Indian Iron Curtain (Or the Emperor Has No Clothes)

How many people know that in the state of Washington, more wolves are killed by Native people than any other group? You probably haven’t heard about this, even from wolf advocacy groups.

How many conservationists know that Native people are among the staunchest advocates for oil development on Alaska’s North Slope, including in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and Naval Petroleum Reserve?

Did you know the third largest coal producer in the United States is the Navajo Tribe?

These and many other environmentally harmful behaviors, positions, and attitudes are found among Native people.

I am not anti Indian, but I am pro Nature. Like the Lorax I try to speak for the trees (bison, bees, butterflies, wolves, salmon and the rest of the natural world).

What I call an Indian Iron Curtain exists among the media and conservation organizations. Like the old Soviet Union Iron Curtain, which attempted to promote Communism and censored anything contradicting the notion that Communism was anything but a perfect social and political system. The Indian Iron Curtain exists to promote tribal people as somehow exemplary conservationists.

At the same time, any information that might temper that conclusion is ignored or suppressed. Of course, just as in the larger society, there are diverse opinions among tribal groups. They are no more monothetic than American society as a whole.

Like the fable about the emperor who wore no clothes, people are afraid, especially with the advent of the social justice movement, to suggest that tribal people are like other humans and are capable of good and bad conservation positions.

Anyone who questions the dominant paradigm that tribal people are somehow “naturally” environmenalists (which is a racist assertion in its own right)  is immediately branded as a racist, a colonialist, an imperialist, or, in some cases, a White male, which means you have no credibility since you are the ultimate beneficiary of “white privilege.”

Yet there is plenty of evidence—evidence that is too often ignored or overlooked–that tribal entities are perfectly capable of environmentally destructive policies.

The irony for me, as someone who grew up during the late stages of the Civil Rights movement, where the goal was to create a “color blind” society, the present trend towards identity politics appears to be a complete reversal of that goal. I embraced Martin Luther King’s hope that “children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

The current social justice movement  is biased towards human justice at the expense of justice for nature.  This includes a tendency to put tribal actions and behaviors off limits to criticism because of past and present injustices. For wild nature, the consequences of anthropocentric thinking can be significant. Biologist David Ehrenfeld described the problem in his book The Arrogance of Humanism.

The media and most conservation groups are unwilling to describe Indigenous people’s environmentally destructive policies and activities accurately, even if those destructive policies and activities are identical to those done by federal, state, or local governments, corporations, or individuals, which are accurately described. As a result, the public is inclined to believe that tribal management or even tribal control of public resources, including public lands, will result in more environmentally friendly outcomes.

Thus, if led to believe that Indigenous people always treat the land as “sacred” and with environmental protection, the public may support proposals like co-management of public lands or even “Land Back” efforts.

One of the pervasive myths is the observation that Native people around the globe appear to live in “harmony” with the land.

However, the notion of living in “harmony” is much more a consequence of low population and limited technology than due to any significant environmental ethic. Yes, in some instances, cultural constraints reduced tribal impacts. Similar cultural and religious myths prevail among all people in history who had limited technology and low populations, including the European, Asian, and African ancestors of today’s American citizens.

Clearcut on Quinault Indian Reservation, Washington. Armed with modern chainsaws, logging trucks, and other technology tribal people are equally able to dismantle ecosytems for profit. 

All humans were and are capable of overexploitation and degradation of landscape, even Native Americans. A tribal government or a Native corporation were and are capable of the exploitation and degradation of people.  Native American tribes enslaved other Native American tribe members, and some also enslaved African Americans.

Even with prehistoric or stone age technology, tribal people have been implicated in the demise of many species, from Pleistocene mammals to birds on Pacific Islands, lemurs on Madagascar to the permanent deforestation of Easter Island, to the regional extirpation of bison after human colonialization.

In all instances, the degree to which people contributed to species’ decline is debated. Still, few would argue with the conclusion that even technologically limited humans can negatively affect wildlife populations. The large mammal Pleistocene extinctions in North America are an example.

I fully acknowledge that tribal people have suffered great injustices over the centuries that still need to be addressed, but that does not mean conservationists should remain silent now if tribal policies or actions jeopardize the protection of Nature and wildlands. Silence is the same as culpability.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

The old truism “follow the money” applies equally to Native people as any other humans. As one cynic suggests, we hear about sacred “Mother Earth” until “Father Cash” comes around.

I must state that I am not judging these tribal decisions to exploit wild nature. I cannot say with any assurances that if presented with the opportunity to reap a fortune from oil and natural gas drilling, logging old-growth timber or mining a significant gold or copper deposit I would reject the financial prospects. Nevertheless, I would expect conservation organizations to criticize my choices.

Tribal governments are sovereign governments, just as the states of the United States are sovereign. Some states in some cases have forgone short-term money to preserve long-term values. In many cases, states have followed the money. A tribal government is free to go for the gold, just as is any state government (or its political subdivisions of counties). The same goes for any Native American or non-Native American. However, please don’t cloak avarice in a nobility that we-were-here-first.

THERE IS NO SOCIAL JUSTICE ON A DEAD PLANET–ENVIRONMENTALLY DESTRUCTIVE ACTIONS BY ANYONE SHOULD BE CHALLENGED

FOSSIL FUEL DEVELOPMENT

Across the North Slope of Alaska, tribal groups have supported and benefited from oil development. For instance, the North Slope Borough has repeatedly aligned itself with the oil industry to encourage more oil drilling across Alaska. The North Slope Borough includes eight communities across the northernmost part of the United States. About 95 percent of the borough’s annual $410 million budget comes from local oil and gas operations taxes.

Oil development on the coastal plain of Alaska has largely been supported by the Native people living there, a fact that conservation groups are loath to inform their membership. Photo George Wuerthner 

The Indigenous people, the Inupiat Eskimos, who live on the Arctic Refuge coastal plain where oil development was proposed, generally favor oil drilling. Why? Because they own the subsurface rights and receive royalties from oil development. Across the North Slope of Alaska, Native people have earned hundreds of millions of dollars from oil money.

In numerous articles and conservation videos, Indigenous people are presented as opposing oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge. But it is seldom mentioned that the Inuit people lobbied in Washington DC for decades to open up the coastal plain to oil drilling.

Along the Canning River, Arctic Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Native people living on the coastal plain have supported drilling in the refuge. Photo George Wuerhner 

Arctic Slope Regional Corporation President and CEO Rex Rock, Inupiaq,  wrote an opinion piece for The Hill which supports  drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

He said anti-development advocates who would turn “my homeland into one giant national park, off-limits to all but a select few, guarantee our people a fate with no economy, no jobs, and little hope for the future.”

This Native opposition is certainly not the picture presented by conservation groups who regularly trot out a few natives opposed to drilling as if they represent the prevailing view of all Alaskan Natives.

The recent Biden Administration decision to promote the Willow Oil Project within the Naval Petroleum Reserve is supported by the North Slope Borough and several individual Native villages. As noted above, Native people receive royalties from oil development and potential employment. Yes, there is some Native opposition to such energy development. Still, it is vastly outnumbered by Native people who support oil exploitation, but the media and nearly all conservation groups neglect to mention this.

North Slope Borough residents argue for oil development. “I am here to continue the legacy of past leaders to fight for what is rightfully ours—these are our homelands,” Lampe said, “We fought to have the coastal plain open for oil and gas leasing many times in the past, and we continue that fight today.”

Again, from the same article, those opposed to oil drilling are called “colonialists”conservationists

“Since all these federal actions, we have been subjected to eco-colonialism – we are treated as colonists on our own lands and are subject to federal approvals for almost everything we need,” Lampe said. “Our experience is that living inside the Refuge is one of paternalistic behavior by the federal agencies.”

We get a potential answer when we learn when Doyon Native Corporation (which the Gwitch In are members of) decided to lease its own lands in the Yukon Basin. Apparently, oil development in that region will not impact caribou, or the potential money from oil development will make it less of a problem.

Doyon Native Corporation, which represents Athabascan Native people living in the Yukon Basin, does not own the subsurface rights on the North Slope but has several oil field-related businesses. Hence, they, too, support North Slope oil development. And as previously mentioned, Doyon recently leased some of its Native lands in the Yukon Basin for oil development.

BADGER TWO MEDICINE

The last oil lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area of the Helena- Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana was recently canceled. In numerous newspaper stories and among conservation groups, this was celebrated with many references to the Badger-Two Medicine as “sacred” land to the Blackfeet Indians, whose reservation borders the area. However, it is essential to note that the tribe does not own the national forest lands. Why that is important is critical to consider.

Badger Two Medicine Area on the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, Montana. Photo George Wuerthner

What is never mentioned is that for decades, conservationists have tried to protect the Badger-Two Medicine as federal wilderness, which, given the strict limits on any development, would seemingly protect the “sacred” status of the area from any exploitation. Most recently, after the tribe agreed to a watered-down agreement to protect the Badger-Two Medicine by federal legislation introduced by Senator John Tester, the tribal representatives arrived in Washington to testify against the proposal, much to the chagrin of Senator Tester.

No environmental organizations reported on this reversal in tribal support for protecting the “sacred” Badger-Two Medicine.

Oil drill rig on the Blackfeet Reservation, Montana. Photo Tony Bynum

The Blackfeet have continuously opposed wilderness designation for the Badger Two Medicine. Meanwhile, the Blackfeet have promoted oil development on their reservation and the lands they control are leased for oil development. If the Blackfeet considered land “sacred,” wouldn’t they at least place some of the reservation off-limits to oil development.

However, at least some tribal members are not opposed to oil development per se, but rather who gets the financial benefit. Half of onshore oil and gas revenues from federal public lands goes to the federal treasury, while the other have is shared with the states where development occurred). Tribal members are willing to admit that while they oppose oil development on the national forest, some hope to get the Badger-Two Medicine transferred to tribal control so THEY can lease it for oil development.

INDIAN RESERVATIONS WITH OIL AND GAS WELLS

At least twelve Indian reservations possess on-going oil and gas operations. This includes the Standing Rock Sioux, who opposed the Dakota Pipeline based on the idea it might leak and pollute groundwater. However, the pipeline would carry oil from a number of other Indian reservations where oil and gas is exploited. Few in the conservation organizations and media that supported the Standing Rock Sioux pipeline opposition bothered to mention the Standing Rock Reservation is dotted with oil wells and pipelines that apparently do not leak and pollute the water.

The  Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara in North Dakota opposed the Dakota Pipeline but just bought the Plaza/Wabek Pipeline to connect to the Enbridge Pipeline to get reservation oil to refineries.

