Loving our wilderness is another vital loving relationship
I quite deliberately named today’s post so that it would extend the theme of loving relationships posted yesterday.
So the recent announcement from the White House, “White House announced President Obama signed proclamations Friday to protect almost 2 million acres of pristine lands.” is to be welcomed with open arms. The article published in The Press Enterprise explained that those millions of acres were in California.
President Barack Obama established three national monuments today, Feb. 12, that cover almost 2 million acres in the Mojave Desert, the White House announced.
Obama used his power under the Antiquities Act to sign a proclamation designating the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains national monuments. The move bypasses similar legislation, introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that has languished for years in Congress.
Feinstein asked the president in August to use his executive power to create the monuments. She praised the action in a statement: “I’m full of pride and joy knowing that future generations will be able to explore these national monuments and that the land will remain as pristine and as it is today. To a city girl like me, this expanse of desert, with its ruggedness and unique beauty, is nothing short of awe-inspiring.”
While on the subject of California, there is more good news from the Canis lupus 101 blog.
Wolves get a grudging welcome from Northern California ranchers
We are going to have a viable population of wolves in the far northern reaches of California, and it will be with the grudging cooperation of our ranchers.
That was the takeaway from a public hearing held last month in Yreka (Siskiyou County), where the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife invited public comment on its draft plan for accommodating our new four-footed residents, and where there were as many Stetsons in the audience as you’d see at a cowboy poetry convention.
Where are the wolves?
Yes, there was some foaming at the mouth, some evidence of the government-hating libertarianism this region is known for. “We don’t want people in Sacramento telling us how to live our lives,” grumbled one rancher.
But on the whole, there was a lot of thoughtful comment by those in attendance, and the beginnings of a dialogue between those who are charged with facilitating the wolves’ re-entry, and those who will be most affected by it. There was a focus on practical, down-to-earth matters — the threat to one’s livelihood when livestock are killed by predators, and the impracticality of maintaining 24-hour surveillance on sprawling ranch lands.
There was not much discussion of the nonlethal methods that can be used to ward off wolf depredations, although a number of speakers strongly urged that radio collars be put on wolves so ranchers can be warned if they’re getting near their cattle or sheep. That idea is already in the draft wolf management plan, as well as hazing techniques that include spotlights and air horns, as well as guard dogs and mobile electric fences.
Suzanne Asha Stone was on hand as the Rocky Mountain field representative for Defenders of Wildlife. After listening to some of the ranchers’ comments, she said, “This is verbatim what we heard in Idaho 20 years ago,” when wolves were introduced in Yellowstone National Park. Ranchers in that state were naturally concerned about the impact those wolves would have on their livelihoods. Two decades later, through programs Stone and her organization have helped implement, nonlethal strategies have reduced wolf kills of livestock in Idaho to “near zero,” she said. And that’s with a wolf population than now totals 770.
According to Stone, “It takes a while living with wolves before people realize that their worst fears won’t come true.”
I think most ranchers in California’s far north respect the wildlife around them, but their relationship with it is complicated by the need to make a living. Looking closely at the strategies used in Idaho would be a good first step in helping convince them that there are ways to reconcile ranching with the presence of this new predator.
John Wayne has long been a conservative icon, the personification of rugged individualism in the Wild West. In the 1963 movie “McLintock,” made late in his career, Wayne plays a cattle rancher and land baron. At one point he tells his daughter what he plans to do with his holdings after he dies: “I’m gonna leave most of it to the nation, really, for a park, where no lumber mill (can) cut down all the trees for houses with leaky roofs, nobody’ll kill all the beavers for hats for dudes, nor murder the buffalo for robes.”
John Wayne was no tree hugger. But neither, like the ranchers up here, should he be reduced to a simple stereotype.
Back to Governments or is this case the U.S. Government and a little-known unit known as Wildlife Services. Another arm reaching out to love our wilderness? H’mmm. Not according to Wolves of Douglas County blog:
PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 12, 2016
Wildlife Services—ever heard of it? No, not the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That’s something different. The Fish and Wildlife Service is part of the Department of the Interior, charged with enforcing wildlife laws, restoring habitat, and protecting fish, plants, and animals. Wildlife Services isn’t your state fish and game commission, either, which issues hunting and fishing licenses and manages local wildlife.
Wildlife Services is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and it specializes in killing wild animals that threaten livestock—especially predators such as coyotes, wolves, and cougars. Outside the ranching community, Few have heard of Wildlife Services.
Since 2000, the agency has killed at least two million mammals and 15 million birds. Although it’s main focus is predator control in the West, Wildlife Services also does things like bird control nationwide at airports to prevent crashes and feral pig control in the South.
What one hand gives out, the other takes away.
Funny old world!