-Our vision is simple. We live for the day when grizzlies in Chihuahua have an unbroken connection
to grizzlies in Alaska; when gray
wolf populations are continuous from New Mexico to
when vast unbroken forests and
flowing plains again thrive and support pre-Columbian
of plants and animals; when humans
dwell with respect, harmony, and affection for the
when we come to live no longer as
strangers and aliens to this continent."
" Mission statement, The
of tequila circling the campfire wasn't doing much for the border
country silence. Laughter and off-color jokes drifted up from the
ring of wilderness hounds, over the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend
National Park to where a full moon burned a perfect hole in the
Above the din rose the drawl of Dave
Foreman, the leader of Earth First! - a group of die-hard
environmentalists determined to wage war against industrial society
in the name of Mother Earth. It was 1984, and the group was headed
for its heyday. Before the decade was out, activists would don
spotted owl suits to protest logging, lock themselves to
bulldozers, and unfurl a black plastic "crack" down the face of
Glen Canyon Dam to lament the drowning of a redrock canyon. Around
the West, monkey wrenchers pounded trees with spikes to keep them
standing and toppled billboards in their
"It was the only time I
ever heard Foreman sing," recalls Barbara Dugelby, at the time a
leader of the Texas Earth First! chapter. Her collection of hippie
university students and biologists had trekked across the desert
from Austin to meet Foreman and his Tucson, Ariz.,
Then, late in the evening, Foreman
performed a miracle. He downed the last of the tequila, worm and
all; with a great whoop, he heaved the bottle toward the heavens
and toppled over backward in his lawn chair. A dozen pairs of eyes
watched the bottle spin upward and disappear into the dark. They
froze like a bunch of kids around a well waiting for the splash of
a dropped rock. But they never heard the bottle shatter. The only
sound that cracked the air was the cackle of
"We decided it never
came down," says Dugelby.
had a two-week hangover," says Foreman, "and I haven't touched a
bottle of tequila since."
But Foreman still
fires things toward the sky. Seven years later, he joined a more
sober gathering in San Francisco. At that 1991 meeting, an alliance
of high-powered scientists and activists launched the "Wildlands
Project." The project's goals were as ambitious and arrogant as its
founders: to stitch together the roaded, subdivided landscape of
North America and create a place where wolves, grizzly bears and
other native wildlife could live as they had 500 years
The Wildlands Project, which now has a
staff of 10 based in Tucson, is a different beast than Earth First!
Foreman left behind protests, blazing headlines and an arrest in
favor of behind-the-scenes planning, lofty scientific ideals and a
vision he says may take a century or more to realize. He said
farewell to the hippie anarchists and teamed up with conservation
biologists and computer mapping experts.
hasn't escaped his past altogether, however. Like the wolves and
grizzlies he champions, Foreman is a lightning rod. To some, he is
a visionary; to others, he is a threat. And like Earth First!, the
Wildlands Project has the power to polarize as well as invigorate.
While a new generation of activists is rallying around the project,
critics say that they are aimed for a head-on collision with
political leaders and rural people.
For nearly a
decade, Wildlands Project supporters have batted their ideas around
mapping tables, college classrooms and more than a few campfires.
But the project has spun there, mid-air, with seemingly little
relevance to what's happening in the real world.
This year, the project will finally hit the ground. Critics say it
will shatter like so much junk glass. But a surprising group of
proponents believes that the Wildlands Project has already
percolated into the halls of environmental groups and federal
agencies. They say it will revolutionize the way we look at the
An Earth First!
What happened between the launching of
the tequila bottle and the launching of the Wildlands Project is a
story of two paths - activism and science - that met over pancakes,
eggs, and a whole lot of coffee in a diner in Ann Arbor,
Barbara Dugelby spent the mid-1980s with
Texas Earth First! doing street theater, direct action and going
after the U.S. Forest Service to protect the endangered
red-cockaded woodpecker. The group met with some success: It
prodded the Texas attorney general to sue the Forest Service over
its forest management plan and convinced the city of Austin to
adopt an endangered species ordinance.
