They will claim whitebark pine are not necessary to delist Yellowstone area grizzly bears-

They tried to delist the Greater Yellowstone grizzly population back in 2007, but skeptical bear conservationists sued because of the collapse of the thought-to-be-vital whitebark pine in the Greater Yellowstone. Bears feed voraciously on their protein and fat-filled nuts in the fall at high (safe for the bears) elevations. The nuts have  long been seen as a vital food for the bears, and one dwindling down to almost nothing as have the Yellowstone cutthroat trout.

Bear conservationists won in federal court. Delisting was set aside.

Now the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBC) is back at it. In the meantime, the whitebark pine have not regrown from their destruction by fire, disease, and bark beetles. Neither has the Yellowstone cutthroat trout reclaimed Yellowstone Lake and its tributary streams where the bears used to line up to grab fat spawners.  The number of elk, however, has declined.  The bears eat a lot of elk. Army cutworm moths in the alpine tundra are holding steady.

Frank van Manen, IGBC head, will release the ‘comprehensive food synthesis report” for the Yellowstone grizzlies.

The Jackson Hole News and Guide got hold of an early copy of the secret study. They reported a week ago it says“Evidence from the analyses presented here suggests that whitebark pine decline has had no profound negative effects on grizzly bears at the individual or population level,” the report concludes. “The findings of analyses presented here indicate that the Yellowstone grizzly bear population has shown notable resilience in the face of the decline of whitebark pine and natural stochasticity of other food resources within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.” . . .  amazing.

The open-to-the-public meeting begins in Missoula Dec, 10 at 8AM. It is at the Holiday Inn Downtown, 200 S. Pattee St. The meeting continues the next day, Dec. 11. The public will be able to briefly comment.

Here is the meeting agenda.  As you can see, many other topics relevant to grizzly bears outside of the Yellowstone area will also be discussed.

Their final item on Dec. 11 isDoes the IGBC recommend that the FWS proceed with developing a new Proposed   Rule to delist the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Population?’

After they have made their decision the public can comment. The agenda shows the IGBC has reserved 15 minutes of time for the people, including many non-government grizzly bear experts.

There are several stories on line. Here is the one from the Jackson Hole News and Guide. 

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides.

47 Responses to Missoula hosts Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee meeting today and tomorrow

  1. avatar Nancy says:

    A dated but good video on the controversy for those just “tuning” in:

    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/the-good-the-bad-and-the-grizzly/introduction/113/

  2. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    From the Jackson Hole News article:

    In lieu of whitebark pine seeds, grizzlies have been shifting to meat during the fall, the food synthesis says.

    Beware – We can see where this would lead. Livestock predation, and a means to kill them. Delisting does not have to mean immediate hunting.

    • avatar Ida Lupine says:

      And then we will be told they will become a threat to the elk and deer …. haven’t we learned from the disaster that was the wolf delisting?

  3. avatar ramses09 says:

    Can we please just let Nature take it’s own course? Man has interrupted the process for far to long. Leave wildlife alone!

  4. avatar rork says:

    “amazing”
    I’d love to hear more than just one-word snark on that subject.

  5. avatar Ralph Maughan says:

    A couple months ago I received a piece written by Greg Losinski of Idaho Fish and Game. He is also on the IGBC. The article he had written was about the bear’s incredible ability to find new foods, as if almost everyone didn’t already know that bears in general will check out just about anything with a smell.

    I think the IGBC is hoping the grizlies will find some new foods in the area. They certainly can, but it is likely folks will not like what they find.

    They could find the supermarkets in West or Gardiner. We could wheel up beer and jelly donuts each day for them. The bears could party, party. 😉

    • avatar Ida Lupine says:

      Ha! 🙂

    • avatar Green Sheep says:

      Or they could go to the nearby U.S. Sheep Experiment Station, where the federal government wastes millions of taxpayer dollars every year to conduct outdated research on sheep in an important travel corridor for grizzly bears. Which tastes better to a bear: a jelly donut or a domestic sheep?

