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Bold Visions Conservation NewsBlog


Updated: Apr 26

Stephen Capra, Bold Visions Conservation

As we move into summer, the wolves and their young are exploring and traveling across the public lands that allow them to thrive. It is a time of joy and even play. Yet outside the boundaries of Yellowstone, the steps they take are far from protected.

Many people ask, what does it take to stop this madness? The answers remain complex but obvious. We need people in positions of authority, like Interior Secretary Haaland, to stop playing politics with wolves. She has had more than enough time to come to the only logical decision she could make-Wolves in the Northern Rockies must be re-listed.

Martha Williams, Director of US Fish and Wildlife, should recuse herself from any discussion on wolves or grizzly bears based on her past support for killing both species while running Montana, Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The agency has an obligation to not allow grizzly hunting, and they should be questioning the science used to count wolves-the IPom, which has been shown to not be effective in counting wolves, which I will explain in detail in future articles.

What continues to be lacking when we deal with wildlife agencies is the constant push to allow sportsmen to kill; what is missing is the feelings of these intelligent and vibrant species. What I mean by that is can anyone look into the face of an animal and come away with the notion that they do not display several distinct feelings or emotions such as interest, joy, surprise, anger, grief, or even shyness, for example? They make statements like "Wolves can put up with a 40 percent harvest because they reproduce quickly-Really? What does a pack feel when they lose a member? And it is definitely time to review the science of what actually does happen to the pack when they lose a member, especially an alpha male. What happens when they see a mate suffering in a trap? Is it fair or sporty to use calling devices or place bait at the edge of Yellowstone? Why are so-called sportsmen not being called out for their sick actions?

The reasoning is simple: agencies cover for unethical hunters and trappers tracks and allow the slaughter to continue. At the federal level, it is a disgrace that Democrats allow such brutality to wildlife. Why emulate that which Republican lawmakers have perfected?

Having just spent more than two months lobbying at the state legislature, it is obvious that lawmakers see wildlife much like a corn crop; thus, terms like harvesting are used when in reality, these are living, breathing animals that feel pain and have emotion. Something lawmakers have ridiculed me for even voicing.

We also must push people used to an old-school mentality and understand that wildlife has feelings. Trappers tell me that wildlife cannot feel pain. For many, that is accepted. When I asked one of them if he ever stepped on his dog's foot, he said yes. I asked whether they yelped, but he had no response other than to say, "Dogs are not wildlife."

We must force wildlife agencies and those that hunt and profit from wildlife to accept that some species should never be hunted; wolves and grizzlies come to mind. They are self-regulating and do not need the interference that man forces in their lives. Only then can we stop the destruction elected officials and agencies allow while ignoring the reality that we are now in the 21st century: a time where we must fight for and protect, not execute them, our most valuable and beautiful species.

To win, we must think outside the box; I know we will continue to think with a view of how we change this in our lifetime. Doing all of the above could take generations. But we must continue to make our voices heard and fight like hell.

Stephen Capra, Bold Visions Conservation

Grizzly Bear, protect, Bold Visions Conservation

Following another legislative session where Republican lawmakers saw fit to impose their will on wildlife management, we saw the passage of SB-295. Like so many other Republican efforts to privatize wildlife and destroy predator species, the bill is another heavy on rhetoric and light on science.

Grizzly bears have not recovered in Montana. Lawmakers want you to believe they are, but facts do not match rancher and outfitter-infused talking points. What has been lost in this conversation is the fact that grizzly bears should never be hunted, period. At what point is Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks willing to enter the 21st century? At what point is our Governor, who lives to kill wildlife, willing to accept the reality that certain species are so vital, so rare, that Montana has a responsibility never to allow them to be hunted? Such is the case with grizzly bears.

Grizzlies reproduce far too slowly to allow any hunting. Like wolves, allowing our state to manage a grizzly season will result in the wholesale slaughter of this iconic species. The drive to kill wild predator species must be extinguished in our state. Predators are crucial to the health of all species.

The state has proven it cannot manage wolves; they cannot understand that wildlife has feelings, that they feel pain and suffer; rather they continue to cling to an 1880s approach to wildlife management. It is a disgrace and makes our state resemble a backwoods hollow rather than the modern state it has become, where wolf viewing brings more than $80 million to the state annually. Saying no to the killing of grizzlies is not a radical position. What remains radical in the 21st century is allowing species to be trapped, to be killed for prizes, and to allow faux science that allows such slaughters to continue.

Trappers want a trapping season on grizzlies. What world are we living in that would allow such sadism? No, we have reached a tipping point. Martha Williams, who lacks the educational credentials to run US Fish and Wildlife Service, is once again slow walking a response to the grizzly situation; in the past, she was all for a hunting season. She must hear loud and clear: We do not want any hunting season on grizzlies!

