Do you want to discuss something?
By Ralph Maughan On November 28, 2006 · 23 Comments · In Uncategorized
Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.
23 Responses to Do you want to discuss something?
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This could provide some interesting post. As long as peop;e don’t abuse it.
I’d like to read what others think about the federal government’s management of bison on public land — wildlife refuges included. I just posted a note about this on my blog, but I’m probably far afield on some of my points. Your thoughts please.
I don’t know – seems like things are going well as is. There sure are a number of interesting points of view expressed here, and I am learinmg a lot. I object only to those I disagree with and since they are so are wrong who cares!
Perhaps if we tried just emailing Ralph direct, with ideas for a new thread, and let him begin the conversation. After all Ralp is the bloger…`Let him fry in the pan when the time comes:-)
I don’t have a problem coming up with topics, I just thought maybe someone wanted to discuss something there hasn’t been a topic on lately.
I thought that because all of a sudden someone will pick up a thread from a month or so ago and start posting comments to it.
Since I am intimately involved with the bison issue in Yellowstone, I plan on travelling there in the next 2 days, I have a few thoughts about the management of the Yellowstone heard.
First, I feel that one of the least acknowleged impacts on the herd through current management is that on their genetics. There is a huge selective pressure on the population when bison are removed because of positive test results for antibodies caused by exposure to brucellosis (and another disease which I don’t recall the name of). Are they removing the animals that can survive brucellosis? There is evidence which suggests that the prevalence of brucellosis is rising due to the culling of animals that test positive.
Another selective pressure is brought about by killing those that do leave the park. Are they changing the overall genetic makeup of the heard by doing this? Nobody seems to be looking at these things and they are important.
They are having an effect on specific groups of animals. There has been evidence suggesting that animals from different areas are impacted more than animals from other areas. Some years there is a large slaughter of animals from say the Lamar Valley, or the Swan Valley, or the Pelican Valley, or the Madison Valley. It’s not an even cull and the effects could be profound.
We have to remember that the Yellowstone heard is derived from around 50 animals. That is not much genetic diversity and tinkering with the herds in this fashion could be severely detrimental to the future of the herd.
Speaking now as someone from the east…
Regarding bison management on public lands, the general public has no clue with regard to what is going on. I know I didn’t until I found this website. The picture that the federal government paints is one of peace, tranquility and safety for bison in the west and most people are buying it. I for one used to believe that bison someday could and would naturally expand their range outside Yellowstone. I think that most bison advocates who are very close to the issue are making a tactical error by concentrating too much on factual issues such as brucellosis. Most folks from the east couldn’t care less about brucellosis even if they knew what it was. As the hook and bullet crowd learned a long time ago, the truth isn’t nearly as important as emotions when it comes to shaping public policy. From where I sit, there are two key issues that I believe wildlife proponents should educate the public about. The first is that bison are a very important part of the ecosystem and there is room throughout the public lands of the west for many more of them. The second is the reason they are not expanding their range beyond places like Yellowstone Park is that the states and the federal government are keeping their population artificially small by killling them. The public needs to become enraged about what is going on. A good p.r. campaign is needed to stir up the public’s emotions. The facts won’t change the status quo. Public opinion and politics will.
I would like to see a discussion about the gated community
being developed just outside Wapiti, Wyoming in prime
Public Television has shown documentaries of conflict with
grizzlies & the inhabitants of Wapiti , yet this gated community
for the wealthy is going to be allowed to be built in grizzly
We all know what’s going to happen when griz comes into conflict
with some rich dude from Chicago!
I haven’t seen any of the environmental groups pick up on this.
just wondering if you or anybody else had any info on Utah’s plan to manage wolves if they come here, so far it seems they just trap and move back or trap and let die, It would be very easy for them to move into the high Uintahs yet we don’t here anything here wether they are working against that or for that, any info appreciated,
Utah does have a weak wolf management plan that does NOT provide for trapping any wolves that show up and moving them to Yellowstone.
I thought the High Uintas would be a good place for wolves until the the shocking report by Dr. John Carter how sheep grazing has been allowed to devastate much of this incredible East-West-running mountain range.
