Imagine, for a moment, that some kooky politicians in Washington, D.C.. decided they wanted to invade Iraq with feather dusters .
Now, imagine a colonel in the Army warned them
that this was a bad idea, and they need would need real tools of
war, helicopters and tanks and such, to execute such a plan.
Next, imagine the feather duster war went ahead, anyway.
Whose fault would it be when the plan failed? The
politicians’ or the colonel’s?
obvious. Politicians hire experts to tell them the facts, even if
they don’t like those facts. But let’s just be thankful
the sorry politicians in Wyoming aren’t in charge of the
United State military.
What the heck is going on in
Wyoming? Let me tell you about it.
talk about wolves -- those controversial wild dogs that eat elk,
deer and the occasional cow. Wyoming legislators are partial to
cowboys, so they wrote a wolf-management plan that basically lets
cowboys plug wolves at will, anywhere outside a few cold, high and
remote wilderness areas.
From a biologist’s
perspective, the plan is a nonstarter. Wolves simply spend very
little time in the rugged wilderness. If Wyoming is serious about
getting wolves off the endangered species list, it must face that
Wyoming’s lead wolf biologist -- Dave Moody
-- made that observation out loud at a recent meeting of wolf
experts. Like our imaginary colonel, Moody stated the obvious. The
politicians had a conniption fit. Moody’s boss at Wyoming
Fish and Game suspended the award-winning, 25-year agency veteran.
Outside observers caught the familiar scent of political
After the suspension was publicized by the
Billings Gazette and other papers, Moody was reinstated.
Retribution is a familiar odor. There’s plenty of it wafting
in and around Yellowstone National Park. On the southern end of
Yellowstone National Park is place called the Thoroughfare.
It’s about the most remote spot in the lower 48 states.
It’s a favorite of hunters and the guides who pack in on
horseback to hunt elk.
Elk, being no dummies, tend to
spend hunting season in Yellowstone Park, where they won’t
get shot. Hunters, being no dummies, put out salt blocks just
outside the national park border, luring their prey out of the park
and onto national forest, where the elk can be legally slain.
Now, I like elk hunting and understand the frustration of
those hunters south of Yellowstone. But there are a few problems
with using salt blocks for bait. One, it’s unethical and
generally considered poor sport. Two, it’s illegal on
national forest land. Third, the unnatural concentration of elk
guts left by the shooting attracts an unnatural concentration of
grizzly bears in the direct vicinity of highly armed dudes. This
has lead to deadly trouble for the grizzly bears, which are, after
all, an official, threatened species.
Riding high in the
saddle, literally, comes Bob Jackson, a veteran park ranger from
Yellowstone. For 30 years, his job was to protect the rugged,
beautiful land and wildlife of the Thoroughfare country. Jackson
was alarmed by the whole mess surrounding the elk hunters, the salt
blocks, the gut piles and the grizzly bears. Being a conscientious
public servant, Jackson spoke up about it.
and their political toadies didn’t like that much. They did
their best to make Jackson’s life miserable.
result? Well, the short version is that Jackson’s 30-year
National Park Service career ran into a bureaucratic brick wall. No
one knows the Thoroughfare better than Jackson, but agency
bureaucrats have refused to rehire him. He says it’s
retaliation, and I imagine he is correct.
you’re managing wildlife or warfare, this is no way to run a
government. A military needs honest field assessments. If the
"recon" scouts sneaking around the front lines see an obvious
problem that is going to spell trouble for the folks that follow,
it’s their job to report it. Ignoring the truth because
higher-ups won’t like it is a recipe for disaster. It’s
the same concept for wildlife biologists and rangers. They
aren’t hired to simply follow political orders. They are
professionals, hired to call it as they see it and protect and
defend our public resources. To forget or ignore this is a recipe
Evidently, the folks running Wyoming and
Yellowstone have forgotten this. They act as if the bureaucrats and
politicians surgically attached to their desks know more than the
guys out on the ground. Get out the feather dusters, they shout: