Rewilding the West and the 2023 Farm Bill

The Rewilding the West proposal calls for the restoration of wolves across federal lands. Photo George Wuerthner 

The current Farm Bill, which Congress passed in 2018, is set to expire in 2023. Congress will undoubtedly enact a new Farm Bill.

The Farm Bill provides an opportunity to incorporate the provisions of the Rewilding the West proposal as federal policy. The proposal was first published in Bioscience.

Rewilding the West calls for creating 11 large reserves on 29% of the West’s federal lands of sufficient size to maintain wolf populations. It also calls for the restoration of beaver and the elimination of livestock grazing through grazing permit retirement.

Setting aside reserves large enough to sustain wide-ranging predators like wolves will ensure adequate habitat for many other species.

Beaver ponds, like this one here in Rocky Mountain National Park, store water, slow run-off, and permit ground-water recharge. Photo George Wuerthner 

Beaver restoration will significantly improve water holding capasity of soil, create wet meadows, and  is important habitat for many wildlife species in the West.

Removing livestock will enhance the recovery of many endangered species and contribute to numerous positive habitat benefits like restoration of riparian habitat, which is utilized by 70-80 percent of western species.

Another advantage of the Rewilding the West proposal is increased carbon storage which could help mitigate the effects of climate warming.

The original farm bill was enacted during the 1930s Great Depression era. It sought to maintain food prices for consumers and fair payment to farmers for their products. Other goals included maintaining food supplies and providing for some conservation of natural resources.

The Farm Bill contains numerous subsidies, price supports, grants, and sometimes even conservation measures distributed across the country. Current Farm Bill legislation provides crop and disaster relief, crop support for significant commodities like wheat, soybeans, rice, and corn, dairy price supports, and other provisions popular with Ag producers. It has widespread support from farm belt states.

However, farm bills typically also have provisions that provide funding for programs such as nutrition, food stamps, and public health that are popular with urban representatives.

In other words, there is something in the Farm Bill for nearly every state’s Senators and Congressional Representatives. Consequently, Farm Bills always have bi-partisan support.

Given the Biden administration’s focus on climate change, implementing the Rewilding the West proposal on federal lands would be a natural fit. This reserve proposal calls for eliminating logging over most of these areas, hence would dramatically increase carbon storage.

Another benefit of enacting the Rewilding proposal is the potential for increasing water storage and water quality across the West.

The restoration of beaver dams in upland regions can slow the release of water from snowmelt, allowing ground-water recharge.

Cattle grazing has eliminated riparian vegetation, broken down stream banks, and increases water pollution. Photo George Wuerthner 

Lastly, removing livestock from riparian areas would drastically improve water quality compromised by livestock manure, sedimentation resulting from hoof-caused stream bank destruction, and livestock damage to riparian vegetation. The elimination of livestock on public lands would also have numerous benefits.

If the Rewilding concept were included in the 2023 Farm Bill it could significantly improve biodiversity protection, carbon storage, water quality, and wildlife habitat. Since Farm Bills only come up for reauthorization every five years, 2023 might be the best opportunity to enact this proposal anytime soon.

 

 

Comments

  1. Mike Sauber Avatar
    Mike Sauber

    If livestock have been (ab)using a riparian area for an extended period, they will have to be removed for a period before beaver can establish themselves again. In the Gila Wilderness, beaver were so desperate for food and materials they were girdling and felling not only mature cottonwoods (there were no young recruitment cottonwoods)but actually girdling mature JUNIPER trees.

  2. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
    Jeff Hoffman

    All real environmentalists would love to see this happen, but I think the chances are very low. Politicians are primarily concerned with jobs and the economy, including jobs and economies that wreck the planet and kill other species. Same with most people, though they usually don’t admit it. We have a very long way to go in order to convince people that life — all life, not just human life — is infinitely more important than money, economies, or material things. I think it’s going to take a major mental and spiritual evolution of the humans race to accomplish this.

