Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has proposed drastic reductions in wildlife protection. Proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) would severely reduce protection for threatened species and their critical habitat. While Congress is considering various laws to weaken the ESA and to eliminate protection for gray wolves, Zinke’s plan would use his current legal authority to remove protection for threatened species.
Since the original ESA was passed in 1973, Congress has passed numerous laws to weaken it. In 1982 Congress to granted James Watt (and his successors) the authority to designate experimental wildlife population under section 10(j).
With the release of the latest Jurassic Park® sequel, news broke that zoos in San Diego and Berlin are developing technology to bring back the extinct Northern White Rhino. But there’s no need to wait for the future to see technology at work. Taking advantage of the experimental provision of the Endangered Species Act, zoos have already re-created the extinct Mexican gray wolf.
The Northern Arizona White Mountain Independent reported on the status of the Mexican Wolf recovery program in a July 24, 2018, article:
“This period of strong population growth has happened with almost the entire population being wild- born wolves,” said Jim Heffelfinger, a University of Arizona research scientist, AZGFD wildlife science coordinator and co-author of multiple peer-reviewed scientific studies on wolf recovery. “We’ve also learned that releasing captive singles and pairs that have spent their lives in a zoo setting has been ineffective in enhancing genetic diversity. The sobering truth is that in the last decade, no captive-raised adult wolf released in the wild has subsequently raised pups in the wild to contribute to the gene pool.”
In response, a reader wrote the following:
It is a shame to see the Arizona Game and Fish Department characterize the partners they work with in cross-fostering as “zoos” when they know intimately that the facilities raising the adults who should be released are the very same facilities breeding the pups AZGFD uses in cross-fostering.
The “peer-reviewed scientific studies” Heffelfinger claims to have authored are propaganda pieces advocating the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, reviewed by his fellow game managers. Scientists have criticized NAM for its lack of independent review, which is the true scientific standard for validity. But it is accurate to describe the captive breeding facilities as zoos; indeed this is how they describe themselves.
As part of an AZA-trademarked Species Survival Plan (SSP®), zoos keep a studbook with the desired genetic characteristics of wolves available for breeding. Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo has been breeding pedigreed wolves with expert help from the Institute of Canine Biology, a professional association of dog breeders. The Brookfield Zoo and the Endangered Wolf Center in St. Louis are now using artificial insemination to insure the continuation of their Mexican wolf breed.
The Endangered Wolf Center is concerned about “ill-informed minority opinion manipulated by extremists.” One might think this describes the ranchers who have consistently, often lethally, opposed wolf reintroduction. But no, they are talking about animal activists who have protested the way zoos and aquaria treat the animals they keep for display and research.
What struck fear in the hearts of the Endangered Wolf Center? Their statement was issued shortly after public opinion forced a fellow AZA member, SeaWorld, to abandon much of its orca entertainment. To this day, SeaWorld, like other zoos, claims to be primarily interested in protecting endangered species.
The Chicago Zoological Society (CZS), which operates Brookfield Zoo, has been studying dolphins in captivity. Not surprisingly, CZS is also concerned about presenting itself and its fellow AZA members to the public as protectors of animal welfare.
Instead of establishing a system of government-funded healthcare, the Obama Administration put in a system of insurance subsidies. The Trump-Pence Administration is now attacking even this inadequate system, forcing progressives to defend Obamacare while organizing for a proper healthcare system. Environmentalists face a similar dilemma after Dan Ashe, Obama’s director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), established a cross-fostering scheme to insure zoos a ready supply of wolf breeding stock. Cross-fostering guarantees that zoos will receive wildborn wolves in exchange for any wolves they release into the wild. Environmentalists are now forced to defend a deeply flawed wolf reintroduction program in the face of opposition from Republicans and western Democrats.
Fortunately, USFWS has not applied its experiment rule to the population of orcas now struggling to survive off the Pacific Northwest coast. If it had, the U.S. government would have paid whaling fleets to capture all the orcas and give them to Sea World to breed in their exhibits.
A recent statement (7/12/18) from the Center for Biological Diversity and others points out the failure of cross-fostering as plan to establish genetic diversity. Also gives brief history of Mexican wolves. They conclude:
Under pressure from the powerful livestock industry that uses public lands, from 2007 to 2015 the Service released just five captive-born wolves and, unlike before, none of them were released with a longstanding mate and pups.
