'Speaking truth to power' about bears

  Dear HCN,


Todd Wilkinson's sad but necessary account of grizzly bear politics (HCN, 11/9/98) is as much an indictment of human nature as it is of organizational and personal conflict. The early Protestants used to talk about "speaking truth to power," and power burned them at the stake.


Times haven't changed much. Speaking truth to power doesn't mean much unless you yourself have power. That's the first rule of politics. We fool ourselves if we think otherwise.


There's no doubt in my mind that government harassment of bear biologist Dave Mattson is a fact. The same thing happened to me in the military all the time because I refused to change facts and conclusions or lie, cheat and steal. Sooner or later, every military officer learns that to survive, "Duty, Honor, Country" really means "Career, Capitulation, Cover-up." We shouldn't be surprised that the same is true in the wildlife management bureaucracies, even if the mottos are different. It's a fact of life in organizational culture.


That's why delisting the grizzly bear will be a disaster. In Wyoming, I don't doubt the capabilities and commitment to grizzly bear conservation by the biologists of the Game and Fish Department. They are outstanding people. But they don't make decisions, and they themselves have been gagged. Both the G&F; Commission and Department are under the thumb of Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer, a beet farmer, and Department of Agriculture Director Ron Micheli, a sheep rancher. Both politicos have an irrational hatred of anything associated with conservation - particularly carnivore conservation. Geringer was recently re-elected. What does that mean for conservation?


In sum, neither the Commission nor the Department "leadership" has the courage to stand up for wildlife against the pressure from commercial interests that are Geringer's true constituency, whether livestock, oil and gas, or wealthy landowners who want to start game ranches.


Wildlife conservation and management in the West have already taken several mortal hits, most recently from brucellosis paranoia. If you like what's happening to bison, you'll love what'll happen to grizzlies if they're delisted. That's the truth.





Robert Hoskins


Laramie, Wyoming





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