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On Monday, August 22, 2016, Kane County Commissioners will be voting on an ordinance to allow nighttime spotlight hunting of coyotes, red foxes, striped skunks, and jack rabbits.

 

They will meet to vote on this ordinance on Monday, August 22, at 10 am, at the Kane County Courthouse building in Kanab, Utah.

 

If you will be in Kanab, Utah, on August 22, please attend this meeting if you can.

 

Please send an email to oppose this ordinance – see below for details.

 

Nighttime hunting of coyotes is a really terrible idea. First, it would cause enormous suffering to coyotes and other wildlife, but, in expressing our opposition, it’s important for us to present reasons that will be meaningful to a wide range of people. Here are some reasons that will resonate with everyone.

 

One) Human safety – Nighttime shooting is shooting in the dark. The hunter cannot see beyond, or to the side of, the handheld spotlight he carries. Bullets that miss their target may be life-threatening to campers and their children, to people walking their dogs at night, and to anyone out after dark, even to horses or goats in a field. It would mean that all Kane County lands would be unsafe after dark. A bullet can travel for three miles, putting human beings, pets, and wildlife within range of being hit.

 

Two) Economic harm to Kane County. The driving engine of Kane County’s economy is tourism – and dangerous gunfire at night may make people think twice about visiting. Right now, millions of tourists from all over the world visit Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, and our other beautiful wild canyonlands. According to the Deseret News, out-of-state tourists spend $8 billion a year in Utah, with one billion of that going to state and local revenue. If our peaceful nights are disrupted with flashing lights, loud gunshots, and a slew of gun accidents, Kane County’s reputation as one of the most spectacular tourist destinations in the country would be tarnished. If visitors were to stay away, this would harm local businesses, would cost jobs, and would be a real blow to the local economy.

 

Three) Liability for Kane County. It would be a very great tragedy if a human being were harmed or killed by nighttime shooting. It could also lead to lawsuits and could potentially be a very expensive liability for Kane County.

 

Four) Extra work and expense for law enforcement. Nighttime hunters would need to notify the Sheriff of their plans. Even with this requirement, frightening gunshots would lead to more 911 calls. There would be extra work and extra expense for the Sheriff and his deputies who would have to respond to these calls. Too many calls could lead to a delay in responding to an emergency.

 

Five) Increased risk of poaching. With people out shooting in the dark, it would be very hard for law enforcement to monitor who is shooting what. A dead deer on a truck would be less visible, and there could well be an increase in poaching.

 

Six) Road accidents. Gunshots, which are alarming to all animals, cause deer and other wildlife to panic and run. Nighttime shooting, occurring for ten months out of the year, would cause increased car crashes on roads, with a big spike in injuries and fatalities, not only among deer, but also human beings.

 

Seven) Unnecessary killing of wildlife. Coyotes are already being trapped and hunted in massive numbers during the daytime. Our Utah tax dollars are being used to pay a $50 bounty for every coyote killed. Yet they, and other predators, are known to self-regulate their own population and do not need to be killed. Coyotes are nature’s way of keeping a balance among the species, and we need them. When there are too few coyotes, nature is out of balance, then rabbits proliferate – along with more mice and pack rats that cause damage to our homes and car engines and may carry the deadly Hantavirus. Rodenticides and pesticides are not only cruel, they are toxic to birds of prey, to other wildlife, to our pets – and potentially to children. Coyotes, as top predators, do naturally keep the populations of these animals in check. Coyotes also keep deer and elk herds moving along so they do not stand grazing near streams, destroying young plants and saplings. Coyotes rejuvenate the wilderness, allowing the re-growth of healthy habitat and the return of small mammals, fish, and flocks of native birds. They are beneficial, and they enrich all of nature.

 

Eight) Spotlights cause bird deaths. In the spring, spotlights shining in the trees would startle native songbirds out of their nests. Songbirds cannot see in the dark and would not be able to return to their nests to keep their nestlings warm during the rest of the night. This would cause deaths among baby birds.

 

Nine) Not ethical hunting. Nighttime hunting with spotlights has nothing to do with traditional hunting. Spotlighting is banned in Utah, except where it is allowed by individual counties. There is no fair chase. Coyotes and other small animals are trapped in blinding lights. Both non-hunters and hunters can agree that this is not ethical hunting. No purpose at all is served by causing suffering and death to these animals. The repercussions to other wildlife and to people’s pets, are potentially enormous.