  3. Ron Kozan Avatar
    Ron Kozan

    A reinvention of the Bob Marshall wilderness complex 1.5 million acres where you are lucky to see any wildlife except bear scat. The deer elk and moose are all but gone the wolf scat is made up of beaver and otter hair. You can travel for days see little more than squirrels and insects. The fishing can be good but the environmentist would end that.
    The Bob wasn’t always that barren but it sure has changed in the last 30 years since the return on one species.

      1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
        Jeff Hoffman

        Don’t forget logging, mining, and grazing domestic livestock. Those activities cause the biggest harms.

        1. Ron Kozan Avatar
          Ron Kozan

          A comment you’ve made before. I dare you to provide evidence for each of your activities claimed happening in the Bob Marshall.

      2. Ron Kozan Avatar
        Ron Kozan

        NO
        I wasn’t referring to humans. Human use seems to be down. A lot of big outfitters went broke and sold out. Much of the old trail system is abandoned, because there isn’t the money or time to cut them out.
        I don’t know anyone who goes in to trap. That generation is gone and there isn’t anything to trap.
        Hunting harvest numbers are a small fraction of what they once were.
        The word I use was barren

        1. Rich Avatar
          Rich

          Ron,

          Your comment “The Bob wasn’t always that barren but it sure has changed in the last 30 years since the return on one species” shows a lack of scientific knowledge and understanding. Apparently you are referring to the wolf that lived for thousands of years and coexisted quite nicely with elk, deer, moose, buffalo and other animals. It is actually humans that have driven some species to extinction like the passenger pigeon and almost the North American bison. Unfortunately human activities continue to have a huge adverse impact on populations of our native wildlife.

          Perhaps you have been reading too many scary stories of the big bad wolf killing everything in sight. Actually, The Three Little Pigs, The Wolf and the Seven Young Goats and Little Red Riding Hood are all fictional fairy tales directed at young readers. Most grownups don’t believe those stories.

          1. Ron Kozan Avatar
            Ron Kozan

            My comment was about the change I have seen in 30 years. Any conclusion that those changes were good or bad fall on you.
            You do know nature has been responsible for 5 mass extinctions, 90% of all life forms, they call that coexistance.
            As for the wolf they live in my back yard at twice the density of Yellowstone national park. No need for scary stories, I see what they do almost every day.

            1. Nancy Avatar
              Nancy

              Curious, what do “they” do almost every day, Ron, where you live?

              Inquiring minds here, on this site, want to know, simply because the debate goes back years on TWN and the regulations re: hunting, trapping wolves have since become quite generous for those that hate this species or that want to “knock” their numbers down because they can’t find an elk anymore while out hunting, IN wilderness areas 🙂

              “Licenses (in Montana) A person can take up to 20 wolves with no more than 10 via hunting and no more than 10 via trapping (maximum harvest of 20 wolves per person). For hunting, a separate license is required for each wolf. For trapping, only a Trapping License is required”

              A thread/comments from years ago, Ron, on TWN and Ralph, kudos! For the insight back then 🙂

              https://www.thewildlifenews.com/2013/06/02/western-wolf-issue-is-mostly-not-really-about-wolves/

  4. Ron Kozan Avatar
    Ron Kozan

    wolves do what wolves do…..
    wolves chase animals.
    A pack of 6 wolves needs about 120 animals to eat. (5-6 is the average Mt pack size) They are only succesful less than 20% of the time. Means they AVERAGE 2 chases a day. Notice how many days they don’t chase, uping the real chase number/day.

    Wolves kill animals.
    Usually they eat them to death, it’s a pack thing.

    Wolves lay around enjoying a full belly.
    Given the animal they kill feeds everyone, teeth, hair, hooves, ect.

    wolves travel
    Damn they can cover some ground

    Wolves make little wolves
    I read where Yellowstone documented 4 litters in one pack.

    Wolves die
    In Yellowstone that usually means another wolf kills them. Here it means humans and wolves coexisting as they always have.

    Example of last years harvest numbers with those quite generous regulations. Note how NO one killed more than 10.

    file:///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/2021-LY-wolf-harvest-report.pdf

    1. Chris Zinda Avatar
      Chris Zinda

      Humans do what humans do.