The acquisition by the MHA Nation’s Thunder Butte Petroleum Inc. subsidiary will help it deliver oil from wells on its reservation to new markets. The 31-mile pipeline, which is not currently in use, can transport up to 15,000 barrels per day. The reservation has more than 2,600 active oil and gas wells that produced an average of 144,190 barrels of oil per day in February, according to an Associated Press report citing the state’s Department of Mineral Resources.

It’s important to note that the Mandan tribe, among others, opposed the Dakota Access Pipeline because It was “cultural genocide”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dakota_Access_Pipeline_protests

As with other issues, some tribes claim sovereignty exempts them from environmental regulation. For instance, the motto of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation—which makes up the Three Affiliated Tribes—is “sovereignty by the barrel.”

Oil rig on the Uintah Ouray Indian Reservation, Utah. Photo George Wuerthner

Altogether, there are at least a dozen tribes who own oil and gas fields on their reservations—

Blackfeet Reservation, Blackfeet Nation – Montana

Cheyenne River Reservation, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe – South Dakota

Fort Belknap Reservation, Assiniboine and Gros Ventre Tribes – Montana

Fort Berthold Reservation, (A, B, C) Three Affiliated Tribes – North Dakota

Fort Peck Reservation, (A, B, C)  Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes – Montana

Jicarilla Apache Reservation, (A, B, C, D)  Jicarilla Apache Tribe – New Mexico

Pueblo Indian Reservations, (A, B, C) Various Pueblo Tribes in New Mexico – New Mexico

Rocky Boys Reservation, Chippewa Cree Tribe – Montana

Southern Ute Reservation, (A, B, C, D) Southern Ute Tribe – Colorado

Uintah and Ouray Reservations, (A, B, C) Ute Tribe – Utah

Ute Mountain Ute Reservation, (A, B, C) Ute Mountain Ute Tribe – Colorado

Wind River Reservation, (A, B, C) Shoshone and Arapaho Tribes – Wyoming

Other tribes, including the Osage, Navajo, and Comanche, are also involved in oil and gas production.

Oil rig on the Navajo Reservation, Arizona. Photo George Wuerthner 

Some of these tribes sought an exemption from a Biden administration-proposed ban on new oil and gas leases on federal lands.

CHACO CANYON

Recent efforts to expand a ban on oil leasing near Chaco Canyon National Park in New Mexico were opposed by the Navajo tribe, who claimed such a ban would harm their economic interests.

UTAH OIL RAILWAY

Oil development on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation Utah Photo George Wuerthner 

The Utes, who live on the Uintah Ouray Reservation in Utah and have significant oil fields, have supported the construction of a new railroad to move oil from southern Utah to refineries. The Utes have a 5% stake in the railway partnership. The Ute tribe also opposed the creation of the new Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument as “cultural genocide”.

NAVAJO COAL

The Navajo Nation is the sole shareholder of NTEC, which owns three coal mines in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming and another near Farmington, New Mexico — making it the third-largest coal company in the nation. It also owns a share of the coal-fired Four Corners Power Plant near Farmington.

Revenue from NTEC makes up about one-third of the Navajo Nation’s roughly $160 million general fund, which doesn’t account for federal funding of the tribe.

Most Americans are unaware that the Navajo Tribe is the third-largest coal company in the country. As such, they oppose efforts to reduce coal burning, a major factor in climate warming. Recently, the tribe purchased the Spring Creek Strip mine in Montana. When Montana officials demanded that the tribe pay a reclamation bond, the tribe refused, claiming “tribal sovereignty.” It also said it did not have to follow Montana environmental regulations.

What was particularly ironic is that the Northern Plains Resource Council, a major environmental watchdog of Montana strip mining, and the Sierra Club, which has launched a “Beyond Coal Campaign,” never mentioned anything about the tribe’s objection to environmental regulation.

One cannot believe if the Peabody Coal Company refused to follow environmental regulations, there would be silence from these and other environmental groups.

Navajo Coal Plant in Page, Arizona. Photo George Wuerthner 

The tribe attempted to buy the Navajo Coal Plant in Page, Arizona, which is one of the largest polluters of the regional air quality, so it can continue to sell coal from its reservation mines to generate electricity.

OTHER TRIBAL COAL

The Navajo tribe is not the only Indigenous group supporting coal mining. The Hopi tribe also mines coal on its lands. But to demonstrate how environmental groups rationalize and legitimize Native-owned coal enterprises, the Grand Canyon Trust has a piece on its website proclaiming “Coal—A Hopi Tradition”.

The Crow Tribe, which also has strip mines on its reservation, has opposed Biden’s Climate proposals and repeatedly argued against any limitations on coal burning. The Crow have also supported a coal export facility in Washington.

MINING

The media and many conservation groups repeatedly report when tribes oppose a mining operation or proposal but fail to note when they hold a positive perspective on mining.

Unbeknownst to most conservationists, most high-value mineral deposits are owned by Native people or the state of Alaska due to the selection under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Thus, in Alaska, much of the support for mining operations comes from Native corporations (the equivalence of tribes elsewhere in the US) and their representatives.

AMBLER COPPER MINE

The Ambler copper deposits in Alaska’s western Brooks Range is owned by the Native people of Northwest Alaska, including NANA Regional Corporation (NANA), the Alaska Native Corporation established whose shareholders are the Inupiat of Northwest Alaska. The North Slope Borough, which does not own the mineral deposits, also supports the mining proposal. A number of the villages that lie along the proposed road right of way also support the development of the mineral deposit and road construction.

Narvik Lake in the Gates of the Arctic NP Alaska near the headwaters of the Kobuk and just south of the proposed Amber Road. Photo George Wuerthner 

Development depends on creating a 211-mile-long road that would run from the Alaskan Pipeline Haul Road to the mining region. If built, the copper ore would be trucked to Valdez and shipped to China for processing. The proposed mine would have numerous environmental impacts, including disruption of caribou migration, pollution of rivers, and, ultimately, the creation of an expanded road network in this part of Alaska.

Vincent Simon of Allakaket Village, one of the communities along the proposed road, wrote in an Alaska Daily News editorial: “The voices opposing the Ambler Access Project have overlooked the growing support for the project among tribal communities. Most of these voices are not from the region. Eleven villages closest to the project have voiced their support for the permitting process to proceed. In February of this year, the villages of Huslia and Allakaket unanimously voted to withdraw from litigation against the project, leaving only two communities in the lawsuit.”

Simon suggests that the Native-owned Red Dog Zinc Mine in NW Alaska is an example of “responsible development,” never mentioning that the Red Dog Mine is the largest single source of pollution in Alaska.

Simon ends his letter by reminding everyone: “The authorities must listen to the voices who have lived on these lands and stewarded Alaska for time immemorial.”

“In Conservation Biology, Chris Frissell and Steve Trumbulak report: “Roads of all kinds have seven general effects: mortality from road construction, mortality from collision with vehicles, modification of animal behavior, alteration of the physical environment, alteration of the chemical environment, spread of exotics, and increased use of areas by humans.”

LAKE CLARK NATIONAL PARK PROPOSED GOLD MINE

Lake Clark in Lake Clark National Park, Alaska. Photo George Wuerthner 

Lake Clark National Park sits across Cook Inlet from Anchorage, Alaska. As with the copper deposits in the Ambler Mining District, there are gold deposits within Lake Clark National Park owned by the Cook Inlet Regional Native Corporation. The Native corporation and a mining company are actively prospecting the site for potential development, which would also require the construction of a new road across the national park. I found no mention of the proposed mine or the problems with a new road through a national park on the Wilderness Society or Sierra Club websites.

TOK ALASKA GOLD MINE

Another new gold mine near the villages of Tok and Tetlin near the Yukon border in eastern Alaska is supported by the local Native group, which, as in other proposed mining operations, owns the mineral rights. The local villagers hope the mine will offer employment opportunities, and even without employment, they will receive royalties from mining operations.

THATCHER PASS LITHIUM MINE, IN NEVADA

A proposed lithium mine at Thatcher Pass, Nevada, near the Oregon border is almost universally opposed by conservation groups and Shoshone tribal members who say the mine will create significant ecological and cultural damage.

What is almost never mentioned is that while tribal groups who live in Reno or other communities far from the proposed mine are opposed to development and will garner no financial benefit from the mine, the local Fort McDerrmitt Tribe, the Paiute-Shoshone closest to the mine site, has signed an agreement to support the mine. Follow the money.

NAVAJO LITHIUM MINE

The Navajo Nation is also supporting an Arizona lithium mine. The Big Sandy Lithium Project, slated to kick off in 2023, is between Phoenix and Las Vegas and consists of 331 Bureau of Land Management claims on roughly 9.6 square miles of land….

While numerous conservation groups have opposed the Thatcher Pass Lithium Mine, I am unaware of any opposition from conservation groups to the Big Sandy Mine. However, Earth Justice is representing the Hualapai Tribe in opposing the mine The only difference I can see is that the Big Sandy proposed mine involves the Navajo tribe.

LOGGING

Many tribal reservations with significant forest cover engage in logging. And the rhetoric one hears from tribal forestry divisions about logging the forest to make it “healthy” or to reduce “catastrophic” wildfires is not significantly different than what one hears from the timber industry. These claims for logging are not supported by science and history.

An article in Tribal Business News suggests: “Tribal holistic management proactively addresses forest health issues through silviculture treatments like thinning and harvest, and post-wildfire restoration through salvage operations and replanting. Tribes are also well positioned to help sustainably manage adjacent forestlands managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and other forestland owners….”

There is even legislation that would allow tribes to share in timber revenues from federal timber sales, an incentive that is designed to garner tribal support for more logging.

TONGASS TRIBAL LOGGING

Old growth forest on the Tongass NF, Alaska. Photo George Wuerthner 

There are numerous examples of tribal entities clearcutting their lands. For instance, when SeaAlaska Native corporation was awarded lands from the Tongass National Forest as part of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, most of these lands were clearcut by 2010. And unlike the Forest Service, which must adhere to minimum environmental protection regulations like buffers and setbacks along salmon spawning streams to protect fisheries, tribal entities are exempt from such rules.

Clearcuts on the Tongass NF, Alaska.

There is currently new legislation to transfer 115,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest to five tribal corporations (In Alaska, courts have ruled that Native corporations are “tribes”).