 

Ten) Harm to endangered and sensitive species. In addition, with this kind of unethical hunting, the carcasses, especially of jack rabbits, are just left in the field – which means that eagles, ravens, and other scavengers are at risk of being poisoned by the lead bullets used. This is an especially serious concern in the case of the critically endangered California condor that is a resident of Kane County. Lead poisoning is the primary source of fatalities among condors. Many Kane county birds and mammals are listed on the 2015 Utah sensitive species list, and all would be put at greater risk from shooting in the night. As well as bald eagles and condors, the sensitive species found in Kane county include short-eared owls, burrowing owls, ferruginous hawks, greater sage grouse, Lewis’s woodpeckers, long-billed curlew, Allen’s big-eared bats, fringed myotis bats, and the kit fox – a delicate animal who is the smallest fox in the Americas – and who, in the night, could easily be mistaken for a coyote. Some of these species are barely hanging on by a thread.

 

Eleven) Disturbance of the peace. Kanab is a small, peaceful, rural town, surrounded by public lands. These wild lands are an oasis of beauty, graced by the presence of magnificent cliffs and endearing wildlife. Nighttime shooting would be disruptive and frightening. Such activity would destroy the unique, tranquil character of this town and county.

 

Twelve) Nighttime coyote hunting would be very dangerous. It would be harmful to Kane County residents, visitors, and to all of nature. It would threaten human beings, as well as the beautiful wildlife and wild lands that surround us.

 

 

How to help

 

STEP ONE – If you are in Kane County, please attend the Kane County Commissioners meeting on Monday morning, 10 am, August 22, at the Kane County Courthouse building, 76, N. Main Street, Kanab.

 

STEP TWO – Wherever you live, please email your comments on nighttime coyote spotlight hunting by going to this email form. It’s very easy to fill out and send. Please state your city, state, and country. Address Commission Chairman Clayson, Commissioner Smith, and Commissioner Matson:

Link to Email Form: http://www.kane.utah.gov/contact.cfm?deptID=1

 

What to write in your email: Put one or two of the points above into your own words. If you feel you may be less likely to visit Kane County if there are gunshots at night, please state that, and that when you visit, you would love to see coyotes in the wild. Anything you write – it can be very brief – will be a huge help!

 

STEP THREE – You may also call and leave a message for

Chairman Clayson  435-644-4902

Commissioner Smith 435-644-4903

Commissioner Matson 435-644-4904

Calls re Public Lands 435-644-4901

 

Thank you for helping coyotes, jack rabbits, and other innocent wild animals by opposing this really dangerous ordinance!

 

For more information, email Wild Kane County, wild-kane-county@googlegroups.com.

 

Photo: Gary Kalpakoff 

 

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This three-minute statement was presented on May 19, 2016 at the coal hearing in Salt Lake City, part of the Department of the Interior’s Federal Coal Review.

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

Thank you to the Department of the Interior for this hearing and for the three-year moratorium on new coal on public lands.

 

There is a workable solution that can work for all of us.

 

There are two ways to move forward to the future – one is to close our eyes– and if we do that we risk falling off a cliff.

 

The other way is to go forward with our eyes open, so that we can be sure-footed and clear about where we are going.

 

We need to move to a world beyond coal.

 

Planning for the future means creating good jobs in the clean energy sector.

 

All of us drive cars. We heat and cool our houses. We fly in airplanes. And we elect the leaders responsible for our current energy policies.

 

A clean energy future must include a just transition for workers who have worked hard to provide the energy that has sustained our way of life.

 

How can we afford to invest in clean energy?

 

By cutting out subsidies to the fossil fuel industry – estimated at $20 billion a year – we can invest instead in a just transition on two fronts.

 

First – programs for new, clean, healthy, good-paying jobs, for re-training and assistance for workers and their families.

 

Secondly, we need to invest in clean energy – solar and geo-thermal energy.

 

Clean energy is all ready here and is working well. This is the energy of the future and these are the jobs of the future.

 

Coal is the energy of the past. We are now seeing the largest coal companies go bankrupt. Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal, and just last month, in April, the largest U.S. coal company, Peabody, filed for bankruptcy.