  6. avatar SAP says:

    One correction: Frank van Manen is head of the IGBST, (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team) not IGBC.

    This latest round in a multi-decade saga is interesting but quite familiar: once again, we have a whole pile of “Science,” which we like to pretend leads to indisputable conclusions. It does not. There are subjective, values-driven choices that must be made.

    One could assemble “Science” that would show that small children don’t need to be in child-restraint seats in automobiles. Myself, I made it through childhood without using car seats or even seat belts. But as a society, we value children a great deal, and want to protect them against catastrophic injuries. So we choose to minimize risk to them. “Science” per se doesn’t tell us that we have to put them in approved safety seats — if anything, the data would likely show that a large majority of small children are never in car accidents at all.

    Point being, once again, we’re going to go down the rabbit hole of arguing about “Science,” when we really need to be having a different conversation informed by Science, but not dominated by it.

    • avatar JB says:

      Well said, SAP.

    • avatar Ida Lupine says:

      There are subjective, values-driven choices that must be made.

      Such as? And for whose values?

    • avatar Ida Lupine says:

      Absolutely false. Scientific data about accidents is what led to child seats becoming mandatory. It is not a ‘choice’ to use them. I cannot imagine any study that would show that small children would not need some kind of restraint in a moving vehicle, as well as seat belts for adults. So, we make informed decisions based on scientific data.

      • avatar Ida Lupine says:

        Usually, anyway. When studies are used to push political agendas and ideologies (by both sides of the political spectrum) it muddies the waters and makes it difficult for people to make informed decisions, especially ordinary people.

        For example, how long was this pine study? And there are more humans today, so bear/human conflicts quite naturally would increase – it doesn’t mean the population of bears is to blame:

        http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/06/24/study-questions-yellowstone-grizzly-rebound/2453327/

      • avatar SAP says:

        Ida, the same scientific data show that some children still die in car accidents, even if they’re in an approved restraint device. Right? So, we have not made automobile travel absolutely safe for children. There are still risk reduction measures that we could take: we could make all highways divided, with big Nerf barriers in the median. We could outlaw certain kinds of cars for transport of children. We could lower speed limits by 20 mph across the board. We could hire five times the number of traffic police. Because we have not done all we could do to eliminate risk that children will be harmed in automobile accidents.

        Wait, you say, those measures would be incredibly expensive. They’re unfeasible! People won’t tolerate it!

        Right? So at some point in there, someone is weighing the safety of children against other considerations (ie, values). Cost, feasibility, freedom; to name a few. Is that still a “scientific” process? Or is it a subjective process of deciding to accept some level of risk that a child might be harmed in a car crash?

        As to your contention that no scientific study would show that children don’t need to be in a safety seat: it would be easy to develop a valid and reliable study that would probably yield those results. It would be easy: while the facts show that small children who are in car wrecks get hurt badly, the facts also show that most children are never actually in car wrecks. So, we’re taking steps (passing laws related to the design, manufacture, and use of child safety seats, and then setting aside resources and writing regulations for the enforcement of those laws, and dealing with those who break those laws) to protect children against a relatively rare event, the consequences of which we’ve decided are unacceptable.

        Because we care about children. Does science tell us we must care about children?

        I’m not sure that you always get the concept of a thought experiment or an analogy, so let me be very clear: I fully support the use of seatbelts and child safety seats. But I use this example to show that science does not tell us exactly what to do. We — whomever is involved in collective decision making — take the information that science provides, and we make choices.

        The reason I bring this up in the context of grizzly delisting is that we are going to see subjective value choices — specifically, about whether grizzlies will be ok or put at unacceptable risk by the loss of key foods — being made, but in a non-transparent way, hidden behind the “don’t ask questions” veil of “Science.” They’ll say, “well, Science says they’ll do fine without whitebark pine, so why all the fuss?” Pro-bear folks will counter with their own Science. And around it goes . . . when what’s mostly going on are different interpretations of risk, and different assessments of whether the consequences are acceptable.