TRIBAL LOGGING IN THE COLUMBIA GORGE SCENIC AREA

For instance, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs logged land it controlled in the Columbia Gorge Scenic Area. The tribe is exempt from the National Scenic Area Act provisions that protect the scenic, wildlife, and other values of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area that are on public or private land.

Clearcuts on the Warm Springs Reservaiton, Oregon. Photo George Wuerthner

In 2016, the Warm Springs Tribe in Oregon promoted a biomass-burning operation.  Biomass burning has numerous problems, including air pollution, most are subsidized and utilize public forests as fuels, and ultimately promote more logging.

TRIBAL OPPOSITION TO ELLIOT STATE FOREST PROTECTION

Recently, efforts to protect the Elliott State Forest in Oregon’s Coast Range were stymied by opposition from the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians (CTCLUSI), who demanded more logging of the area. The tribes have expressed “significant concerns regarding the limitations and constraints placed on the management of the overall forest and the acreage dedicated to reserves in the research design.”

An insider to the Elliott process confirmed that the Tribes have been expressing their opposition to limits on logging in the Elliott reserves for roughly a year.

Even though conservation groups have been working for years to protect the remaining old growth of the Elliott State Forest, I am unaware of any of these groups  who has publicly expressed any disappointment or criticism of the tribal position for more  logging.

LOSS OF 32,000 ACRES OF PUBLIC LANDS IN WESTERN OREGON

Legislation that transferred 32,261 acres of federal public land in Oregon’s Coos and Douglas Counties, formerly administered by the Bureau of Land Management, has been signed into law by President Donald Trump. H.R.1306 was proudly sponsored by Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-4th-OR) and Greg Walden (R-2nd-OR), and the identical S.508 was sponsored by Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.

The new owners are expected to log intensively and road their new holdings.

According to an analysis by Oregon Wild these lands contained the following attributes:

16,000 acres were either riparian or late-successional conservation reserves;

11,100 acres are (but not for long) older (mature and old-growth) forests, some stands of which are 420 years old;

Much of the area is critical habitat for the Endangered Species Act–protected Oregon coho salmon and northern spotted owl; and much is habitat for winter steelhead, fall chinook salmon, and coho salmon.

No conservation groups objected to this loss of critical wildlife and old growth habitat.

BLACKFEET RESERVATION CLEARCUTS

Clearcuts on the Blackfeet Reservation along the border of Glacier National Park, Montana. Photo George Wuerthner 

One of the ways you can tell when you leave the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana and enter Glacier National Park is by the line of clearcuts that marks the boundary of the park and reservation.

QUINAULT TRIBAL CLEARCUTS

Logging on Quinault Reservation, Washington.

One can distinctly see the border of Olympic National Park and the Quinault Indian Reservation from space due to the numerous clearcuts on tribal lands.

PENOBSCOT TRIBE TO LOG LANDS ADJACENT TO KATAHDIN WOOD AND WATERS NATIONAL MONUMENT

In Maine, the Trust for Public Lands recently acquired 33,000 acres of land on the border of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. During their initial efforts to purchase the land, the Trust promised to sell the land to the National Park Service to expand the national monument significantly. However, in 2023, the “Trust for Public Land” [emphasis added] decided to give the land the 33,000 acres to the Penobscot Tribe. Tribal representatives say the additional lands will expand its “sustainable timber industry”. The tribe will also have the authority to issue hunting and camping licenses for the area.

The  Penobscot Tribe says it will practice “sustainable forestry” on its newly acquired lands next to the Katahdin Woods and Waters NM, Maine. Photo George Wuerthner 

I am not opposed to tribes acquiring private land. However, when an organization explicitly promotes the acquisition of public lands and doesn’t make it public, the public interest is harmed. Worse yet, the land transfer to the tribe will enable logging on the border of a national park unit. I believe this is not in the interest of Wild Nature.

WILDLIFE ISSUES

OPPOSITION TO NORTH CASCADES GRIZZLY RESTORATION

Grizzly bear. Photo George Wuerthner

The Sauk Suiattle Tribe opposes the reintroduction of grizzlies into the North Cascades. They see bears as an obstacle to their “treaty rights” in that it will make it more dangerous to gather berries, fishing, and hunting. Arguably, the grizzly bears were on the land before the Sauk Suiattle Tribe.

IZEMBECK REFUGE, ALASKA, TRIBAL ADVOCACY FOR ROAD  AND THE REVERSAL OF WILDERNESS DESIGNATION

Native fishermen in King Cove, Alaska, are trying to remove the official wilderness in the Izembek Wilderness to build a road to ship fish out of a large airport. Thus far President Biden’s  Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland—as did her predecessor President Trump’s Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke—has supported land trade and road construction in order to build a road to an airport. Notably, Zinke’s predecessor President Obama’s Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said no to the gutting of a wilderness area in a national wildlife refuge.

The refuge is a major stopping ground for waterfowl migrations and is home to caribou, grizzly and other wildlife.

It’s important to recognize if  Secretary of Interior Haaland can negate Congressionally designated wilderness today, a future Sec of Interior do so as well. This is a major threat to designated wilderness across Alaska and perhaps elsewhere.

SUPPORT FOR WOLF AND GRIZZLY KILLING IN ALASKA

The Federation of Alaskan Natives has opposed the Biden administration proposed ban on bear baiting, killing wolf pups in dens, killing swimming caribou, and other proposed limits on “traditional” practices in national preserves. 

The Federation wrote: “Bear baiting is a traditional hunting practice for many Athabascan hunters, a great number of whom now reside in non-rural areas. Because of this, they are not considered federally-qualified subsistence users and would be subsequently barred from practicing their traditional hunting practice under this proposed rule. Regardless of the explicit carve-out separating federal subsistence from this proposed rule, the restriction still would negatively harm Athabascan hunters whose right to practice their traditional hunting technique should be respected regardless of where they reside,” they said in their letter to Haaland.

 

COLVILLE WOLF KILL

Colville tribal members have killed more Washington wolves than any other group, including the livestock industry. Photo George Wuerthner

The Colville Tribe in Washington has killed more wolves than any other group. Indeed, the tribe and Spokane Tribe have killed dozens of wolves that the state Endangered Species Act supposedly protects. Just like redneck trappers and hunters in other states, the main reason the tribes kill wolves is so they can kill more elk.

OPPOSITION TO WOLF RESTORATION

The voters of Colorado voted to restore wolves to the state. Opposition to the reintroduction came from the usual suspects, including ranchers and some hunters. But seldom mentioned is that the Southern Ute tribe also opposes wolf restoration.

SAN CARLOS APACHE PROHIBITS MEXICAN WOLVES ON RESERVATION

Mexican wolves. Photo George Wuerthner 

The San Carlos Apache Tribe has prohibited wolves on its reservation.

TRIBAL YELLOWSTONE BISON KILL

During the winter of 2022-23, tribal hunters slaughtered more than 1150 bison that were attempting to leave Yellowstone National Park seeking food. Altogether, the tribes killed more than 25 percent of the northern bison herd, harming the bison genetics and population structure and removing bison from the park ecosystem that would otherwise support native predators and scavengers. People are encouraged to watch this video of the slaughter.

Advocates of tribal slaughter suggest treaty rights give them the authority to massacre public bison. However, that assertion has been brought into question. But even when presented with the evidence, conservation groups like the Greater Yellowstone Coalition ignore the evidence and appear unwilling even to investigate whether the tribes have a “treaty right” to kill bison by Yellowstone.

Bison from Yellowstone Park are internationally significant as one of the least domesticated buffalo in the world. Many of the Yellowstone bison that are removed from the Park ecosystem (a detrimental practice harmful to the park’s ecological function)  are transferred to tribal lands where they are subject to genetic losses resulting from specific breeding, culling, slaughter practices, and a lack of native predators and artificial feeding programs. In essence, there are no wild bison on tribal lands at this point.]

JEMEZ PUEBLO TRIBE EAGLE KILL IN NATIONAL MONUMENT

The Jemez Pueblo tribe in New Mexico was given permission to kill bald and golden eagles within the boundaries of Valley Caldera National Monument.  No Tribe has ever used a BGEPA permit from USFWS within an area of the national park system and this sets up serious precedent.

Tribal members may kill eagles in a national monument under a decision from the highest levels of the National Park Service. Bald eagle. Photo George Wuerthner 

Eighteen members of Jemez Pueblo may camp in a large tent for up to a month. Under a special use permit, tribal members will use off-road-vehicles to move their gear and they will have campfires. Under the special use permit they will be allowed to do things that the public is prohibited from doing.

Valley Caldera Natoinal Monument, New Mexico. Photo Geroge Wuerthner 

It appears that an Environmental Assessment was hastily done for the eagle hunt, the EA was posted on the park website, and within a week or two they issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). This appears to purposefully short-circuit the public’s ability to comment. Unusually, the FONSI was signed by National Park Service Director Chuck Sams rather than a local or regional NPS official.

TRIBAL HATCHERY FISH AND WILD SALMON

One of the most blatant examples of the conflict between rhetoric and behavior can be seen on the issue of hatcheries and their impact on wild fish.

Despite much rhetoric from tribes that they are “salmon people” and other assertions that salmon are “sacred” and critical to their culture, most tribes support hatchery production of salmon and steelhead and condemn any attempt to close hatcheries. Yet the science is overwhelming—there is nothing worse for wild salmon than hatchery fish. Hatchery fish breed with wild salmon, diluting the wild genome and competing for space, food, and even spawning habitat.

The other way that many tribes harm wild salmon is by gill netting. Due to “tribal sovereignty and treaty rights,” tribes can gill net fish on major rivers like the Columbia, Klamath, and others. Gill nets are entirely indiscriminate. Many wild fish are captured in the nets and die.

Most tribes say they want to restore “healthy salmon populations,” but this doesn’t necessarily mean healthy wild fish populations. Indeed, while there are numerous reasons for salmon declines, including dams, livestock grazing, logging, and climate change, the promotion of hatchery production and the gill netting of wild salmon contribute to the loss of wild salmon populations.

Most media have little understanding of salmon ecology and issues. If tribes promote hatcheries, the media usually reports it as a favorable policy.

Why would tribes who say they love salmon continue practices harming wild salmon? Again, follow the money. Tribes are permitted to sell fish they catch.

SNAKE RIVER DAMS

For decades, salmon activists have sought to remove four dams on the Snake River (a tributary of the Columbia) to open up spawning habitat in Idaho, including on the namesake Salmon River.