      Kill everything.

      Curious: why are you here, Ron?

      1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
        Jeff Hoffman

        I said the same a while ago. An anti-environmentalist making anti-environmental comments on a radical environmental website is a textbook definition of a troll. Raising real and relevant issues would be one thing, and would be good for the movement and ultimately the Earth. But he’s just an annoyance, with nothing useful to contribute.

        1. Mike Sauber Avatar
          Mike Sauber

          Comparing ourselves with the average one of our species we are radical, but it’s unfortunately only a desire to co-exist with the natural world. Pretty sane. We need to always ask others what they think is radical about our thoughts and desires.

          1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
            Jeff Hoffman

            I totally agree. When I was an Earth First! campaigner and made friends with some people from the American Indian Movement and the International Indian Treaty Council, I would tell them Earth First! environmental ideas that I thought were radical, and they would respond something like, Yeah I know, my grandmother taught me that. It’s only this anti-Earth/anti-life culture and society that makes us radical in that sense (i.e., very different). (The other definition of “radical” is getting to the roots of problems, which I’ve always tried to do.)

      2. Ron Kozan Avatar
        Ron Kozan

        As I said before I’m here to learn and to teach.

        “Humans kill everything” what a load of BS

        Regulated hunting, trapping or fishing has never caused the extinction of a single species.
        Regulated hunting, trapping and fishing has only resulted in flourishing species populations.
        You should really learn to post factual comments backed up with data instead of your usual delusional rantings

        1. Chris Zinda Avatar
          Chris Zinda

          You’re a troll, Ron. And, you will no longer get your shot of dopamine from me.

          They say the opposite of love isn’t hate.

          It’s indifference.

          “Notably, the top-ranked threat within each megafauna class was direct harvesting by humans, although there were typically multiple co-occurring threats, mostly related to habitat degradation (Figure 2). Meat consumption was the most common motive for harvesting megafauna for all classes except reptiles where harvesting eggs was ranked on top (Figure 3). Other leading reasons for harvesting megafauna included medicinal use, unintended bycatch in fisheries and trapping, live trade, and various other uses of body parts such as skins and fins (Figure 3). Over half (64%) of the threatened megafauna were listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) because of threats involving global trade in these species (Supporting Information Table S5). Since 1500 CE, 2% of assessed megafauna species have gone extinct compared to 0.8% of all assessed vertebrates (Supporting Information Table S4). Interestingly, within each of the six vertebrate classes, some of the largest individual species were threatened with extinction (Figure 4, Supporting Information Table S2).”

          https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/conl.12627

          1. Ron Kozan Avatar
            Ron Kozan

            SO nothing contridicting my claims. return to your hiding

            1. Chris Zinda Avatar
              Chris Zinda

              You win! Huzza!

    2. Nancy Avatar
      Nancy

      “Example of last years harvest numbers with those quite generous regulations. Note how NO one killed more than 10”

      Ron, I would guess these are part of those “reported” numbers?

      Honestly, most of us who’ve been on TWN site for awhile, know by now that the SSS crowd (other than those that want to brag about killing wolves, on their social media sites; like the young lady recently in Montana, who shot a stray husky dog in the woods and laid claim to it being a young wolf? ) seldom mention how many wolves they shoot, while out and about, in the name of “saving ranchers” or hunters (to lazy to get to far from their comfort zones/trucks)

      1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
        Jeff Hoffman

        Humans should not kill ANY wolves. None. Zero. Zip.

        It’s immoral to kill anyone (most people would say “anything,” but I don’t refer to other species as “things”) you don’t eat, and people don’t eat wolves. Furthermore, humans should not be eating any animals that are not natural prey animals, and wolves certainly aren’t that.

        Furthermore, and equally if not more important, it’s very ecologically harmful to kill top native predators, for multiple reasons. The Yellowstone Park experience showed quite clearly the severe ecosystem harms caused by removing wolves (and also how the reintroduction of them fixed these problems).

        1. Ron Kozan Avatar
          Ron Kozan

          Found something the other day Jeff that proves once again what you believe is reality are just voices in your head.