Scientists have criticized the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2017 Mexican wolf recovery plan that calls for release of 12 pups annually as insufficient to address inbreeding, even if fully implemented and if the pups survive and reproduce at predicted rates that have yet to be achieved. Conservationists have challenged the plan in court.
This is the problem: while briefly acknowledging the opposition from the livestock industry, the presumed solution is what Biological Diversity proclaims at the top of their homepage: “We’ve sued Trump 81 times and we’re just getting started.” But the Federalist Society Supreme Court, along with the continuing restructure of lower courts, marks the end of the era of lawsuits.
There is an alternative to slowly watching endangered species protections disappear under all three branches of the Federal Government. Wild wolves introduced into Yellowstone National Park have been roaming throughout the Northern Rockies on to the West Coast. The Rocky Mountain Wolf Project is now working to restore gray wolves to Colorado. If their campaign is successful it will begin to establish a wildlife corridor for gray wolves, including the Mexican wolf subspecies, to thrive and reproduce throughout the West.
In an article published in the Santa Fe New Mexican and posted on nmpolitics.net Garrett VeneKlasen, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, emphasizes the value of the Sabinoso wilderness as a site for hunting exotic African wildlife, namely Barbary sheep. Hunters’ organizations including NM Wildlife Federation and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, which counts Donald Trump, Jr, as a life member, misleadingly describe their campaign for increased hunting as “public access.” VeneKlassen, who resents the incumbent land commissioner for raising hunting fees, is now running for land commissioner himself.
As the New Mexican’s coverage of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s recent visit to the Sabinoso points out, the issue is not some generalized “public access” but specifically access for trophy hunters who refer to themselves as “sportsmen.” (The headline of the article which appeared in the July 30 print edition of the New Mexican, “Sportsmen hope Zinke visit is key to unlocking Sabinoso site,” was edited out online, where it is available under the subhead Interior Secretary Zinke, N.M. senators horse around in Sabinoso Wilderness.) US Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), who has endorsed VeneKlasen’s campaign for state land commissioner, has long campaigned for more trophy hunting, most recently as a lead co-sponsor of S. 733, which would mandate increased “sportsmen’s access to federal land.” Interior Secretary Zinke restricted press access to his recent Sabinoso tour with Sen. Heinrich, but it is reasonable to assume that the two hunters discussed the need to increase hunting on national monuments.
Increased public access to previously inaccessible areas is a threat to wild areas. Fifty years ago Garrett Hardin warned about the problem in his essay Tragedy of the Commons. He raised concerns about “cattlemen leasing national land on the western ranges” constantly pressuring federal authorities to increase the head count to the point where overgrazing produces erosion and weed dominance.” Zinke has recently increased grazing on National Wildlife Refuges, most of which also allow hunting.
“The National Parks present another instance of the working out of the tragedy of the commons,” Hardin wrote. “At present, they are open to all, without limit. The parks themselves are limited in extent—there is only one Yosemite Valley—whereas population seems to grow without limit. The values that visitors seek in the parks are steadily eroded.”
Paul Ehrlich, who has long identified increased population as a threat to the natural world, has co-authored a new study warning of impending biological annihilation. Estimating that wildlife populations have decreased about 50%, Ehrlich emphasizes the need to protect all remaining wildlife, not just species legally classified as endangered.
Big-game hunting, including African wildlife hunting, was a major interest of Theodore Roosevelt. Zinke calls himself a Teddy Roosevelt guy. The self-described Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which endorsed Zinke, now finds him a disappointment, but they now have other priorities, such as legalizing wolf hunting. Perhaps Sen. Martin Heinrich, who helped push Zinke’s nomination through the Senate against the opposition of the majority of Senate Democrats, also finds him a disappointment. Or perhaps not, as the recently circulated male-bonding photo at Sabinoso wilderness shows.
We need to return to the vision of the Wilderness Act to establish areas “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” It is time for the 95% of the public who do not hunt to protect the few remaining wild areas and the wildlife who live there. We cannot let Heinrich, VeneKlasen, Zinke and the Trumps define wilderness.
Shortly after Donald Trump claimed victory in the Presidential election, the Alt-Right held a conference in Washington, DC. The Atlantic distributed a video clip of the conference showing Nazi salutes, accompanied by shouts of “Hail, Trump!” (Some heard it as “Heil, Trump.)