Dugelby and her compatriots were frustrated at always being on the
defensive, fighting over a timber sale here, an endangered species
there, while developers and industry carved up the
"Earth First! had
attracted a lot of intellectuals, people with academic backgrounds
who started to wonder, "What can I contribute here?" "''''says
Kieran Suckling, who left Earth First! and helped found the media-
and law-savvy Southwest Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson
(HCN, 3/30/98). "We realized there was this huge untapped world of
litigation, scientific research and conservation planning that was
stuck in these test tubes in universities and wasn't getting out
into the world."
Then, on May 31, 1989, armed
FBI agents stormed Foreman's Tucson apartment and arrested
The same day, agents arrested four other
Earth First!ers, charging them with conspiracy and eco-sabotage.
Four of them would do jail time. After a drawn-out trial, Foreman
would plead guilty to felony conspiracy and agree not to speak out
about monkey wrenching.
The arrest of the
"Arizona Five" was a tough dose of reality for Foreman's
academic-minded wilderness defenders. Over the next year, many
split off from Earth First! and tried to put as much distance
between themselves and their monkey-wrenching pasts as
Earth First!ers like Suckling and
Jasper Carlton, who had started the Earth First! Biodiversity
Project a few years earlier, turned to "paper monkey wrenching" in
the courtrooms. Wielding the National Forest Management Act, the
National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act
like clubs, they halted logging on Southwest national forests for
10 months over the endangered Mexican spotted owl, kicked cows off
streams, and put animals like the jaguar and Preble's meadow
jumping mouse and plants like the lady's tresses orchid on the
endangered species list.
Others, like Barbara
Dugelby and Reed Noss, threw all their energy into science to
achieve their conservation goals. Like Foreman, they were convinced
that in order to stop the nation's wildlife from spiraling into
oblivion, they would have to come up with a vision for North
America based on the best science
"I came to science
from extreme activism," says Dugelby. "I wanted to do visionary
Activism and science intersect
The man who could
teach her more about the subject than anyone was Michael
Soulé, a slight, goateed scientist in his 60s, known in
academic circles as the father of conservation biology. Soulé,
who had studied under ecologist Paul Ehrlich, author of the 1968
book, The Population Bomb, concluded that he could not sit back and
be an "objective" scientist while the natural world went to
The human race was driving the sixth great
extinction crisis, Soulé believed, on par with the
disappearance of the dinosaurs and Pleistocene creatures like the
woolly mammoth and the saber-toothed tiger. It was only natural, he
thought, to search for ways to protect life, and his profession.
Taking the cue from Aldo Leopold and others, he added conscience to
science. Soulé's conservation biology has been likened to
medicine; it's science aimed at healing the
Conservation biology grew largely out of a
school of thought called island biogeography. The theory was
pioneered by such notable naturalists as Charles Darwin, and
captured in the 1967 book, The Theory of Island Biogeography, by
ecologist Robert MacArthur and biologist Edward O. Wilson. Its
basic principle is that large islands close to the mainland can
support more types of plants and animals than smaller, more
isolated islands. As islands shrink, species fall prey to
inbreeding and accidents, and start dying off.
The principle applies to the mainland as well. In 1984, Michigan
graduate student Bill Newmark traveled around the West, visiting
national parks and setting up camp in their libraries. In the
records of wildlife sightings, he found an unsettling picture:
National parks had become islands in a sea of development. Large
parks such as Banff and Jasper in Alberta, Canada, still held all
the creatures that were seen 100 years ago. But smaller parks were
Yosemite had lost the mink and
the black-tailed jackrabbit. The white-tailed jackrabbit, red fox
and spotted skunk had disappeared from Bryce Canyon in Utah. Most
startling was Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California
- a mountain park surrounded by the heavily logged and roaded
Lassen National Forest. Since its establishment in 1907, the tiny
park had lost six animal species: the Nuttall's cottontail, fisher,
river otter, striped skunk, ringtail and
Newmark's conclusion, published in
the journal Nature in 1987, was that virtually none of the national
parks in the West were large enough to provide a long-term home for
the animals that lived there.