          FROM Sept.17 2012 a quote from Ralph Maughan posted on the site.

          “I am dismayed at the reflexive antihunting attitude some peole who comment take in post after post. I wish people who constantly “HUM” this note would take their tune somewhere else.”

          Food for thought

          1. Nancy Avatar
            Nancy

            And even more “food for thought” Ron.

            1. Ron Kozan Avatar
              Ron Kozan

              Not sure what your point is, unless you trying to bring up another old lie wolf advocates tell each other because they don’t allow themselves to have friends that hunt or trap.

              Then again your video blows that belief out of the water

      2. Ron Kozan Avatar
        Ron Kozan

        So you still tell old tired lies about SSS. What is sad is how little you know about wild wolves and how little you respect the intelligence of a wolf.

        Question: Why would anyone waste time with shoveling?
        I can’t think of a single reason.

        Current law in Montana allows, with a few restrictions, the shooting of any wolf caught on private lands 365 days a year.

        You need to catch up there is no need for SSS in Montana, Wyoming or Idaho. Those days have passed.

    1. Ron Kozan Avatar
      Ron Kozan

      Translations soon more humans and wolves will be killing more wolves in new and exciting places.

      1. Hiker Avatar
        Hiker

        Ah yes, the snarky troll. Are you learning something here? How’s the teaching method? Those are your stated goals for posting here after all.

        1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
          Jeff Hoffman

          The idea that this troll is going to teach environmentalists — who have worked with people like wildlife biologists and ecologists and are often scientists themselves — anything is quite laughable. I’d been thinking about that claim myself, but I don’t want to engage this guy anymore.

          1. Hiker Avatar
            Hiker

            Too funny, the guy who insists everyone speaks in blanket statements makes them every time. How do you know who here ‘live with wildlife everyday’? I have and do and I know others here do as well. It must be nice for you to have such a monopoly on knowledge and wisdom. What a burden to deal with others not so gifted!

    2. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      Yes, I have a reserved optimism, because I am sure there are going to be disgruntled humans going after them to kill them.

      I hope people are not going to be so naïve as to think this isn’t going to happen and not watch out for this and protect these wolves, and to seriously penalize those who will harm these wolves.

      1. Ron Kozan Avatar
        Ron Kozan

        The reintroduction will lead to wolves breeding, population growth and downgrading the population from curent threatened listing. Then Wildlife services and Colorado fishing game will start killing problem wolves.
        History will repeat it’s self.

        1. Hiker Avatar
          Hiker

          And yet this will mean wolves will exist where they don’t already. I call that a win. It really sounds like you don’t like wolves. Is that what you are trying to teach us poor, ignorant saps?

          1. Ida Lupine Avatar
            Ida Lupine

            That’s a good thing. But the pack that had migrated into Colorado naturally was killed off, or partially killed off I thought I read? Some people advocate for natural migration, and given the politics, I don’t know which is more desirable anymore – natural migration or reintroduction.

            Bringing 30 to 50 wolves in is a large number, and I’d hate to see that happen here as well.

            1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
              Jeff Hoffman

              Reintroduction is necessary because of the wolf genocide by the colonizers. There were millions of wolves in what is now the U.S. when the colonizers got here, and the piddly numbers that now exist are nowhere near what they need to be, for the integrity of both wolves and ecosystems.

              1. Ida Lupine Avatar
                Ida Lupine

                I agree, but that mindset I don’t think has changed.

                Even where I live, habitat is still waiting, but nothing is done.

      2. Ralph Maughan Avatar
        Ralph Maughan

        I have decided to remove Ron Kozan from future comments at the Wildlife News.

        Ralph Maughan,
        editor

        1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
          Jeff Hoffman

          Thanks Ralph. I’m generally opposed to censorship of any kind, but Ron was just a troll here with nothing useful to add, and he was a time-wasting annoyance to boot. We all know the anti-environmental arguments and claims, we’ve heard them almost our entire lives. We don’t need to hear this stuff here.

