Greater Yellowstone Coalition throws mud on Yellowstone Park, revised
March 1 was the 150th anniversary of the congressional establishment of Yellowstone National Park . . .
Revised April 9, 2022.
After that, the national park system slowly gathered. Yellowstone Park was a de novo act, but the idea of national parks had been created and it took root both here and abroad. Many more national parks, monuments, national wildlife refuges, historical sites, and the like have been established — thousands! National parks and similar protected areas, such as wilderness areas, now total hundreds of millions of acres across the world. These relatively undisturbed places, especially the less known and large natural preserves, parks, and wilderness, in fact, form much of the land base worldwide that we are counting on to reduce CO2 emissions to no net gain, although this alone will leave plenty more to do.
Parks are pretty much thought of as wonderful thing by individuals — sun, scenery, wildlife, often science, history and patriotism. Watching Old Faithful erupt in person I believe is a patriotic act. It is a secular ritual expressing love of country and love of nature both. It has been written that the national parks are America’s best idea.
Not everyone feels this way, however. For example, now David Treuer, a Native American, whose mother was an Ojibwe tribal court judge, has written a long piece in Atlantic Magazine making many false representations. George Wuerthner’s piece in The Wildlife News is a detailed critique of Treuer’s errors.
Treuer thinks the parks are not a best idea. They are the worst idea because they were, according to him, created by White man’s theft, lies and trickery; often even murder. However, Treuer’s anecdotes are poorly documented, and he uses them as justification for returning Yellowstone and all the national parks (probably all the rest of our public lands too) “back” to tribes and other Native Americans who never owned them, and usually did not live on them nearly to the same degree as the better watered, more gentle, and fertile lands outside of the present day national park boundaries. Most of these formerly native inhabited lands today are, in fact, private property, not national parks, not even federal, state or locally owned public lands.
The idea of a return, a give back, or repatriation, is spreading through publicity that Native Americans deserve to get our national parks back. It is even spreading though organizations created to protect and enlarge the national parks. The basic method is to activate “liberal guilt,” a kind of behavior that has ruined anti-war and civil rights groups in the past. It could also bring down our public lands, something coalitions of polluters in the past have not been able to do. Hmmm . . .
If you want to get angry, Here is an editorial in the Bozeman Chronicle by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition’s conservation director.
Damn! but me and 4 other people established — incorporated — the Greater Yellowstone Coalition in 1983. This was hardly our motivation. Who took over the GYC and similar groups?
I know that “seminars” in what are billed “social and environmental justice,” are being staged, and are spreading, even in the strongest conservation organizations. We all need pay attention and respond. If you live in the West, it is almost certain that public lands including parks and wilderness areas are not far away from you. These lands legally belong to everyone and are managed by the federal government in the national interest. They could end up being owned by those identified as native people, and they would make the rules and do the managing. If you are donating to them now, think about changing contributions.
It might be well for those transfixed by the idea of native ownership of our public lands to look at how Indian tribal reservation lands are actually managed — if you can get on reservations to have a look. I live next to the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in southeast Idaho. It is a lot like private land to the average person.
I don’t want to make this a general cry of outrage against Native Americans because so many have worked and benefited in the past 100 years or so to protect public lands for conservation purposes.
I think these new detractors of our joint national heritage do not represent any majority. Once North America was the land of many native peoples — many hundreds (thousands?) of tribes and other groupings. Then came the transfer of lands on the continent to “settlers,” almost all one or two generations from Europe. It’s fair to call most of the transfer “flat out occupation and conquest.” However, national parks and public lands were the least of it. Why are these suddenly being attacked? And who are the true, ultimate funders of this political move?
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.
38 Responses to Greater Yellowstone Coalition throws mud on Yellowstone Park, revised
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It would be interesting to examine the money behind the “give the land back” movement, and also the funding of so-called conservation organizations like GYC. I’ll bet there is overlap, and it’s certain that neither are being mostly funded by real conservation interests. Follow the money.
While I agree that native Americans were mistreated, what people haven’t been over the course of their history? If people think that native Americans will take better care of the land, they should look at the current management practices and policies on tribal land. Money rules all peoples, without exception.
It sure would be interesting!
Thank you for your comment. It is about the money; and the motive behind the money. Now that we (the public) have been made aware that Vanguard and Blackrock (and even State Street) “financial management” companies own controlling stocks in nearly all publicly-traded companies, we indeed need to look at the motive.