If we were serious
about saving the West's wildlife, argued Michael Soulé, we
would have to protect larger wilderness areas, buffer them from
development and connect them with migration corridors to allow
isolated animal populations to reach one another. Where there were
islands of wilderness surrounded by a sea of humanity, he wanted to
see human islands in a sea of wilderness.
where do the pancakes and eggs come into the picture? By the late
1980s, Soulé and Foreman knew each other's work - Soulé
had been publishing papers in the scientific journals, and Foreman
and his cronies had followed conservation biology in the Earth
First! Journal. But the two had never met.
1988, Barbara Dugelby, who had come to the University of Michigan
in Ann Arbor to study with Soulé, arranged to have Dave
Foreman and Sierra Club "archdruid" David Brower speak at the
university. The next morning, she took Foreman, Brower and
Soulé out to a local diner for breakfast. Brower shoveled his
eggs onto his pancakes and coffee flowed like the Colorado River in
The talk revolved around the fate of the
conservation movement and the need for a broader, science-based
vision, recalls Dugelby. Soulé expressed his support for
radical conservation that set the standards much higher than
standards set by the big Greens like the Sierra Club and the
Wilderness Society. He also emphasized that, for the first time,
science could demonstrate the need for a system of large-scale,
interconnected nature reserves.
Soulé saw the passion and the drive to take his science to the
people. And in Soulé's science, Foreman saw the foundation for
his vision. The wilderness preacher had found his new
The cover of the
The diner breakfast led to a larger
gathering of scientists and activists in 1991 in San Francisco.
About a dozen wilderness activists from around the country spent
two and a half intense days on Russian Hill at the house of Doug
Tompkins, who had used his Esprit clothing fortune to start the
Foundation for Deep Ecology. It was there, in a green oasis in the
middle of the city, that Foreman, Soulé and 11 others launched
the Wildlands Project.
vision is simple," they wrote later. "We live for the day when
grizzlies in Chihuahua have an unbroken connection to grizzlies in
Alaska; when gray wolf populations are continuous from New Mexico
to Greenland; when vast unbroken forests and flowing plains again
thrive and support pre-Columbian populations of plants and animals;
when humans dwell with respect, harmony, and affection for the
land; when we come to live no longer as strangers and aliens to
In more recent iterations of
the mission statement, the word "simple" has been replaced with
"ambitious." Still, some folks think a more fitting description
would be "pie in the sky."
Maybe, but the
project serves a purpose, says Soulé, who retired from the
University of California at Santa Cruz three years ago, moved to
rural western Colorado and built a house. "Our mission is to
embolden the conservation movement to think much bigger and on a
larger time scale," he says. He compares the Wildlands Project to
building the great European cathedrals: Many of the workers died
before the buildings were finished, but without the grand
architectural plans, they never would have been built. "Without an
inspiring vision," Soulé says, "nothing is going to happen on
The project is aloof by design.
Its founders did not want to compete with existing conservation
groups. They wanted to create a framework those groups could work
within, and a clearinghouse for information and science. They
modeled the group after the old Wilderness Society, where Foreman
had worked as a lobbyist and organizer before starting Earth First!