Recently, the Columbia River tribes, including the Yakima, Nez Perce, Umatilla, Cayuse, and Warm Springs, agreed to accept a billion dollars from the federal government if they would suspend their lawsuit that advocates the removal of the Snake River Dams. Among other things, the money will be used by the tribes to improve hatchery production. Nothing in the agreement ensures the dams will be removed, and in the opinion of friends who have worked on salmon recovery for decades, this appears to be a buyout of tribal interests.

I have not been following the Snake River dams issue closely, but one friend who has been a wild salmon advocate for decades and supports breaching the dams had this to say about the recent agreement.

“You should look into the latest announcement from the Biden administration about the Snake River dams. It has received a lot of press lately as a positive step but it’s mostly BS as far as I can tell. There is NO commitment to breaching the dams, only to spend a lot more on studying the issue and hundreds of millions on hatcheries. A previous agreement in Sept. already gave hundreds of millions to Columbia River tribes to build hatcheries. As you would expect, the tribes are vocal in their support of all of this.”

Another salmon advocate had this to say about the Biden and tribe agreement: “The Biden Administration totally screwed up. Instead of using executive authority to breach the dams they punted the issue to Congress. Congress will never authorize the breaching, certainly not in time to save the fish and orcas. The Tribes got bought off, as did many of the NGOs.”

ELWHA DAM REMOVAL

The Elwha River after the dams were removed. Photo George Wuerthner 

When the federal government removed two dams from the Elwha River in Olympic NP, the National Park Service advocated for natural salmon recovery. The NPS felt there was still enough wild salmon stock in the lower river to ensure wild fish recovery upriver beyond the breached dams. However, the Elwha Tribe opposed this part of the plan and insisted on building a hatchery at the mouth of the river (with taxpayer money, of course) that they would operate.

KLAMATH RIVER DAMS AND TRIBES

There has been an effort to remove four dams on the Klamath River in northern California. The dams harm salmon in numerous ways, including blocking access to upstream spawning habitat and degrading water quality.

Klamath River, California. Photo George Wuerthner 

Most reporting on salmon and tribes is about the cultural connection, rarely mentioning the commercial reason for promoting salmon recovery. The general narrative of most media reporting is on how important salmon are to tribal culture but fails to mention how tribal cultural interests can threaten wild salmon recovery.

As with salmon in other parts of the West, tribal commercial salmon catch also harms wild salmon since most salmon are taken with indiscriminate gill nets. Wild salmon are caught along with hatchery salmon. Since most tribes commercially fish for salmon, they are incentivized to increase overall salmon production with hatcheries, compromising the wild salmon stock.

Yet many tribes along the Klamath, such as the Yurok Tribe, sell wild salmon. Given how rare the salmon are, taking any endangered species, especially for commercial use, would seem counterproductive if you call salmon “sacred.”

In particular, coho salmon in the Klamath River are barely hanging on. Salmon advocates (which is distinctively different from tribal advocates) believe a total moratorium on all fishing is the best way to bring about wild salmon recovery. However, as a generalization, the tribes oppose such a policy.

NORTH UMPQUA RIVER

North Umpqua River, Oregon. Photo George Wuerthner 

The Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw, Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, Coquille Indian Tribe, and Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde all opposed the closure of a fish hatchery on the North Umpqua River by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. The Commission sees hatchery fish as competitors with wild fish for spawning habitat.

FISH FARMING IN SKAGIT BAY

The Jamestown S’Kallam Tribe has agreed to develop fish farming in Skagit Bay, Washington. Fish farming is notorious for its environmental harm, including concentrating vast amounts of feces and dumping antibiotics in affected waterways.

UTE OPPOSITION TO CAMP HALE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE NATIONAL MONUMENT

The Ute tribe expressed a scathing rebuke to President Joe Biden’s designation of the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument on Wednesday, calling it “an unlawful act of genocide.”…

TRIBAL CONDEMNATION OF PARKS AND WILDERNESS

What I see as an even graver threat to conservation efforts is the on-going denigration of the entire concept of parks and preserves from the WOKE left, social science academics, and their tribal allies. It deserves an entire book, but basically, there is a growing condemnation of parks, wilderness, and other preserves as cultural genocide, colonialism, imperialism, and other such negative terminology that pose a long-term threat to efforts to protect wild Nature. Much of this opposition is based on flawed logic, a limited understanding of conservation biology and ecology, and a revisionist history.

For example, the Muccosukee  tribe in Florida is opposed to wilderness designation for the Big Cypress Preserve because they assert it will limit their ability to hunt, fish, and gather plants. “We’re opposing very, very hard right now because we don’t believe this is the right thing for the Big Cypress,” said Curtis Osceola, chief of staff for the Miccosukee Tribe. “The fear from the tribe is that a compromise is being made to put these lands into wilderness at the expense of the rights of the tribe, the rights of the public.”

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF TRIBAL CONSERVATION ADVOCACY

I acknowledge there are numerous examples where Indigenous people have promoted environmental protection. The Chumash of California is advocating a marine reserve along the coast by Santa Barbara. The Apache in Arizona are opposed to the Oak Flat Copper mine. The Yurok tribe is involved in the dam removals on the Klamath River. The Nez Perce seeks to restore California condors to the Hells Canyon area. Numerous tribes have lent support for national monuments, including Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument in Arizona, and the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument in Nevada

I could list many other examples widely distributed in the media and by conservation organizations that promote the idea that Native tribes and Native corporations are conservation advocates.

But all these environmental organizations refuse to criticize, critique, or even acknowledge when tribal actions fail to match tribal.

SUMMARY

I hope I have made the case that some tribes support environmentally destructive or anti-conservation policies is not a rare occurrence. The unwillingness to articulate and discuss these problems feeds the false narrative that Native peoples are somehow different from other humans in their behavior or attitudes towards Nature and conservation efforts.

The danger here is that there is a growing effort and momentum to put tribes in control of public lands. The Biden administration recently announced co-stewardship agreements with tribes on public lands. The support for such agreements is often based on the assumption that tribal entities will promote policies beneficial to wildlife and functioning ecosystems. What is not recognized is that, in many instances, tribal goals are not the same as the public goals regarding public lands management. The status of tribal sovereignty, in particular, poses legal issues about the ability of the public to stop or change environmentally destructive proposals if there is sufficient tribal support.

It’s important to point out that all Native Americans are American citizens and have the same access and rights to comment upon, lobby and otherwise promote or oppose federal land management decisions. It is my view that garnering tribes greater authority over public lands is anti-democratic and potentially damaging to Wild Nature and ecosystems.

As Doug Tompkins eloquently suggested in the preface to my Welfare Ranching book: “Basic human ethics suggest that we must not humanize every square yard of the planet, that the human economy can flourish and humanness become more profound when we protect and promote the wild world and learn to share the planet with all her creatures.”

 

 

Comments

  1. Jenny Kowalski Avatar
    Jenny Kowalski

    Excellent piece! I was not aware of the proposed transfer of public lands to the tribes. Something to watch out for and oppose. Thank you!

  2. Makuye Avatar
    Makuye

    George was pretty comprehensive here, finally reaching into the reprehensible personal conduct and biases, which i’d personally witnessed since youth.
    Understand that individuals vary within most tribes, as much as your opinions might vary from those who take pleasure in killinga wild, self-willed animal because, as some of the perpetrators admit, that the killing is a safe way to harm you, or anyone differing with their psychopathy.

    But there is more.
    Some religious-like delusional beliefs occur in early-learned culture.
    In both Canada and USA, from Arctic Inuit to Southern desert cultures, you WILL find the pervasive notion, expressed by individuals holding guns, firing from snow machines or using such transport to easily track miles and miles, AND even using acquired geolocation tech to find collared endangered animals.
    Upon killing them with high-powered rifles over time, you hear again and again:
    “[It] presented itself to me as a “gift” and this is the way of [bigspirit, et cetera]”

    I knew of Coleville tribes being very like Euroamericans pretending to themselves culturally that “wolf is enemy.”, and Apache trophy elk guides against C l baileyi reintro from inception of that effort.
    The eagle feather trade has a massive financial component, and quasi-financial component, finally similar to dentists slaughtering human-adapted lions.

    But nonetheless, the Inupiat/Inuit and others who claim favor of ” gods” or animal individual itself, have been so common across time, that it must be mentioned as a or the rationalizing delusion.

    Pretended “ownership” is mere territoriality of our, like other species of animal. Only small human bands separated from population saturation – more habitat than humans occupy, relieve this inimical territoriality.

    Our prosocial and reverential impulses were evolved in conditions when the world was infinite to us, and shared with enough other life, that exploitation was only a small part of curiosity and sensory observation causes a sense of wonder.
    We find few relics of our truly ancient past due to its being extremely small, isolated, grateful for meeting, generously sharing events.

    This fact could be elaborated at length, but your every affiliative and prosocial emotion and cognition was formed before your now-ubiquitous negative-valenced constant anxious overarousal. Largely only natural experiments have shown this, as our ancient sense of ethics still usually precludes concise controlled experiment

    1. lou Avatar
      lou

      The photographs of the bison slaughter just across the border of Yellowstone park by native american tribe members so disgusted me, that I now find any of their claims to be better environmentalists a big fat lie. They were using powered vehicles and high powered guns.

      1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
        Jeff Hoffman

        Generalizing Natives like this is stereotyping, could even be called racist. Traditional Natives don’t support or commit these bad behaviors, it’s the “progressives” who do. The Natives I worked with when I was an Earth First! campaigner were traditionals from the American Indian Movement and the International Indian Treaty Council, and they had the same environmental positions on issues as we did.

  3. Martha S Bibb Avatar
    Martha S Bibb

    Oh my. Once again we have proven that people are actually people and their negative impacts on the world are equally bad.Surely there must be some answer to the destructive impacts of people.

    1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
      Jeff Hoffman

      The answer is mental & spiritual evolution, and expanding our consciousness. Nothing less will suffice.

  4. Maggie Frazier Avatar
    Maggie Frazier

    Good article, George – information that isnt generally known or acknowledged!
    Thank you

  5. Glenn Monahan Avatar
    Glenn Monahan

    I’ve said this for a long time … I believe that Indian reservations should be eliminated, that sovereign nation status should be ended, and that all federal welfare to Indians be terminated immediately.

    It’s clear to me that Indians are extensively exploiting the liberal social justice movement.

    For those who believe that we should be giving land back to Indians as a means of making amends for past injustices, here is my suggestion: find a deserving Indian family and transfer title of your home to them, and if you are lucky enough to own a vacation property – donate that as well.