          1. ImmerTreue Avatar
            ImmerTreue

            RK made some good points, yet it was always the glass is half empty. Reminds me of the wolf advocates that relish criticizing David Mech. In my opinion, to Mech, the wolf population is more important than the individual wolf. I think we all understand that wolves will die as they move into, or are reintroduced to new areas,yet, as Hiker wrote, “wolves will exist where they don’t already.”

            As an aside, bring up wolves for discussion and comments come out of the woodwork. I guess they will always be lightning in a bottle for discussion.

            1. Hiker Avatar
              Hiker

              Yes, and yet Wolves are so like us. They are family oriented but fight like, well, like wolves. They stay in the pack and help each other survive. Until they decide they’ve had it with mom and dad. Sometimes I think when we watch Wildlife we are looking in the mirror.

        2. Rich Avatar
          Rich

          Thank you Ralph! At this point in human history Denialism can not be tolerated whether it is human caused climate change, air or water pollution, population impacts such as famine and war, pandemics, landscape desertification or wildlife and plant extinction. Gresham’s Law that “bad money drives out good money” seems to apply to political discourse as well. Vacuous misleading comments by one individual based on their personal biases at a time when scientific fact is critically important, are of little if any value. Science must play a key role in guiding human behavior on a small planet. Ignoring science is a road to ruin that combined with human greed continues to have a major adverse impact on wildlife.

          1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
            Jeff Hoffman

            Exactly! We have to distinguish between legitimate points of view on one hand, and troll behavior that’s simply meant to disrupt, or at least has little or no chance of doing anything but disrupting, on the other. Ron’s comments are the typical anti-environmental crap that we’ve been hearing the entire time we’ve been working on environmental issues, so they hold no value in these discussions and are not even legitimate comments here.

          2. Ida Lupine Avatar
            Ida Lupine

            But how we manage to approach the problem is what has me worried. Our own self-interest will always be the ruling factor, not science, and we are the only species on the planet capable of dangerous self-delusion and outright deluding.

    1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
      Jeff Hoffman

      Modern humans and their domesticated animals like dogs are invaders there. The mountain lion did nothing wrong, but humans have now captured him or her and are torturing him or her. If you refuse to accept the consequences of living near wildlife, MOVE!!! That mountain lion has infinitely more right to be there than any dog.

      1. Hiker Avatar
        Hiker

        See, here is the difference between expressing a viewpoint and being a troll. Jeff, your viewpoint is radical but you know that! You are able to express that without a dig at whoever you are posting with. Thank you.

      2. Ida Lupine Avatar
        Ida Lupine

        I just hope they don’t decide to kill this poor mountain lion because he is deemed ‘too old’ now. 🙁

          1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
            Jeff Hoffman

            Assuming that the mountain lion did actually have all those medical problems, and if those problems were cause by humans such as being hit by a car, euthanasia might not have been a bad thing. On the other hand, if he was healthy enough to kill a dog, there was no reason to euthanize him. Not a clear situation.

            1. Ida Lupine Avatar
              Ida Lupine

              He’s gotten his own obituary, which I suppose is a small step in the right direction, but to say he led an ‘amazing life’ is a bit much.

              He led an amazingly difficult, unnatural life in an island surrounded by people who don’t feel they need to take any steps whatsoever to coexist with wildlife, and almost unbelievable (over)development. How he managed to navigate those 6-8 lane freeways for so long certainly is a marvel in itself!

              I don’t feel also that it is our place to interfere, meddle and otherwise presume when another creature should live or die.

              Let them live out their lives free of us. He certainly could have been relocated.

              1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
                Jeff Hoffman

                I was talking about euthanizing him because of his medical problems. Relocation wouldn’t have done anything about that.

                As to humans not interfering: We’ve been interfering here for hundreds of year, and his struggles that you mentioned were all human interference. I don’t see any harm in ending the life of an animal who’s old, and who’s suffering because of humans.

  5. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    I’m not sure I was clear in my comments about Colorado’s proposed reintroduction plan. I have been a wolf advocate for years, but 30 – 50 wolves seems like an awful lot to be used as target practice is what I should have said.