Foreman describes the Wilderness Society of the 1970s as "a great
collection of old wilderness warriors working with local,
Based in a nondescript
Tucson, Ariz., office complex, the Wildlands Project now has 10
paid staff and no members. Its money comes entirely from donations
and foundation grants. Its mouthpiece is Wild Earth magazine, based
in Richmond, Vermont, which is technically a separate organization,
but is overseen by Foreman, as its publisher. Reading Wild Earth is
a little like watching Christians debate the Bible. Wilderness is
Truth in these pages, and Foreman is happy to take on any who
The task of making wilderness real
on the ground falls to regional groups that are busy remapping the
continent. In the West, there are 10 affiliates. One, Yellowstone
to Yukon, or "Y2Y," based in Canmore, Alberta, is trying to protect
an 1,800-mile stretch of the Northern Rockies from Yellowstone
National Park to Canada's Yukon Territory (HCN, 11/10/97). In
Bellingham, Wash., the Northwest Ecosystem Alliance is gearing up
for an "R2R" (Rainforest to Rockies) campaign to reconnect the
Cascades to the Rockies.
From Casper, Wyo.,
south through Colorado to northern New Mexico, the Southern Rockies
Ecosystem Project is mapping territory for reintroducing wolves.
And further south, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has
already returned wolves to the wild, the Sky Island Alliance is
mapping habitat for grizzly bears from New Mexico's Gila Wilderness
to the Sierra Madre in northern Mexico (see story next
Wildlands mappers start with state and
federal agencies that have information about the ranges of plants
and animals, and the extent of human development. But agency data
is often fragmented or out of date, says Bill Martin, mapping
coordinator with the Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project in Boulder.
The next step is to get people out on the ground, surveying roads
and roadless areas, taking inventory of old-growth forest, counting
trail users, and looking for signs of important or rare
All of this information is fed into a
computer, which spits out a map of the world from wildlife's point
of view. "After a while, you start to see how a landscape fits
together," Martin says. "The Wildlands Project is big time, big
theory. This is a way to communicate that. People see things on a
map that would take a 20-page paper to write."
Wildlands mappers provide the vision, explains Foreman, while
grassroots groups will make it all happen. "It's like the picture
on the cover of a jigsaw puzzle box," he says. "We don't know which
group is going to put each piece down."
Big cats and blood
Martin admits that some people look at his maps and see nothing but
red. "Maps are dangerous," he says, and explains that many
wildlands affiliates have become wary of releasing the maps to the
public. He tells the story of a 1997 range tour in western
Colorado, where one of his maps went off like a bomb. The tour was
sponsored by the Delta-Montrose Public Lands Partnership, a group
of environmentalists, ranchers and recreationists that was looking
at the Forest Service's travel management plan for the Uncompahgre
Martin's map showed "core" areas for
wildlife, from which he thought motorized vehicles and cattle
should be excluded. He hadn't intended to show it to the group, but
someone got a copy and passed it
"That put me on one
hell of a spot. I was completely blind-sided," says Southern
Rockies Ecosystem Project President Dennis Hall. "They jumped all
over me. They were asking, "What about the people who graze their
cows out there?" "
Also sure to raise hackles is
planned habitat for top-of-the-food-chain critters with big
Conservation biologists argue that if you
protect large predators, you protect a host of other animals as
well. Large predators need large areas of relatively unmolested
country to survive. An adult male grizzly bear, for example, needs
300 to 500 square miles, so if you protect enough wilderness to
support a population of grizzlies, you're bound to catch lots of
smaller, less charismatic animals and plants.
Big predators need big wilderness, but does wilderness need
predators? Absolutely, says Soulé. Remove predators, and the
whole landscape suffers. In Yellowstone National Park, for example,
wolves were wiped out in the 1920s. Without its main predator, the
northern Yellowstone elk herd has grown so large that it has grazed
the range down to tatters, say some scientists (HCN,
One of the best illustrations of the
importance of predators to natural systems comes from Alaska's
Aleutian Islands, where Russian fur hunters drove the sea otter
almost to extinction in the late 1800s. Today, otters have returned
to some islands but not others, and the difference is striking.
University of California Santa Cruz biologist Jim Estes found that
the waters surrounding islands without otters are relatively
barren; sea urchins have grazed plants down to the ocean
But where otters have returned, they've
eaten enough sea urchins to allow a rich kelp forest to grow, and
along with the kelp come fish, bald eagles and sea ducks. Estes
calls the otter a "keystone species' because it has an inordinate
impact on the shape of the entire ecosystem.
same goes for wolves, grizzly bears, mountain lions and an array of
other animals that ranchers and the federal government have done
their best to drive out of the West.
"If your goal is to protect
biodiversity, we have to have large carnivores," says Soulé.
"In order to save the wilderness in Colorado, we have to have the
wolf and grizzly back."
Or as Dave Foreman put
it at a conference last October, flashing a slide of an African
lion making a gory meal of a gazelle: "This is what the Wildlands
Project is all about: Big cats and blood."
Fear and loathing
"rewilding" North America gives some people nightmares of wolves
running through the streets of Chicago and of grizzlies in L.A. One
critic has posted "simulated" wildlands reserve maps on the
Internet, showing the entire Western U.S. as wilderness areas or
"Buffer Zones - Highly Regulated Use." Similar maps have shown up
in small towns around the
"Foreman's dream, known
as the Wildlands Project, has transmuted to an Orwellian nightmare,
supported by innumerable U.N. agencies, embraced by the United
Nations Environmental Programme, UNESCO, the Sierra Club, The
Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the
EPA," writes another alarmed onlooker. "It is being unleashed
relentlessly across America."
The backlash is
no surprise to some observers, who say the Wildlands Project is
ivory-tower conservation at its worst. In their excitement about
creating a new wild America, Wildlands backers have forgotten about
people, they say. And without concern for people, the project will
be about as welcome as a rattlesnake in a sleeping
Supporters within the environmental
community also have reservations. "You want to talk about island
biogeography - let's talk about island political geography," says
Steve Hinchman, director of the Western Slope Environmental
Resource Council in Paonia, Colo., a rural coal-mining and
fruit-growing community that is also the home of High Country News.
"Their supporters live in Boulder, Salt Lake and Santa Fe. They're
like isolated gene pools that have been inbreeding too long."
Hinchman's group sponsored a talk by Dave
Foreman at a local meeting hall two years ago, where the
eco-preacher gave his stock Wildlands sermon and finished by
telling the story of Aldo Leopold killing a wolf and realizing the
error of his ways. The finale, as always, was a cathartic howl by
the group (HCN, 8/4/97).
Hinchman had been
attracted to the Wildlands Project by its fresh vision - one that
took conservation beyond beautiful mountains for backpackers, to
healthy landscapes and wildlife. But what struck Hinchman at the
talk was not the excitement Foreman's vision generated, but the
fierce antagonism it
"The wise-users came
armed for bear and just attacked Foreman," says Hinchman. While he
still thinks the project's vision is inspiring and its science is
invaluable, his group voted to disassociate itself with the
Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project, the local Wildlands affiliate.
"They're branded as the ludicrous fringe. We can't possibly adopt
this strategy and survive - not in our community," he says. "Unless
it makes sense to any person who grew up here, who lives out here
and who's going to die out here, it's not going to work."
Hinchman's prediction played out in the
Southwest last year, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
reintroduced Mexican gray wolves on the Arizona-New Mexico border.
Before the year was out, five of 11 wolves had been shot. A sixth
wolf was found dead in March, just six days after officials
released it into the wild.
Says Hinchman, "You
can't change the rural West from the outside."
It's a lesson Northwest Ecosystem Alliance Director Mitch Friedman
learned the hard way in the early 1990s, when he aired a plan to
protect the Columbia Mountains in British Columbia, Canada. The
proposal met widespread opposition, even from some environmental
groups that felt overlooked. The project "withered on the vine,"
says Friedman, a former Earth First!er and one of the founding
members of the Wildlands Project.
proposal, this one for an international park on the U.S.-Canada
border, was shot full of holes by Gingrich Republicans and United
Nations-fearing conspiracy theorists. "The lesson there," Friedman
says, "was that simply putting out the best science-based land
proposal isn't going to make it happen."
"No one is going to implement
this plan because it's a good idea," agrees Kieran Suckling, whose
Southwest Center started as a Wildlands Project affiliate but moved
on. "You've got this big vision and this big visionary (Foreman).
The big question is, how are they ever going to get it implemented?
How do you get it off the paper?"
A roadmap for
Despite their vague strategy for
making the Wildlands Project happen on the ground, Soulé's
science is compelling and Foreman's preaching has a way of getting
people starry-eyed. Together, they've managed to enlist a
surprising troop of
"I am aware of the
debate between vision and pragmatism," says Wilderness Society
President Bill Meadows, who recently joined the Wildlands Project
board. "But if we don't have a vision, we won't get the practical
results we deserve. They have a vision that inspires all of us -
the grassroots groups and the big national groups like the
Other groups, such as the
Sierra Club, have come up with their own maps, dividing the country
It's not just the big
greens who have jumped on the bandwagon. Take, for example, Jim
Winder, 38, who grazes about 1,000 cows on mostly public land in
south central New Mexico. "When I first heard about Wildlands, I
was just like any rancher. I wasn't real thrilled with it," he
says. "But they're the only people in the environmental community
who are doing things in a scientific
"They're developing a
roadmap for conservation," he adds, and that saves ranchers a lot
of guesswork. "You never know when an environmental group is going
to protest something."
But then Winder is no
ordinary rancher. He supported reintroducing wolves in the
Southwest, and now sells "Wolf Country Beef" for a premium in
specialty stores. Now, he's reintroducing endangered fish in a
stream on one of his ranches, and he's started a small eco-tourism
business. It's all in the name of survival, he says, in a time when
ranchers are selling out and hanging up the saddle for
"I've gotta be out there
kicking some ass," he says. "I want to see ranchers get rich as
hell off of healing the land. We got rich screwing it up."
There are also signs that Wildlands Project
thinking has permeated the thick walls of land management agencies.
The Yellowstone to Yukon initiative, for example, has garnered the
support of both the U.S. and Canadian national park
Even some skeptics admit that the
science behind the Wildlands Project is making waves in the
agencies. "The Wildlands Project is a little beyond political and
social reality. It can't deal with the tide of humanity," says Hal
Salwasser, director of the Forest Service's Pacific Southwest
Research Station in Berkeley, Calif. "But conservation biology is
not a pipe dream. We use the concepts and tools that came out of
conservation biology pretty regularly. They're in the regular
In the Northern Rockies, for example,
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been working to connect
grizzly bear habitat in Yellowstone, Idaho and Montana, according
to agency bear biologist Chris Servheen. Montana's Swan Valley is
an important passageway for grizzly bears traveling between the Bob
Marshall Wilderness Area and the Mission Mountains. Servheen's
agency has helped show that bears will steer clear of residents'
homes as long as they don't grow apple trees, raise chickens or
keep dog food outside.
local people live in these areas because they have space; there're
no streetlights, barking dogs or cars racing around," he says.
"Bears need the same things."
But Servheen is
quick to draw a line between the kind of conservation biology he
practices and the kind that appears in the academic journals. "Who
reads Soulé's books? Is it the people who live in these areas?
Absolutely not," he says. "The future of these animals rides on
public support, not on these grand concepts."
Unless conservation biologists can find a way to convince common
people that their ideas are legitimate, adds Servheen, they will
only make battles over public lands and private property worse. "We
(agency officials) end up picking up the pieces of poorly sold
ideas," he says. "And the ones that really suffer are the animals."
Here comes the Wildlands
Wildlands proponents understand that
they'll never get a second chance with a first impression. If they
blow it, it could take a long time to recover.