        • avatar Ida Lupine says:

          A lot less people die or are injured in car accidents due to safety devices and a reasonable speed limit and practical precautions. I think the studies do show that. I should hope that as a society we do care about the welfare of other members of our society.

          Now, if we could only do the same thing with children and gun violence….

          But with grizzly bears and wildlife in general, this analogy doesn’t really apply because there are those who couldn’t care less about them hiding behind science and wildlife management, and those who are not knowledgeable about bears or who also couldn’t care less if it doesn’t affect them will be making the decisions.

        • avatar Ida Lupine says:

          I understand your analogies just fine thank you, but it really doesn’t apply with wildlife is the point I tried to make.

          • avatar SAP says:

            ??? In both wildlife and automobile safety, things we value are at risk.

            There are non-scientific judgements that take place about when we’ve done enough to reduce risk.

            In neither instance do we reduce risk to zero, so choices have been made about accepting some level of risk to things we care about (children, grizzlies).

            You can keep disagreeing about whether it logically applies, but I’m going to have to drop it and not respond to you anymore. Have a nice day!

            • avatar Ida Lupine says:

              I really don’t care if you respond to me or not. Don’t respond to my comments. Go to blazes for all I care. The same goes for namecalling, which is why I didn’t and won’t get into those exchanges. Namecalling won’t deter me from the issues I feel strongly about.

              Many or most don’t value wildlife over human interests is the point I tried to make, so the analogy isn’t quite apt. We conveniently want to remain willfully naïve about human nature, and ignore the dishonesty our species is capable of. We don’t do the right thing many times. So it isn’t me making it about good guys vs. bad guys.

              Naturally, we’d put time and effort into taking care of our own species by making sure children are safe (we hope, anyway) – but with wildlife, we don’t.

              • avatar Donald J. Jackson says:

                Ida,

                If you are hoping that humans will eventually put animals over humans, I am sure you are always going to be disappointed in life.

                The majority of humans, no matter the situation is going every put an animal over a human. It is just not in our DNA.

      • Ida:

        Science can answer “is” questions; it cannot answer “ought” questions. Nearly all policy combines is and ought questions. Here is the basic form:

        Premise: Scientific data indicates that in a car accident children restrained in car seats suffer ??% fewer injuries then children not in car seats. (An “is” question answerable by science.)

        Premise: We (as a society) should do everything possible to avoid injuries to children. (This is an ethical premise–it has nothing to do with science).

        Conclusion (the policy part): Given our desire to avoid injuries to children (ethical premise) and data showing that children are more likely to be injured when they are not in a car seat, therefore we should mandate the use of car seats.

        —-

        Note: In MANY cases, the notion that an injury is more likely without the use of (x) is insufficient to warrant a change in policy (e.g., demanding the use of x). That is because someone must make the very NON-SCIENTIFIC judgment that the reduction in injuries when x is in use is worth the cost of limiting people’s freedoms.

        I know you’re feeling skeptical, so let’s turn this around:

        Premise: Grizzly bears occasionally kill people.

        Premise: We (as a society) should do everything possible to prevent people from dying needlessly.

        Conclusion: All grizzly bears should be killed or removed to zoos.

        Note: The fundamental problem here is the inherent subjectivity in assessing risk. If the risk of having grizzlies on the landscape is judged unacceptable, then this conclusion makes sense; however, if the risk is judged to be acceptable, then the conclusion is rejected. Science can tell us what the risk is–but it cannot tell us whether that risk is acceptable.

        The same is true whether we’re talking about car seats or grizzly bears.

        • avatar SAP says:

          Good elaboration, JB.

          What I sense is going on in this subthread is an impulse to divide the world into good guys and bad guys. The good guys are brave and honest and Science is on their side. The bad guys are corrupt liars who simply claim to have Science on their side.

          Muddying up that typology by pointing out that Science doesn’t provide that kind of clarity, and that the world is substantially more complicated than good guys vs bad guys? No thanks! 😉

        • avatar Ida Lupine says:

          Science can answer “is” questions; it cannot answer “ought” questions. Nearly all policy combines is and ought questions.