    I wonder why F&W insist upon only introducing wolves into the West where there is always opposition from ranchers, and also hunting season quotas that are beyond reason. How long before Colorado institutes a hunting season?

    There are other parts of the country that do not have cattle ranching to the extent of the West, nor unreasonable hunting. My dream is for the Northeast Kingdom, where there is plenty of beautiful habitat and a very low human population. Although no area welcomes them; whenever one sets foot over the Canadian border, some have an uncanny sensitivity to it and the wolf gets immediately shot. However, it isn’t nearly as bad as the West.

    1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
      Jeff Hoffman

      30-50 wolves is not “an awful lot” or even a lot. There were 1-3 million wolves in what is now the U.S. before the colonizers got here. Of course wolves shouldn’t be killed by humans, there’s no excuse for that, but we shouldn’t limit the number of reintroduced wolves because of fears that they’ll be hunted by humans. We should instead prohibit that killing, and that’s what we need to work for.

      1. Ida Lupine Avatar
        Ida Lupine

        I’d like to see that done before they are reintroduced! I hope science will be the most important factor here, and not politics.

        Moving them around like chess pieces has me fed up after so many years. Why isn’t the Interior Dept. moving to keep them protected? And allowing continual increases in hunting quotas, and even running them down with snowmobiles okay in Wyoming?

        Plus, wolves are migratory animals, and I love them for that, that they won’t stay where anyone puts them. Come out, come out to Northern New England! They need to take their rightful place as rulers of the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont.

        1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
          Jeff Hoffman

          “Why isn’t the Interior Dept. moving to keep them protected?”

          Because Interior is beholden to ranchers. They care far more about cattle than they do wildlife, as is obvious from everything they do.

  6. Felice Pace Avatar

    George:

    Your great article could benefit from adding the water supply benefits of removing livestock from headwater public lands. For example:

    “Removing livestock will improve/restore water supplies and stream baseflows, aide recovery of many endangered species and contribute to numerous positive habitat benefits like restoration of riparian habitat, which is utilized by 70-80 percent of western species.”

    “Another advantage of the Rewilding the West proposal is increased carbon storage which could help mitigate the effects of climate warming. Removing livestock restores soil carbon.”

    Strong research shows removing livestock

  7. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    https://apnews.com/article/biden-nevada-business-miami-marlins-reno-41d8301f18094b863c8a3df216eda8ef

    How is this any better than oil? Bulldozing everything in our way? I’m all ears to hear about how open-pit mining and this poor little flower can coexist!

    1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
      Jeff Hoffman

      We call it the Bureau of Livestock and Mining for a reason.

      This is a perfect example of the lie of “green” energy, as exposed first in the film Planet of the Humans, then in far more detail and more to the point in the book Bright green Lies. The only green energy comes from the sun, and the only way to fix the problems caused by industrial living is to stop living industrially.

  8. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    I hope this will be factored in to the annual killing of bison (probably won’t be). As 2022 ends with a slap on the wrist to a careless truck driver:

    https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/31/us/bison-killed-traffic-accident-yellowstone-park/index.html

    1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
      Jeff Hoffman

      That and many other highways in the west should be closed in winter, simple as that. Unfortunately, the people who run this society only consider their own selfish desires, instead of what’s good for all life, so we get things like this. All roads are ecologically harmful and/or destructive, but some of these road are very dangerous in winter, and wildlife can be the ones to suffer the results of that danger.

      1. Ida Lupine Avatar
        Ida Lupine

        Thanks! There’s an investigation supposedly being conducted into the accident. It’s just ghastly to imagine.

    1. Rich Avatar
      Rich

      Thanks Ida for heads up!!

      1. Ida Lupine Avatar
        Ida Lupine

        You’re welcome, Rich.

        This from the synopsis is so striking –

        “The story of the American buffalo is also the story of Native nations who lived with and relied on the buffalo to survive, developing a sacred relationship that evolved over more than 10,000 years but which was almost completely severed in fewer than 100.”

        I know this, but every time I hear or read something about it, it is distressing.

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