They're gearing up for the big debut, which should hit the pages of
The New York Times this fall in the form of a two-page ad with
maps. By the end of the year, they expect to release a string of
reserve maps, including plans for the Sky Island region of Arizona
and New Mexico, the Southern Rockies, the Klamath Siskiyou region
of Oregon, the central coast of British Columbia and the northern
looking very hard at how to make the Wildlands Project immediately
relevant and how to make it have an impact right now," says
Foreman. "Otherwise, it's not worth the paper it's printed on.
It'll do nothing but collect dust."
project relevant, he says, starts with the grassroots wilderness
proposals that are popping up like wildflowers around the West.
Many are modeled after the Utah Wilderness Coalition's proposal
that seems to be making some headway in Congress, thanks to a
national constituency (HCN, 8/3/98).
Mexico Wilderness Alliance wants to protect 2.5 million acres of
Bureau of Land Management land as wilderness. A similar proposal
for Arizona is in the works. Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette has
introduced a bill in Congress that would designate 1.5 million
acres of wilderness in her state. California activists are pushing
for up to 6 million acres of new wilderness. Nevada
environmentalists want approximately 16 million acres. In Oregon,
it's 4.5 million acres. And in Washington, conservationists are
asking for 3.1 million acres.
contemplate a national or West-wide wilderness bill, according to
Jack Humphrey of the Sky Island Alliance. "The national wilderness
movement is really kicking in," he says. "A national bill would
take it out of the hands of Western senators and make it a national
Also in the works on the national
level is a "Native Ecosystem Protection Act," sort of an Endangered
Species Act for whole landscapes. This "new NEPA" would outlaw the
"taking" or destruction of protected ecosystems on public lands,
says Reed Noss, a former Earth First!er who is now the president of
the Society for Conservation Biology. The act, which has not yet
been written up as legislation, would also set up a fund to buy
wildlife habitat on private
"Instead of addressing
species one by one, we need to focus on ecosystems and slow down
the cascade of species warranting listing under the Endangered
Species Act," says Noss. "The idea is not to wait until things are
virtually impossible to fix."
He admits that a
national law is not a panacea, and that conservation plans will
vary from place to place. "It's a little foggy. No one knows what's
going to work."
To make the Wildlands Project
work, Foreman admits he needs to step out of the wilderness and
into the messy private lands and human communities in between. He
has taken the lead in presenting the new Sky Island-Greater Gila
reserve design in the Southwest. Once the environmental movement's
chief agitator, he now finds himself struggling to become its head
"In the past, the
conservation movement's greatest weakness has been that
private-lands conservation has been divorced from public-lands
conservation, wilderness protection has been divorced from
endangered species protection, economic practices have been
divorced from ecosystem recovery," says Foreman. "What we're saying
is, let's look at all of it and see how it fits together."
Foreman has also been meeting with sympathetic
ranchers like Jim Winder and Drum Hadley, who runs the Gray Ranch
in the New Mexico boot heel. "Big private ranches that are managed
for their ecologic values are in many ways the best places to
restore sensitive species," he says.
trusts, conservation easements, and raising money to simply buy up
land are all part of the picture, he says. He also supports efforts
to make conservation make sense to people's pocketbooks. In the
Southwest, for example, environmentalists are working to convince
ranchers to sell predator-friendly meat and retire grazing
allotments on public lands in exchange for trophy elk-hunting
Barbara Dugelby, now the Wildlands
Project's ecologist, says she's seen Foreman change his tack in
recent years. "He's become a little softer, more focused and
analytical," she says.
Still, the old
eco-warrior acknowledges that he's walking into a fight with many
rural Westerners. "We're not going to throw all economic uses off
the land. That's realism," he says. "On the same token, we're going
to have wolves back throughout the West. That's a reality they're
going to have to live with."
Greg Hanscom is an HCN assistant
You can contact
* The Wildlands Project, 1955 W. Grant Road,
Suite 148, Tucson, AZ 85745-1147 (520/884-0875), email@example.com,
Internet at www.twp.org;
* Wild Earth Magazine,
P.O. Box 455, Richmond, VT 05477, 802/434-5980.