 

According to a Blumberg news story, “The value of U.S. coal shares declined 83% in the four years from 2011 to 2015. That’s a decline of 83%!

 

A coal future is a mirage, shimmering in the distance, and soon to vanish.

 

We need to be ready for the future — or the end of fossil fuels will come suddenly, and we will not be ready. This would be a big blow to our lives, to the jobs of coal workers, and to our economy.

 

Investing in clean energy, along with re-building America’s crumbling bridges and roads will lift our economy out of the doldrums. It may even bring about an economic boom.

 

Utah has some of the most beautiful wild lands in the entire world. Kane County is surrounded by national parks.

 

Our economy in Kane County depends on tourism. Jobs depend on attracting tourists to the beauty of our wild lands. Three million tourists visit Zion’s National Park every year. No tourists will travel to visit coal mines.

 

The Alton Coal mine lies just ten miles south of Bryce Canyon. For twenty years, we have watched the Alton Coal Mine – spew coal dust into the air that we breathe, pollute streams, destroy trees and plants and the homes of wild animals. Kanab Creek, which provides our drinking water, has been heavily impacted.

 

The Alton Coal Mine must not be allowed to expand onto three thousand acres of our public lands – to wreak havoc on some of the last remaining, most beautiful wild lands on earth.

 

We all belong to the natural world, and we cannot live without it. We must stop destroying it.

 

We ask for a permanent, total end to all new coal on to public lands, for a full and just transition to clean energy now, for good jobs for all coal workers, and for a way forward that will be life-giving for all Americans and for everyone on the planet.

 

Thank you.

 

Written comments will be accepted until July 28. To send a comment on the future of coal on public lands to the Department of the Interior,

 

Email: BLM_WO_Coal_Program_PEIS_Comments@blm.gov

 

Photo: “This image or recording is the work of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain. For more information, see the Fish and Wildlife Service copyright policy.”/ Wikimedia Commons / American Avocets at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Great Salt Lake, Utah. Coal pollution destroys wild habitat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Marian Hussenbux,

Animal Interfaith Alliance,

www.animal-interfaith-alliance.com

Faiths Working Together for Animals,

based in the U.K.,

has sent this email to Senator Okerland, at rokerlund@le.utah.gov.

Dear Senator Ralph Okerlund,

I write on behalf of The Animal Interfaith Alliance, an international alliance of faith groups founded in Britain concerned about the welfare of animals. Our member organisations and individual members include Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs. We are all united by our common concern for animals, based on our various faiths.

Though we are of course not constituents of yours, we are writing in support of American campaigners to ask you to vote against SB0246 and to oppose the building of, and any funding for, a coal port in Oakland, California – and any related infrastructure.

We agree with local residents concerned about this proposal that a California port to export Utah coal, fossil fuels, minerals, or other products extracted from the ground is not in the best interest of Utah residents and taxpayers.

The coal industry is clearly proven to be a cause of great pollution – to the air, to streams and lakes, and adversely affecting animals, plants, and human beings.

To sum up, coal and fossil fuel industrialization is profoundly destructive to the environment and long term interests of all who inhabit the planet.

We are told by state residents that Utah is one of the few last remaining places on earth where one may find pristine, wild natural lands. No other place surpasses the majestic beauty of your national parks and monuments, and your public lands.

Surely you have an obligation to protect these precious lands far into the future.

The tourism and recreation industries are the backbone of your economy. Unlike coal, they are not short-term investments which leave behind unattractive wastelands dead to all life.

Please reflect on the unique and irreplaceable beauty of Utah’s wild lands and vote against SB0246.

Kindest regards,

Marian.

 

Photo: Sharon St Joan

For more information about SB246 and the Oakland coal port, click here.

 

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Utah bill SB246, introduced in the final days of the legislative session, would provide $53 million, from Utah funds, to go toward the building of a coal port, along with accompanying infrastructure, in Oakland, California, so that Utah coal, other fossil fuels, and other products can be shipped to California, then on to foreign markets. This would help prop up Utah’s struggling coal industry, but would lead to more irreparable damage to Utah’s wild lands and eco-systems.

 

Many thanks to Lindsay Beebe – the Organizing Representative, in Salt Lake City, of the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign for sending their Fact Sheet on SB246, as well as this link to their on-line message to send to your Utah representative.

 

To sign and send the Sierra Club’s message opposing the SB246 bill, click here.

 

The Sierra Club Fact Sheet on SB246:

SB 246: GAMBLING WITH TAXPAYER MONEY ON A RISKY BET

  1. Because the coal export market is disappearing, SB 246 is a bad gamble for Utah taxpayers.
  • This $53 million loan is a bad investment that instead of producing good jobs for the people of Utah, could end up leaving taxpayers holding the bag as the bankruptcies and the contraction of the international coal market continue. A July 2013 analysis by Goldman Sachs specifically labeled coal export terminals “a bad investment.”
  • A Goldman Sachs 2015 analysis said, “Peak coal is here.” The analysis predicted a continuing decline in coal prices and that they will never recover. “The industry does not require new investment given the ability of existing assets to satisfy flat demand, so prices will remain under pressure as the deflationary cycle continues.”
  • More recently, Andy Roberts, a mining engineer and an expert on the economics of coal, released an analysis February 10 (aimed primarily at port projects in Washington state) concluding that U.S. coal ports have gone from “vital to irrelevant” given the precipitous drop in demand from Asia. Western coal producers can’t compete with Indonesian producers on price in what is a disappearing market.
  • The U.S. Energy Information Agency recently reported that U.S. coal exports fell 22% in the first three quarters of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014.
  • China announced last week that it is closing more than 1,000 coal mines due to a “price-sapping supply glut” and the government has suspended the approval of new coal mines to clean up dangerous air pollution across the country. Given the supply glut, Chinese imports are likely to continue their steep decline.
  • The American coal industry is in deep trouble. Among the companies declaring bankruptcy are Arch Coal, the nation’s second largest coal company, and 50 other coal-mining companies. Any state that is counting on coal for future jobs and a strong economy is making a risky gamble. Bowie Resources, which owns a coal mine whose potential exports SB 246 is intended to subsidize, recently idled its Colorado mine due to “deteriorating market conditions.”
  • Although Governor Herbert has been quoted as saying “This is an investment …. You invest $50 million and you’re going to get back three or four times your investment,” such a rosy outcome is extremely unlikely. If this loan would guarantee 300% to 400% return, coal companies or private capital would be lined up to invest in the terminal. The lack of private investment suggests that this project is highly risky, and one that only could be accomplished by tapping taxpayers’ wallets. Tapping public funds to support a private development that can’t attract private funding is simply a subsidy, not the “free market” at work.
  • Coal export facilities are generally a speculative and risky gamble. In recent decades, coal export terminals have gone bust in Los Angeles and Portland, leaving taxpayers and investors on the hook for tens of millions of dollars.
  • Governor Herbert’s own strategic plan for energy concluded in 2014 that there Utah had only 10 years of proven coal reserves at current production rates.

 

  1. SB 246 will likely not cure the illegal transfer of funds from the Community Impact Board for an out-of-state construction project.
  • The purpose of the bill is to move $53 million from the CIB, and spend $53 million on the coal terminal in California. This is a transparent ploy to launder CIB funds to pay for a construction project in California that has nothing to do with mitigating the impacts of fossil fuel development in impacted counties in Utah. As such, this bill has likely violated the same federal laws as the CIB’s April 2015 loan approval that has been stalled for months as it is reviewed by Utah’s attorney general. Those laws require CIB funds to be spent in Utah counties on public projects that mitigate the impacts of federal fossil fuel leasing. Subsidizing construction of an export facility in California, however those funds are laundered, violates those laws.
  • If the Attorney General’s review concluded that the April 2015 CIB loan is legal, why is this bill necessary? The Attorney General should release his review before this bill is considered so the public can understand whether the loan is illegal.

 

  1. Opposition in California means there is significant political risk to any Utah loan.
  • The Oakland City Council is considering legislation restricting coal exports through Oakland. There is likely to be a vote on that legislation this Spring. Such an outcome could render worthless Utah’s investment.
  • The California legislature also has before it four bills that would restrict coal exports through Oakland and California, further raising the political risk that Utah will see no return on any investment in the terminal.
  • 76 percent of Oakland voters oppose building the coal terminal at the port.
  • Beyond environmental groups and public health organizations, even some faith groups have united to oppose construction of the port project.
  • The Port of Oakland rejected a proposal for a coal terminal in 2014; concerns about the terminal have only increased since then.

