Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011 2:07 PM
The reintroduction of wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains has gotten caught up in a culture war, James William Gibson reports in Earth Island Journal—and the controversy is not even necessarily all about the wolves. It’s about the big, bad government keeping a good man down. Writes Gibson:
For decades, the Rocky Mountain states have been the center of an extreme right-wing culture that celebrates the image of man as “warrior,” recognizes only local and state governance as legitimate, and advocates resistance—even armed resistance—against the federal government. To members of this culture, wolf reintroduction became a galvanizing symbol of perceived assaults on their personal freedom. Resistance was imperative. But whereas attacking the federal government could lead to prison, killing wolves was a political goal within reach—something the individual warrior could do. So advocating for the killing of wolves became a proxy battle, an organizing tool to reach out to all those angry about environmental regulations, gun laws, and public land policies. Since the early 2000s, and with increasing virulence since 2009, anti-wolf activists have promoted the image of wolves as demons—disease-ridden, dangerous, and foreign.
Gibson describes how Western anti-wolf forces have operated through misinformation, threats, and intimidation, including anonymous acts such as mailing pictures of dead wolf pups to pro-wolf advocates. Such tactics, he says, have virtually silenced local wolf advocates, allowing wolf haters to portray the issue as a locals-versus-outsiders battle.
Though Gibson’s story focuses on the West, some Midwestern states are grappling with many of the same wolf-management issues, apparently in a less politically and personally charged atmosphere. Just last week, public hearings in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and Marquette, Michigan, attracted hundreds of people, nearly all of them in favor of removing federal endangered species protections for wolves—a move already made in five Northern Rockies states and now being considered in the Great Lakes region.
To judge from limited news accounts of these two wolf hearings, they were not especially contentious or charged: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Minnesota and Michigan departments of natural resources, and most of the attendees agreed that wolves have recovered to the point where they can be managed to avoid conflicts between wolves and humans. Absent the polarizing rhetoric and partisan posturing, it appears that perhaps reason can rule the day in some areas.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public comments on the Great Lakes region wolf proposal through July 5.
Source: Earth Island Journal, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
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Monday, July 27, 2009 4:04 PM
You’ve probably heard about Alaska ex-governor Sarah Palin’s support for aerial wolf and bear hunts—and along with it the conventional wisdom that she was simply doing what gun-totin’, predator-hatin’ Alaskans wanted. In the July-August issue of Audubon, contentious veteran columnist Ted Williams deflates this notion, noting that Palin’s brand of predator control was guided more by an anti-science stance and pressure from the trophy hunting industry than by the will of Alaskans.
In making his case, Williams notes the natural resistance of Alaskans to opinions from “away,” but talks to several well-informed Alaskans who hunt, fish, and consider Palin’s wildlife management ideas to be ill-founded at best. For instance, here’s Mark Richards, co-chair of the Alaska chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers:
“Never has political meddling been so blatant and detrimental to the future of our system of wildlife management as it is under the Palin administration. I have a letter from Palin shortly after she took office, claiming she wanted to manage wildlife based on sound science. It’s complete bullshit. What she is doing is not even close to science or sound management.”
Williams surely would have been cheered to know as he wrote his column that Palin would soon resign. Unfortunately, it will take Alaska longer to roll back her predator policies than it took her to derail the McCain campaign.
Image by peupleloup, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009 2:09 PM
On any given night, thousands of people gather together in the total darkness of Alonquin Provincial Park, silently waiting to hear a wolf cry.
"This is probably the largest naturalist-led interpretation program in North America, if not the world," says Rick Stronks, the park’s chief naturalist in On Nature in their field guide to decoding the elusive call of the wolf.
The mysterious howl may mean “I’m a wolf, and I’m over here,” or “Go away—you’re not welcome here!” You’ll have a better idea of what to do after browsing this beautiful, photo-heavy piece by Ray Ford, complete with hair-raising wolf recordings. He writes:
The roots of the public wolf howl reach back to the late 1950s, when biologist Douglas Pimlot was trying to locate wolves concealed in the park’s dense bush. Pimlott played recorded howls on truck-mounted speakers and listened for the response. The broadcasts received an almost instant—and unnerving—reply. The air filled with howls.
Source: ON Nature
Friday, March 27, 2009 11:44 AM
The wolf is back in a big way in Wisconsin, with more than 500 of the animals roaming the state’s northern regions where they were wiped out a half-century ago. And like many other states with growing wolf numbers, this resurgence is kicking up a heated discussion that has scientific, political, and social undertones. An article in Grow, the magazine of the University of Wisconsin’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, explores the balancing act faced by wolf biologists as they navigate this thicket of issues.
At Utne Reader, we’ve read plenty about the wolf boom further west in High Country News and other sources. And Minnesota, where we’re based, is no stranger to the discussion since Wisconsin’s wolves came from packs in Minnesota, where there are several thousand wolves. Still, the Grow article, by Erik Ness, is a fascinating read full of thought-provoking quotes from wolf researchers. Among them:
-- “Not only do [wolves] not require wilderness, they will live absolutely everywhere. As long as you don’t kill them, or hit them with a car, and there are enough deer, they’re fine. And of course, sometimes things substitute for deer.”
-- “The people who accept these large predators are often the people who don’t live near them.”
-- “Like a like of natural resource issues, the agenda is set by the people who scream the loudest.”
-- “The fact that wolves made it back on their own into Wisconsin, into a place inhabited by and used by people, gives me more hope for the places I work in the rest of the world where there isn’t a big pristine place to put wildlife in.”
Sources: Grow, High Country News, International Wolf Center
Image by Tambako the Jaguar, licensed under
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