          Yes, I know all about that. Some of our policies don’t even rise to that level and are just about selfish needs where wildlife are displaced and killed needlessly. Nobody seems to want to acknowledge that.

          At least in my opinion, you can’t use the same thinking. We as a society don’t have the right to remove grizzlies or other wildlife from the landscape. We do it because we take the right.

          We can take steps to change our own behavior so that people don’t become injured or die needlessly from wildlife encounters. We certainly should take steps in society that are in the best interests of human beings, among each other. But we don’t have the right to interfere with wildlife, and many times we do for purely selfish reasons that aren’t even matters of saving human life. But because we dominate the planet.

          We’ve discussed things like this before, and we have an ideological difference in the way we view things. You think rights are a human concept only; many of us think animals have the right to live unmolested by human beings, and a place to live unmolested by human beings. We should just agree to disagree and leave it at that.

          • avatar JB says:

            “We as a society don’t have the right to remove grizzlies or other wildlife from the landscape.”

            Ida:

            Essentially what you’re saying is that you do not believe that we should have ‘the right’ to kill or remove grizzlies. In fact, we do have the right; when and where grizzlies are listed as endangered, this is done under the Endangered Species Act; the ‘right’ of the FWS to take such action is granted under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. When and where grizzlies are not listed as endangered (e.g., Alaska) the conditions under which people can ‘take’ (i.e., trap or kill) a bear is determined by the state of Alaska (through the legislature and board of game).

            This isn’t a difference of philosophy or ideology. It simply is so. That you think we shouldn’t have such rights may indicate a difference of opinion; but I bet that if pressed, we could identify situations under which you felt it was justifiable to kill or remove grizzlies. And who determines if/when such removal is justified? You guessed it, human beings.

            BTW: I don’t have a problem with people being principled about the conditions under which wildlife are killed. The important thing is to be able to articulate those principles and apply them consistently.

            Re: Risk —

            What you seem to fail to grasp is that policy (again, whether we’re talking about grizzlies or car seats) cannot be determined by science. The fact that science told us that car seats make kids safer was insufficient to act. Killing all the grizzly bears in the GYE would also make us (or at least those of us who live in or visit the GYE) safer. The point is that, as SAP said, people’s VALUES determine whether they think the incremental gain in safety or increase in risk is acceptable. So it is not factually correct to say: “Absolutely false. Scientific data about accidents is what led to child seats becoming mandatory.” What actually occurred is that scientific data showed that car seats reduce risks, and policy makers made the subjective judgment that the reduction in risk associated with the use of car seats outweighed the cost of requiring people to purchase and use them.

            You seem to believe these judgments are intuitive and common sense. Yet recently Michigan policy makers decided that helmets would no longer be required for motorcycle riders, despite a similar reduction in risk associated with their use.

            • avatar JEFF E says:

              “The important thing is to be able to articulate those principles and apply them consistently.”

              you know that will not pass the emotional roller coaster check

            • avatar Ida Lupine says:

              I do not fail to grasp it. Your motorcycle example is that the majority Michigan adults don’t want to wear motorcycle helmets, and the policymakers responded accordingly.

              The other example is children’s car seats – and not all parents know how to take care of them. Hence, laws to protect them as they are minors. Society does value children and values protecting those who cannot protect themselves.

  7. avatar Kathleen says:

    “The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee unanimously agreed Wednesday to move ahead on rules that might remove federal protection from grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park.”

    http://missoulian.com/news/local/grizzly-bear-managers-agree-to-move-ahead-with-delisting-plan/article_7ea13172-62a9-11e3-98ab-001a4bcf887a.html

    • avatar Ida Lupine says:

      Ha! So does this mean the hunters will be camping out at the park borders to hunt grizzlies like they do wolves and bison with the on-hoof-or-paw out of the park method? I do not understand the reasoning behind hunting 600 or so bears.

      • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

        Here is their full news release.