Add to this realization, the new “asset class” which has declared ownership of every natural resource on the planet under the guise of “sustainable development.” This is the parasite class which plans to vacuum ocean floors for lithium to make batteries! This parasite class is sick! Please read Ellen Brown’s article:
That certainly will be one more thing that keeps me awake at night!
Thank you for the link, Natalie
Thank you Ralph for bringing us back to our senses. I too was at those first meetings of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and it pains me to see them caving to commercial interests like the mountain bike industry and the logging industry to the detriment of the Greater Yellowstone’s environment.
If it wasn’t for national parks and other protected areas the world over, we would barely have any large species left. No tigers in India, no elephants in Africa, no pandas in China, no wild bison in America (Yellowstone NP). National parks provide the core areas where wildlife is the center of attention and humans should humbly watch from the sidelines and try not to do harm.
Thank you Ralph! And you, too, Ed. Having been there from day one of GYC, and having worked with them through the years on countless issues, I watched the slow demise of what was supposed to be a conservation group to becoming club run for popularity and personal gain. By 2000, instead of fighting the good fight against the slugs (as a former lobbyist called industry shills) my main adversaries were GYC, the group formerly known as the MT Wilderness Assn and The Wilderness Society. These 3 groups – the Gang Green as they are lovingly known in Bozeman – is the #1 reason I do little activism any more.
But they have the big bucks. They buy there way to press coverage of their very false presentations and, as I know personally, they bully those not “connected.” Before we left Bozeman, I stood with reps of the Gang Green and listened to them say two provable lies to the reporter for the Chronicle, but that reporter would not listen to someone (me) not paid by those groups, so the lies stood.
Ralph, this needs to be an OpEd in the Boz Chronicle, the Billings Gazette and the Helena IR. Probably the Jackson paper and either in Iderhooey Falls or Pocatello paper.
Thanks, Rick. I have heard about the sorry state of conservation in Bozeman, but don’t know the details. You too, were a GYC (actually then GYA) incorporator, weren’t you? I was on their Board about as long as you were, I think.
I would love to see the national park lands be given back to the Native Americans. But not if they are going to restrict anyone from enjoying their beauty and being able to visit them as they are now. And if that were to ever happen, and I doubt very much it will. But the park should remain free and accessible to the general public to enjoy their beauty. No restrictions!
If the management remains the same why bother changing it. What’s the real agenda behind this give back idea? And why only target National Parks? Natives camped everywhere, lets start giving back with lands and buildings owned by major corporations. But we shouldn’t stop with giving back just to the Natives!
That’s the thing – I’d be all for giving back the Black Hills (is this a national park?), Manhattan, etc. – but an idea that means well (or not) seems to be going to extremes to destroy anything deemed Old Guard. National Parks are for all.
It’s time the residents other than human are given consideration.
TJ, please tell us why you would love to see national parks given to Native Americans?
There is no preservation sidebar, no matter the color of one’s skin. Imagine if Mr. Maughan wrote his piece from a preservation perspective: that none of the indigenous or white mainstream promote preserving the last remaining wild spaces. That wild spaces are for flora and fauna – not exclusively for human consumption (i.e. conservation).
Alas, Mr. Maughan, GW and the left end of the conservation continuum are not preservationists, so they parse conservation with those on the right end. And, those on the left will lose to the right, the right mainstream anarchistic freedom loving, wreckreating humans more numerous and better funded, the left no moral, cultural or scientific higher high ground to base an effective defense, must less rebuttal.
Humans are the problem no matter the “race.”
It is no secret that there is a lot of building going on near Yellowstone and as an example, the median home listing price in the 59730 zip code area is $3.5 million. Rich people including movie stars like Brad Pit want to move there. Montana is a republican run state and they like the money a whole lot.
As far as GYC goes, they state that they have 29 employees and a gross income of a little over $4.8 million (2020 figures). They also show 15 assorted dogs and cats on their website but I do not know if they are on the payroll. They say that “other” foundations contributed just under $2 million to them in 2020. They do not identify them.
The idea that the federal government, NGO’s, and other organizations could some how magically get together for the proper natural/ecological management of the park is hyperbole of a higher order. Money and “stake holders” always seems to have a corrupting influence.
I am not at all worried that public land would be given back to indigenous nations. What concerns me is that indigenous folks are being used by a newly created “indigenous ways paradigm”, for propaganda purposes to promote more capitalism in the guise of ‘traditional native cultural ecology’ etc..
The real traditional indigenous American healers , medicine/men/women that I have met do not want much to do with modern capitalism.