The best wolf habitat in Utah is the Book Cliffs, but clearly there is some in the Bear River Range and there have been wolves there from time to time and probably at least one pack. Ralph M.
John and Buffaloed, thanks for weighing in on the bison management topic. I agree regarding public sentiment. I recall reading a column by Doug Peacock regarding the Yellowstone bison a few years back.
To John Glowa – thank you for posting your comments. I hope you can understand that people with views like your scare the hell out of many westerners. If you are willing to base your views on bison management solely on what you have read on this website you are getting only one side of the story. The fact of the matter is people live out here too. Why is it acceptable for easterners who have fouled all their rivers and blacktopped every inch of available land to think it’s ok to run westerners off their land by advocating bigger bison herds? The Park can support 3,500 head of bison – that’s the carrying capacity established by the Interagency Brucellosis Committee. It’s not an artificially small population, it’s what hte public land can support. Today the Park has over 4,000 head of bison and there are a lot of problems with overgrazing. Hence, pressure is put on privately held lands in the surrounding area. If the bison range is to be expanded outside Yellowstone, private landowners will suffer the consequences. When I travel in the East I can’t drink the water, and I can’t stand the smog, the traffic, noise, nor the people and their snotty attitudes. I understand why folks like you hold romantic notions about the West. But if you think there aren’t consequences to your romantic notions you have a lot to learn.
To John. Well the thing about bison management in Yellowstone is that while brucellosis is used to justify limiting bison to Yellowstone Park (said to be a danger to cattle), the whole brucellosis rationale quickly breaks apart.
Much of the info on this is found on this website because the mainstream media is not willing to do the research needed or are afraid of offending that powers that be.
Almost every conservation organization in Montana and Wyoming (local) is opposed to the way bison and elk are managed (mis-managed) regarding brucellosis.
The argument that the interest in conserving and expanding the bison population beyond the is an “Eastern” thing is a classic argument, but fewer and fewer people buy that anyone.
The activists on issues like this are local, many, like myself being born in the area.
To John with no last name,
I am also from the east and outraged by the bison issue. Although I do visit the west every year and I wish more often. If Europeans colonized the Rocky Mountains first (an impossibility when coming by boat) a few hundred years back, you would also have cities and huge population pressures there.
Are you kidding about your statement. Tax-payers monies are used to continue a slaughter about myth – the passing of brucellosis to catttle – although it never has occurred.
There is plenty of room for bison to live outside the park and I am sure most (except the very vocal) wouldn’t mind having bison around.
And, oh yeah, most of the west is publicly owned so westerns that graze livestock, do it on yours, mine, and John Glowa’s land. So, yes, us easterners do have a say in things out west.
With all the land out west, there is plenty of room to appease landowners and have wild bison in many locations.
By the way, out east, despite the smog, we have wild moose, white-tailed deer, many black bear, bobcats, and eastern coyotes (likely a coyote-wolf hybrid). We haven’t completely screwed up the environment and are actually reclaiming it with wild lands, outside of cities.
To say we have snotty attitudes is a gross generalization like all westerns are redneck cowboys, which we know isn’t true either.
My favorite comment in the past week. “by the way they don’t terrorize me (wolves), I have a .45 calibar friend that goes walking with me these days”. Let’ see; whats the definition of oxymoron.
To Ralph and John Way, brucellosis has been passed to cattle in Idaho twice in the past three years. In both occurrences elk, not bison were responsible. But to continue to argue that it will never happen or can’t happen with bison is ignorant. This disease presents extremely difficult wildlife and livestock management challenges. The foremost brucellosis experts anywhere are working on solutions, but growing the bison herds certainly isn’t a viable management option today. Brucellosis aside, my previous comments were more directed at the tone of the post from John Glowa and several others on this site. Take a look at a property ownership map of Idaho and you will see public, private and state lands interspersed throughout the state. Bison herds are extremely destructive to fences and many other developments on private land and whether easterners want to believe it or not, the folks that own that land have rights. It’s like me saying you eastern folks need more open space so I want you to bulldoze some arbitrary percentage of your cities start over with prairie grass and trees.