Alt-Right founder Richard Spencer claimed that the salutes were not Nazi salutes but “Roman salutes,” in the same vein as his keynote address at the conference, which he titled Long Live the Emperor! It is, of course the same salute, which the Nazis adopted from the Italian Fascists, who revived the old Roman Imperial salute as part of their effort to establish a new Roman Empire. White House strategist Steve Bannon, known for publicizing the alt-right while in charge of Breitbart, is a devotee of Italian Fascist Julius Evola. The games of the ancient Roman circus opened with the gladiators greeting: “Hail, Emperor! We who are about to die salute you!”
In many ways the U.S. Presidential elections are a continuation of ancient Roman political system. The U.S. Senate takes its name from the Roman Senate. One of the offices which the President of the United States holds is Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, the original meaning of the Latin imperator, which after the demise of the Roman Republic came to mean emperor.
At the time the U.S. Constitution was adopted, there were two successors of the Roman Empire which chose their leader through an electoral college, the Holy Roman Emperor, chosen by prince electors, and the Pope, elected by the College of Cardinals. The United States does not have princes or cardinals, but the electoral college, based on representation in Congress, establishes the dominance of rural areas, originally based on slave plantations. During the Reconstruction Period following the Civil War, the U.S. Constitution was amended to abolish slavery, but the Electoral College and the Senate remained intact. This led to the rigged election of 1876, when a deal was made to allow the Republican candidate to take office in exchange for ending Reconstruction, restoring white minority rule to the South.
The latest election, which anointed Trump as president in spite of Clinton receiving almost 3 million more votes, continues the precedent set in 1876. In answer to calls to establish a popular election, the antienvironmental American Policy Institute wrote: “The abolishment [they dare not use the word abolition, with its connotation of ending slavery] of the Electoral College would, in fact, establish an election tyranny giving control of the government to the massive population centers of the nation’s Northeastern sector, along with the area around Los Angeles. If these sections of the nation were to control the election of our nation’s leaders, the voice of the ranchers and farmers of the Mid and Far West would be lost, along with the values and virtues of the South. It would also mean the end of the Tenth Amendment and state sovereignty.”
The U.S. Constitution established the Senate as a check on presidential appointments to the cabinet and courts. But, as in Rome, the Senate has become a rubber stamp for the emperor-president. Not only Republicans, but Democratic Senators like Manchin of West Virginia, have lined up to support Trump’s nominees.
Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate leader, has prioritized re-electing Senate Democrats, regardless of their political position. He has included Manchin and Heitkamp in his list of big five right-wing Democrats to be supported. Such a strategy will insure the continuation of Senate support for the Trump Administration.
In an article in National Review Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee for the open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, expressed his opposition to the use of lawsuits to achieve policy goals. The Gorsuch Court, and eventually the lower federal courts, will eliminate conservation lawsuits. Yet the careerists who staff the environmental lobbies continue their influence peddling as though nothing has changed.
If the Democrats were serious about resistance, they would oppose politicians of both parties who enable Trump. Manchin has announced his support for Gorsuch. Tester, a Montana Democrat also on Schumer’s big five list, has said he will not support a filibuster of the nomination. The Supreme Court nominee will affect policy well after Trump has disappeared from the scene. Any Democrat who enables the nomination of Gorsuch must be opposed.
Unfortunately, it is not only leaders of the Democratic Party establishment like Schumer who are supporting Trump collaborators. Senator Merkley of Oregon, generally considered one of the more liberal Senators, has warned against “seeking scalps” of senators like Heitkamp, a supporter of the Dakota Access pipeline.
Wildlife will suffer more under Donald Trump Jr’s nominee for Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke. Donald Jr, a life member of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, is notorious for posing with his wildlife kills. Along with the National Rifle Association, Zinke’s supporters include Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation chair Manchin and vice-chair Heitkamp, and New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich, who has worked with Manchin, Heitkamp and Tester to increase wildlife killing on federal land. 15 Democrats voted to confirm Zinke.
Some states like California can resist Trump, but climate change cannot be reversed at a state level. New Mexico cannot protect wildlife from either its Republican governor or Democratic Senators.
In a normal political cycle, one might expect the Democrats to eventually return to power. As the country is now divided, this would take at least 8 years, involving the election of Democratic governors and state legislators to oversee the redistricting process following the 2020 census. But there may not be time for that. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Doomsday Clock now stands at less than 3 minutes to midnight, reflecting the twin dangers of nuclear war and anthropogenic climate change.
The armed hunter-rancher occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge shows the need for the Federal Government to enforce wildlife protection laws. Unfortunately, wildlife refuges were designed from the outset to benefit hunters, not wildlife, in accordance with principles the Boone and Crockett Club developed a century ago.
Theodore Roosevelt, a notorious big game hunter, co-founded Boone and Crockett with George Bird Grinnell (who founded one of the first Audubon societies). Membership in the Boone and Crockett Club was originally restricted to men who had killed at least three different large species of American wildlife, including bear, bison, caribou, cougar, and moose. Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which traces its origins to President Theodore Roosevelt, is one of 336 wildlife refuges (out of a total of 560) which allow hunting.
Among the early members of the Club were Aldo Leopold and Gifford Pinchot. In 1905 Roosevelt appointed Pinchot as the first Chief Forester of the U.S. Forest Service. After working for the U.S. Forest Service in New Mexico, Leopold developed Pinchot’s principles of scientific forest management into a new science of game management. In conjunction with the Boone & Crockett Club, the Wildlife Society certifies game managers as trademarked wildlife biologists in accordance with principles now called the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.
One of the principles of the model is the so-called public trust doctrine. In its statement condemning the armed occupation of Malheur Wildlife Refuge, Portland Audubon stresses its acceptance of the public trust principle as part of its collaborationist strategy with hunters and ranchers:
In 2013, the Refuge adopted a long-term management plan developed through an inclusive collaborative process that brought together the local community, tribes, conservation groups, state and federal agencies, and other stakeholders. These stakeholders have continued to work together to implement this strategy which includes one of the biggest wetland restoration efforts ever undertaken.
The occupation of Malheur by armed, out of state militia groups puts one of America’s most important wildlife refuges at risk. It violates the most basic principles of the Public Trust Doctrine.
The public trust doctrine is a dubious legal principle formulated before the Civil War by Chief Justice Roger Taney, best known for his Dred Scott decision recognizing states’ rights to define slaves as property. Good old boys like the Bundy clan long for the good old days of the pre-Civil War US Constitution. The North American model applies Taney’s doctrine to wildlife, asserting that wildlife is state property.
The Federal government uses the public trust doctrine to open up National Wildlife Refuges to hunting under the control of state game departments. The US Fish and Wildlife Service sees Aldo Leopold as a model for hunting on wilderness areas and wildlife refuges. The current New Mexico Game and Fish Department is using the principle of state ownership of wildlife under the so-called public trust doctrine to prevent a private landowner, Ted Turner, from providing protection to wolves on his Ladder Ranch.
In fact, later Supreme Court decisions, besides overruling Dred Scott have taken a different approach to wildlife regulation, specifically applied to New Mexico. In Kleppe v. New Mexico, the Court stated: “We hold today that the Property Clause also gives Congress the power to protect wildlife on the public lands, state law notwithstanding.” Another principle of the North American Model, which environmental lobbyists cheerfully accept, is science-based decision making. Valerius Geist, who claims credit for coining the phrase North American Model of Wildlife Conservation to describe the principles of Aldo Leopold’s scientific game management, describes the model as follows:
It led to a new uniquely North American profession: the university trained wildlife biologist or manager. The first notable practitioner among these was Aldo Leopold. He rose to be an idol of not only wildlife biologists, but of the environmental movement at large with his inspiring writing. It insured that North America’s wildlife received well-qualified, professional attention and care in its conservation and management.
Geist references Leopold’s two main works, Game Management (1933) and A Sand County Almanac (1949). While few environmentalists are familiar with the earlier work, most are familiar with the later work, which includes the essay Thinking Like a Mountain. But few readers of this semi-fictional account of wolf killing realize that Leopold wrote it over three decades after he killed the wolf.
We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and to the mountain I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.
