commissions that continue to appeal to the lowest common denominator of our human species. With traps set across the West, we are witness to the persecution of a species that future generations will review with disgust and anger.
It was not so long ago on the Great Plains of our once self-sustaining nation that we stood by and allow a slaughter. The reasons, as we have explored, are many, but the senseless killing is something that generations hence have looked at and asked why?
Yet here we are little more than 100 years removed and we continue to kill that which we know must be part of the fabric of our wildlands. What makes this worse is that science and the evolution of biodiversity make it clear that we cannot allow this to continue, and yet it does. The sin we now witness is far worse than that of generation long ago, because today we cannot blame ignorance.
Meeting an animal in the wilderness is such a special experience. Be it a bear or a wolf, perhaps a mountain lion, that feeling of wildness is palatable; the smell can also be part of this moment. But frankly for me, it has been those seconds where time stands still, where our eyes meet. To see an animal of such beauty, such raw power so very alive in your presence is perhaps one of nature’s true gifts to humans. How then I wonder, do some choose such a moment to kill?
But the moment to kill comes from hundreds of miles of away, it comes in sterile meetings, it fills television screens, it can be found at sporting goods stores that promote the killing of predators, but it comes from the hands of man.
In the Lamar valley the snow is getting deeper, as the pack moves swiftly under the growing moon, an older bison has broken a leg and stands in the icy water preparing to meet its fate. The natural world, like the human one is not always pretty, the images are sometimes hard to witness, but the outcome in the natural world is designed to yield balance.
In our human controlled world, we have strived for generations not for balance, but for control, control of all aspects of wildness because of our innate fear of the natural world. Nowhere does that fear linger longer than with the species that has tried to teach us the concept of balance for millennium, that species is the wolf.
As we close the door on another year and prepare for 2016, it is the wolf that is telling us that balance is what we must seek. But balance in this case is to move the human world in a new and vital direction, one that allows us to relinquish control of the natural world that we continue to try and dominate. Allowing species to live free and wild and controlling humans rather than wildlife is the key to finding real balance and allowing the space for wolves to truly coexist.
by Stephen Capra
As dawn broke today the news was everywhere, another siege by disgruntled ranchers, again the name Bundy was front and center and once again the news was that local and government officials were trying “to calm the situation.”
So again American is faced with the double standard of how we deal with white vs. black crime and once again how a select group of privilege is given more than special treatment, they are given a pass.
The story revolves around the Hammond family, who has lived adjacent to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for many years. Many say the family is generous and part of the fabric of the surrounding community. In 2001, they set fire to more than 130 acres of land in an attempt to cover up their deer poaching; witnesses said many deer where not killed but maimed and struggled to get away. In 2006, as fires were burning in the Steen Mountains area and BLM firefighters were on a high ridge camped, Steve Hammond, set fires below them in the middle of the night to move the flames away from his lands while threatening their lives.
The Hammonds were charged under a provision of expanded federal law designed to fight terrorism. They were sentenced to a small jail stay only to have an appeals court rule that time served was inadequate. They are scheduled to return to federal prison tomorrow to complete four (son) and five year (father) sentences respectively.
The Hammonds own about 12,000 acres of land adjacent to the refuge. Their sentencing and the fact threat as part of a settlement with the government that included $400,000 in fines and a clause that states that the Government has the first right to purchase their lands if they decide to sell them has sent the right-wing militia into action. The Hammonds have clearly never loved the Refuge and they history in the courts and their continued public statements about the barren nature of the refuge vs. the lush ideal of their cow-filled private lands speaks to their ignorance of science and reality. It is part of the standard talking points of the livestock industry.
Last year the Bundy family made headlines by defying the government and with an armed militia stood their ground and threatened government police officials. The result: the government backed down, Bundy became a folk hero. The Hammonds have made clear they do not want the help of the Bundy’s and do not support the actions. However, once again the Bundy clan is leading a group of radicalized ranchers, extreme right-wing militia types and the government faces the prospect of a long-term siege, if they do not act.
