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The Commission of Evil
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.
By Elizabeth Miller
Somewhere amid the Big Bad Wolf propaganda, the story of Mowgli gets lost. Remember Mowgli, the man-cub raised by wolves? That tendency of wolves to take in something not quite their own was what the US Fish and Wildlife Service hoped to utilize this summer when it applied to New Mexico’s Department of Game and Fish for a permit to release two adult wolves and up to 10 pups to “cross-foster” into existing wild wolf dens. The practice places captive-bred pups with wild parents who have pups within a week of the same age.
“The ultimate goal of that is for us to get new genetic material out into the field population, and also have a proven wild female or wild pack be able to raise those pups,” says Jeff Humphrey, public affairs specialist with the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Arizona office. “So you’ve got a female or a pack that has a good track record of preying on elk not cattle, and we can insert those pups so that they could become properly behaved wild pups and contribute their genetics a year, two years down the road to the larger wild population.”
Imagine, as many as 10 wolf puppies tumbling around the Gila, learning to cull sick elk from herds, keep ungulates moving so they don’t overgraze stream banks and compromise habitat for fish and aquatic life and generally make for a healthier ecosystem.
But New Mexico’s Department of Game and Fish said no.
“We don’t know what the end game is for the Mexican wolf population, and so at this point, the department is not in support of the Mexican Wolf Program,” New Mexico Game and Fish Director Alexa Sandoval said during the May 7 meeting of the state Game Commission.
Since the Game Commission guides the policies of Game and Fish, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has asked the commission to reconsider the director’s ruling during its Sept. 29 meeting in Albuquerque. It’s a bit of a moot point, pup season having come and gone, but the agency’s hope is that getting this year’s applications approved will pave the way for next year.
This rarest subspecies of wolf has taken almost a decade longer than anticipated to limp toward the population goal of 100, set before their initial release into the wild in 1998. New Mexico fought the release then, and reintroduced wolves were set loose only in Arizona. They have since spread as far into the state as just south of I-40, west of Albuquerque, roaming 4.4 million acres over New Mexico’s Gila National Forest and Arizona’s Apache National Forest.
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.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service recently set a new population goal of up to 325, a number still not considered “recovered” on a level that would see the Mexican wolf delisted, but a healthy step in that direction from a goal that sat at 100 for more than 30 years. The agency is revisiting the entire plan for Mexican wolf management and expects to have that finalized by the end of 2017. Its concern now has less to do with the headcount in the wild and more to do with the fact that almost all of the wolves in the wild are about as genetically similar as siblings.
“We have the need for increased releases of wolves so that we can sort of dilute the relatedness of the population,” says Maggie Dwire, assistant Mexican wolf recovery coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service, “so that when animals disperse, they have a chance of meeting an animal that’s not related to them so then gene diversity can increase and inbreeding can go down.”
“The time to infuse that new genetic diversity is now—that’s the sense of urgency we have in working with New Mexico for permitting and bringing wolves to the population,” Humphrey says.
The Turner Endangered Species Fund also approached the Game Commission this year for a renewed permit to hold Mexican wolves in captivity at Ladder Ranch, and their application was also denied. That ranch is adjacent to the Mexican wolf recovery area and would have eased cross-fostering. Pups would essentially be moved next door, instead of across state lines.
This summer, two operations to cross-foster in Arizona fizzled out, one when the adult wolves expected to have pups failed to produce any and the other when the female wolf relocated her den before the new pups could arrive from Missouri and managers couldn’t find it in time.
“The clock is the Mexican wolf’s enemy, and every generation that passes, it’s a little less genetically robust than it was before the clock started,” Mike Phillips, executive director of the Turner fund, told commissioners in May.
A few months later, Joy Nicholopoulos, the deputy regional director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Office, told the commissioners that delaying the releases now means more wolves will need to be released later.
The window for cross-fostering this year has passed, but the USFWS would like to make sure next spring’s pups see a more welcome reception. The pendulum doesn’t seem to be swinging that direction, though.
During the June Game Commission hearing, public comment pointed to an anti-carnivore ethos taking over the commissioners, who were then discussing increasing quotas for bear hunts and allowing ranchers and hunters to trap cougars, both of which they approved. During the public comment, one person quoted Round River, the book by legendary conservationist, hunter and founder of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, Aldo Leopold: “‘Harmony with land is like harmony with a friend. You cannot cherish his right hand and chop off his left. That is to say, you cannot love game and hate predators.’ This push to kill ever more cougars and bears along with the Ladder Ranch wolf decision comes very close to looking like predator hatred.”
by Stephen Capra
It’s ironic in so many ways; we live in a time where the earth as we know it is literally crying out in pain. The pain which comes from a human race at war with nature, a place that once was such a part of people’s lives is now something that stands in the way of profits, lifestyles beyond measure, and helps to define a world lacking in love and in need of therapy. For nature is perhaps our best reflection of love on earth.