While the essay suggests he regretted that particular killing, the regret is apparently quite limited. Nowhere does Leopold say that there was anything wrong with his aim to maintain a “hunters’ paradise,” or even with his premise, “fewer wolves meant more deer.” He only has misgivings about hunting wolves to the point of extinction. Indeed this was the basis of his so-called science of game management, which he described in his 1933 book of that title as “the art of making land produce sustained annual crops of wild game for recreational use.” As his mentor Pinchot saw forests as a supply of trees to be harvested, Leopold saw wildlife as a resource for hunters to harvest.
In a Wildlife Society article titled An Inadequate Construct, Dr. Michael P. Nelson challenges the tenet of the North American Model which “asserts that Science is the Proper Tool for Discharge of Wildlife Policy.” Nelson states:
This is mistaken for equating a desire for policies informed by science with science discharging or determining, by itself, what policies ought to be adopted—a serious, but very common, error in ethical reasoning. Scientific facts about nature cannot, by themselves, determine how we ought to relate to nature or which policies are most appropriate.
Designating a species as endangered is, and always has been, a political classification, not a biological one. The demand for “science-based” wildlife policy, as called for in the ESA and interpreted by USFWS, is in fact a call for following the hunter-based wildlife management of the Boone & Crockett Club.
State game departments, who provide much of the data used by USFWS, also claim to be wildlife biologists. For example, New Mexico Game and Fish claims in its mission statement: “Our highly qualified biologists use the best science available to manage the state’s wildlife for more than 100,000 hunters and 800,000 outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy annually.” In spite of state game department’s efforts to support hunters, some still refuse to follow the regulations designed to help them continue their blood sports. Walter Palmer, for example, had a record of hunting violations in the US before he went off to Africa to murder Cecil the lion.
In response to the murder of Cecil the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has added African lions to the list of threatened and endangered species. American trophy hunters are directly responsible for slaughtering at least 5,647 lions in the last 10 years, according to import data HSUS mined from USFWS. The rule puts some restrictions on importing hunting trophies, but supports the idea that sport hunting is conservation.
The Service found that sport-hunting, if well managed, may provide a benefit to the subspecies. Well-managed conservation programs use trophy hunting revenues to sustain lion conservation, research and anti-poaching activities. However, the Service found that not all trophy hunting programs are scientifically based or managed in a sustainable way. So in addition to protecting both lion subspecies under the ESA, we created a permitting mechanism to support and strengthen the accountability of conservation programs in other nations. This rule will allow for the importation of the threatened Panthera leo melanochaita, including sport-hunted trophies, from countries with established conservation programs and well-managed lion populations.
The significant restriction on trophy hunting is the associated restriction on importing sport hunting. Had this rule been in effect (and enforced) a year ago, it would have prevented Walter Palmer, with a record of poaching violations, from importing African lion trophies.
The recently announced USFWS policy on African lions includes a prohibition on anyone with a poaching record from importing lion trophies, which, if enforced, could prove more effective than the 4(d) rule in protecting African lions from American hunters.
Concurrent with this final listing rule, to protect lions and other foreign and domestic wildlife from criminal activity, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe also issued a Director’s Order to strengthen enforcement of wildlife permitting requirements. Through the Director’s Order, the Service is redoubling its efforts to ensure that the world’s rarest species are protected from those who violate wildlife laws. The Service has the authority to deny future permit applications for activities such as sport hunted trophy imports to anyone that has previously been convicted of or pled guilty to violations of wildlife laws. The order will ensure that this authority will be exercised to the fullest extent.
Leopold’s followers today are looking for an expansion of the use of threatened status, with its limited protections under ESA section 4(d), as an alternative to full endangered species protections, as an alternative to full endangered species protections. While some environmentalist followers of Leopold have pushed the idea of threatened status for the grey wolf as a compromise alternative to full listing as an endangered species, the organization which has laid out this strategy most clearly is Mission:Wildlife a project of the Sand County Foundation, dedicated to the so-called land ethic Aldo Leopold described in his Sand County Almanac. Mission:Wildlife calls itself as “a new environmental organization advancing bold policies that will do more to restore endangered wildlife while reducing costs to communities and risks for businesses.”
ESA section 4(d) is the basis for the USFWS recently announced policy on limited protection for African lions. Just as it has used recent reclassification of grey wolf (Canis lupus ssp.) as an excuse to deny full endangered species protection, so it now uses a proposed reclassification of the lion (Panthera leo ssp.) to deny full endangered species protection for African lions. The use of recent studies by real biologists gives a scientific veneer to decisions that are actually based on proposals from game managers who describe themselves as wildlife biologists. Reclassifying African lions brings the North American model of conservation to Africa, an implicit connection personified by Teddy Roosevelt, big game hunter and co-founder of the Boone & Crockett Club.
