by Stephen Capra
For the past few years I have spoken with many good Republican friends who feel as though they have lost the party they once so proudly belonged too. These Republicans I speak of care deeply about issues like wilderness, global climate change and wildlife, but they view it through the prism of being Republican means a far broader interpretation than that of the current Tea Party driven, oil and gas industry controlled party of today.
If you look at their plans should they take control of the Senate, their goal should be called the “Destroy Americans Wildlands and Water Act.” They only seem to see our wildlands as a place of exploitation. Their economic strategy includes getting the Keystone pipeline approved, more drilling and fracking, but removing that silly regulation that somehow tries to protect drinking water, and of course open up more of our coasts to drilling. Let’s not forget selling off public lands in the West as their means of reducing the deficit. Its pure madness and it’s not that far removed from reality.
To watch the Republican party of 2014, is to witness a party bought and paid for by oil and gas, Koch Brothers, the religious right and the extremism of the Tea Party, which is large corporations, exploiting rural America and people who feel their lives are not working according to their white status, especially because of an African-American President of thought and reason.
Chevron is pumping millions into Senator McConnell of Kentucky’s tight Senate race with the goal of becoming the majority leader in the Senate. Now, let’s be clear, Democrats suffer from some of the same influences brought by lobbyists and the many special interests they represent, however, my focus is conservation and on this issue there is an amazing gulf.
It’s important to look at the interconnectedness of life. How would a party that fights woman’s rights that seemingly want to go to war daily, expand military budgets and subsidies to ranchers along with oil and gas interests. While rabidly fighting health care, how can we expect them to care about conservation? They are not just detached from reality; they have traded their connection to the earth for the madness of perceived wealth.
Republicans since the Reagan years rarely seem to see a wilderness bill they support. They have become obstructionists to most environmental legislation and only tend to agree if some major pork for their district is attached. They seem to have very little sense of the importance or spiritual renewal that comes with protected land.
The influence of oil and gas interests has lead governors in the southeast to demand the opening of their coasts to drilling. In North Dakota, they are just now discovering the spills, crime, loss of a night sky, and the dangers that come with putting faith in big oil. The “drill baby drill” propaganda that Fox news and many Republicans now proudly speak of has become a point of pride for many Americans.
From this also comes the carefully choreographed messaging about denying Climate Change and the long list of Republicans from oil states that speak out and pushback from sound science in such a pious manner while the planet screams for reason. It is a sickness that permeates this party and we are paying the price in funding to parks, the obsession of spending cuts from a group that gave us the Iraq war and the destruction of our economy.
The same party has leaders like representative Stephen King of Iowa who supports dog fighting and made sure to add an amendment to the Farm bill that removed protections and inspections of farm animals. Perhaps it’s our own Stevan Pearce of New Mexico, (he even spells his name weird) who proudly spoke of selling off public lands to remove our nation’s debt and who has done all he can behind the scene to block Mexican wolf recovery efforts.
It is a tragedy for this country and the world to see the decline of a once great party that has devolved into a tightly controlled group so devoid of feelings, so full of greed and drunk with power, that they would create a world where most of us are numbers and our lands and waters destroyed for the mansion on the hill.
We have become, not a nation of people, but an island of individuals. That sadly works against the shared responsibility of our public lands and waters.
Elections are less than 10 days away. Voting, like land protection, is more difficult than ever for those in states determined to reinstate the poll tax. Meanwhile our parks will absorb another year of cuts, federal agencies that mange lands will also see cuts, but God forbid, a Republican accepts a cut in military spending!
This party must come back to its roots, its origins. The years of Teddy Roosevelt and the magic he inspired. If they will not- then they must be defeated, for all the reasons I mentioned above, but most of all, if we are to protect lands, end our addiction to oil, and live in harmony with wildlife, stopping them is not about politics, but rather survival.
It comes back to morality, the morality reflected in the magic that is our planet. Something the Republican party of 2014 has turned a blind eye to.
by Stephen Capra
After more than two years of preparation, the past few days have been the celebration of 50 years of wilderness held here in Albuquerque. From all reports it has been a tremendous conference one that highlighted the Secretary of Interior, Terry Tempest Williams and a long list of Senators and elected officials. What it also revealed was the gray hairs of a movement that has gone from powerful and grassroots, to one of politics, suits and stubbornly remains a holdout of real integration of its workforce and those who care about its relevance. Wilderness, like modern day Republicans is slow to change, fearful of what it may bring and isolated from the reality of a changing world.
I mention this as the person that wrote the proposal two years ago to bring the conference here to New Mexico. My goal was to really rock the foundation of what this movement stands for and my reasoning was to make it broader and more relevant for the next 50 years. Our hope and goal was to bring new voices to the table, to listen to communities of color and understand not only what wilderness means to them, but to make them part of the fabric of a new movement to protect lands in perpetuity.