My last name, by the way is Thompson and I thank you for the discussion.
You probably don’t know that I wrote extensively about elk and brucellosis at my old web site and was just about the only non-agricultural media to report both instances of Wyoming elk passing brucellosis to Idaho cattle.
I beg to differ about bison. I will leave Idaho aside. There is plenty of room for bison to roam in Montana outside Yellowstone Park, and in fact they do so in Wyoming in Jackson Hole where the bison herd is being allowed to grow far beyond reasonable bounds in Grand Teton National Park. Ralph Maughan
One thing I would like to see discussed is my observation that the conservation community is no longer a community, but an industry that’s just as bureacuratic, just as timid, just as money hungry, just as contemptuous of the grass roots, and just as willing to stab people who are still passionate about land and wildlife in the back, as are government and the “real” industries. Example, the bison bill written by the Gallatin Wildlife Association for the last session in Montana. The main feature of the bill was to strip the Montana Dept. of Livestock of all management authority for bison. The GWA found a freshman legislator willing to sponsor the bill. The Greater Yellowstone Coalition went behind the GWA’s back and talked the sponsor of the bill to drop the provision eliminating DOL authority for bison. The bill failed anyway; the issue is the dishonesty and dishonorable behavior of the GYC in sticking it to a good, local grass roots group for political reasons.
I see stuff like this happening all the time, and I’m sick of it.
Secondly, we need to know–and the public needs to know– that the so-called brucellosis problem is a fraud, whether in Montana with bison or with elk here in western Wyoming. We have a situation where a private industry, the livestock industry, has captured the National Park Service and the wildlife agencies of Montana and Wyoming and controls wildlife management policy for private benefit. The economic benefit is control of grass/forage. THe political benefit is that in both states—indeed, throughout the west–the livestock industry is an oligarchy struggling to maintain its power in the face of major political, economic, and demographic changes. As we’ve seen with bison and elk, the livestock industry is willing to sacrifice priceless public resources like bison and elk to stay in power and maintain its privileges on public lands.
What’s important for people back east to understand is that there is no democratic process, no public involvement, in elk and bison management out here, not to mention wildlife management in general. Just as we who live here have no voice, people elswhere have no voice.
That’s one reason’s Ralph’s website, and others, are so important. You find the facts here, whereas the mainstream press ignores the real issues of political and economic power.
I first experienced the livestock industry’s grip on Americans’ rangeland as a young teenager growing up in southeastern Idaho. My brother and a few friends joined me on an overnight camping trip of sorts on Caribou NF land. We found a nice meadow where we plopped down our blankets and ate cans of cold beans before going to sleep for the night — only to be rudely awakened in the wee hours by bawling cows.
Just get up close to these critters and you know something is wrong — the flies, the bugs, the stench, the droppings, the stomped stream banks and grassy wetlands, the tangled and degraded willows, the sacrifice zones, the trees rubbed with barked rubbed raw down to the heartwood.
Earlier this month, we drove into the Water Canyon Campground on Cibola NF land in southcentral N.M., where we promptly found cow pies on a marked “nature” trail. And we crossed a cattle guard while motoring into the campground.
Ranchers — especially those who graze their woollies and cows on public land for a mere pittance — are getting more than just a good deal when they receive cash as buyout payment for their grazing permits.
As for the “conservation community,” I’ve long experienced similar feelings regarding the big, national-level groups. That’s why I choose to support only cutting-edge organizations — regional and local — that avoid the pitfalls of consensus building and compromise. Too much has already been compromised.
I think this “consensus building” has driven a huge wedge through which used to be the “conservation community.”
and, perhaps unfortunately.
I can’t decide that either side is completely right or completely wrong, leaving me in a difficult position.
One thing I will never do (again) is personally engage in consensus building, negotiations, etc. I did that sort of thing for 20 years. What usually happens is this–nothing is settled, your friends are not your friends any longer, the other side knows who you are now, and your life and property may be in danger.
The reason I brought up the issue of the conservation industry is that by buying totally into the system, the established and well-funded groups are as much an obstacle to conservation, in the sense Leopold thought about it, as is government and traditional industry. It seems the overall rule is, let no good idea bubble up from the grass roots without trashing it, and further, let no grass roots organization interfere with the groups’ short term political and economic interests.