At its latest meeting the New Mexico Game and Fish Commission, not so affectionately known as Maim and Squish, voted against further reintroduction of Mexican wolves in New Mexico. This follows the previous month’s decision to expand mountain lion hunting and trapping. With leadership like Paul Kienzle, the Mountain States Legal Foundation’s vice chairman for litigation, and Elizabeth Ryan, a member of Safari Club International, the decisions by Maim and Squish did not surprise anyone, although some people may have been surprised by the lack of even a pretense of a public hearing.
Now it is up to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to take full control of the Mexican Wolf Recovery program. The failure of the federal government to protect public land in Nevada from rancher Cliven Bundy set a dangerous precedent for New Mexico. Catron County ranchers have resisted the Federal Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Program from the beginning. In May last year the Otero County Cattle Growers Association and their parent organization New Mexico Cattle Growers Association held a rally to “protect our land from federal designation.” The federal government must be prepared to protect federal wildlife habitat in the face of armed resistance.
As a member of the American Lands Council, Otero County claims to speak for “ranchers, loggers, miners, hunters, trappers, fishermen, and energy producers across the West.” The American Lands Council was organized “to secure local control of western public lands by transferring federal public lands to willing states.” Their new Sagebrush Rebellion aims to return to the states rights guaranteed by the Constitution as it existed before the Civil War, when, according to their hero Cliven Bundy, slaves lived a good life.
Ranchers organized the original Sagebrush Rebellion in the 1970s in reaction to the passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which reorganized the BLM in order to insure “public lands be retained in Federal ownership.” Ronald Reagan campaigned as a supporter of the Sagebrush Rebellion, backing up his promise by appointing James Watt, founder of the anti-environmental Mountain States Legal Foundation, as his Secretary of the Interior. Under Watt, the Endangered Species Act was amended to include section 10(j), which empowers the Secretary of Interior to declare an endangered population “experimental and non-essential.”
By limiting the Mexican wolf program to zoo wolves and their progeny under the 10(j) experimental rule, USFWS has, from the beginning, made wolf reintroduction a difficult process. But while the 10(j) rule requires consultation with state game departments, it does not allow a state to nullify the continued reintroduction of federally listed Mexican wolves on federal public lands. USFWS needs to assert its authority, and should consider revising the rules governing the wolf reintroduction program in order to give full endangered species protection to the Mexican wolf.
The upcoming meeting of the Arizona and New Mexico Wildlife Society chapters will feature a panel with an American Lands Council board member examining “Who will manage the future of our public lands?” The Wildlife Society is the professional organization of the game department wildlife managers. Such conferences prove that game management is firmly rooted in politics, not in biology, ecology or any other science. There is no way to reform the New Mexico Game Commission. It is time to abolish it.
At the NM Game Commission hearing on August 27th, Opponents of increased mountain lion and bear killing outnumbered the hunters, trappers, ranchers, at least 4 to 1. Yet, while some of the environmental/animal groups were allowed to speak, many of us individual citizens were not. It was obvious to many that the commission was changing the rules to fit their biased needs. Not only are numerous ranchers & hunters on this commission, but there are 2 Safari Club International members as well.
Anyone surprised that the “vote” was unanimous in favor of more killing?
We cannot help wildlife by changing these game department’s names, or funding structure, or by continuing to accept their barbaric “game management policies” as something worthy of support.
Game agencies were started in the early 1900’s. Aldo Leopold (a long-time wolf killer), literally wrote the textbook on game management. Yes, he was “sorry” for killing one wolf too many, but he was responsible for the atrocious model of today’s “modern game management” which views wild animals as “commodities and resources.”
Terms such as “harvest” and “game quotas” are designed to artificially maintain wild species for trophy/trapping–-keeping just enough of them for human exploitation/killing.
The NM Game Dept comes up with pseudo-statistics to rationalize their use of wildlife. Some so-called wildlife groups are collaborating with the enemies of wildlife – the hunting, trapping and livestock industries– to establish a so-called sustainable level of wildlife killing. The wildlife of New Mexico have enough to contend with, without wildlife organizations joining the killing machine.