Now because of such efforts, there were some new voices, but they palled to the more conventional. We got to hear elected officials and agencies talk about why this wilderness ideal was so important. Looking across the room, one could imagine the crowd as no different as the segregated south of 40 years ago. You see real change requires taking risk, allowing new voices to be the focal point, not window dressing.
In the two years I worked on this event, what I saw were efforts to remain connected to our past, one which I have loved and revered. This past has been celebrated in many ways for the past fifty years. I was at the 25th, 35th and 40th conferences and we celebrated the past and gave awards and speaking time to every living member of the extended families of our heroes.
This time it made sense that we take a day or a part of one to remember the past, but focus with energy and will to a new and frankly even more exciting future. I left the planning committee some time ago because the pushback was far too strong to use such a moment to grow.
Many would say wilderness is far too great an ideal to need change and that sometimes a simple idea is enough. Having spent much of my youth in the wilds across this country and Canada, I can say with conviction that I agree. However, we see so much of our country and its basic foundations and freedoms eroding before our eyes. It is not that far-fetched to imagine a Republican administration coming in and declaring changes to the Wilderness Act or its elimination, and if they control both houses, anything is possible. Sure we can pressure and raise voices, but we remain a small and in some eyes, bourgeoisie segment of society; which is ironic, considering the lifestyles of some of our founders-Sigurd Olsen, the Muries or for that matter Edward Abbey?
Our goal must be to desegregate this movement, to ask tough questions of how we move forward, to begin to listen to new voices and allow ourselves to grow, not stagnate. Change is coming, but our principle is solid, we love land for the sake of its wildness, so too our waters. That principle will likely remain, but it’s who we are that must evolve. There may be changes at some point, even the constitution has grown.
Part of being ready, is to be open to change which is inevitable. The past four days have been tremendous for all involved, but we missed an opportunity. One that must be integrated into the long-term vision of a movement, that has gone from a handful of people with a passion and a vision, to a corporate entity, that thus far is not reflective of the times. The first 50 was pure magic, the next may be part of not only preserving lands, but the sanity of a world consumed in its love of the material.
To fight such a loss of the soul and disconnect we must invite the world to once again love wildness and allow them to speak of wildness with their own voice and meaning.
It has been quite a time lately, watching the LGBT community gain acceptance and power in its fight for equality. Their campaign has been emotion-filled, focused, tough, convicted and strategic.
What I love is their ability to convince an America far more conservative than we often realize by being honest, passionate and driven; something the conservation community sorely lacks. This is vital for throughout American history; we have watched our elected officials lag far behind the American public in their desire for change. If we lack spirit, so will they. In fact we have seen our meekness translate into the destruction of wolves.
Within the conservation community groups such as Defenders of Wildlife and NRDC have relied on consultants and the view that this issue is about people, not wolves. So, ranchers and others they believe can be persuaded through an open and respectful dialogue are winning. They are wrong--dead wrong!
The reason is they view wolves as a product, a non-human entity. What they miss, is that wolves are living, thriving and wondrous beings, the type of being that makes life special; inspiring our life, while pushing our perspective of what is possible. There was a time when our nation believed in freedom and liberty for all.
That notion never penetrated the livestock industry.
So far much of that sentiment in terms of civil rights has revolved around the human dimension. Our job is to expand that sense of civil rights to wolves. You see, when we deal with those who identify themselves as ranchers, we encounter a segment of our population that lives in a remote world, where change comes slowly. They see an America which they have been divorced from for most of their life.
America is a place where people of color are becoming the majority, where marijuana is becoming legal, and a place where gay marriage is recognized, woman are demanding equal pay and wolves are in the wild. These new realities are difficult for conservative minds to comprehend.
So their frustration and sense of losing control of the world which is moving seemingly at warp speed, has left them bitter and angry at liberals, Democrats and those they view as poison to their rural and stagnant way of life. To release their frustration on a world they cannot understand, wolves have become their target. Killing wolves is an exercise in curing their rage.
This is not about land, or grazing, it is about the anger of a group of people who do not connect with a changing world. In our nation’s history we have seen this many times. It began in the south with slavery. We watched the dehumanizing elements of segregation. We went to war over oil and power. Killing is in America’s DNA.
So here we are in 2014, wolves which we reintroduced at great expense are being slaughtered. It is revenge for those of us ranchers perceive as forcing change in their life-progressives who see animals as the beauty in life. They trap, shoot, bow hunt and destroy packs as a badge of honor; while disrupting their co-existence as packs, and forcing them to actually kill livestock to survive.