Thank you for the GYC information. In the same vein, I was just thinking how Earth friendly it would be (I mean probably not be) if hundreds of millions of acres of public land were suddenly dropped on indigenous people, or for the matter, dropped on any kind of people. It would be sold.
Great article. Finally, we are seeing significant pushback against two highly troubling issues: “returning” public lands to tribes, and failed “environmental” groups like Greater Yellowstone Coalition.
We can fantasize about how Indians would use “native intuition” to better manage our parks. But we cannot deny the reality … 1. The largest coal strip mine in Montana – wholly owned and operated by Navajos. 2. Clearcuts on the border of Glacier NP – Blackfoot tribe. 3. Proponents of drilling in ANWAR – native Alaskans. 4. Resistance to oil drilling buffer zone around Chaco Canyon – Navajo fighting for drilling rights. Slaughter of Yellowstone bison- various tribes (including fish eating Columbia River tribes)all claiming treaty rights.
Indians are neither more nor less pure than society in general, as they must survive in our capitalistic system too. There is no evidence that they would do a better job managing public lands, and sadly, my experience traveling through reservations does not instill a sense of having one’s act together.
Public lands should be managed for all Americans by centralized government agencies, not by sovereign nations. Indians claiming that they are not welcome in national parks have zero basis for this claim – they can drive through the gate just as any American can. We’re all one people.
As for the environmental groups, my suspicion is to follow the money. There is a high likelihood that they are receiving $$$$ from industry, like the International Mountain Biking Association, and other recreational equipment manufacturers. Also troubling is their adoption of sneaky, low-life, half truth telling … they will publicize that they are promoting more wilderness, when in fact, here in Montana, they are advocating to reduce the acreage in the EXISTING Hyalite Porcupine Buffalo Horn WSA, as a concession to the mountain bike industry. They are not responsive to their rank and file members, but to the big donors.
Thanks for bringing these issues to the forefront.
The tail wagging the dog? In 2020 and 2021, philanthropic foundations poured $13 million into social justice causes. It’s no surprise that literally every conservation group is tripping over itself to “center” people over wildlife.
Over at the Wilderness Society they dare not utter the colonialist word “wilderness.” Sierra Club says their founder John Muir was racist. Audubon is distancing itself from Audubon. Even Leopold is purported to have consorted with eugenicists.
The working thesis seems to be that history is a mistake to be fixed by an overcorrection that disowns the “pale, male and stale” of past, present and future. This is a weird form of performative justice in which the aggrieved are dead and the accused have no chance to defend themselves.
Even here on The Wildlife News we see the neo-Marxists in Lululemon yogi tights shreeing for the scalps of white men, because we dare advocate for critters not people. This is THE WILDLIFE NEWS, folks, not the People News. In case you hadn’t noticed, people already dominate 78% of the planet. We are accused of “siloing” conservation by putting Nature first, not Man, but it is Man who builds silos and lives in them to the exclusion of millions of other species.
The GYC crowd attacks us for not giving Native Americans a seat at the table. Guess what, Native Americans own the table now, sitting at the head of the Department of Interior and the National Park Service. And now they want to own the whole house by taking over the national parks.
Now we are going to “fix” history by giving over national parks to Native Americans. Working behind the scenes is the idea that Indigenous people have a patented relationship with Nature that is not available to white men. While I am willing to grant that some Native Americans are more considerate of Nature than some other Americans, going any further strikes me as racist.
The industrial wreckreation industry is as bad as the cattle industry, yet there’s a slow uptake precisely because of that money diverting attention away from it via cultural issues – again just like the cattle industry and cowboys.
That said, conservation is humans first – by definition. Only preservation puts nature first.
Have you noticed not one of these groups, including GYC, has ever talked about returning public lands to the tribes until this recent movement started by native environmental justice groups. Now they are all jumping on the gravy train – what is the gravy train? The fraudulent foundations that want “diversity” exhibited among these groups. It doesn’t matter if that diversity is real. If these groups were sincere it would be one thing. But they aren’t. They simply follow the money. Patagonia lost its soul over mtn. biking – so if you want Pataguchi money you have to endorse mountain biking. This situation is no different. Blather on about native rights and you can get the money. These groups are despicable. Not to mention the foundations.
And yet –
The Black Hills are the subject of an active treaty that had not been honored, except for some land being sold back recently, it appears.
If these social justice groups want to give any land back, I think this would be the cause, and those like them, where land ownership has been verified.
Not destroying our national parks to make a statement. Never. I agree with Ralph, if any environmental groups get too far into this mire, cut them off from support.
Here’s some background via Wikipedia:
“The land has significant resources and minerals, which was the primary driver for its seizure in the mid-1800s, and an important factor in why many people oppose its return to the Lakota. Some believe that the Sioux did not willingly choose to inhabit the Black Hills, but were forced on to the land by military conquest of other tribes. If the Black Hills were not originally inhabited by the Sioux, they conclude, the Sioux have no rights to the land. However, the Fort Laramie Treaty between the United States and the Sioux Nation unambiguously recognized their ownership of the land.” [emphasis mine]
My apologies. In my remarks above I was wrong to assert that foundations dumped $13 million into social justice causes in the last 2 years. Actually, it was $13 BILLION each year!
Wow – what a terrible mistake, Bea! I wonder just how much actual good that 13 billion did! After all the administrative costs were taken care of, right??
13-billion is really a lot of money. It’s probably 50 times what is spent on endangered species. Are you sure this much? If so, it is really frightening. They would really want to take down conservation, environmentalism, preservation, land and water recovery, and the would take it down by diverting human energy to retard climate change and save other major Earth systems, patterns, pathways, or whatever. Thirteen billion would take care of a huge number of needs of problems faced by Native Americans if it was spent properly. Of course, spending it on education (propaganda)is not what any minority needs. If this is the true amount it is quite a story!
Here’s a link to New York Times article that reported the $13 billion/year figure.
What do these lines mean “The lion and tiger might be stronger, but the wolf does not perform in circus”?
Lol. Good one. Neither will jaguars
How are you, Mareks? Good to hear from you. How are things where you are?
Corporate America’s $50 billion promise
“To date, America’s 50 biggest public companies and their foundations collectively committed at least $49.5 billion since (George) Floyd’s murder last May to addressing racial inequality- an amount that appears unequaled in sheer scale”. A quote from the above article in the Washington Post.
However, much of the money has strings attached. Check out the article. Most all of this money is directed toward the black-lives matter movement and not to indigenous American organizations.
Since some of my Cherokee ancestors are quite likely buried beneath the waters that are backed up behind the Tellico dam on the Little Tennessee River I describe the following:
The older folks that frequent this website probably remember the Tennessee Valley Authorities (TVA) project to dam up the Little Tennessee river. The endangered little fish known as the snail darter was publicized far and wide for holding up this project. A project that was supposed to offer electric power ( mostly for the mining industry), irrigation and recreational opportunities galore.
What the press never talked about was the fact that this project would cover up a place known to the Overhill Cherokees as Chota. It was to the Cherokee as the Black Hills is to the Lakota- “The heart of everything that is”. In the 1700’s invading settlers pushed a lot of Cherokee out but the kicker was when president George Washington offered to send a delegation to Chota to meet with a delegation of Cherokees. Instead of having a meeting, !5 of the Cherokee leaders were gunned down by the Tennessee militia. Chota was abandoned.
Archeological evidence indicated that indigenous people lived at Chota for 9,000 to 10,000 years. The American press never talked about what happened at Chota. It would have added to the already large national embarrassment and disgrace for the inhumane treatment of indigenous people and created some doubt in the validity of the TVA project. Not wanting to bring up the ‘human suffering’ factor the press made the snail darter the “fall guy”.
About all that is left of “the heart of everything that is” for the Overhill Cherokee is a couple placards and a small stone monument on the edge of the lake behind the Tellico dam.
The U.S. government never really stops its ill treatment of indigenous people and at present the Winnemem Wintu tribe in northern California is struggling for the survival of their culture and what remains of their “heart of the world” near Shasta lake.
A couple years ago the WIntu performed a rite of passage ceremony for an apprentice medicine women and were met by tourist boaters flipping them off, yelling nasty stuff and exposing their breasts and other demeaning behaviors just because the Wintus wanted the traditional four days to be left alone to complete their ceremony which only encompassed a very small area where the Mc Cloud river runs into the lake..
But the public at large can’t even have the tolerance or respect to allow them four days for a ceremony they have been doing for hundreds of years. What does that say about America?
Beeline and MarkL, just terrible behavior. I’m sorry to hear that, in these two instances posted and I’m sure many others. 🙁
I do remember hearing or reading about the TVA – never anything about the true original residents of the area – just the snail darter! Certainly shows just more coverup of what was done to the actual NATIVE Americans! And from the news I’m reading, still doing.
Osiyo, Beeline from down ‘the trail’ in north Alabama. I guess that Aldous Huxley was pretty prescient writing Brave New World? If you cover something with dirt, someone can dig it up…not so easy with water. My tribe has same problem, they call it Toledo Bend. Great fishing, good money for wreckreation. I’ll pass and fish elsewhere.