It is not that it cannot be cruel or unforgiving; it is that in its purest form, it perfectly reflects harmony, life, evolution and beauty. Nothing synthesizes wild nature more than the wolf. It is the perdurable life force which reveals that nature is alive!
Today we confront not just ranchers, who since their first steps in the new world have killed, trapped and destroyed any sense of wildness they could find, but also the truly sick and phlegmatic response of so many who call themselves “conservationists”. You see, at a time when wild nature is literally screaming for help, we have created a corporate world of conservation. In such a structure, which I have lived in but was never welcome, the smartest person in the room, is the one most willing to compromise. The one that name drops politicians, the one with advanced degrees, who has spent no more than four days in wild nature at a time, is the true master.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE OF STEPHEN CAPRA'S CONSERVATION ARTICLES IN BVC'S BLOG
So today, we are witnessing a slaughter in the north: with governors and Game and Fish departments in lock-step to kill. We have groups like Defenders on record supporting wolf killing for sport, while they continue to work directly with ranchers and waste time and money with an effort that is doomed to failure.
All of this time, these so-called conservation groups are not only bringing in money from fundraising and bequests, but from major foundations that cannot see beyond the word compromise. So it becomes a self-perpetuating prophecy.
The idea that we can make “incremental change” while helpful, is a losing proposition. US Fish and Wildlife Service is happy to move slowly towards incremental change, but always by opening the door to more killing and less restriction. Some argue that the myriad of approaches is simply the best solution for it allows for voices on many fronts; but such a diversity of voices is choked by a pointed solidarity amongst the livestock industry.
The earth is crying, while wild nature is collapsing. Yet at the very time when the urgency could not be greater, we have people committed to a milk toast approach to protection. It’s time that the conservation world is turned upside down! It begins with passion, conviction and a determination to create real change and stop compromising. I may despise republican Ted Cruz of Texas, but in a New Yorker article he said it well about the realities of the Republican Party when he said people tell him , “You crazy republicans have to give up on what you believe and become more like democrats,” Cruz responded “And I would note, every time Republicans do that we lose.” That says it all about the state of the conservation movement.
So how do we move forward?
It starts with a simple commitment that we agree upon. No wolf should be killed-period. Now some will say that will never fly, perhaps. But you do not begin the debate by compromising. That is not the seed for real passion on the issue.
Wolves should be allowed to recover all lands they once occupied.
Trapping must be banned-period. Sport hunting for predators must end.
Ranchers must be forced, as part of their current leases to sign a no kill clause related to predators or face the loss of the lease.
We must create a vision for people to gravitate to, not a science filled glossary. We have a symbol in the wolf that is hard to not strike a cord and a story of revival, family and health of the land that is simply a script any Hollywood producer would love.
We must be tough and willing to speak out and demand so much more from the likes of Jon Tester or Butch Otter- in other words all elected officials. We are the majority, yet we cower and convince ourselves that compromise is the only solution.
Our conscience tells us otherwise.
Stop trying to organize rural communities and ranchers, get the voice and muscle of urban communities launched and loud. The opposition has made sure any support in these communities we garner, are made pariahs.
It is essential that small conservation groups, ones that are fighting the battle in Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin, the list goes on, form a coalition, or perhaps a CO-OP that allows us to push together for grants from foundations and to share our voice in unison. The voice of thirty organizations will soon drown out the tired voice of two or three major national groups blessed with so-called 'reason.'
The food chain of conservation works this way. Start with a small conservation group, get paid next to nothing, but continue to make friends with those working with larger groups-Defenders of Wildlife, NRDC, the Wilderness Society, and the Sierra Club, etc. Move to one of the towns where such people live: Durango, Bozeman, Denver, Seattle, Santa Fe and Washington; this ironically is where you will find many of the Foundations.
In such an environment, moving up means being a good foot soldier, handle conference calls, organize meetings, stay on scripted quotes in the press, never show emotion and always be willing to compromise. That makes you professional. Before you know it, you are working either for a foundation or a major national conservation group and now you are living in a great town and are be paid well.
I mention all of this to put into perspective what we are facing in trying to protect wolves. Major national conservation groups, those with operating budgets in the millions of dollars per year are killing efforts to protect wolves and the reason is simple: they are compromising away that simple thing called nature so that they can live well, continue to grow and keep earning a serious paycheck. It also requires that issues like the wolf continue to be a fundraising bonanza for said groups. It also means staying close with politicians, compromising, so that they remain relevant. While this is true to some extent, it also encourages the back-room deals that are killing wild nature.
About seven years ago I spoke at length with a foundation located in the Northwest about bringing conservationists together to work on gaining a solid and unified plan for protecting wolves. The meeting occurred in Albuquerque. At the meeting several of us spoke at length about taking on the ranching community and fighting for all wolves. Many of us in the meeting were confronted by lots of scientific jargon, the idea of compromise and within two months I was removed from the very group I pushed to begin. Why? Because really saving wolves, fighting to end trapping and sport killing is perceived as radical, dangerous to the structured plan and because several key national groups-Defenders and others did not want anyone but them to lead the charge on wolves.
Foundations must also feel the heat. They are not accustomed to scrutiny, but they can be influenced by collective voices demanding not compromise, but rather Bold Action to save our wolves.
This will require tough stands and vigilance, protests and far more than letter writing. We must educate the public, not pacify them.
Some say you cannot fight the livestock industry without losing elected officials and others. I do not like the term Tea Party and find them a horrible chapter in our country. However, the conservation community of today needs a serious wake up call and it’s important that those of us that put wild nature first band together and stop using the term 'conservationist,' for it perfectly reflects the image of compromise. Instead we must become the Nature First wing of the environmental movement!
You can be strong, without being radical; you can earn respect without compromise. You can make change with conviction, but you cannot succeed without heart.
So many of us want to see a West that is thriving, free of things like oil and fossil fuels, rivers without dams, land void of fence. Places where bears and bison, cities and rural communities can co-exist and share in the bounty of clean water and clear skies. We can begin to see that horizon, but it will require a tough fight, one that makes clear, public lands belong to all Americans, not a group of self-righteous individuals and many who hate all that is the commons we share. The fight over wolves represents more than wolves: it’s about the fate of the land and the bounty that once was the promise of America.
They should face a phasing in of a methane tax, which would go towards rangeland restoration.
Buyouts of leases should be encouraged and supported with federal earmarks.
We must make our intentions clear: Livestock grazing on public lands must be phased out in X amount of years.
We have watched the coal industry follow the steel industry, auto manufacturers, follow tobacco farmers- the list is endless and there comes a time when the economy forces change in the work world. Ranchers for far too long have lived on the dole and created a disaster of the public lands in the West. They have not been responsible, but rather greedy. It will take several generations of work in restoration of lands, streams and riparian areas etc. The very people, who destroyed it, should be employed to heal it.
Game and Fish Departments must be overhauled. It begins by a constant pressure on ethics and ways to create a wall between the livestock industry and the Departments. These departments are nothing less than killing machines that work for livestock and outfitters, to the demise of predators. They must be forced to base decisions on science, not lobbying.
canis lupus baileyi
canis lupus nubilus
Great Plains Wolf
canis lupus nubilus
No species speaks wildness nor lives it life as fully as the wolf. From the northern gray, to the red and Mexican, they remain iconic. Yet, they have been the subject of misinformation and an indiscriminate killing spree by the US Government for far too long.
The war has started up once again, the result of weak politicians, the old school rage of ranchers and by some in the sportsmen community and outfitters.
Conservation groups by and large pressed a path of reaching out to ranchers and rural communities in hopes of creating working coalitions. However the history of many in the ranching community is one of mistrust and many in the Tea Party Movement are opening the door to class warfare, and the wolf has become yet again of stupidity.
Our goal is simple, we will not allow this to continue, we must organize the urban communities of all states involve and press our clear advantage in population and voices.
We must make the point that as a rancher it is a privilege, not a right to graze on federal lands, and part of that privilege should be to SHARE the lands with wolves.
Our voice can make the difference. Ranchers and others have been passionate about killing; we must show far more passion and demand life, for wolves. We must also demand real science, not cooked science that fits a conservative political agenda.
Read our plan below and become part of the solution, the time for action and fight is NOW!
WHAT YOU CAN DO
CALL and/or WRITE all officials in this section and use the above information for talking/writing points.
SHARE this page with conservation-minded people and tell them to call and write as well.
• DONATE! We need your help to keep fighting for wolves through Game Commission Reform
• Let the every Commissioner know that risking the recovery of endangered species, like the Mexican gray wolf for political purposes is unacceptable. They must renew Turner's Ladder Ranch permits immediately.
• Tell them that BLOCKING MEXICAN WOLF REINTRODUCTION is in direct conflict with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation: the system they claim to follow!
WOLF ACTION CENTER