Raised on a North Carolina farm, surrounded by cows, horses and chickens, Dr. John Carter spent much of his youth exploring nearby woods, backpacking in the Smoky Mountains and occasionally in Wyoming.
In 1975, he followed his parents to Utah, and attended graduate school at USU, receiving his PhD in ecology.
He has spent the decades since conducting scientific studies that benefit wildlife, and says that he probably won’t retire because the wilderness keeps calling him, and he sees the need to help.
The Yellowstone to Uintas Connection, of which he is the Founder and Manager, carries out projects to conserve and restore the wild lands of Utah and Idaho.
Recently, Dr. Carter has been embroiled in a battle to prevent the Pocatello, Idaho Municipal watershed from being grazed by cattle. He explains that cattle pollute the streams in the watershed and cause damage that reduces stream flow and ground water storage. When he tested the stream, he discovered very high levels of E. coli pollution, the consequence of having allowed over 1,000 cows to graze in the watershed. The report he generated has been submitted to the Forest Service and Pocatello City. Recently the Forest Service released a preliminary decision to close portions of the watershed to livestock. Dr. Carter will continue pushing to get the entire watershed closed.
Many of his projects in Utah and Idaho address the issue of cattle grazing destroying fish and wildlife habitat and degrading wilderness and recreation values. When grazing near streams, cattle consume the forage – not just for big mammals like elk and moose, but for the little ones too, like meadow jumping mice, who find themselves without adequate food and cover.
Dr. Carter says, “Livestock is the biggest threat to sage grouse.”
He maintains that our watersheds need protecting from livestock and other abuses that increase erosion and reduce water storage. Pollution from the presence of cattle raises the costs of water treatment.
Asked if he is seeing progress, he notes, “We achieve small goals.” Given the overwhelming might of industry, ranching, and government opposition to any forms of wilderness and wildlife protection, his success is noteworthy. He says he is “cautiously optimistic” and anticipates that “more and more communities are going to realize that grazing cattle in their watersheds is destroying their drinking water.”
Another project, near Price, Utah, focuses on protecting archeological sites and restoring the plant communities and stream from historical livestock grazing in Range Creek Canyon. With several other organizations, he has addressed comments to the BLM, outlining the extensive detrimental effects that cattle grazing will have on the site. The cattle cause bare spots in the grass, which then leads to an increase in the invasive species, cheatgrass, and increase the fire hazard. The cattle can even rub against ancient petroglyphs on the rocks, damaging them.
His group, the Yellowstone to Uintas Connection, works closely with other conservation groups to present to cities, counties, the BLM, and other government agencies – science-based facts related to what is causing the deterioration of wild lands, lakes, streams and other natural resources. As well as cattle grazing, destruction to Forests and Public Lands is caused by logging, snow mobiles, ATVs – and the noise pollution that ensues. He offers constructive suggestions as to how to bring about desired outcomes for fish and wildlife.
Keisha’s Preserve is a 900 acre preserve that Dr. Carter has established in Idaho. It is his private property, but he has set it aside as land that belongs to wildlife. On it coyotes, moose, elk, and other animals roam freely, without fear. The trees and the plants have been allowed to regrow as nature would have them do. It is a beautiful example of how nature can re-emerge, in full beauty, when she is given the chance to do so.
With his quiet and persistent efforts, Dr. Carter has extended a kind hand to nature and has bettered the lives of countless wild animals, while setting an inspiring example for humans of how nature can be restored and protected.
Photos: Courtesy of the Yellowstone to Uintas Connection
To visit the website of the Yellowstone to Uintas Connection, click here.