What’s Left for Wildlife

The recent rushed passage of the National Defense Authorization Act with numerous anti-environmental riders exposes the sham of representative democracy. The Public Lands Council correctly describes the overwhelming vote for NDAA as clear case of Congress siding with ranchers. The act overturned grazing regulations which have been in effect over 30 years. Valles Caldera in northern New Mexico became a livestock operation funded by the National Park Service. As Congress would not dare to question, let alone defeat, a military appropriation, passage of this bill was a forgone conclusion. While a few liberal senators such as independent Bernie Sanders voted against the bill, the overwhelming majority of Democrats, including Elizabeth Warren, supported the military funding. Anti-environmental riders were of no concern to them.

Does the Democratic Party’s loss of the U.S. Senate mean anything for wildlife? Democratic Party support for the Keystone XL pipeline was the key to a failed attempt to keep control this year. It was a Democrat, Senator Jon Tester of Montana, who pioneered the practice of using riders to “must-pass” legislation to reverse decades of endangered species protection. With no significant opposition, Tester removed protection for wolves in the Northern Rockies, encouraging the Federal government to follow suit for other wolf populations. A recent court decision has temporarily reinstated protection for wolves in the Great Lakes region, but it remains to be seen if this decision will withstand appeal.

The legislative process is a competition of special interest groups, primarily funded by the wealthiest 1%. Lobbyists write legislation in closed-door committee meetings, which Congress rubber stamps with no meaningful discussion. Without a background in radical critiques of society, wildlife supporters know only liberal politics. Environmental and animal protection organizations, once based on grass-roots activism, are now merely insignificant lobbying organizations, whose primary purpose is raising funds for their own professional staff. Liberals challenge the National Rifle Association on gun control issues, but don’t seem to be aware that the NRA’s positions reflect its nature as a hunting organization. By working with so-called “hunter-conservationists,” environmental lobbyists legitimize the NRA agenda.

If there is anything more threatening to life on this planet than climate change it is nuclear war. Of course, New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich, who has campaigned to increase hunting on Federal Lands, as well as supporting the Los Alamos nuclear lab, enthusiastically supported the military funding bill. It is particularly symbolic that the bill also included a national historic park commemorating the Manhattan Project, which launched the nuclear age. Perhaps we will someday see a national prehistoric park commemorating the discovery at Clovis of the weapons which launched the first anthropogenic mass extinction when humans arrived in the Americas during the Pleistocene.

The second anthropogenic mass extinction is now underway. In the latest Living Planet Index the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that over half of the population of wild vertebrates has disappeared in the last 40 years. Among the report’s conclusions: “The loss of habitat to make way for human land use – particularly for agriculture, urban development and energy production – continues to be a major threat to the terrestrial environment. When habitat loss and degradation is compounded by the added pressure of wildlife hunting, the impact on species can be devastating.”

International climate conferences are a sham, as debates focus only on how to raise money to help people adapt to inevitable climate change. There is no way to reverse climate change without drastically reducing the human population, an issue which liberal humanists ignore. The so-called radical left advocates “environmental justice” to help poor people adapt to climate change, while ignoring the destruction of wildlife habitat. Environmental justice for wildlife requires a movement to establish corridors to help wildlife adapt, as they once did when climate change occurred. Without a political left for wildlife there will be nothing at all left for wildlife.