Another week has passed and we have lost more wolves. Not really a surprise, but we also lost a beloved malamute while its owner was hiking. Shots were fired, screams persisted and a beautiful dog lay dead with seven bullets penetrating his body. This is becoming the mantra from Montana on a daily basis. When walking a family canine, a dog must always wear blaze orange and the master must say his prayer of protection when on a trail. The killing of wolves has become a sickness for the depraved and wicked.
This past week in Albuquerque we had a hearing on the Mexican wolf, with ideas the Fish and Wildlife Service has about expanding their range, what the count will be when they are deemed no longer endangered and perhaps easing the means of killing for ranchers. Perhaps 300-400 people showed up for the hearing in a large meeting room at the Comfort Inn. Clearly the pro wolf people held the majority, but there remained plenty of ranchers and county commissioners and other wolf haters who spoke out with rage about the wolf.
Several things struck my mind as they talked. First, why do ranchers not understand it’s rude to leave your hat on at such hearings? It is clearly designed to show their personal arrogance and sense of control. Yet, to me it just shows ignorance. Then there is this obsession with the constitution. Since when did the people that robbed, killed and destroyed our public lands have such a deep feeling about the constitution? The answer is only when it seems politically viable to their own good. Not for any other more altruistic goal.
Then it was time for the fear game rhetoric-Our children……Their safety……We are losing our entire herds…..We are being wiped out…….Poor me……….
It was the usual regurgitation of lies and their dream of an antiquarianism way of life, circa 1870.
What makes this issue so frustrating and demoralizing are the people- the killers, who seem to glee in the chance to steal life. This is the group I characterize as the “angry mob.” They are collectively the people that best define Obama haters, anti-tax loathers, people, who feel that issues like Gay marriage, Climate Change, Health Care are things that liberals like the President have brought to their doorstep and they must fight back, with pride and furry. They do this by collecting an arsenal of weapons, ammo, scopes, night vision equipment. They speak in chat rooms and share their rage against this new America.
They seek in their twisted way a chance to have power and control. The victim of this demented mind-set is wolves. Wolves represent freedom and the power of true spirit. Wildness is at their core, but also love and a sense of family. Yet, for those who feel they have lost control, this animal and its demise makes them feel a sense of power, a place of control, the means to settle their rage. To allow themselves a sense of freedom and spirit, they must kill and steal it from the very symbol of that, which they seek. It also allows them to show their disdain for conservation. Ignorance it seems is truly bliss.
However, there is another aspect to this fight which is often overlooked and it stems from the conservation side. First, as we have said many times, groups like Defenders of Wildlife, tried to find common ground with ranchers from the start. In fact, even when it was clear it was not working, they simply kept doubling down on a flawed strategy. But some of their rational for this stems from the reality of dealing with foundations.
Foundations in America today define how we work in Conservation. They are the funding, which is the lifeblood of any campaign and any organization. Foundations like much of America tend to be more conservative in how they give. By this I mean they do not tend to like direct conflict or issues that cannot fit into a nice collective ending. Therein lies the problem with wolves. This is a fight that is not likely to have a happy, feel good ending; one side will lose. Right now unless we as a community say, we refuse to lose and we will not compromise any longer, all will be lost. But the pressure on many conservation groups is to find a road to compromise. That in turn has led to hunting seasons and other such destructive outcomes.
The opposition has rallied under one voice, which is to say no to all wolf recovery; to push as hard as possible to fight expanded ranges, to create longer hunting seasons, and to say repeatedly that our children and the livestock industry are threatened! The conservation community by contrast seems to have twenty positions and no clear unified strategy. Instead, wolf recovery has turned into an endless fund-raising opportunity, with little success to speak of.
Bold Visions Conservation stands by its 10-point wolf recovery proposal. It is designed to rally support from urban areas to dwarf that which comes from the rural hot spots. It means changing our rhetoric and understanding we are truly in a war, not just to save wolves, but a war of culture which will define the future of the West.
During the hearing a rancher from eastern Washington got up to thank Fish and Wildlife for not creating a sub-species category for wolves in eastern Washington, meaning they can be killed. My first thought was why was he here in Albuquerque? The answer, I believe, is that the ranching community is sharing strategy, working in a unified manner to take what has worked in Montana and bring it to New Mexico, Colorado or any place that could harbor wolves. They are funded to fight and fight they will.
There comes a time in conservation, as David Brower clearly understood, when you fight for what you believe, and when you do so, people respect you. In order to protect and expand wolf recovery we cannot be cute, or speak in only scientific jargon, rather we must get in the trenches and fight, this is a battle we can surely win, it’s for the heart and soul of the America we want to be a part of and the future of our western heritage.
Wolves define the freedom and spirit that is the West of my soul. Join us in the trenches. Victory is ours, when we cross that great divide, united.
“I am he and you are me, and we are all together.”
-John Lennon and Paul McCartney