Dead Grizzly Bear, killed by despicable hunter, Bold Visions Conservation

We must put down a marker; if wildlife in our state is to have a future, we cannot continue to allow the destruction of such beautiful creatures. We cannot allow outside interests like the Safari Club, NRA, Don Peay, and the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus to dictate wildlife management in Montana. Their goal is simple –trophy elk and deer in a landscape devoid of predators, creating a sterile landscape prone to disease.

I have hiked and camped in grizzly country for years. Never have I carried a gun. I have encountered bears within yards and awoke one night with a grizzly sitting on the edge of my tent in Alaska.

Never did the concept of killing a bear cross my mind. Instead, I was awed by their presence, something akin to a spiritual experience. You are a coward if that is your goal.

Montana has made a grave mistake in handling wolves; we have a chance to get it right for grizzlies. To do that means never allowing this great bear to be hunted.


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Stephen Capra

James Watt, Bold Visions Conservation

This past week the news came that James Watt had died. I am not one to generally make light of someone’s death, but the earth gained some sense of revenge with the passing of this environmental monster.

To jar some memories is to remember myself as a young man driving with two friends on a journey that would end with a terrible wreck. Still, I remember well election night of 1980 when I told my friends we must stay for the only time at a hotel on the Oregon coast in driving rain to watch the election results. That was an early night, and Ronald Reagan was swept into the office of President.

Reagan would take only a few months to pick a radical new Interior Secretary-Jim Watt. Watt came in on the foot heels of Cecil Andrus, who, as Carter’s Interior Secretary, had created one of our greatest environmental victories with the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which protected as federal lands-National Parks, wilderness, Wildlife Refuge, wild and scenic rivers, amounting to more than 100-million acres.

Then came Watt. His public policy would differ from Secretary before him. He would work with a reactionary zeal to turn back public land law and policy. He quickly moved to sell off BLM lands (Project Bold), describing them as “surplus.” He moved to privatize public resources, pushing to increase coal, oil and gas, and other types of mineral leasing. He also tried eliminating federal control over grazing on public lands, putting cows before wildlife. Most of the statutes were applicable to the Interior Secretary delegate powers directly to the Interior Secretary, which makes clear that Deb Haaland has a lot of power to relist wolves. In Watt’s case, that meant a known sagebrush rebel was now clear to inflict maximum pain. With his distinctive features of coke bottle glasses and bald head, he was clearly a man with a religious zeal to destroy our public lands.

Watt was President of Mountain States Legal Foundation prior to his appointment, an industry-supported group founded by Joseph Coors. Coors created the group to stop the environmental advances that were occurring. Watt voiced unrelenting disdain for conservation groups. Within months he was moving to encourage development rather than preservation of all of Interior’s land and water programs. Watt wanted a dramatic selling off of public lands, which Reagan backed with a plan to sell off more than 35 million acres of federal public lands, some of which were in National Forests. More than 1 million people signed a petition to remove him from office.

Watt made clear regulation was out at the Interior. The sale of public lands and the lack of regulation were met with protests from the American public. Watt made clear there would be no purchasing of additional lands. The $284 million in funding during the Carter Administration for parks was cut to $78 million.

Watt pushed to open all coastal areas in the US to oil and gas development. He worked hard to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to development, promoting that oil as a godsend.

Most damaging, Watt succeeded in getting the Republican Party to cut ties with conservation efforts, something that had been bipartisan to date. Since his time, Republican presidencies have focused on oil and gas development and opening more public lands for development. Trophy hunting interests have grown while Leopold ethics have been replaced with high-powered weapons, drones, and killing contests.

Democrats, for their part, have had a succession of Interior Secretaries lacking the boldness needed to protect large areas of land and expand our National Park system. Sure, some important Monuments were created, but more is needed in our oceans, land, and the Arctic Refuge must be protected now. How about creating a Grasslands National Park or a massive Tongass National Park?

Watt also gave voice to the sagebrush rebellion and, in the years that followed, that allowed substance to the likes of the Bundys and the Hammonds, who took over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon and were later pardoned by Trump.

Through his radical posturing, Watt allowed the backwash of regulation removal to continue. Ultimately, Watt would lose his job by his extreme positions and refusal to allow the Beach Boys to perform on the Washington Mall, something Nancy Reagan saw as a deal-buster.

Last week, Watt died. Wildlife and the earth can now sing. He remains the worst Interior Secretary of all time. His legacy continues to haunt us.

Never again can we allow such vileness to control our most sacred public lands.

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