These days, those interests lie in the direction of “collaboration” and “consensus” building, as both Alan and Ralph have mentioned. That’s where the foundation money is; there’s not a lot of financial support for telling truth, as I have learned to my sorrow over the last few years. But that’s the price of telling the truth, I suppose.
This acceptance of collaboration has had its greatest negative impact in the sudden reversal of efforts to get control of grazing and other negative impacts of the livestock industry, such as lack of democracy in the West. It has become politically incorrect to criticize the livestock industry, and believe me, the industry groups (Stockgrowers, etc.), really play this up, pulling conservation group strings with all kinds of promises, like Lucy with Charlie Brown’s football. This is one reason that making fundamental changes in bison and elk management in the Greater Yellowstone is proving nearly impossible, and why wolf and bear conservation is at such risk.
What has to happen at bottom is that the priority of cattle over wildlife has to change, with the priority going to wildlife. Yes, I know this is naive, but it is truly what must happen.
This requires destroying the capability of the livestock industry to control wildlife management and wildlife and land management agencies. Until that is accomplished, we will continue to see the senseless slaughter of Yellowtone bison and we will continue to suffer the disease burdens of Wyoming’s elk feedgrounds. The established groups of the Greater Yellowstone absolutely refuse however to hold the livestock industry accountable for its actions in creating and maintaining two ecologically disasterous policies that are doing incalculable damage to the ecosystem, its wildlife, and human communities. In short, the groups have adopted the bureaucratic imperative, what I call the real 4 Cs: career, capitulation, cover-up, and cowardice.
I have come to the conclusion that we must focus on the grass roots, and do what we can not only to bypass government and industry, but the vast majority of conservation groups as well, which have become nothing more than special interests. It is truly an industry, and its product is nature. It prefers coffee table glitz to kitchen table grass roots work.
What I would like to see happen is that people who think we need some fundamental changes in conservation try to find some way to get together and talk these basic strategic issues over. We need wholly new institutions of conservation and we have to find some way to keep them self-correcting to prevent them going the way that existing institutions have gone. That’s a problem of governance and as a student of history, I am all too aware of how hard it is to solve problems of govenance. But it must be addressed, because the current system is failing and failing badly.
I remember one time when I was about twelve my family was on a short vacation to southwest Montana where both sides of my family come from and a great many of my relatives were involved in ranching and farming including my grand parents. My Dad made a statement that I found really strange, even then, considering the above, and have remembered my whole life. To wit ” if they could, ranchers would lock up every bit of land for themselves, let the cows stomp every crick and stream around into a mud hole, and wipe out any other aniamal that was around as a threat to the cows, except for a few deer and elk so they and their pals could go and shoot em for recreation.” He just didn’t say it that nicely. I also know that is not how every rancher sees things, however there are enough that would do just that that there should always be people such as many that post on this web site and others like it looking over the shoulder of the ranching industry as a whole , and letting it be known that someone is looking, to keep the “black sheep” of the industry in line as much as may be possible.
I don’t mean to interrupt and I think Hoskins has hit an important nail on the head — in fact I hope he keeps talking! But what is going on with ICL’s apparent approval of Governor Risch’s roadless plan? Are Idaho conservationists opposing the thing or not? See post on ICL’s stated support for plan to KTVB at http://www.demarcatedlandscapes.blogspot.com.
For John Thompson:
Your generalization about the east is just plain wrong. Apparently you haven’t been to Maine. As a seventh generation Mainer, I can tell you that our rivers aren’t foul, every inch of available land isn’t blacktopped, and the drinking water is cold and fresh. We have some 30,000 moose, more than 20,000 black bears, 250,000 white-tailed deer, and thousands of mink, beaver, fisher and marten. We have more than 200 active bald eagle nests and the largest lynx population in the U.S. In recent years we’ve had cougar and wolves documented in the state. In fact, more than half of Maine’s 35,000 square miles is potential wolf habitat. Wolves live just 75 miles from the Maine border and just 60 miles from New York. FYI- I’ve been in the forefront of wolf advocacy here in the northeast for more than ten years and have been working hard to promote their natural recolonization of the northeast.
