by Stephen Capra
This past week the airwaves have been filled with the community of Ferguson, Missouri boiling for justice and relief from a police force that targeted those of a particular skin color, who used tactics of fear and intimidation to control that sector of the population with an iron grip. What occurred in Ferguson is not unique; it is a part of our history of racism and expectations when the world is viewed in black and white. I mention this because I have known another form of racism my whole life, of ignorance and the sense of entitlement that only one can feel as it relates not to humans, but to wildlife. Those who wield the traps, who demand protection and who allow hanging as part of their clan are known as ranchers and their actions and sense of entitlement are every bit as disgraceful as what we see in communities across our nation at the hands of police forces that have come to resemble armies rather than protectors of the community.
In the West for more than 200 years, ranchers have killed with immunity from justice or void of consciousness. They have bullied and cajoled their way with Senators, Governors and a host of rural leaders that somehow see them as important. Like so many in Ferguson who are tired of the rhetoric and want to see real change, real action, they took to the streets to say we will not take it anymore. Their voices are producing change and making many uneasy.
So too does that feeling grip us all, as it relates to wolves. For more than 200 years we have been witness to a slaughter. Despite solid science, and a majority of the population supportive of their protection and expansion, the killing continues. In that time so much magic has been left to rot on our plains and in our mountains, from grizzly to bison, too wolves. Only now the killers post their images with glee on Facebook or now have television shows to glorify their utter disregard for life, for wildness. They are fools, ignorant to the core, devoid of emotion and they enrage a large segment of us that love wolves, love true wilderness, and frankly the time has come to say WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH!
The slow pace of recovery, the empty promises of Federal and State agencies and the constant misinformation broadcast by the ranching community, show little progress but immense suffering. But it goes deeper than that, it involves, as we have said so many times, the unethical behavior of the Game and Fish Departments Commissions across the West. Who cuddle the livestock industry, allowing them game tags for profit, get wined and dined on their ranches in a clear quid pro quo, which goes beyond the wolf slaughter and allows them clout on all decisions related to predators and take numbers for wildlife.
It’s not just a disgrace; it is immoral and frankly illegal. Rules governing Game and Fish Commissioners must be reformed at once and the actions must be as dramatic as possible.
We have our own version of Attorney General, we call her Sally Jewel, and she is the Secretary of Interior. She should come to Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico and tell ranchers to their face that their days of controlling the lands owned by all Americans are over. She should insist on ranchers being forced, as part of their leases to sign a Covenant, which clearly states they cannot kill wolves or other predators or lose their lease.
At Bold Visions Conservation, we have said from the start this is not an issue of science, or regulation, it is simply an issue of morality. Wolves are being slaughtered, while we sit and wait for the conservation community to move forward. The question is why? So they can continue to fund raise, continue to be vanilla, and try in a generation or two to find a solution?
I have thought long and hard about who Bold Visions Conservation is as an organization. I guess we do not fit into the nice, clean and safe world of conservation. We are fighters in spirit, passionate at heart and determined to demand change now. So that makes us pariahs to some, but we believe more people must be angry, should demand more, for our future is at stake.
So we see ourselves as a form of Wild Justice or Wild Warriors, we do not sue or go to court, but we communicate in the most open of ways, we feel your frustration and share your love of both wilderness and wildlife. In looking at what is occurring with wolves, from trapping, to sport killing, to ranchers’ domination over our Western lands, we see a need for real change that must occur starting now. Senators should stop fawning over a group of angry men in large hats and boots that refuse to allow our public lands, like our society, to evolve.
We should demand far more of elected officials and publicly scorn them if they continue to yield to ignorance and greed. The public must continue to be educated, but at a certain point we must find our Ferguson moment. That point where America comes to understand the injustice that has occurred for far too long right in front of us.
Wolves belong in the West, not in some arcane zone or sections, but across every acre. For the Mexican wolves that remain stuck in cages, or in small confines, their days are spent slowly going insane, for they are born to be wild.
Courage is not about conformity, it is about leadership and forcing change. I never believed in discrimination, never tolerated it. We understand this in a human dimension, but now we must push this boundary to include animal species. They are our greatest gift in life, and we cannot sit ideally by as ignorance kills and destroys them and the lands that give them life.
The time has come to remove ranchers from the American West; they are quite simply bad karma. They are taking money from the government, while hating the government. They want to control that which they do not own, and their so-called stewardship, will take generations to heal.
Ferguson has opened some eyes this past week, sadly the result of a tragedy. How much more tragedy must we endure in our efforts to rewild the West?
We believe far more in the rights of the wolf, than we do the ranching community, which will never be willing to compromise. Justice comes to those who fight, and fight we will. We are burning in our hearts for the cry of the wolf and we will not accept the slow path which allows so much suffering. Certainly not to a group, that has displayed for generations, a heartless view of all that is wild.
Bold Visions Conservation