        MISSOULA – At their annual winter meeting in Missoula, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) met to hear reports from the various ecosystem subcommittees responsible for grizzly bear recovery and management in the six recovery areas in the contiguous United States and adjacent Canadian Provinces.  After over 32 years of cooperative efforts the overall news was promising about the progress being made, especially in regards to the Northern Continental Divide and Yellowstone Ecosystems.

        A presentation was made to the IGBC by Frank van Manen, leader of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST), regarding a grizzly bear food synthesis report that the team a year ago had been directed by IGBC to pursue. The purpose of the report was to address the sole remaining issue that placed the Yellowstone grizzly bear back on the Endangered Species List in 2009, after it had been originally delisted in 2007 after meeting all the required population and habitat recovery requirements. The food synthesis report is a comprehensive peer-reviewed examination of the wide range of foods available to grizzlies in the Yellowstone Ecosystem. A copy of the report is available at the IGBST website.

        After the presentation, a motion to accept the findings of the study was made by IGBC member Jim Unsworth, Deputy Director for the Idaho Department of Fish & Game, “I move that the IGBC accept the IGBST (Study Team) Synthesis Report and endorse it as an adequate evaluation of food habits and the relative importance of White Bark Pine in the diet of Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Grizzly Bears.  I further move, that the IGBC recommend the USFWS (United States Fish & Wildlife Service) proceed with development of a new proposed rule to delist the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Population [boldface is mine].” The motion was supported unanimously by all the other members of the committee. Acceptance of the report officially does nothing to trigger the delisting of grizzlies in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, but its overwhelming acceptance by the IGBC is a signal to the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) that they can now move forward with internal review of the status of the Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear population.

        The USFWS will review the report and will decide in the next month or so whether to move forward with a new proposed rule to delist the Yellowstone grizzly population.  If this proposed rule is developed it will be published for public comment approximately mid-2014.

        In addition to discussion of the Yellowstone Ecosystem, the IGBC received detailed reports on the progress being made towards moving to propose the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem for delisting and work towards beginning a required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) needed as part of the Recovery Plan for the North Cascades Ecosystem. 

        After giving a report on the findings of her DNA study of the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, recently retired USGS Researcher Kate Kendall was given an award by the IGBC for all of her years of DNA research done on behalf of grizzly bear recovery. The overall mood of the meeting was one of success as the health of grizzly populations was detailed.  The agencies again resolved to assure the long-term future of grizzlies by working together.

      • avatar Peter Kiermeir says:

        *I do not understand the reasoning behind hunting 600 or so bears.*

        “The majority of funding for bear management right now has come from hunting license dollars,” McDonald said. “Sportsmen have footed the majority of the bill on recovery. There are a few who would like to see a return on that investment.”

        Reason enough?

        • avatar Ida Lupine says:

          Yes. I’m sure Safari Club will appear somewhere.

        • avatar Mike says:

          Right, because just knowing a rare creature exists isn’t enough. To fully appreciate anything, we have to shoot it. Death by bullet is the apex experience.

          Hunters really are the biggest douchebags. I’ve been winter camping in the Rockies for three months, and they really are the worst kind of people.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      OK, here is the actual food report. I will have more to say after I have read it.

      http://www.nrmsc.usgs.gov/files/norock/IGBST/IGBST_FoodSynReport120213.pdf

      • avatar aves says:

        The report repeatedly references recent manuscripts that have not been completed or peer reviewed. The disclaimer says this was done “to ensure timely delivery of research findings to support policy and management decisions”. It would be a lot easier to believe the report if they waited until their own documents had been independently reviewed.

  8. avatar jburnham says:

    Well said. This point needs repeating so often here that this comment should be made into a sticky post.

  9. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    SaveBears, I am well aware that humans will *never* consider animals above themselves. What I am hoping for is that someday they will deign to treat them with some modicum of decency, and share some of the planet with them.

    • avatar IDhiker says:

      Ida,

      Probably, humans in general will never put animals first due to their own inate greed. Having worked 24 years in law enforcement, I have experienced firsthand the darker side of human nature. As an individual, I value many animals above many humans. The only difference between the two is the capacity to reason at a higher level.

      Unfortunately, this reasoning needs to be developed and nurtured, and many people lack higher levels of consciousness. Thus, although they have the form of a human being, they are often mentally only equal to or even below “higher level” animals.

  10. avatar CodyCoyote says:

    The One Thing to keep in mind above all else when grappling with the IGBC suggesting that the Grizzly be delisted: that by NOT recommending delisting and prolonging protections for the Great Bear, they are signing their own prison sentence decree or banishment to some dark hole of research Hell. They have a political imperative built into their work all along that all but demands Grizzly Bear recovery be a success and the bear turned back out to fend with the states’ whims. How many times have they moved the goal posts, altered numbers, and produced rabbits from their black hats ?

    It is the lesser of two dooms for them. By recommending delisting even in the face of questionable science , unresolved population numbers, the viscosity of bureaucratic methodology and an uncertain management plan going forward, the IGBC survives with jobs intact. They may even get some platitudes or framed Certificates of Appreciation from the politcos that surround them. The scathing is more minimal with delisting than to retain the Bear on the threatened list for the forseeable.

    Had they not come to a delisting consensus, they would likely be oppressed like never before; disbanded or neutered; and the Grizzly would still be foisted over to state control or worse , with or without IGBC’s stamp of approval.

    The Bear loses either way. IGBC takes the more politcally prophylactic course. How could it be otherwise with them ?

  11. avatar Joe says:

    Having followed the grizzly bear controversy for some time, and having carefully studied the food synthesis report, it seems to me that the IGBST has deliberately skewed the science to look professionally confusing enough to convince the courts to confirm agency discretion against the inevitable challenges to the coming round of delisting.

    It’s not bad science. It’s dishonest science.

    It has been clear since the 9th Circuit decision confirming relisting that come hell or high water the IGBST/IBGC would “discover” whitebark pine is not critical to bears, despite considerable previous scientific demonstration to the contrary.

    Further, the agencies have been following a rigidly enforced propaganda script, discussed and agreed to in formal and informal agency meetings, to make sure the public “knows” that bears are infinitely adaptable and can therefore survive on a whole host of foods that, although most don’t have anywhere near the nutritional value of whitebark pine seeds and the other major foods, will nonetheless keep a large Yellowstone population healthy.

    As Cody Coyote points out, it’s politically incorrect and economically hazardous for agency personnel to say different.

    • avatar Leslie says:

      “It has been clear since the 9th Circuit decision confirming relisting that come hell or high water the IGBST/IBGC would “discover” whitebark pine is not critical to bears, despite considerable previous scientific demonstration to the contrary.”

      Yes! Exactly. Even 2 years ago our WG&F warden gave a talk to our community with that script–more than 1000 bears, they eat lots of foods like Russian olives…

      When he said ‘Russian Olives’ I wondered how all those people in the bottom lands will enjoy the bear there instead of the high country in summer.

  12. avatar MAD says:

    I find it interesting that they only tapped 2 certain individuals from the Univ. of MT. You have a few guys like Joel Berger, Mike Mitchell & Paul Lukacs, among others, who are at the top in their field. But yet, they’ll have some hack biologists who work for State agencies hell-bent on killing every predator along the Rocky Mtns. Sounds like “business” as usual. or as Peter K. pointed out above, since hunters have spent $, we should defer to their wishes because they know best when it comes to wildlife ecology and conservation

  13. avatar Leslie says:

    I once heard Bruscino comment that grizzlies have been proven to be as intelligent as the great apes. Skinned and hung, they look eerily like a human. So, what does that say about hunting them, who wants to hunt them,and the rush to delist?

    This report’s outcome was pre-determined , we all could see that. Although they only had to justify food, they have never addressed the bears isolation in the GYE and lack of corridors. My understanding of the science on that is that without connectivity, over time the Bear will decline here.

    On a personal level, the thought of a hunt on grizzlies makes me sick. Living around grizzlies day to day, it seems that the public who supports delisting, besides big game hunters, are people who think there is a grizzly in wait around every tree and are just scared of wilderness, or those who are too lazy to be responsible with their food stuffs.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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