    For all of the government agencies (especially local government) who begin their official meetings with a land acknowledgment – transfer all of your city assets to the tribes you are acknowledging … city parks, streets, water and sewer, garbage collection, etc.

    George gets it … all people are the same. They will follow the money, and make decisions that will make their financial lives as easy and fruitful as possible.

    1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
      Jeff Hoffman

      Then you support colonialism and imperialism. You could therefore not legitimately complain if someone attacked you and took your land.

  6. Heidi Hall Avatar
    Heidi Hall

    some of the things I have witnessed:
    – tribes ignoring public comment periods and then being given a voice in the conversation that any other person or group would not be granted

    an “environmental” group enlisting tribal elders and other spokespeople from a tribe which has never been officially recognized and who do not live in the county to put pressure on county supervisors(after the tribe had failed to comment during the time period) to shoot down workforce/affordable housing in a tourist zone with serious housing issues. In addition the tribe demanded and was granted that one of the reasons for their objection be kept secret from all but a few county officials while every other public comment is a permanent part of the record.
    an attempt to develop trails around the small community I live in was shot down for a number of reasons but one that was given by a member of the (unrecognized tribe) was that “there are a lot of artifacts out there”. Gee – most of us have to be a hell of a lot more specific and armed with actual evidence to get the mic for even the allotted three minutes and not be laughed at.

    -claiming “traditional” burning of large acreages of sagebrush

    On one hand I think ideological groups of all stripes are not at all above using these tribes and their political clout to further an agenda that the tribe had otherwise expressed little to no interest in or concern with but I also think it usually comes down to money.

  7. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
    Jeff Hoffman

    This is basically true and I agree. It’s called “playing the race card,” which was formerly used by Black people illegitimately claiming racism in instances where there in fact was none. However, there ARE Native groups taking the lead in stopping very bad projects, like the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Line 3 pipeline. It’s the TRADITIONAL Natives we should support, not Natives per se.

    One of the main reasons that tribal councils make all these anti-environmental decisions is that electing people to a council or anything else is not how Natives traditionally governed themselves. Therefore, most if not all traditional Natives refuse to participate in voting or anything else involving the tribal councils, so only the so-called “progressives” get elected. Tribal councils therefore do not at all represent the people of the tribes, just the ones who want to fully assimilate into the colonizers’ culture. Nowadays my guess is that “progressives” make up the majority of Natives, but this almost certainly varies by tribe.

    George didn’t frame it this way, but I will: This idiotic and censorious woke/PC culture that has formed could not be more stupid! As George said, just try to claim that a person in one of the vaunted groups did something wrong, or that Natives are not better than other people (their traditional CULTURES were better, and better individuals were only produced by those cultures which are now almost all gone), and see what happens to you. I can’t even discuss some issues with anyone except for close friends and relatives without fear of being ostracized. This is ludicrous and no way to run a society, but it’s what the ruling class wants to keep our attention off of them and their bad behaviors — they do run everything after all, hence the name, “ruling class” — and they’ve gotten it. For example, it was Bill Gates, one of the richest people in the world, who pushed all this trans nonsense (not that there weren’t trans people and trans issues before Gates pushed this, but it was nothing compared to now). In a culture like this, it’s taboo to talk about the “wrong things” or take the “wrong positions,” and you will be ostracized, cancelled, etc. if you do. Very bad situation here, don’t know how we get out of it.

    1. Heidi Hall Avatar
      Heidi Hall

      Regarding tribal government: I have a good friend who was the CEO of a tribe. My friend is just as white as I am.

      1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
        Jeff Hoffman

        Oh yes. I have a friend who calls himself Injun Ron, and he’s genetically 100% Native. However, he was raised by foster parents, is a full on city boy, and is less “Indian” than I am, despite his claims to the contrary. He’s very poor (lives on a small sailboat owned by a friend) and doesn’t try to scam people using his Native blood & genetics, but he does sometimes make false claims that because he’s Native …

        As the saying goes, it’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at. I’m far more of an environmentalist than the “progressive” Natives, which I think are now the large majority of them, unfortunately.

  8. Chris Zinda Avatar
    Chris Zinda

    Conservation is such a meaningless word, misused by GW to enviro.orgs to indigenous to ranchers to corporations, ad nauseum. But, it is meaningful because all see human use, the battle over what is proper.

    Conservationists are not preservationists, and there are no preservationists of notable worth today. They’ve been ignored and deplatformed by even GW who above delineates ONLY between “good and bad conservationists” with no mention of preserving anything.

    Well, I’ve come to view humans like GW to enviro.orgs to indigenous to ranchers to corporations, ad nauseum as bad, none presenting a preservation ethic, never a moral or sidebar to preserve the wild that is left.

    I’ve come to terms with it and no longer wonder why things are so catastrophically bad for climate & flora/fauna.

    1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
      Jeff Hoffman

      You’ve made substantially this comment many times here. Instead of using just words, explain what the differences are between what you advocate and what George advocates.

      Absolute preservation doesn’t make sense, because life is change and is constantly in flux, and ecosystems & habitats change constantly. I’m talking about NATURAL change, not human killing and destruction. As Siddhartha pointed out 2,500 years ago, you shouldn’t get attached to anyone or anything, because everything and everyone in the universe is impermanent.

      1. Chris Zinda Avatar
        Chris Zinda

        The Wilderness Act is the only piece of legislation that has a legal preservation mandate. Yet, you hear nothing from conservationists regarding industrial wreckreation (the money & ethic that binds) and carrying capacities. Refuges are not their namesake, a symbol of a cekebrated conservationist. NPS units have a legal mandate for carrying capacities but only a conservation legislative mandate, no enviro.orgs today pressing the former because their own interest in the latter.

        Seems to me wildland cores of biological diversity need to be preserved, their corridors the same, the rest conserved. Yet, even Ripple et al fail to make this distinction, fighting over “good” and “bad” conservation. And, I can identify a few places that ARE preserved, off limits to all but research humans. Can you? They are few in number & acreage. Can GW ID any beyond a few rookeries?

        What isn’t natural change is this ongoing mass extinction and flora & fauna need respite. Well, I guess it is natural change: a disease of humans who can’t fathom land that is off limits unless it is private, a place that is both wild and undisturbed, a place that can’t be “wisely” used.

        Jeff, I used to write about this – a lot. I lost efficacy given the odds.

        1. Glenn Monahan Avatar
          Glenn Monahan

          The fatal flaw in your discussion is that you lump all conservationists into the same bag. But there are significant differences between what conservationists like GW advocate for vs the Big Greens.

          1. Chris Zinda Avatar
            Chris Zinda

            I expect such arguments from those who make money off public lands, people like Wolke & you who encorage unlimited use by selling guidebooks & trips to human cattle.

            You think your conservation as better than Big Greens when, really, its not, as you all believe in human use/exploitation everywhere. If not, where are your & GWs carrying capacity proposals for wilderness? I mean, cattle have limits, why not humans? Where are “other than big green” proposals for true refuges for wildlife?

            The “fatal flaw” is alienating you and others by daring to challenge your conservation masquerading as preservation, which results in deplatforming, gaslighting, ignoring, silencing the critics so you may carry on destroying flora & fauna on behalf of your own public lands “rights,” no different than Cliven Bundy.

            GW’s lamentation of indigenous-enviro wokism is flawed, as he frames the problem as what constitutes “good” conservation itself. IMV, no matter the human or their race, all disregard the preservation of anything – even during the 6th mass extinction.

            1. Howie Wolke Avatar
              Howie Wolke

              I rarely partake in this sort of discussion, but as I scrolled through this one (only because I really liked GW’s article), I find myself honored to have been attacked by this Chris Zinda person — obviously someone who doesn’t know me. For the record I have always favored limits on human use of wilderness and other nature preserves, and I have never even used a guidebook let alone been guilty of producing or “selling” one. I am, however, “guilty” of having made a living guiding in wilderness — and teaching our clients (Zinda’s “human cattle”)the importance of wilderness habitats and what they can do to help protect them. Yet I’ve been retired from guiding since 2019 and am still advocating for wild wilderness. My advice to this Zinda person is to take a few deep breaths and maybe have a beer. Relax. We are not all your enemy.

            2. Howie Wolke Avatar
              Howie Wolke

              I don’t usually read comments on internet articles, but I scrolled through these because I really liked George’s article. Interesting that this Chris Zinda person criticizes me for having made a living guiding in the wilderness. For the record, I have always supported limits on the use of wilderness and other nature reserves, and I’ve never used nor have I ever produced or sold guide books. Oh, and the “human cattle” who were our clients included a lot of good people who became active conservationists as a result of going on our trips. Chris Zinda obviously is making some ill-considered assumptions.

  9. Janelle Ghiorso Avatar
    Janelle Ghiorso

    One thing George forgot to mention is the tribes that graze livestock which is detrimental to conservation of the land and wildlife. Some people celebrated Deb Haaland being given dominion over our public lands and were quickly disappointed. As DOI Secretary, she has rubber stamped every single one of these destructive actions and giveaways. She is especially happy to renew and expand grazing permits and has close relatives who benefit, if not she herself. To keep everyone looking the other way, she ramps up the decimation of our native wild horses and collaborates with tribes to take the captured horses and potential funding to slaughter them on reservation land. Follow the money.

    1. Heidi Hall Avatar
      Heidi Hall

      The horses are feral, not wild. They are not “native” and they destroy the habitat of native and in some cases endangered animals.

      While mountain lions have discovered the tasty feral horses in some locals the herds are expanding at a horrifying rate and have established populations in cities such as Reno, Nevada. They are also decimating freshwater springs and other habitat for real native animals at Mono Lake. They are also regularly starving to death.

      But I believe I have told you this before – if not you it was someone, like you, appearing to have a religious belief in “wild horses” and an inability to engage with the reality of the damage they do.

      Please open your mind and stop spreading propaganda.

      1. Janelle Ghiorso Avatar
        Janelle Ghiorso

        I can only guess where you came up with that statement. It’s the same old argument that everyone claims about wild horses all the time. None of it is based on facts or science. Never do any consider the impact of livestock grazing on the resources that the wild horses are constantly scapegoated as being the source.
        As far as your statement that wild horses being merely “feral” or not “indigenous”, you have zero proof, merely opinion. The scientific evidence shows the opposite.
        Dr. Collin’s study gives multiple examples of the oral histories of the Indigenous peoples that would prove that the horses never went extinct. She states in her conclusion: “Indigenous creation stories and oral history are not as dismissible or “fantastical” as Western academia overall has believed them to be. Rather than being “myths” without substance or the silly stories of “savage and heathen Peoples,” some scientists have learned that with an open mind, a genuine willingness to learn, and some cross-cultural communication skills, the information in these historical accounts contain “an astonishing amount of descriptive data.”

