The Will to Change

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.

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 backroom 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.

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.

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.

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.’

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.
The reality is we have nothing to lose, for we have already lost so much. This is not about becoming violent; it is about stopping the violence.

For far too long a wall of ignorance has blocked the common sense of healing the land and making diversity in nature a priority. We are nothing without our land; we are nothing without lands filled with wildlife. Wild nature is the tonic for a sick world and there should be no shame in fighting for its survival.
We have the will; the map will be created by more ideas and thought. Our mission is clear: we cannot continue to try a piecemeal approach or lose our soul. We must be strong and understand the importance of our collective wisdom. Wolves need us, the earth needs us. We cannot yield to madness, but can we create a path to righteousness.

Live long and prosper mother earth and your child the wolf!

We are here to help!

24 thoughts on “The Will to Change

  1. I agree with every single syllable. All of this simply MUST be DONE! The wolf IS the child of our planet. I’m “old. I will never live to see all of this “good” come to pass. But in the meantime I can advocate and educate and live the “word.” ☺

  2. this is a similar problem within the vegan community with groups like hsus -working with animal agriculture – farm sanctuary, mercy for animals – promoting “happy meat.”

    • Yes Beth, believing the “humane myth,” peta killing nonhuman animals and vegfests sponsored by Whole foods. Even the word vegan is being replaced by vegetarians and octo lavo abusers are viewed as compassionate. What a world.

  3. When wolves are killed, the protectors of the wilderness are killed. Not one more. No compromise. Count me in full agreement.

  4. I am glad to hear such words–those of us who have been saying these very things have felt very alone these past few years. Steve Capra headed the N.M. Wilderness alliance, which was doing its share of compromise and collaboration. When Steve left this group, he apparently took back his self-respect, and realized that only by standing up, and yes, fighting for The Wild, and yes, getting passion back (or finding the passion), did he find his true vocation. We are looking forward to meeting with him and planning The Fight. We cannot, in any way, “work with” the very industries, & groups that are involved, with sanctioning wild animal killing. There is nothing shameful about being “anti-hunting, anti-trapping, anti-grazing” In fact, it is the opposite. We must be proud of our stand, of our commitment to The Wild.
    By the way: The NM Wilderness Alliance is a sponsor of an Oct.”National Wilderness Conference” in Albuquerque, which will have Senator Martin Heinrich, darling of the Democratic Party & big hunter, speaking. Other sponsors include government agencies such as: BLM, Fish & Wildlife, Forest Service, The Wilderness Society & more. This smacks of another very Humanist gathering, with groups who support “management” of wild places and wild animals.

  5. Reblogged this on Howling For Justice and commented:
    I cried when I read this. Thank you, thank you Stephen Capra for saying everything that needed to be said. You gave my soul a lift, you lifted us all up, we who have been fighting in the trenches for so long, only to be drowned out by the compromisers. Thanking you for speaking truth to power. Now lets keep moving forward and follow your blueprint!

  6. Truer words were never put to print. I grow weary of the world’s perception of people who advocate for animals – denigrating our beliefs because compassion, ethics and morals have been relegated to character flaws and weakness…
    We aren’t weak. Weakness lies in the sneak attack, the set-it-and-forget-it trap, the belief that because you can kill or your support can be purchased for those who do, you are somehow ‘superior’. We speak for the voiceless because there are so very many who will not. And we do NOT compromise, EVER: You cannot spout a dictum of ‘conservation’ when your very actions ‘destroy’. And you cannot advocate for the lives of some, while supporting the murder of others.

  7. The world is changing, and some are desperately trying to hang on to old ways, but this article gives me hope that change will come, and most people want to do the right thing. “Science” does not mean selfish deference to human needs, no matter what the need.

  8. I both immediately stopped all communications from Defenders, and responded to an earlier email with a direct response to the DoW person who was quoted as “we have no problem with wolf hunting”, or whatever the exact phrase was – I had read the entire interview.
    I confronted her with her ultimate hypocrisy, and in return got the list of what they do and are doing to “save” wolves.

    How does one strip the guns from the hands of every human who has shot or would shoot a wolf?
    How to remove every trap and snare that chokes or cripples any animal entering it?
    Dr. Gordon Haber spent 40 years studying & advocating for not killing wolves in Denali and Yukon Charlie preserve; about 30 years in, he released a wolf illegally trapped. The Alaskan trapper sued and court ruled something like $150 Thousand, which would have wiped him out, but a rather small nonprofit bailed him out – the one which had been funding his work.

    I think of Sea Shepherd Society, which abandoned their direct destruction of whalers before any suffered the massive prison time which would have been given them for scuttling a ship. They operated in international waters to stop the Japanese until Japan used its massive money and power to influence US courts (under Obama, but I am not sure if it would have made a difference. I am sure, though, that O could have pressured his AG to use all possible legal efforts to stop the suit, had they had ANY care for life over extremely minor economic threats) to end the group from preventing whale killing. It seems that the SSCS people anticipated this, separating their national org arms enough that SSCS Australia received the boats & mission. The US arm does not even MENTION the campaigns, somehow gagged by US courts.

    Those who might band together against trappers or pleasure killers, would also go to prison, if targeted by moneyed authority. You can be quite SURE that the FBI targets ANY apparent grouping, as the mere mention of issues online allows data surveying bots to give info at a keystroke to the Joint information sharers. The FBI has branded those who would save ANY natural thing from desecration & development since the late 1960s, as ecotetc. This very comment is stored for later use by them. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but merely one who has been imprisoned, not quite understanding how they found my address with far more primitive tech.
    It appears that one must work alone. Dave Foreman, even while departing Earthfirst’s direct actions, found that conservation biologists understood that huge natural unroaded tracts of land, CONNECTED by natural corridors, are necessary to preserve keystone species – prominent among them, the Wolf, back in the late 1980s. He has since worked with them to learn how to interface between science and private and various govt interests to steadily accomplish this work.
    Steady, no compromise.
    His EF compatriot Kieran Suckling moved on to found Center for Biological Diversity, which now has a huge legal staff trying to fight for many species through legal means. I watch this group closely for signs of compromise, and have so far not found them to be corrupted.

    Back to DoW. What can be done about their compromising statements? Since this was obviously a diplomatic tactic, we might even infer that the outrage among those who know the value and irreplaceability of a single life, was purposely aroused to show that they are in no way the enemies of those whom they try to keep from all-out extinguishing wolves.

    I even knew that my own position is intended to be symbolic, in this insane game of rhetoric and other lies. Did you know that studies of those hunting wolves fear predators far more than those who enter the wild without guns? I’m trying to find as much as possible about the minds of those who would kill; in looking at wildlife managers, found that “science” consists of estimating carrying capacities, and social carrying capacities (human tolerance of wolves). Out come numbers important to them:
    Instead of allowing wolves to reach their ecological carrying capacity (in WI and MI’s UP they came close, then public pleasure-killing was allowed. This number, carrying capacity, was presumed to require human intervention to maintain, when in fact, mixed native predators tend to balance out WITHOUT human interference). When one human is economically affected or perceived as endangered,, massively violent war is European and North American response.

    The Ojibwe in MN, WI, MI, state also that no killing of wolves should occur for any reason until they reach natural carrying capacity.

    This note is long, and I hope it has helped in some way. In person, I tell stories of a wolf, born captive, now gone, who traveled with me; I speak of his language, his skills both innate and learned, and how he & his kind differ from human understanding, and how in some ways they are similar. He was a visitor to the kind which took over and so devastated his land, meeting and accepting their individual differences, wise until he had to accept his age and infirmities, and become, from his original wariness, in my eyes far too trusting of their acceptance. Even those who encountered him for years, had extremely little or no understanding of his direct clarity, simplicity, communication so overt. I rarely tell of his necessary carnivorous taking, which I have seen from as little as five feet, because of humans’ fear and disgust. His life was his birthright, and our pretension to morality occurs because we arrogate all possibility of option, imputing choice to all we impoverish and devastate completely (will he work at McDonald’s? Will he eat at McDonald’s?). Fearing dissolution above all, we are terrified of any other controlling life without our capacity to deny the wolf its part in the world.
    This wolf chose during what I call their time of choosing, to bond with me, unwavering for two years against the abuse of his latest rescuers.
    In their natural world, when a wolf disperses, it takes a 75% chance that it will die (greater in a world of guns, traps, and humans who believe that they “own” the earth), choosing autonomy, needing to share life intimately with another of their kind, eager to care for pups theirs or not, with a moral-like sense far greater than that which any human I have ever known. Humans fear them because they do not control them. As Dave Foreman said: wild means self-willed.

  9. A wonderful piece. I cried as well, Nabeki. This is a man I would love to meet. I will probably not live to see what good people like this will do for our beautiful animals. But this carnage by the cabal of politicians, government agencies, ranchers and hunters must be stopped, or we will no longer have any wildlife left. Nature is indeed crying. In fact, nature is screaming. Shame on those who think they own it.

  10. Reblogged this on PsiKeep Venture and commented:
    Yes! and Yes. Enough of the abuse of the land by ranchers living off of the government dole. Enough of big game hunters jacking off at a kill. Enough of biologists poisoning lakes to kill a type of fish. Enough of everyone who has bought into the ruthless dogma of the Department of Fish and Game. Enough!

  11. Count me in ~ I am not the master of any debate team for wolves – but I have also understood their way of Life & their right to it, and I am willing to go out to fight for it. I also cry, in frustration, as I see each piece of wild Earth taken away by people that don’t even understand what they are losing. I can only protect so much by myself. This letter & comments gives me some hope that there are people out there, once we get together, that will win for the wolves

    • And the Truth shall set us free !
      Free to finally save The Wild from the maligned policies …
      We will Do this or go down doing it !
      Give voice to the wrong and take back this movement
      The precious wild, the soul of this planet will never be compromised
      Ignorance is not bliss, it’s a mockery of the intelligence of this ecosystem
      We all live within
      We are better than this.
      Now do it.

  12. Thank you, Stephen Capra! I’m another former supporter of Defenders of Wildlife who’s feeling betrayed. Your writing and sharing this, and your example of not compromising your convictions, helps salve the wound and restore the faith. Also, I’ve always wished there were a Sea Shepherd for our wolves.

  13. Bravo! Very well said and sums up what I have struggled with for decades–in many things there is no room for compromise, none. And just one added thought: We must get money out of politics, and get Nature Firsters in office; otherwise we stand to lose every bit of nature and wildness that holds any economic value at all. The Koch brothers and their ilk wield way too much power, and are working hard to undermine all of the environmental protections we have worked so hard to put in place.

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