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Monday, January 4, 2016

Bow in the New Year

It's a new year. Yesterday, I finally took down the Christmas tree. I asked Bow if he knew it was not Christmas anymore. He spelled: כן שמעתי "Yes, I heard," I asked him if he knew what it was now. He spelled סתם, which has no direct English translation, but in this context means "Nothing special." It's not any particular holiday. It's nothing. It's just an ordinary day.

On New Year's Eve day, I saw a whole herd of deer on my land, more of them together than I have ever seen.

I used Home on the Range as the background music for the video above. I think it's beautiful. This song, written in the 1870s, is the unofficial anthem of the American West. You can hear in the words of the song that ranchers have always enjoyed the beauty of nature and the pleasure of watching the wildlife. In the fight to develop the land, it was farmers against ranchers. The ranchers were the conservationists, relatively speaking. Of course, the Native Americans were even better at conservation.  But today, it is no longer ranchers against farmers or ranchers against Native Americans. Today, it is the United States government against ranchers.

Have you heard of the standoff at the Malheur Wildlife Preserve in Oregon? Here is some background information:

Many people who are interested in wildlife conservation are on the side of the government, mistakenly believing that he ranchers want to develop the Federal land or to sell it off and harm the wildlife. But continuing to allow the ranchers to graze there is better for the wildlife than what Federal agents are doing.

Prescribed fires are a common method that Native Americans and ranchers have used in the area to increase the health & productivity of the land for many centuries.
Conservationists and conservatives should have common interests, as the etymology of the two words implies. Both want to conserve resources and the old fashioned way of life that allows humans and other animals to live side by side.

Fish & Wildlife are the same arm of the Federal government that sends American money to Africa while outlawing chimpanzee travel inside the US. They are not the good guys. And if we are going to conserve our way of life, we need to stand together, even when the issue might be ranching, and we are not ranchers.

The best chance for wildlife conservation is in keeping the ranchers there. They are better for the wildlife than any alternative.

By the 1990’s the Hammonds were one of the very few ranchers that still owned private property adjacent to the refuge. Susie Hammond in an effort to make sense of what was going on began compiling fact about the refuge. In a hidden public record she found a study that was done by the FWS in 1975. The study showed that the “no use” policies of the FWS on the refuge were causing the wildlife to leave the refuge and move to private property. The study showed that the private property adjacent to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge produced 4 times more ducks and geese than the refuge did. It also showed that the migrating birds were 13 times more likely to land on private property than on the refuge. When Susie brought this to the attention of the FWS and refuge personnel, her and her family became the subjects of a long train of abuses and corruptions.
I hope that we can find a way to open people's eyes to the wildlife-related issues that are involved in this conflict. Too many people are angry at the ranchers because they own more land than the average citizen. That makes them sound rich, and people have been  conditioned to despise those who have more.  But it's people who own more land who tend to conserve more resources. It's those of us who live all crowded together who pose more of a threat to the wildlife.


  1. If ranchers are truly conservationists and want to let their cattle graze, I think that is fine. What I do not agree with is when ranchers here in the US work in conjunction with the National Forest Service to cull bison, or when ranchers in Australia lobby the government to have feral cat populations culled. So there are times when ranchers are not conservationists.

    1. These people are not working to cull bison or feral cats. Under their care, the land hosts many more ducks, geese and migratory birds. It's amazing that these wild animals prefer private land to land that is kept as a refuge for them by the government.

  2. I had read that specific piece about the study and the more wildlife on the privately owned land. from the link you sent to me earlier. It's a shame the govt. covered that up, instead of sharing that valuable information. I have to say, I could absolutely see how that could happen, just based on my own anecdotal experiences here. Manage the land - yes, I am a strong advocate of prescribed burns - and the flora and fauna will thrive, thus providing food for thriving native wildlife. And managing the forests, etc. If you don't manage forests, they become too thick & overgrown, and eventually, the wildlife can't push through them and trees that tend to proliferate (such as red cedar) will crowd out the other beneficial trees.
    Did you know that the federal govt. restrictions on controlled burning in the national forests have allowed for some of the absolute worst out-of-control forest fires, resulting in billions of dollars of damage to homes and property in the west? Planned, controlled burns would be smaller and burn out the duff / leaves, etc. and allow the understory plants & trees to grow too.
    Apparently, some zealous federal govt. employee is trying to make a name for themselves with this one. But I also disagree with the militia and Bundy taking over the refuge. That's not protecting their own property - that is just really asking for a war.
    "Conservation" does not mean "just leave it alone" in some areas - Yellowstone is probably the exception to that. Or maybe not. After reintroducing the wolves to Yellowstone - where the elk numbers were so ridiculously high they were grazing all the plants down to where they couldn't grow and river banks were eroding - the rivers banks are now restoring themselves. Amazing that wolves could change the flow of rivers isn't it? But mankind had to help - basically they had to "right a wrong", but the point is they still had to step in to fix it. It's a shame what's happening here with Bundy vs. the govt.

    1. Hi, Kathy. I thought the part about controlled burns being beneficial would square well with your own personal experiences. And yes, I had heard that restrictions on controlled burning may be behind some of the worst out-of-control forest fires.

      I am not justifying what the Bundy party have done, but most of the posts by conservationists that I have seen just did not seem to understand what the injustice to the Hammond family was about, or why ranchers are upset with the government concerning its conservation policies. I am hoping any such people reading this blog post will get better exposure to the larger issues. They affect all of us, not just people in Oregon and Utah.

  3. Aya, do you have an update on the Hammonds...did they turn themselves in?

    1. Yes, they did report to prison according to this news source:

      "Two eastern Oregon ranchers convicted of arson on federal land turned themselves in to a California prison this afternoon, as militia members -- who say the ranchers are going to jail for a crime they did not commit -- continue an armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in the state that's on federal property."