The World Wildlife Living Planet Report says: “Populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles measured for the report have declined by 52 per cent since 1970; and freshwater species have suffered a 76 per cent decline – an average loss almost double that of land and marine species.”
We are developing a campaign against trophy hunting, and the state game departments which support it. More information will follow on this website.
The murder of Cecil in Zimbabwe has revealed to the world the true nature of trophy hunting.
Whatever feeble excuses hunters make about feeding their families or the homeless clearly has never applied to lion hunting. Who seriously thinks that Palmer planned to feed Cecil to his own family, or to poor Africans?
In accordance with the hunter-conservation ethic embodied in the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, Walter Palmer rationalized his kill as a way to protect wildlife. Originally devised during the administration of big-game hunter Theodore Roosevelt, and perfected by professional game managers like Aldo Leopold, the ethical hunter rationalization has spread around the world. Like state game departments in the USA, Zimbabwe sells hunting permits both to raise funds and to protect cattle ranches.
In the USA the model asserted that wildlife belongs to sovereign states, as a democratic alternative to the model of feudal Europe that limited hunting to the landed aristocracy. In Zimbabwe this model is rationalized as more democratic than system inherited from the old colonial Rhodesian regime.
In fact, of course, the vast majority of hunting permits are sold to great white hunters, largely from the USA, not to native Zimbabweans. The white American appreciation of the old colonial regime of Rhodesia continues among people like Dylann Roof, the presumed Charleston killer of African-American churchgoers. Roof, who was photographed displaying the flags of the former white colonial states of South Africa and Rhodesia along with the battle flag of the Confederacy, called his website “the last Rhodesian.”
A recent Jacobin article raised the question: “How on earth, one might ask, does a young kid in 2015 know or care about these receding historical moments? The answer is that for white supremacists, these sites of antiracist struggle register as profound losses. Although the South African case is better known, the 1965–1979 flag of Rhodesia is a symbol of a similar defeat, resonating with those like the suspected Charleston killer who subscribe to a paranoid, self-pitying ideology of white victimhood — an ideology that has more traditionally been symbolized by the Confederate battle flag, the ultimate emblem of white loss.”
One of the real-life last Rhodesian politicians is Allan Savory. Now known for his TED talk promoting ranching as the answer to climate change, Savory started his career as a game ranch biologist working for the white colonial government of what was then known as Rhodesia, now the independent nations of Zambia (where he worked at the time) and Zimbabwe (where he was born). In order to set up areas, misleadingly called national parks, for the benefit of great white hunters, Savory and his colleagues saw the need to “remove the hunting, drum-beating people to protect the animals.” This ultimately led to what Savory now calls “the saddest and greatest blunder of my life,” the killing of 40,000 elephants.
Savory applied his game tracking skills to establish the Tracker Combat Unit of the Rhodesian Special Air Service, and later went on to politics, attempting to save the white Rhodesian regime from itself by making a few concessions to the native African population. When his efforts to save white Rhodesia failed, he moved to New Mexico where he founded the Holistic Management Institute.
We now have a chance to protect lions in New Mexico. Unfortunately the true lions who once lived here were wiped out during the Sixth Mass Extinction when humans first arrived in the Americas. Now that we are in the midst of the Seventh Mass Extinction, it is time to protect remaining wildlife, including mountain lions. The professional killers of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish are now proposing to expand cougar hunting and trapping. As with African lions, no one can seriously claim to hunt cougars to feed their families, so the department game managers, who claim to be “biologists,” have been forced to admit that the purpose of their so-called research is to increase paid sport hunting opportunities and “Sport harvest is the primary tool used to regulate both ungulate and
cougar populations keeping predator-prey relationships in balance.”
While the game department staff works primarily for sport hunters, they face oversight by the political appointees of the Game Commission to insure that the interests of their fellow ranchers are taken into account. The Commission will be holding a public hearing to approve the department cougar rules on August 27 at 8:30 AM at Santa Fe Community College. Comments can be sent to DGF-Bear-Cougar-Rules@state.nm.us
As the June meeting of the New Mexico Game Commission approaches, the so-called wildlife biologists of Game and Fish have modified their proposal on cougar trapping. Facing widespread opposition from editorials and letters in the Santa Fe New Mexican and Albuquerque Journal, culminating in a rally at the state capitol, they dropped their proposal to set cougar traps on public land. The new proposal would allow unrestricted cougar trapping on private land, while increasing other forms of cougar hunting on public land.
