Putting wildlands back together

  Dear HCN,


As one of the founders and the current president of The Wildlands Project, I must respond to your article, "Foreman finds hope amid ecological rubble" (HCN, 8/4/97). At the end of the article you comment that Dave failed to describe how our reserve designs were to be implemented. You also asked about the identity of the folks that are "carving up" the local areas.


We are not a top-down organization, and our staff of five don't do the reserve designs themselves. The process of mapping potential core areas, wildlife corridors, and buffer zones (the buffers allow sustainable, wildlife-friendly economic activities) is carried out by grassroots, volunteer conservationists throughout North America. We are currently helping to coordinate several dozen such groups, which have their own members and constituents, raise most of their own funds, handle their own community relations, and are already involved in activities that make their regions more friendly to creatures and native ecosystems.


We don't think of our work as "carving up local areas." This is what development has done. To the contrary, we are part of the stitching back together process - recreating the linkages that have been severed by unwise forestry and grazing practices, a fanatical anti-predator policy, unnecessary road construction, well-funded ORV aficionados, real estate profiteers and sprawling urbanization.


Regarding implementation, I'll be candid. We haven't done a lot of that yet. We are a young organization, and we are attempting to accomplish what you and others describe as "utopian," creating a science-supported vision of an ecologically healthy North America - a vision that inspires everyone to protect and restore wilderness and living nature. This will be the first year when we will be ready to send out some of the wildlands proposals for peer review by scientists, economists, ranchers, sportspersons, state and federal agencies, and community leaders.


We will gradually move into implementation when our proposals have passed the litmus of common sense and stood up to rigorous review.


But we don't spend all our time indoors, staring at pretty maps on computer monitors. We and our cooperating groups are working with ranchers in Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, helping them adopt practices that are friendly to wildlife while developing a marketing strategy for "predator-friendly beef." We have been working behind the scenes with the U.S. Forest Service, helping them design forest management practices that minimize the harm to endangered species and other wildlife. We and our cooperators have encouraged community programs that diversify local economies and find alternative employment for people who lose their jobs (for economic, not environmental reasons) when the large logging companies move their mills to the Southeastern United States or overseas. We've also encouraged and promoted the reintroduction of the Mexican wolf. Incidentally, the state of Florida (not known for being "utopian') has already committed to spending $3 billion on a plan that is based on our principles. So, it's happening.


Finally, let me clarify the comments in your article about the mysterious maps to which one of the hostile questioners referred. There is a guy publishing phony maps in wise-use and evangelical newsletters, claiming that these are Wildlands Project maps. For example, one of these maps shows about half of North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska as off-limits to humans, "requiring tens of millions of people" to leave the land. (There aren't that many people in that part of the Midwest.) That map and others like it are nothing but wise-use scare propaganda.





Michael Soulé


Hotchkiss, Colorado


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