 

  1. The public deserves a chance to fully consider this complex proposal, rather than have it rammed through at the end of the legislative session with little consideration.
  • The introduction of this bill so late in the session gives the public little or no opportunity to raise legitimate questions on the appropriateness of giving a $53 million loan of taxpayers’ money to an ill-considered California project. It appears to be an attempt to sneak through a controversial scheme at the last minute.
  • Additional consideration of the bill is warranted because its convoluted funding mechanism makes it difficult to tell how it will impact transportation and other funding across the state.

 

3/2/2016

 

 

Photo: Sharon St Joan

 

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This email was sent by Sharon St Joan to Utah Senator Ralph Okerland, at 

rokerlund@le.utah.gov.   For more on this bill and sending an email, see below.

 

Dear Senator Okerlund,

 

I am writing to ask you to vote against SB0246 and to oppose the building of, and any funding for, a coal port in Oakland, California – and any related infrastructure.

 

A California port to export Utah coal, fossil fuels, minerals, or other products extracted from the ground is not in the best interest of Utah residents and taxpayers.

 

No one denies that the coal industry is a polluting industry – causing harm to the air that we breathe, to streams and lakes, to animals, plants, and human beings.

 

Coal and fossil fuel industrialization is profoundly destructive to our environment, our health, our economy, and to the long-term interests of all of us.

 

Utah is one of the few last remaining places on earth where one may find pristine, wild natural lands. No other place surpasses the majestic beauty of our national parks and monuments, and all our public lands. We have an obligation to protect these lands far into the future. They are also the foundation of the near and long-term economic prosperity of Utah.

 

Tourists do not come from around the world to visit coal mines, and the tourism and recreation industries are the backbone our economy. Unlike coal, they are not short-term, dying investments which leave behind unattractive wastelands.

 

The proposed California coal port and the infrastructure that would accompany it threaten everything that Utah stands for  — our western wilderness heritage, our prosperity, our long-term well-being, and the unique, unsurpassed and irreplaceable beauty of Utah’s wild lands.  Please vote against it.

 

Thank you.

 

Sincerely,

 

Sharon St Joan

Kanab, Utah resident

 

For more on the issue of SB246 that would use Utah funding to construct an Oakland California coal port, click here.

The bill was introduced just days ago, giving almost no time for comments. The legislative session ends this Thursday, March 10, 2016.

If you wish to send an email, you may send this one, as is, or with any changes you wish to make. Many thanks!

Photo: Sharon St Joan

 

 

 

 

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The email below was sent by JoAnne Rando-Moon to Utah Senator Okerlund to oppose bill SB246, which would use Utah money to fund building a coal port in Oakland, California for the export of Utah coal and other products overseas. This would likely lead to more coal expansion in Utah, with detrimental consequences to Utah’s wildlife, wild lands, and way of life. It is followed by Senator Okerlund’s reply. 

 

This bill was just introduced over the past few days into the Utah legislature, which will end its session this Thursday, March 10, 2016, leaving almost no time, if any, to write in opposition to the bill.

 

To send an email on this issue to Senator Okerlund, the Utah Senator for Kane County, his email address is rokerlund@le.utah.gov

 

For other Utah senators, click here.  

 

Email sent to Senator Okerlund:

 

Senator Okerlund,

 

As a resident of Kane County, Utah, I am completely opposed to SB 246, spending millions of tax payer dollars to ship coal to Oakland, CA for export. San Francisco Bay and Oakland residents overwhelmingly oppose the Oakland coal port!

 

Coal is a very dirty industry, disrupting the natural beauty of Utah. We have so many who visit our beautiful state and they are NOT spending their money to see coal trucks race up and down our narrow corridors, especially from the Alton Coal Mine!!!!!

 

They are here to see Bryce Canyon National Park, bike, hike and photograph the beauty that surrounds them. The machinery and lights from Alton Coal Mine run all night long disturbing residents and wildlife alike. I have witnessed it first hand when I worked with the Grand to Grand Ultra race. We had almost one hundred international athletes and volunteers from all over the world camping on private land in Alton to finish the 170 mile self-supported race near Powell Point. Throughout the night the machines hammered away! It was shocking to see the destruction from the previous year when the pastures were pristine on the adjacent land.

 

Please vote AGAINST SB246.

 

Thank you,

 

JoAnne Rando-Moon

 

Kanab, UT

 

 

Senator Okerlund’s reply:

 

JoAnne,

 

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns about SB 246.  I appreciate the things you have highlighted, but I do want to provide the other side of this bill. This bill is more than a coal transportation bill. By passing this bill, Utah would be able to ship goods overseas. For my District it would enable the transfer of salt, pot ash, agriculture products, and iron. This would allow for significant economic development within my district. Because of that, I think we need to look into this legislation further considering the potential benefit it can provide. But

 

With that being said, I value what you have relayed to me. I think in all pieces of legislation we must see the issue from as many angles as possible. I will keep your words in mind and will consider all the consequences, both negative and positive as we continue to vet this bill.

 

All my best,

 

Senator Okerlund

 

 

Photo: Sharon St Joan

 

 

 

 

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By Kirk Robinson,

Executive Director of Western Wildlife Conservancy, and

Advisor to the Coalition for All Wildlife

 

Wildlife advocacy and political activism require us to make a moral commitment to the goals of conservation. Unfortunately, the choices are not always easy ones because moral ideals often conflict and we must choose between them or settle for doing nothing. But that’s often how it is with moral issues. If choices were always obvious and easy, they wouldn’t demand much of us, and we would be much the less for it.

The reason I bring this up is because the wild animals that I (we) care about and are trying to protect and conserve are frequently killed by people who hate them or value them only as trophies, which raises the question whether we should even try to recover or protect them. This is particularly the case with the Mexican wolf because it is a subspecies of wolf that is languishing under the feckless stewardship of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Nothing significant has yet been done to further the recovery of the Mexican wolf without a law suit brought by conservation organizations. And of course a big part of the reason for this is the pushback from the states that don’t want wolves, period, never mind the Endangered Species Act. This is because the western states are dominated politically by the mindless traditional view that all native predators have to be either eliminated or strictly controlled by lethal means.

So what are we to do about this? When Western Wildlife Conservancy first started 20 years ago (then called the Utah Cougar Coalition), my charge from the board (which I inherited) was to end cougar hunting in Utah within one year. Well, of course that didn’t happen. Nor was it even politically possible. Fortunately, while members of the board conspired to try to remove me, the bylaws that they themselves adopted made that difficult, and instead they resigned one by one, allowing me to choose a new board that understood the political realities of carnivore conservation. The original members of the board had good hearts, but were clueless about what it would actually take to get the job done and weren’t up to the task of developing a long term strategy and sticking with it. Furthermore, they had no understanding of ecology and the way in which species, as members of communities of organisms, depend upon each other: their mutual thriving is a matter of mutual dependence; the good of each is dependent upon the good of all (considered as members of species). They loved animals, but they lacked this critical perspective.

What about the Mexican wolf? Human beings drove it nearly to extinction, leaving only seven of them to become founders of a recovery effort. Canis lupus baileyi was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act way back in 1976 and recovery efforts began 18 years ago with reintroductions into the wild.

After many years of slow growth, then population stagnation, there was a short run of years in which the population in the wild grew – reaching 110 at the end of 2014. But this only happened because of law suits. As of now the count is down to 97 – a 12% decline. There were eleven known deaths, plus two more that were apparently due to trauma from capture by FWS (wolves are periodically captured for various reasons, such as to fit them with radio collars), and probably a few others that we don’t know about, as there were several “missing” wolves. The point is that a lot of these wolves are being illegally killed (and a few unintentionally killed), which is in turn causing some deaths of pups (pup survival was greatly reduced this last year). Thus, one might well ask – and I think we really should ask – whether it is ethically proper for us to continue the Mexican wolf recovery effort. (I want to emphasize that these killings are not properly called poachings. That’s what you call killing a deer out of season or without a license. We’re talking here about malicious killings by people who would be happy to wipe out all wolves if they could.)

Individual wolves count. Their lives count. They are conscious, intelligent, emotional beings in their own right. So why should we continue to release captive individuals into the wild if they stand a serious chance of being killed by an ignorant yahoo? It is a fair question to ask – never mind that recovery is mandated by the ESA.