        Even when Joseph Leidy discovered pre-Columbian horse skeletons in North America and published his findings in 1847, the Western Academic establishment only accepted his findings after they reconfigured the facts to state that the horses must have died out during the last Ice Age. This conclusion, which was reached without any scientific backing, still managed to credit Europeans for reintroducing the horse to the Americas and to its Native Peoples with the arrival of the Spanish.

        How would it be possible that the presence of ancient petroglyphs, pictographs, geoglyphs, effigies, and figurines of horses would not compel archeologists to begin a serious movement to scientifically test for dates in order to reevaluate the dominant Western cultural claim? How is it that consistent evidence of the genetic presence of Equus remains outside of the purported extinction time period accepted by the Western Academic establishment has not stimulated a flurry of new research in the area? Are each of these factors not considered substantial enough to debunk the current – and very unscientific – dating methodology utilized, which automatically categorizes petroglyphs, pictographs, geoglyphs, effigies, and figurines into the “post-Columbian” time frame if it contains a depiction of a horse?

        Indeed, by 1598, Onate reported losing 300 horses during his exploratory journey up into the current New Mexico territory due to his “inability to contain animals while wild horses were roaming nearby.”

        In addition to this, many reported that early on, the “entire [Native] culture[s] seemed to depend upon the horse, and the horse-culture complex” was at such a high “stage of development” that it rivaled thousands’ year-old horse cultures. Such observations of “vast herds of horses” in a “country so immense and full of wild mares” whose original inhabitants had established horse cultures, would not be possible with the number of horses reported having been brought by the Spanish, the dates they were brought over, the very low number having been reported lost, and the genders of those reported lost (as it takes a stallion and a mare to make a baby.)

        Genome Sequencing for Ancient North and South American horses: The genome sequencing has been completed for many domesticated horse breeds, as well as the Przewalski horse. Recently, genome sequencing was completed for an early Middle Pleistocene horse that lived in the Yukon area between 560,000 – 780,000 years ago. Future archeological and genetic research needs to focus on collecting fossilized fragments of Equine remains in North and South America that have been dated as pre-Columbian, and then working to extract DNA so that further genome sequencing can be performed. As traditional knowledge bearers within North America have explained there were a number of types of Indigenous horse in the Americas. Therefore, securing and sequencing multiple samples, and carefully cataloging where they were found, is paramount.

        Before the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burros Act of 1971 was passed, the mass slaughter of America’s wild horse population caused the numbers to dwindle so low that even the government agreed that protection of the horses was in order. However, the responsibility to “manage” these herds was given to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), whose mentality and perspective is aligned with a colonizing approach. To date the desires of cattle farmers and special interest groups have taken precedence, the U.S government is likely systematically exterminating much of what may be left of the Indigenous Horse of the Americas with their current “wild horse management policies.” The genetic testing that has been done to date on these herds simply tries to match for Spanish markers. Such testing does not qualify these horses for protection under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Although it had been “convenient” not to look and conduct proper genetic testing to date, it is no longer acceptable to press forward with the “status quo,” as such surviving animals and their natural habitats should be being actively protected by the Endangered Species Act.

        Cataloging and Scientific Dating of Equine “Rock Art,” Geoglyphs, Effigies and Figurines: As has been demonstrated, ancient petroglyphs, pictographs, geoglyphs, effigies and figurines of horses are often automatically put into the “post-Columbian” category by Western scientists. Indeed, this categorization without scientifically dating is part of the methodology handed down from teacher to student. In order to reconstruct an accurate picture of the history of the horse in the Americas, the horse petroglyphs, pictographs, geoglyphs, effigies, and figurines need to be cataloged and the latest scientific dating technologies applied. A database should be compiled and made available to be utilized by scholars across academic disciplines.

        Scientific Dating of Horse Fossils and/or Remains found in Pre-Columbian Sites: The majority of the horse fossils and/or remains that have been scientifically dated and found to have been post “Ice Age” and pre-Columbian were done so as part of larger and more broad studies. Research that focuses primarily on locating and scientifically dating fossils and remains that fall within the proposed extinction period is being done.

        For those claiming American horses were extinct by 13,000 to 12,000 years ago, the Curly Horse existed in the Americas some 5,000 years later, consequently, would have been in the Americas in pre-Columbian times. It should also be of interest that Dr. Steven E. Jones, in an article entitled “Were There Horses in the Americas Before Columbus?” talked extensively on this issue. Some excerpts from his findings are below.
        “About twelve years ago, I began a project to seek horse bones from sites in North America and Mesoamerica for the purpose of radiocarbon dating. In this research, I was joined by Prof. Wade Miller of the BYU Department of Geology, archaeologists Joaquin Arroyo-Cabrales and Shelby Saberon, and Patricia M. Fazio of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center…we secured horse bones for dating, some directly from the field. Then state-of-the-art radiocarbon dating was performed at Stafford Laboratories in Colorado, the University of California at Riverside, or Beta Analytic in Miami, Florida, employing Accelerator Mass Spectrometer dating methods.”
        “The time frame sought extended “from 10,000 BP (thus after the last ice age) to 500 BP (when Spaniards soon after Columbus brought horses to America). The prevailing paradigm holds that there were no horses in the Americas during this time interval; the Book of Mormon and a number of native American oral traditions hold otherwise. The samples in this study can be divided into two categories according to their origins: Mexico, and the United States.”
        “Forty-five Equus samples were obtained in Mexico. Based on AMS dating, there was one sample from the Ice Age period, and six from the post-Columbus period. Other samples had insufficient collagen in the bone to permit dating—collagen protein locks in carbon-14, permitting accurate C-14 dating. Thus, the laboratories require a certain minimum amount of collagen in order to proceed with the dating. There were no Equus samples found in this study in Mesoamerica for the time interval 14,700 BC to 1650 AD.”

        In North America, there are found Equus samples which do indeed appear in the time frame between the last ice age and the arrival of Columbus. The first of these was found in Pratt Cave near El Paso, Texas, by Prof. Ernest Lundelius of Texas A&M University. Prof. Lundelius responded to inquiries and provided a horse bone from Pratt Cave which dated to BC 6020 – 5890. This date is well after the last ice age, into the time frame when all American horses should have been absent [extinct] according to the prevailing paradigm.

        In addition, other bone specimens were identified in the “extinct horse” time frame, as Dr. Jones points out: “Another Equus specimen was identified by Elaine Anderson, an expert on Equus identification, at Wolf Spider cave, Colorado. It dated to 1260 – 1400 A.D., again clearly before Columbus. Dr. Patricia Fazio of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, has joined our network of researchers in this field…and alerted us to a horse bone found at Horsethief Cave in Wyoming which dates to approximately 3,124 BP, i.e. 1124 BC, using thermoluminescent methods…Dr. Fazio also pointed to a publication, The Wyoming Archaeologist (Vol 38, pp 55-68), where results of a horse bone found in Wyoming were dated to 1426 – 1481 A.D. (one sigma calibrated dates) using AMS methods, well before Columbus.”

        It can also be pointed out that a paper by Dr. R. Alison notes evidence for horses in Canada dating 900 and 2900 years ago, and it should be kept in mind that the European horses arrived on the new-world mainland with Cortes in 1519 A.D.–only 500 years ago [Henry, Marguerite and Wesley Dennis. All About Horses. Random House, 1962].

        Dr. Jones adds, “Thus, there are a half dozen dated Equus samples that date in the time frame 6,000 BC to 1481 AD, well since the last ice age and all before Columbus. Note that all of these radiometrically-dated Equus remains were found in North America.” Dr. Jones, was a Professor of Physics at Brigham Young University where he served for over 21 years before his retirement in 2007. He conducted doctoral research at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and received his Ph.D. in Physics from Vanderbilt University in 1978. He received his B.S. degree in Physics from Brigham Young University in 1973, where he held a David O. McKay Presidential Scholarship—his research interests include studies in archaeometry, fusion and solar energy.

        “The Surprising History of America’s Wild Horses” by Jay F. Kirkpatrick, Patricia M. Fazio published July 24, 2008, states: “The wild horse in the United States is generally labeled non-native by most federal and state agencies dealing with wildlife management, whose legal mandate is usually to protect native wildlife and prevent non-native species from having ecologically harmful effects. But the two key elements for defining an animal as a native species are where it originated and whether or not it coevolved with its habitat. E. caballus can lay claim to doing both in North America. So a good argument can be made that it, too, should enjoy protection as a form of native wildlife.”

        The most recent studies being done on this subject are at McMaster University. Together within the University of Alberta, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Yukon government. The recent study presented a 30,000-year DNA record of past environments, drawn from cored permafrost sediments extracted from the Klondike region of central Yukon.

        They reconstructed the ancient ecosystems using tiny soil samples which contain billions of microscopic genomic sequences from animal and plant species. The DNA evidence shows that both the wooly mammoth and North American horse persisted until as recently as 5,000 years ago, bringing them into the mid-Holocene, the interval beginning roughly 11,000 years ago that we live in today.

        Tyler Murchie, a postdoctoral researcher in McMaster’s Department of Anthropology and a lead author of the study stated: “The amount of genetic data in permafrost is quite enormous and really allows for a scale of ecosystem and evolutionary reconstruction that is unparalleled with other methods to date.”

        “Although mammoths are gone forever, horses are not,” says Ross MacPhee of the American Museum of Natural History, another co-author. “The horse that lived in the Yukon 5,000 years ago is directly related to the horse species we have today, Equus caballus. Biologically, this makes the horse a native North American mammal, and it should be treated as such.”

        In an earlier paper, Dr. MacPhee stated: “The morphological (fossil) evidence and the more recent DNA evidence (although preliminary), points to the same conclusion: the species Equus caballus—the species encompassing all domestic horses and their wild progenitors – arose on this continent…The evidence thus favors the view that this species is “native” to North America, given any rational understanding of the term “native”. By contrast, there are no paleontological or genetic grounds for concluding that it is native to any other continent.”

        In Summary, today we see that most scholars in governmental circles believe that the horse went extinct. However, there is a growing number of scientists and new scholars that question that conventional assumptions are correct. Many go so far as to state “Of course they are native.” Until we have honest science, publicly available results and transparent dialogue this issue will never get resolved. When we have a captured federal agency managing our wild horses and a livestock industry with very deep pockets there is really no incentive for our government and federal land managers to find or even accept modern scientific findings or pursue the science further.

        As a politician, I know you are looking for votes and probably want cattlemen to give you those votes. They want the wild horses gone, so of course you have to smear the wild horses for votes. I think your constituents should be aware of who you are, so they should take a look at this.
        https://www.sierrathread.com/thread/supervisor-heidi-hall-double-dipped-on-government-pay

        1. Jerry Thiessen Avatar
          Jerry Thiessen

          Please, give all of us a break on this horse thing. Opinions are a dime-a-dozen. You have yours and I have mine, and I like mine best. If, by any remote hallucination, there were two leftover horses that remained in North America after the Wisconsin, their genetics would have been diluted to a nano gene by now and likely undetectable. Certainly, modern horss represent ancestors that go back many thousands of years, but today there are 40 million of these representatives in the US alone. They range in size from 200 lb. miniatures to 3,000 lb. draft giants – all with identical genetics.
          If we must have feral horses on our public domain, I would prefer they be miniatures as they would be easier prey for coyotes, wolves and mountain lions and would be less destructive to native rangeland. Just a thought.

        2. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
          Jeff Hoffman

          Honest science is becoming obsolete, at least in the U.S. and possibly everywhere. The rich and their large corporations have bought great influence in the sciences, and now control the narratives. I don’t know whether the ranching/grazing industry has specifically participated in this, but I know that the meat industry has. Because of this undue and illegitimate influence, honest science is becoming rare. Just look at the whole COVID-19/”vaccine” debacle for example, where top scientists in the relevant fields were censored and worse at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry, and the majority went along with everything the industry wanted because they knew that their livelihoods depended on doing so. (This was also parroted by politicians and the mainstream/establishment/corporate media, because they’ve also been bought off.)

          Money corrupts everything, and until we get the undue and illegitimate influence of money out of the sciences, we’ll just continue getting the BS you describe here.

      2. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
        Jeff Hoffman

        What Janelle said.

        I would agree with you IF horses weren’t native to the western U.S. or if they were causing serious ecological harms due to overpopulation because of lack of native predators, but neither is true. So long as there are native predators like mountain lions and wolves to control the horse population, we should just let nature take its course. Where there are no wolves, you should be advocating for their reintroduction, not complaining about horses. As Janelle pointed out, the great harms in the western U.S. are caused by cattle and secondarily by domestic sheep, not by wild horses.

        In this discussion, the differentiation between “wild” and “feral” is a red herring and is meaningless. Feral dogs and house cats are so described because they’re not native here (dogs aren’t native anywhere, they were bred into existence by humans), but horses clearly are, and they haven’t been substantially changed by human breeding. Therefore, it’s irrelevant whether you think they’re feral; they’re still wild. How many generations of supposedly “feral” horses would it take for you to consider them wild?

        1. Jerry Thiessen Avatar
          Jerry Thiessen

          So, if I adopted a so called “wild” horse from the BLM and trained it to be gentle, rideable and obedient, would it still be the “wild” horse I adopted?

          1. Janelle Ghiorso Avatar
            Janelle Ghiorso

            It would still be the same horse that has been domesticated (broken) by a human after being taken from its birthplace in the wild where its ancestors evolved on their native lands. Unlike other wildlife, humans are allowed to capture and keep wild horses. Just because some are captured doesn’t mean that our native wild horses aren’t wild. Yours would be a once wild captive horse. What would you call it? What’s your point?

            1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
              Jeff Hoffman

              His point is that he has something against horses and wants them removed.

              I really wish George hadn’t started this crap about horses. George was the main person I learned about the grazing issue from in the 1980s, and I still hold him up as the No. 1 expert in this area. But cattle are obviously the problem here, with domestic sheep being secondary. Horses are so minor in comparison that even if they weren’t native, which they are, they wouldn’t be worth mentioning. I really don’t get this negative obsession with horses, though being a horse-lover I’m obviously biased too.

              1. Jerry Thiessen Avatar
                Jerry Thiessen

                I don’t have anything against horses, period. Or, crocodiles for that matter, but neither belong running free on western public ranges, in my view. Domestic cattle and sheep are no exception.

            2. Jerry Thiessen Avatar
              Jerry Thiessen

              To have a meaningful discussion, some terms have to be mutually agreed upon. This is at the center of the feral vs. wild question regarding horses. I propose that the term feral be used to describe an animal that was living in a state unsupported by humans but when captured is trainable,adapts well and is happy in its new human created environment (domesticated). They generally become a pet beloved more even than domestic sheep or cattle.
              A wild animal, on the other hand, cannot adapt well to confinement and conditioning, especially in adulthood. Zoos are good examples where many animals are kept under this scenario. Mountain lions, coyotes and jackrabbits make lousy pets because they are wild to their very core. Not so for horses.
              Applying this rule, horses running free on western ranges, loosly regarded as wild, would fall largely within the feral category.

          2. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
            Jeff Hoffman

            What are you talking about? One can domesticate a wild animal if that animal allows one to do so — try that with a lion, tiger, or African elephant, for example of animals that won’t allow that, at least not permanently — and that animal then becomes “domestic” instead of being wild. But that’s totally irrelevant. Animals that are living in the wild and are not domesticated are “wild,” with the exception of feral animals. As I said, the parsing of “wild” and “feral” here are not relevant and, and that exercise is just used here for the purpose of objecting to wild horses.

            1. Jerry Thiessen Avatar
              Jerry Thiessen

              Then we agree. As you said …… “with the exception of feral animals.”

  10. Jeff Avatar
    Jeff

    Good article George, but you forgot to mention who are the new owners of the 32,000 acres of transferred public land? That’s in the logging section.

  11. 5150Salmon Avatar
    5150Salmon

    I think if GW was in a position of power nothing would ever get done

  12. Wayne Tyson Avatar
    Wayne Tyson

    I guess I should get my family tree in order. My grandmother was, in large part at least, Cherokee. She certainly looked the part. Black hair to her ankles and beautiful. She married a “white” guy. Half the children were “Indian-looking,” and half were “European-looking.” My grandmother was an Angel. She taught me about the Trail of Tears (I suspect that either she or at least one of her parents might have been left behind as a child, as many Cherokee did, for their survival.

    George has again masterfully and courageously presented one of the mammoth elephants in the room. My grandmother taught me nothing about Cherokee culture, but she was a lover of the Earth and its life. I have seen people who look like me who are “registered” Cherokee. I am proud of my ancestry, but don’t consider it a license to steal and plunder. I do, however, put an X through Jackson’s portrait.

  13. Jerry Thiessen Avatar
    Jerry Thiessen

    GW reminds us again of the duplicitous nature of human beings. Some modern-day native Americans have hijacked the system and claim sacred land, wildlife or cultural credentials, but worship the almighty dollar.
    Let’s never forget, however, that it was we interloping Europeans that squished their sovereign, biological, cultural, spiritual and ecomical well being under the false thumb of Manifest Destiny masquerading as a sacred right bestowed by God almighty himself. The US government herded them onto reservations, took away their dignity and liberty to make a respectable living, lied and made promises never kept in full. They became subjects of misery and the state at no fault of their own. But they have watched these interlopers prosper financially beyond compression by exploiting natural and technological resources. And, they have learned well.
    I remember when the powerful gamling complex fought to prevent tribes from opening gambling casinos. I remember when some states expected native Americans to buy fishing and hunting licenses to hunt on reservations. I remember when the Duck Valley people had no electricity for their dwellings but power lines ran through their reservation to towns and cities beyond.
    I’m a white male with European ancestry that has benefited from this country and that status, but I am also aware and constantly reminded that we need to temper our positions and opinions about environmental conservation with historical facts and some empathy toward those that still represent first inhabitants of North America. Let’s not hold native Americans to a higher standard than we at large are willing to accept.

    1. lou Avatar
      lou

      That is point, Jerry. They are not being held to the same standard. They are exempt apparently because of past wrongs. This will not improve the environment for all people now and it will definitely be resented by the rest of us.

      1. Jerry Thiessen Avatar
        Jerry Thiessen

        Let’s reflect a bit. I don’t condone the duplicitous environmental practices of some tribes. That is a stain on their legacy and detracts from the past sins made against them. But they learned from us. We taught them how to manipulate government programs and justify wrongs in the process. Shame on us too!
        And, if you put their environmental sins in one pile and ours in another, theirs would be a mole hill and ours a mountain. So, which pile should we be working to fix? I don’t like some of the things that tribes do, but I hate some of what our government does and allows to happen. Among many, the two environmental problems that need emergency treatment are global warming and environmental degradation/pollution by domestic livestock. These are huge issues for mankind generally. Problems associated with Native Americans, as serious and irritating as they may be, including bison, wolves and hatcheries, are much farther down the list IMO. GW could write a column regarding global warming issues every day and never run out of new material to write about.

        1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
          Jeff Hoffman

          The physical root causes of all environmental and ecological problems (and of most others!) are human overpopulation and overconsumption/wrongful lifestyles. THOSE are the big issues.

          As to symptoms, the current human-caused extinction crisis is the biggest and worst problem, followed closely be ecosystem & habitat destruction and ocean acidification. Plastic pollution has now become a big problem, because all breathing animals now have microplastics inside of us.

          Cattle grazing has become one of the biggest and worst environmental harms that humans cause, because there are so damn many of the unnatural things, but this is a symptom, not a root cause of anything. Stop eating beef and the cattle grazing industry vanishes. Lower human population by say, 90% and per capita consumption of beef to no more than once/week, and the harms now caused by cattle grazing are reduced by well over 90%. Eliminate industrial society and return to living pre-industrially, and humans stop emitting unnatural amounts of greenhouse gases. Or outlaw air pollution, same result. Obviously these are long- and very long-term solutions, but they’re the only real ones.

    2. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      I have to agree here. It’s like survive or perish.

      But today, because of the tremendous amount of exploitation in the past, none of us can afford to continue on this way. We’ve got to think of the future of wildlife and wildlands, not our ‘rights’.

      1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
        Jeff Hoffman

        Correct Ida, but humans need to evolve mentally and spiritually in order to do that. Otherwise, they will just continue to kill everyone who’s not human, maybe even the Earth herself.

