Conservation

On the Move

“I assended to the high Country and from an eminance I had a view of the plains for a great distance. From this eminance I had a view of a greater number of buffalow than I had ever seen before at one time. I must have seen near 20,000 of those animals feeding on this plain.”

Meriwether Lewis


That was in 1806. By that time the bison were already in decline in the East. Within 75 years they were driven to extinction. 30 million bison may have roamed the prairies 200 years ago. That habitat is gone and has been replaced by farm land and urban environments.

Public domain photograph from the 1870s of a pile of American bison skulls waiting to be ground for fertilizer.

It is estimated that about 5000 bison currently roam Yellowstone National Park. Every year hundreds of bison are culled from the park (slaughtered, out of public sight) or killed by hunters, when the bison migrate out of the park during winter time in search of food. What a shame. We can’t provide enough space for a species that is considered an American icon?

By court order the National Park Service has been put into a tight spot. The State of Montana sued the Park in 1995 to control the number of bison wandering across park boundaries. The state claimed bison may transfer brucellosis to cows. Not a single incidence of such a transfer has been documented. To the contrary, it was non-native domestic cattle that gave bison initially. The claim also meant, that bison could not simply be captured and transferred. They had to be killed. Since 2000 more than 5000 bison have been eliminated from the Park based on that agreement.

Since most of this happens away from public view, this goes on mostly unnoticed. Advocates, locals, reporters, rangers, and politicians know about it. I assume, most visitors of the Park do not.

The bison is the one and only species depicted on the emblem of the National Park Service. Bison, grizzlies, and geysers are the main draw of Yellowstone National Park. Yet, in the surrounding communities there is little love for this iconic animal. Maybe national parks are just zoos with a little larger enclosure. Let’s keep the wildlife inside! Outside? Not in my backyard.

Go figure.

 

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One Man's Paradise

The Valley of Wolves

This is Lamar Valley, where wolves, elk, bison, and moose roam. On the ridges you can see mountain goats and bighorn sheep. If you are lucky you may find a wolverine or a cougar track.

Located at the Northern end of Yellowstone National Park this gem is occasionally compared to the Serengeti in Africa. More than 4.2 million visitors come to the park annually. Most of them visit in the summertime. Only 100.000 visitors come to see this amazing place in the wintertime.

It is one of the few places in North America, where you can see wolves on a regular basis. There are about 100 wolves living in the park, where they are protected. To follow the fate of wolves in modern times is rather gruesome. Even in National Parks, such as YNP, wolves were until about 100 years systematically eradicated, using poison, traps, and bullets.

Bison experienced a similar decline. Within 30 years bison were brought to the brink of extinction. 15-30 million bison have roamed the plains and valleys of the West, when the first settlers showed. I thought for a long time that bison were killed for their meat and hide. Now I am learning that bison were at the center of the livelihood of First Nation people. The army recognized that and assisted in the killing of bison, as a mean to suppress First Nation people [1].

Interestingly, Lamar Valley was the place, where the last wild bison were captured and protected from hunters and poachers at the turn of the century. In 1995-96 wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone. One of the holding pens was and still is located in Lamar Valley.

A place, rich in history. One could argue a little piece of heaven (if it weren’t for the 4.2 million tourists). Imagine what this place must have looked like before Western civilization arrived. The same goes for other locations, that did not have the same spectacular landscape as Yellowstone and therefore, did not get the same protection.

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Conservation

Word Wildlife Day

Did you notice?

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Yesterday was World Wildlife Day…

It feels, that celebration went rather unnoticed.

The UN website says “The fate of the world’s wildlife will soon be in the hands of the next generation.” I must disagree. The fate of the world’s wildlife, the fate of us, and the fate of us in our hands, besides natural forces. I think we should do everything we can, to stop loss of diversity due to human activity, such as deforestation, overpopulation, and resource extraction.

On one hand, there are efforts to clone woolly  mammoth and the passenger pigeon from preserved DNA, on the other hand we loose probably more than one species a day.

I have never seen a passenger pigeon. It was once the most common bird in North America. Due to deforestation and overhunting, passenger pigeons disappeared from the wild. In 1914 the last member of this species died in captivity. Her name was Martha.

R.W. Shufeldt, Osteology of the Passenger Pigeon

At that time nobody bothered to breed  and maintain the species. That was a mere 100 years ago.

Have we changed our attitude towards preserving wildlife?

Barely.

World Wildlife Day goes by largely unnoticed.

We have bigger fish to fry. Grow the economy, border up the country, go to Mars…

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Inside Out

Drifting

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Drifting Snow, Alaska

“Hidden in the glorious wildness
like unmined gold.”

John Muir


Is it time for another John Muir, or an Edward Abbey and a president with an open ear for the environment and its conservation?

I think so. All this talk about jobs, growth, and profits is so wrong. Maybe it will support this generation and a few more to come, but we cannot keep growing forever. That’s just not possible on a planet with limited resources. What do we do? Do we care?

That is maybe the key question we should ask ourselves. Do we really care about future generations and this planet? Or do we only care about us? Our family, our genes?

I am wondering what Darwin would say about our current state of affairs. Maybe our species is currently the fittest in this world that we have changed. Maybe not.

What do you think?

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Note to self

Ripple effect

“In nature everything is connected,
interwoven, subject to natural law.
We cannot separate ourselves from that,
no matter how hard we try.”

Jeffrey R. Anderson


 

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Low Tide, Chilkaat Inlet, Alaska

I strongly believe that we are part of Nature, not separate from it, not above it. What we do with and to our environment will affect us and others. Some of it is out of our hand. In some instances, we may be able to tip the balance, either way. And sometimes we are completely accountable for the plundering and destruction of our planet.

I hope we find a way to act responsibly and leave this planet in better shape than we found it for future generations. I am sure this has been said before.

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Conservation, One Man's Paradise

Good News

Once in a while there are good news. Here is an interesting one concerning the delisting of one of the most elusive predators in North America – The wolverine (gulo gulo).

The ruling does not grant listing of wolverines on the endangered species list, but it calls the USFWS 2014 decision to withdraw the proposed wolverine listing rule “arbitrary and capricious.”

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A lot of legends surround the wolverine. To see one in the wild is an unforgettable experience.

The one above was photographed at the Kroschel Wildlife Center, a great way to see all kinds of wildlife in large enclosures. Some of the animals have developed a real connection to Steve Kroschel, otherwise you could not do this:

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It’s all good:

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A delisting of the wolverine would be welcome, if it were based on research and facts, not special interest or arbitrary decision making. Thank you, Judge Christensen.

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Conservation

Waterfall – № 4

“Here is your country.

Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children.

Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”

Theodore Roosevelt


I am bit puzzled by President Roosevelt, who was an avid hunter and an early supporter of the National Park System. On one of his safaris to Africa his expedition killed about 11,000 specimens, hundreds of big game, including 6 white rhinos. He must have been aware of the anachronistic nature of this hunt. He asked not to be condemned, as he collected the specimens for the Smithsonian and other museums in the name of science. I guess times have changed and we have enough dead animals in collections and dangling form walls. I hope President Roosevelt would look at big game hunting with different eyes if he were alive today.

On other news, Shell got the go ahead to drill in the Arctic with the EPA watching over every step. Right. Since they just did such a great job with the Animas river in Colorado I have full confidence, not. There are 500,000 old mines in the US, many of them environmental hazards. I guess it is fair to say that the mining companies in the past were not good stewards of the land. What about the oil companies of today?

I wish men and women in power do remember what Roosevelt had to say more than hundred years ago.

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