Elected officials, the Interior Department and those at the Forest Service treat ranchers as some kind of sacred trust. Politicians and Game and Fish departments treat them more like royalty.
Part of the reason is the tepid, let’s works together, approach that foundations and some conservation groups profess; while the ranching community makes threats, demands the end to wolves and ignores any agency that wants to enforce the law. They do so with bravado and with support.
The conservation community, at least that part which has milked wolf recovery, while contributing to their slaughter, will never change. It has been nothing short of a fundraising bonanza. They have fooled people who genuinely love wolves; but do not understand the rage of the ranching and livestock community, their desire not to share the public lands that are a birthright of all Americans, and steal these lands for their personal profit.
So it’s time for a new reality, time we unify and defy those in the conservation community that see wolves as profit rather than a living being.
We can retake the issue of wolves in the wild and challenge the notion that ranchers have a right to our public lands. They (ranchers) represent a cancer on the land, a cancer of the soul. They stand in the way of progress and meaningful wildlands in the West. They must be removed from our public lands.
My heart, your heart, is with the wolves; their value in the wild far outweighs the waste which is the livestock industry. We must be strong and better to be 10 driven people than 1000 that placate the destruction of our spirit. Let us join in unison, let us fight with pride, let us speak with conviction and never surrender our principles to those who seek profit before life.
Wolves are the heart of the wild. They deserve our fighting spirit, without it wilderness is simply land void of a heartbeat.
Bold Visions Conservation is banding together with other small protection groups across to fight for wolves and against ranching.
by Stephen Capra
Today in Brazil a woman will become President. While it’s about time, it also presents an opportunity to have a real conservation minded President in charge. In Brazil you see the Amazon is being burned before our eyes. The reason- so ranchers can move into once forested areas and grow beef, while destroying without any regard for the ecosystem that generates life and beauty on levels which seem hard to comprehend in the arid west.
Marina Silva has made clear her desire to change the status quo as it relates to burning her countries heritage, the forests of life. Yet, like so many people who understand our environment and make it a priority, she has seen her campaign falter in recent days by withering attacks by the more established candidate Dilma Roussett who understands the powers that support her reelection.
If Silva could win, Brazil would undergo a sea change in their burning and grazing mentality, which would make our planet the winner. Which makes one wonder if the possibility exists for change in this country, as it relates to the devastation which the livestock industry has wreaked on our western public lands and water?
If so, I do not see a man taking the lead on that effort, rather someone of the mindset of Elizabeth Warren. Who seems willing to challenge established thinking be it banking, Wall Street, and with some luck perhaps those who kill wildlife without reason or logic and control Game and Fish Departments with an iron fist, enjoy generous government handouts, while destroying the lands that have given so much life, they call themselves ranchers, but in reality they are part of an oligarchy of self-preservation.
At Bold Visions we continue to talk about ending public lands grazing and are met by many in the conservation community with rolling eyes. It speaks volumes about the need to create a new and spirited energy within our own ranks. It also requires real support from the foundation community to begin to breakdown the ranching community and the support they enjoy from any and all elected officials. This is not a one organization operation; rather it is going to require the coordinated support of many groups with a goal that captivates the American public and allows a far more positive, than negative campaign.
Which is rather easy if you think about it? Imagine streams filled with trout, and valleys tall in grass, bison and wolves in the heart of Colorado, or part of your Grand Canyon experience. New wilderness areas that link to National Parks and generating the dramatic expansion of parks like Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain and Glacier!
The stumbling block to such progress and transformations of our lands remains ranchers and many who believe the fantasy of their perceived rugged individualism. What could the West look like with their demise? What could Native Americans do with more lands for reservation, how would our waters and springs restore without the constant beating of cows and their waste befouling them.
Imagine wolves not threatened by ignorance, but allowed to thrive. Imagine politicians that push conservation without focus, without the threat of cowboy outrage. We must visualize and push to expand, not retreat and lay out a model of what is possible. That vision is something we are creating and want to begin to share and vocalize, for it is the future and to achieve it; we must breakdown and much like racism, challenge the values and morality of those who continue to turn a blind eye to the destruction that is being allowed in the name of so-called freedom.
By tonight we will know what is happening in Brazil. It could be a dramatic and positive change, or another heartbreak that continues to empower those who live by greed and grifters.
I hope to see Brazil do something to proclaim the environment a priority. If nothing else her candidacy has put the issue in the spotlight. We are two years out from our next major election, it’s time to start sowing the seeds of change and begin the restoration of our spirit and of the lands and waters that define that sacred space that lies beyond the hundredth meridian.
“True passion cannot be tamed. If your Soul is in the Right place – you’re Giving Back. “ Burch
Bold Visions Conservation