I understand and appreciate the dilemma – both horns of it: either we continue the effort to recover the Mexican wolf or it will go extinct. Neither of these options is attractive and there is no third option. Thus, each of us must choose for ourselves where we stand. Obviously, I am for continuing the effort with determination and passion. I believe we have a duty to do so. But that is my judgment. You might disagree.

This doesn’t mean that I am content to allow the recovery effort to plod along or to just accept the illegal killings. Far from it. What we want is not just conservation, but compassionate conservation. Indeed, this is a whole new field that has opened up in the last five years or so. And in the case of the Mexican wolf, what it means is that we have to pressure the Fish and Wildlife Service to do more to prevent the illegal killings of Mexican wolves, and not only to release more captive wolves into the wild. What we want in the end is a genetically viable, self-sustaining, and ecologically functional population of wolves that human beings simply leave alone.

Among other things, I believe this means that they must retrieve radio receivers that FWS handed out to ranchers living in the vicinity of Mexican wolves, which they can use to learn the whereabouts of wolves. The FWS originally gave several ranchers receivers because they thought it would make them less hostile to the recovery effort if they could avoid moving their livestock into areas where wolves are present. While we don’t know for certain that this has enabled illegal wolf killings, it clearly places wolves at greater risk. Thus, many of us believe that it would be prudent to take the receivers away.

Another thing the federal government could do is invest more in finding and capturing and prosecuting the law breakers. Of course, resources are limited, making this difficult. And resources are limited because the livestock lobby is so very powerful – never mind that only about 2% of national beef production comes from the arid western states. The Republicans in Congress – Utah’s Congressman Bishop being a prime example – are passionately committed to doing all they can to make the Endangered Species Act ineffective. That’s just the truth and is not meant to be partisan.

We live in a democracy – supposedly. What this means is that we citizens have the ultimate responsibility to make it work properly and to change the status quo when it needs changing. Otherwise we might as well live under a monarchy or theocracy or dictatorship of some sort, where we only have to obey. My view, therefore, is that it is up to us citizens to bring about improvements in wildlife conservation and management, and in other areas of civil life. We can’t just leave it to the government or to the good will of people who lack good will. If we are unwilling to rise to this challenge, then probably the best thing would be for us to just admit it to ourselves and give up. I am not willing to do this, so the alternative for me is to keep going no matter what obstacles are thrown up by the obstructionists.

I am not willing to give up, not just because I am stubborn – though maybe I am that too – but because, wildlife conservation aside, I want democracy to succeed and believe it is partly my responsibility to make it succeed. And to be perfectly frank about it, though this admission might strike some as a display of the utmost arrogance, I hold myself in high esteem and regard it as beneath my dignity as a human being to allow myself such an easy out. I won’t settle for a life of ignorance and complacency. And you shouldn’t either.

A great extinction is underway – the sixth major one in Earth history, the last one having occurred approximately 65 million years ago. The difference is that that one was mainly due to an asteroid colliding with Earth, while this one is entirely due to us – a very young species on Earth as far as that goes. For all our noontime brilliance (and, as a species we have demonstrated great brilliance), we are in the process of destroying all that is good. The world we are rapidly creating is one that by the end of the 21st Century, if nothing changes, will be devoid of most large-bodies species living in the wild, both on land and in the sea, and absent any truly wild places.

I recently finished a new book, published just this year, titled “The Society of Genes.” The first chapter of this book explains in very clear terms how cancers develop. The development always goes through eight stages serially. Maybe the same is true of life on Earth, with the great extinctions marking the stages. When human beings are through with the Earth, the way things are going, it not only will be devoid of all the glorious species that have evolved over the eons, but it won’t afford a life worth living for human beings either. That will essentially be the death of the planet. Maybe new biodiversity will evolve in the subsequent 50-100 million years (it will take about that long), but one can only hope that the big evolutionary dead-end of primates with big brains that they don’t know how to use won’t be repeated.

Okay, granted, the scenario I just described doesn’t have to play out. But it is a virtual certainty unless we make sure it doesn’t. And doing this will require three things of us besides our big brains: thoughtful moral vision, self-determination, and courage.

 

Photo: Jim Clark, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Wikimedia Commons / “This image or recording is the work of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.”/ A captive Mexican wolf at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico.