by Stephen Capra
Last Wednesday I spent most of the day and night at the latest wolf hearing put on by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It was by all accounts a resounding victory for those who want wolves in the wild. It was also a vivid reminder of those who will stop at nothing to end wolf recovery. It’s a sobering reminder that we are simply one republican President from ending recovery as we know it.
Some have tried to make me believe that ranchers are scared; their way of life is fading, so show some compassion. Sorry, that flies in the face of the war this group has waged on the land and the West for more than 200 years. From their early settlement they have killed Native American and wildlife alike to crave out their personal fiefdom on our public lands and the time has come for them to exit, forever.
Public lands grazing has never made much economic sense, but in the last twenty years with climate change in full swing, drought becoming more the norm than the exception, the handwriting is on the wall. Yet, despite the fact that this group of welfare recipients continues to fight all change, and refuses to share the very lands they enjoy subsidies to lease, they continue their mordant attacks on wildlife. It seems that they need something to blame for their unwillingness to change and evolve like the rest of society.
In the north, they control their Senators and Governors, and that means grizzly bears are shot, wolves are being slaughtered, and species like wolverines get no endangered species protection, despite the science that clearly shows how climate change is impacting them. Here in New Mexico, the Mexican wolf is the focal point of “poor me” gang that somehow mistakenly believes they own those public lands which they simply lease. What’s wrong is unlike apartment dwellers or people in given communities they refuse to accept the covenant that says Public Lands belong to all Americans and all wildlife.
If they sign a lease from the BLM or Forest Service its time that they sign such a covenant and risk losing said lease if they kill predators. Our public lands and waterways have been compromised by their lack of management, far from being “Good Stewards” they have allowed the destruction of our Western lands and turned hiking trails into dung heaps, all so they can profit.
In recent years they have become embolden with the idea that local governments can tell the federal government NO. Reckless acts like those of Cliven Bundy, have only made them feel more anti-American and more powerful. Their tea party inspired rants and complete lack of science, makes their arguments asinine and hollow. They use intimidation to create fear in rural communities and if a land owner wants their land to be used as a sanctuary for wildlife, such a person is ridiculed and mistreated.
Watching the slaughter of such a beautiful and important animal such as the wolf is beyond heartbreaking and for what? So this group of entitled ranchers can graze cattle and profit. What truly has more value in the West? The answer is wolves and grizzly bears in the wild. It’s the value of restored lands and waterways in a time of global climate change. It’s also about the maturing of a society that once did not allow African-Americans to vote. We are moving to a new American, its black, its brown, it no longer looks like America of fifty years ago, nor should our public lands!
Ranchers have shown an arrogant disregard for the fate of species, they trap, shoot and poison at the leisure. They have pressured the government to create institutions like Animal Services to kill even more wildlife. They control state-based Game and Fish Departments who are only too willing to aid in the slaughter. Many a fence post boasts the carcass of a coyote or a wolf. Frankly, many of us have had enough, more than enough.
The time has come for a serious change. It begins first and foremost with the conservation community. We cannot progress on ten separate strategies, nor can wolves be the endless fodder for fundraising. Instead, we must come together and agree on an aggressive plan to end grazing on public lands once and for all.
Bills should include funding for retraining of ranchers, but given the fact that the government has cut so many social welfare programs to those in need, why do we continue to allow the destruction of species and lands, so a handful can be given endless subsidies. In fact, these ranchers could become the front line in a massive restoration project!
Bills should also be introduced to attach Climate Change fees for methane release on public lands, as a means of beginning to represent the true price of grazing.
Most important, we must end the fantasy that ranchers will work with us and accept wolves. It ignores history and man’s strong beliefs about race, society and integration. Many will say this is very callous approach. My response is that we have been far too timid, for far too long. We are watching a slaughter of wolves and it’s time for an aggressive rescue and change in thinking.
I have had the joy of seeing wolves in the wild on many occasions, I have watched them play and wrestle with a grizzly and run in packs filled with energy, wonderment and joy. I have also seen the cold steel trap and its barbarous results. It is frankly heartbreaking and enraging.
Today a new plan for Mexican wolves was put on the table, the US Fish and Wildlife’s science was vintage 1960’s and we sit and wait while more wolves stay in cages, and more ranchers complain about going out of business, or towns tourism being destroyed by wolves, when we know the economic engine that is wolves and Yellowstone. The agency knows what must occur; the West must be opened to wolves, all of it and Mexico too. They know that ranching on these lands has cost us so much in blood and treasure. But elected officials like Jon Tester of Montana, a democrat, and Steve Pearce, a tea party extremist from New Mexico, will continue their campaign of intimidation against the agency and in the case of Pearce, their purse strings.
The Zen of the wolf, is the timeless passage on our lands, it’s the balance, the halcyon beauty of an animal designed for its environment in every way. By contrast, the iniquity of the ranching industry and they circle of supporters, their often maudlin behavior is tired and must be forced to change.
Public lands ranching must, like so many other dark chapters of our nation’s history, come to an end. Like the other dark chapters, we can learn from it and promise to never allow such malice, ignorance and slaughter to occur again.
Then we can join our wild friends and rejoice under a star filled sky, proud in knowing we as a society have once again learned to love.
WATCH OUR VIDEO OF THE AUGUST 13, 2014 WOLF HEARING
Bold Visions Conservation