        1. Ida Lupine Avatar
          Ida Lupine

          Yes very true. I wish I were optimistic about that. 🙂

  14. Ashley Avatar
    Ashley

    Colonizers created a capitalistic, exploitative society while simultaneously removing indigenous peoples from their land and actively trying to erase their culture and traditional knowledge through things like boarding schools. There’s a good reason white people are hesitant to call out native peoples for finding ways to survive in the world we created for them. It’s hypocritical at best. If colonizers are unhappy with the results of the systems we set up, we need to come up with solutions that include dismantling those systems and allowing indigenous cultures to thrive. No simple task hundreds of years down the line after so much damage has been done, though.

  15. lou Avatar
    lou

    I couldn’t agree with this more. Thank you so much for it.

    A recent Sierra Club magazine article has a long piece on a tribe and a fish in Oregon. Not a single sentence on the fact that the native tribe has senior water rights after agriculture on the Klamath River system, where two dams are being removed, but others left intact. Meanwhile, there are several national wildlife refuges who have been greatly damaged because their water rights come after ag and the native rights. These are places that have hosted an enormous number of birds on the flyway in the past and yet cannot get the water they need.

  16. Mary Avatar
    Mary

    Thanks for posting this.

    It’s news to a lot of us.

    The human impact on wildlife is so great today it is unsustainable. It is possible to watch as species diminish.

    What used to be a relatively small number of people living in a balance with their ecosystems is not the case anymore. There are many more people, using modern technologies, and most challenging of all: habitat, prey, food, shelter, climate– are in flux, diminishing and changing unreliably.

    What’s happening to shorebirds?
    [VIDEO 53 min]
    https://www.pbs.org/video/flyways-9on6gb/

    1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
      Jeff Hoffman

      On the rare occasions that my parents took us on a vacation where we drove on a highway outside of an urban area in the 1960s, every time you bought gasoline you had to clean your windshield because of all the insects that the car killed. Now, you hardly get any dead insects on your windshield when driving outside urban areas, and it’s unfortunately not because the insects have learned to avoid cars. When I snorkeled in the Florida Keys in 1991, I saw beautiful very colorful coral. Just a few years later when snorkeling in Tahiti and Hawaii in 1995, about 95% of the coral was bleached and dead. Etc. As you said, those of us who don’t suffer cognitive dissonance regarding this issue can see the results of human destruction of the natural environment very clearly, and we don’t need scientists to point it out.

      1. Mary Avatar

        Exactly. Lots of people used to see bugs on the windshield or radiator grate as kids. We were in the midwest, and Monarchs would cluster on shrubs and trees in summer/fall.

        It’s exciting to the idea of planting natives catch on as people plant for wildlife in their backyards and decks.

        Prairie Up! https://www.monarchgard.com/books.html

        1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
          Jeff Hoffman

          I was lamenting the loss of insects, which will incidentally eventually kill us all. I agree with planting natives, those are the ONLY plants that should be allowed except for food if you want to plant a fruit & vegetable garden.

          1. Jerry Thiessen Avatar
            Jerry Thiessen

            How large would you allow the fruit and vegetable garden to be?

          2. Mary Avatar

            If we can get enough native plants back into the system– starting with keystone species– we might have a chance to maintain and perhaps rebuild insect populations.

            It seems likely a lot of people don’t realize they’re easier to grow once established.

            https://www.nwf.org/-/media/Documents/PDFs/Garden-for-Wildlife/Keystone-Plants/NWF-GFW-keystone-plant-list-ecoregion-8-eastern-temperate-forests.pdf

            1. Ida Lupine Avatar
              Ida Lupine

              Thank you for that list! I’m going to keep it to refer to.

              1. Mary Avatar
                Mary

                The Home Grown National Park website is ongoing and fulllll of info.

                Some of Doug Tallamy’s books published before it launched are very informative: Bringing Nature Home, The Living Landscape, Nature’s Best Hope, The Nature of Oaks.

                The Resources section of HomeGrownNationalPark.org
                https://homegrownnationalpark.org/directory/

            2. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
              Jeff Hoffman

              We live in a large urban area. When we bought our house, I took out the damn lawn in the small front yard and planted all native plants (relatively native, I think it was mostly dunes where we live and no one knows). We got 7-9 species of bees! One day I opened the front door, and the buzzing from all the bees was loud!

              So yes, planting natives is good for the native insects and other native animals. Ecosystems didn’t evolve with non-natives, so we need to replace them with natives. And if you have a lawn, get rid of it, it’s an ecological dead zone.

              1. Ida Lupine Avatar
                Ida Lupine

                How wonderful! 🙂

              2. Mary Avatar
                Mary

                Great! Everybody knows the roots of native grasses conserve a lot of carbon than a forest! https://bwsr.state.mn.us/carbon-sequestration-grasslands

                1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
                  Jeff Hoffman

                  The government website to which you linked advocates cattle grazing, which totally delegitimizes it. The website may be correct regarding carbon sequestration of grasslands, but what’s needed are wild NATIVE grazers, not damn cattle, which do nothing but major ecological harm. There is no financially or economically viable way to graze cattle that is not harmful to the natural environment.

                  Also, this column is about Natives being just as bad as the colonizers regarding some environmental and ecological issues. What does carbon sequestration have to do with this? I realize that the ruling class is trying, very successfully, unfortunately, to make people think that obsessing on the climate crisis is being an environmentalist, but it’s not. In most cases, it’s just the opposite, because people want to cause all this environmental and ecological harm to supposedly deal with the climate crisis. Conservationists like us focus on protecting and restoring native plants and animals. The climate crisis is caused by living industrially, which I strongly oppose, but 1) which would take 150-200 years to change if people wanted to do so, which the large majority of them don’t; and 2) the climate crisis is just a symptom, not a root cause of anything. While this is an existential crisis that requires immediate actions, our primary focus needs to be on the root causes (industrial society causes air pollution, which causes global warming/climate change, etc.).

                2. Mary Avatar
                  Mary

                  That link was posted in error.

                  “These (native) grassland systems have been shown to sequester more tons of carbon per acre than forests, storing the majority of carbon permanently in the soil, rather than in aboveground vegetation or trees as would occur in a forest.”
                  https://www.cullennature.org/climate.html

                  We can start to get away from ‘living industrially’ by giving girls and women around the world 1) education and 2) access to family planning including birth control and safe, legal abortion. Given the choice, women tend to delay childbearing and have fewer, planned-for and wanted children.

                3. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
                  Jeff Hoffman

                  As to your first paragraph, I couldn’t care less. Where native trees or forests have been removed by humans or the results of human activities, they need to be replaced. Where grasslands have been similarly removed, THEY need to be replaced. Same with native animals and other native plants. You’re doing exactly what I said people are being brainwashed to do: by obsessing on the climate crisis, you’re willing to destroy other types of ecosystems in order to plant grasses. I couldn’t be more opposed to this.

                  As to your second paragraph, I totally agree, though we need more than that. The biggest success I’ve seen from educating and empowering women and girls in Kerala, India, where they lowered the birthrate from the highest in India to the lowest by doing those things. But the birthrate was only lowered to replacement level, which is still too high. We need to greatly lower human population, and for that we also need some sort of global one-child-family program. In case you’ve been brainwashed by all the U.S. lies and propaganda about the Chinese one-child-family program, the true facts are that 1) it was an immense success, saving an approximated 400 MILLION births; China didn’t end the program, it just changed to a two-child-family program; 3) young people in China are still limiting their families to one child, because they say that they know their lives will be better with only one, and because they say it’s what they’re used to; 4) while this is considered a “coercive” program, it’s actually a carrot-and-stick financial policy: if you limit your family to one child, you get a bunch of government benefits. If you don’t, you don’t get them and have to pay fines at some point (not sure on the details of having more than one child); and 5) the stories about forced abortions were greatly exaggerated. Those that were actually carried out were done so by overzealous local officials, not by the Chinese government.

                  Because humans generally won’t do the right thing when it comes to the natural environment or the life there unless they’re forced to do so, a one-child-family policy will almost certainly be needed to get human birthrates down to where the entire human population begins to rapidly decline.

                4. Mary Avatar

                  1) We’re in agreement – I would leave it to ecologists/other science professionals to determine what gets planted where. Regarding lawns/suburbs — I’m all for a meadow with paths/borders to make it look well designed to the neighbors.

                  2) One has to start somewhere. Forced birth results in unwanted, unplanned for, unaffordable children. There’s a tremendous benefit to communities to having kids that are wanted, whose parents are both there and give them the attention etc. they need. It might be too much to try to get all countries to agree to any program.

                  People in China had no choice, but yes, it was a good thing the country was able to cut back the massive numbers. Brian Fagan’s “The Great Warming – climate change and the rise and fall of civilizations” describes a point in China’s history @ 1902 when there was a HORRIFIC famine; I’m sure any Chinese who know their own history know how important it is to stay sustainable. It doesn’t seem likely that the strict enforcement that was used for the one-child policy would fly in a lot of countries including the US.

                  I’ve met several people now who plan on having no children. Forcing people one way or the other doesn’t seem viable, and certainly isn’t a facet of a happy or joyful society.

                5. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
                  Jeff Hoffman

                  I fully agree that it’s far better for people to want or at least be willing to do the right thing than to force them to do it. But humans have been totally irresponsible regarding their population ever since they started using agriculture, and people are only entitled to rights where they also fully accept responsibility for their actions. Again I’d strongly prefer that people choose to limit their families to one child voluntarily, but many aren’t doing and won’t do that even where girls and women are fully empowered and educated, as in Kerala. That’s why we need both non-coercive and coercive policies.

                  If I could convince people to do the right thing, no one would have things like cars, cell phones, or computers, to list some things that didn’t exist when I was a kid or could be eliminated very shortly if not right now. Sometimes we need laws to keep people in line. Do you propose elimination of all laws to allow humans to just do whatever they want? I assume you don’t, so I see nothing wrong with a one-child-family policy, it’s just another law.

                6. Jerry Thiessen Avatar
                  Jerry Thiessen

                  The old adage – watch what they do, not what they say – applies here.

  17. Mary Avatar
    Mary

    Educating girls and women, giving them access to family planning, birth control including safe legal abortion, and basic healthcare doesn’t contravene a mandatory one-child policy.

    Mandatory one-child policy might never fly in democratic countries– but perhaps with enough economic disincentives the same result might be achieved.

    1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
      Jeff Hoffman

      A one-child-family policy IS an economic policy, and it includes incentives and disincentives. As I said, Americans have been totally brainwashed about what the policy is, being lied to that China killed babies and other such nonsense.

      As I also said, we need both coercive and non-coercive policies and programs to lower human population, not one or the other, so I don’t understand your point here. I never advocated for only a one-child-family policy without also educating and empowering girls and women, quite the contrary.

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