So imagine for a moment if the Black Panthers took over a government office in downtown Oakland and asked others to come and join them in fighting our government. What would be the response? Fair to say, a hail of bullets and explosions!
In Oregon, a jury of their peers convicted these ranchers of arson. They were sentenced to jail. Their outrageous actions could have cost firefighters their lives.
Now the government must act and act aggressively, before our nation is torn apart by right-wing terrorism. The spoiled and pampered livestock industrial complex must, like all Americans, live within the boundaries of law and order.
Mr. Bundy must be arrested and additional charges with no bail be given. Some will say it only makes him a martyr, but a long jail sentence far removed from his Nevada home is one way to send a strong message, something the government is using in its fight against terrorism and let’s be clear, this is a form of terrorism.
The actions of Bundy and his like are designed to break down the very laws and systems of protecting our wildlife and environment that is perhaps America’s most precious achievement. Their goal: To transform our public lands into a lawless oasis for common thugs and vigilantes’. The Hammonds must go straight to jail; their land will one day be a nice addition to the refuge, may it come soon.
The actions of these ranchers are reflective of an attitude of privilege. The same attitude that allows the indiscriminate killing of wolves or other wildlife, the destruction of public lands and a long history of intolerance towards those who question their abuse of the public trust.
by Stephen Capra
If you could have a wish granted, what would it be? We all have our answers, world peace, end of poverty, clean energy! Why such lofty goals seem often out of reach, the concept of will can often break down the walls of what is possible. I mention this in the context of my Christmas wish-the reform of our State Game Commission.
While some may see this as ‘lofty,’ it seems more likely that it can be achieved, but will require real leadership, a solid strategy and many people coalescing around the need to make this a priority. I say priority, because in a world of issues and concerns, sometimes the issues of animals and their rights can be lost in a sea of human concerns around the need to make this a priority. I say priority, because in a world of issues, sometimes the issues of animals and their rights can be lost in the mirror of our likeness.
In a time like Christmas, we often think of those less fortunate; the spirit of sharing becomes more ingrained. Yet, the most vulnerable in our midst are the bears, wolves, cougars and prairie dogs that sadly meet their fate at the hands of those who kill for sport and fun. Or those select sadists that find trapping to be an acceptable way of life.
No for my Christmas, these animals roam free, never in fear of their lives at the hands of men, but rather partners in our quest to make our environment whole again. In my dreams the grizzly returns to New Mexico and with brother wolf continues to bring our rivers back, and keeps our elk in check. More importantly, they have the room to roam because the cow is moved off much of the land to give room for wildlife.
The key to this dream lies in ending the madness and the torture that comes at the hands of the New Mexico State Game Commission. The people of this Commission, like the trappers I have met come to you with dead eyes, their soul was long ago jettisoned for personal profit, and each has killed and continues to kill the very wildlife that defines wildness.
This commission has a bloody history, but never has it displayed the arrogance and murderous blood lust that we see today. Ending their reign is essential, and it must happen within the next two years. In 2017, we will have a long session at the Roundhouse, between now and the demise of this commission must be made.
Never before has there been an opportunity to do more for wildlife, never before has there been an opportunity to break the back of the special interests-livestock, oil and gas, farmers that continue to control the commission and continue to kill all predators across our state, inviting killing contests and ignoring sound science and public furor.
Bold Visions Conservation will continue its push to end this commission. We believe in the free will of all species and understand that like racism, we must continue to educate and push change at all levels. For you see, WILDLIFE MATTERS. It is the soul of the land; it is the heartbeat of humanity.
So as you make your Christmas wishes and think what could I do? Think big, think lofty, and focus your energy with us in the quest to end the barbarism that is the New Mexico State Game Commission. With your help and lots of hard work and determination we will bring down an institution that has filled our land with blood since the turn of the last century.
For humans the evolution continues, we are not the kings of the land, rather we share this inheritance and our responsibility remains to share this with all creatures and ensure that the next generation inherits something better than we were blessed to have. It begins with life, and allowing all species to live, while removing the very people who in their own delusion feel they have a right to control nature.
Bold Visions Conservation