The career game managers who fancy themselves “biologists,” continue to serve the interests of ranchers and trappers, while ignoring the need to protect wildlife populations. The department’s original proposal had nothing to do with biology or any other science, as it was dropped in the face of public opposition. The current proposal is hardly better. And they continue to kill cougars while the proposal is up for discussion. Last week they killed a cougar in a Raton neighborhood for allegedly attacking a puppy, and they continue to set out cougar traps in Los Alamos.
Nothing has changed in the year since Scott Bidegain was forced to resign his position as Game Commission Chair after promoting an illegal cougar hunt. As a member of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association Board of Directors, Bidegain personified the close connection between the livestock industry and the Game Commission.
For that matter, nothing has changed since the Game Commission was first set up in 1921, about the time President Warren Harding appointed NM rancher and former US Senator Albert Fall as Secretary of the Interior. Fall made a career out of opening up public lands to the oil industry in the notorious Teapot Dome Scandal.
With the support of hunting and livestock interests, New Mexico established a Game Commission to maintain populations of huntable wildlife in accord with the principles of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has aptly summed up the model as follows:
Man has hunted since he walked the Earth. Every early culture relied on hunting for survival. Through hunting, man forged a connection with the land and learned quickly that stewardship of the land went hand-in-hand with maintaining wildlife – and their own way of life.
In the first half of the 20th century, leaders like Theodore Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold shaped a set of ideals that came to be known as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. They articulated the philosophy that all wildlife belong to all of us.
It is useless in any case to look to science to set public policy. In a Wildlife Society article titled An Inadequate Construct, Dr. Michael P. Nelson challenges the tenet of the North American Model which “asserts that Science is the Proper Tool for Discharge of Wildlife Policy.” Nelson states: “This is mistaken for equating a desire for policies informed by science with science discharging or determining, by itself, what policies ought to be adopted—a serious, but very common, error in ethical reasoning. Scientific facts about nature cannot, by themselves, determine how we ought to relate to nature or which policies are most appropriate.”
By making a career out of serving their political masters, New Mexico’s professional game managers have combined the world’s two oldest professions. To borrow a term popularized by Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson, the game managers are aptly described as biostitutes.
The current drought, exacerbated by anthropogenic climate change, is likely to continue for decades, threatening wildlife habitat. All wildlife is threatened, including species not officially recognized as endangered. It is time for the State of New Mexico to repeal outdated laws which view predators as threats to livestock. It is time to abolish the Game Commission.
The current issue of New Mexico Stockman, the official publication of the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, shows the close connection between hunting and public lands ranching. In an article titled “Hunting – Another Arm of Agriculture,” the executive director of the New Mexico Council of Outfitters and Guides describes the New Mexico Game and Fish Department’s E-plus and A-plus programs allowing ranchers to profit from elk and pronghorn (“antelope”) hunting, respectively. “While it’s not widely spoken of,” the article says, “for many in production agriculture, hunting revenues can mean the difference between staying on the land or moving to town.” The article cautions ranchers that this state giveaway technically only applies to the privately owned portion of a ranch, but, they acknowledge, “sometimes landowners agree to hunting arrangements that violate state and federal regulations.”
While hunting and ranching organizations are well aware of need to support each other, conservation organizations remain blissfully ignorant of the connection between the two. Some conservationists hope to “reform” game department by seeking out areas where there are minor disagreements between the livestock industry and their hunting comrades in arms. Others appeal to “ethical hunters” to oppose “unsportsmanlike” coyote hunting contests.
What sort of ethic promotes killing wild animals for pleasure? This is not a rhetorical question, as it has a clear answer. Conservationists who look to Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic” for guidance should be aware that Leopold literally wrote the book on Game Management. As a long-time hunter and government bureaucrat, Leopold defined wildlife as a resource to be managed for human use. Like his bosses at the U.S. Forest Service who managed forests for the benefit of the logging industry, Leopold sought to make hunting sustainable, i.e. to assure that future generations would be able to enjoy killing animals.
We should heed the final words of advice in the New Mexico Stockman article: “It’s time we realize hunting is really just an extension of the agricultural industry and vice versa.”