I wonder if all those ‘settlers’ chopping down oak and hickory trees throughout North America to make buildings and plows had any idea they were taking an important food source from the natives? Probably not, but had they asked a local before they started…
Even today, I bet some of your older relatives don’t want $20’s because Ole Hickory is on it. Mine too. And we (Americans) let it happen willingly. I suspect the Ukrainians feel somewhat the same way towards the Russians in power right now, “How could you let this happen on your watch?” Not ALL of the Russians, just the ones that could have stopped it (whoever that is).
Ironically north Alabama has several equivalents to the snail darter, one is the spring pygmy sunfish. It used to be more common, but each time we killed off a population by polluting a stream, we’d make it more rare. Now it affects multi-million dollar construction deals. We reap what we sow
How exactly did conservation groups become social justice organizations?
In case you think this is an exaggeration, consider that The Nature Conservancy will not advance new projects without the approval of the local Native tribe, The Wilderness Society has dropped the word “wilderness” from their mission statement because it is a term of colonial oppression, Audubon is actively dissociating itself from John James Audubon because he was a slaver, and the Sierra Club has twisted itself in knots over a few errant remarks by John Muir. There is legislation in the House of Representatives that will require the US Fish and Wildlife Service to screen projects for their impacts to human rights. World Wildlife Fund is reeling from accusations that they are “anti-human colonial oppressors.”
Every conservation group is now held to account for how their work did or did not improve the well-being of people. It’s odd, because we don’t ask hospitals, churches, museums and universities to take care of grizzly bears, salmon and Pileated Woodpeckers. Aren’t there already thousands of organizations dedicated to human prosperity? Shouldn’t conservations groups be allowed to adopt Lord Byron’s mantra “I love Man not the less, but Nature more?’
The driving philosophy at work these days seems to be that if we take care of the needs of people first that we will end up with more durable conservation in the end. Is that true? It strikes me that, with 8 billion people on the planet, it is an endless project to make all of them happy, and by the time we finish, Nature will be non-existent.
It seems to me that the task for conservation groups is to hold the line against the advance of people. Whether or not conservation benefits people is a peripheral issue. We don’t ask how Bitcoin benefits Bald Eagles, or how smartphones help salamanders.
The corrupting influence on conservation groups are the large funders, namely Wilburforce, Pew, MacArthur Fdn, Doris Duke, Ford Fdn, Gates Fdn, Kellogg Fdn, Walton Family Fdn (Walmart), Hewlett, and many thousands of smaller foundations. Conservation groups rely on “soft” funding from these foundations, and the foundations set the hoops to jump through. The hoops include mandatory sensitivity training such as the “decolonization” workshops required by Wilburforce, mandatory board and staff diversification, and mandatory project screening on how DIE(Diversity, Inclusion, Equity)goals are being met.
This is the tail that now wags the conservation dog.
I fear it is all to do with losing donations. Great comment.
Not to go off topic, but while all of this is going on, certain issues are slipping by and/or being neglected.
For example, I just came across this today. Why??? It’s difficult to see the difference between parties these days, when it comes to the environment and wildlife:
Here is a LTE to the Bozeman Chronicle about this guy, Charles Drimal, the conservation director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. The letter below was written by Michael Kellett, “GYC sells lies.”
Ironic you brought up Kerry in a thread about ‘The Big Lie’. I completely agree he was snuffed as a candidate. Life’s not fair. Al Gore probably had more to say about ‘Big Lies’ in 2000 than DT in 2020.
I worry about your ‘privileged white guy’ comment on the Drimal guy, as he may not be ‘all white’ after all. I’m not, but you wouldn’t know it unless you watched my habits and knew my history…..some have accused me of ‘pretendian’ by sight and joke. It is what it is.
Also what’s with the date at the end of your statement?
To answer your question about Charles Drimal in my post, perhaps you missed that I am not the author. It is a repost of one by Michael Kellett entitled “GYC sells lies” that probably appeared in the Bozeman Chronicle. Kellett wrote it on March 19, about 22 days before I posted it to TWN. I don’t know if it really appeared in the Chronicle since they have an unfriendly, highly paywalled paper.
Ah, understood. My mistake for not reading that correctly
Yeah, what is up with environmental voices (High Country News, Sierra Club) making the big switch to social issues? This is no time to turn their backs on conservation. Their new focus is surely important too – but not my interest. I guess one plus is that it now takes me only 2 minutes to get through their publications.