As far as this east-west thing is concerned, some folks may not like it but we are all one country and we all own the public lands and the wildlife on them.
Regarding the public’s lack of any say in matters of fish and wildlife management, that is certainly not limited to the west. Here in Maine we face the same type of entrenched good old boys club. We may not have a strong livestock/farming lobby, but we have a very politically strong yet very small group of “outdoors extremists” who have controlled Maine’s fish and wildlife policies for many years. Only now is the public waking up to the fact that a small “fringe” group controls both our fish and wildlife agency and the fish and wildlife committee in the legislature. Control of fish and wildlife policy by the special interests is a nationwide problem that has been many years in the making and won’t be fixed overnight. It won’t be fixed at all unless and until the public wakes up to the fact that they do have the power if they only choose to use it. To go back to my original blog about the bison-the public needs to become enraged about what is going on. Maybe this nationwide problem needs a nationwide solution?
I am pressed for time today and tomorrow due to other commitments but briefly, I would like to see this conversation continue. We are discussing the soul of the conservation movement, and the determination of many interests, including the conservation industry, as I have called it, to stamp it out. The legalistic and bureaucratic mandarins of the conservation industry have no more respect for wildness than do the mandarins of government and commerce. I myself have embarked on a kind of bioregional approach; I am not sure that the problems we face can be dealt with on a national level, for the simple reason that national politics is so corrupted, and national institutions equally corrupted–and of course, ecological “boundaries” have no meaning for political and social boundaries. Ditto for state institutions.
I believe we have to rethink our institutions from the ground up, ecoregion by ecoregion. If an ecological approach to conservation means anything, it means that our experiences in certain places has to drive our thinking and our experimentation for how to live our lives in mind of nature, rather than in contempt of nature. We have to create a culture of respect for wildlife and wildlands where we live, and first of all, that means creating a culture of respect for the wildness in ourselves in relation to the specific places we live. Isn’t that the meaning of Gary Snyder’s poetry, for example?
A good friend of mine in Canada’s Yukon Territory recently died of cancer at age 77. His name was Dick Person, and for many years he lived an elemental life on and around the shores of Teslin Lake in a teepee. Dick was a kind of avatar; he knew the wildness in himself and he sought to express it every day of his life. His goal in life was to become indigenous to where he lived. I think most of us who knew him would agree that Dick, as much as is possible for a European American, became indigenous to the place where he chose to live. It’s harder for us, as even more boundaries to living free come down on us in this society, to emulate Dick’s example, but I think it is necessary for us to find ways of becoming indigenous to place, and also creating communities where others can become indigenous. Today, it’s individuals who do it, but if we, and our colleague species and wildlands are to have any chance of survival, we must create/recreate a culture of becoming being indigenous. In other words, we must become again what we evolved to be in the beginning.
A couple things:
I was wondering what everyone’s favorite wilderness/roadless areas are? There is alot of internet talk about the bad things happening to our public lands, but I’d like to hear more about some of the good stuff.
I would have to say some of my favorite roadless areas would be the Absaroka-Beartooth, the Bob Marshall Complex, the Crazy Mountains, and the Selway Bitteroot area. I have been to the Bridger-Teton national forest a couple times, and I have been very impressed with those areas as well. Same goes for the Shoshone national forest.
Also, any ideas on how close we are to wilderness bills in Montana? I would like to see a Crazy Mountains wilderness, and a Great Burn widlerness, and of course additions to the Anaconda Pintlars (which I have not yet hiked through). There is a roadless spotlight over here on the Crazy’s:
I know there was a recent “agreement” between Montana environmental groups and local industry concerning the Beaverhead-Deerlodge national forest:
(scroll down to see the Beaverhead strategy)
This agreement was fairly controversial at the time, and I was wondering what others thoughts were.
It seems with control of congress, it might be easier to get wilderness bills passed, and we havea two year period to get it done. With proper planning and framing of the issue, we could possibly score by passing off the wilderness bills as ways to provide Bush’s only legacy, and one for sportsmen.