The horse is out of the barn - Part 2

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 14:04:15 06/30/13

In Reply to: appearances posted by Hoot

Without going back to when the first legal action was taken to prevent grizzly de-listing, I strongly suspect that Louisa Wilcox was a loud voice in that argument. I respect Louisa as a fierce advocate for the Yellowstone grizzly, but, as a political pragmatist (at least to some extent), I am concerned that abrogating the terms of de-listing puts at risk other species in greater need for listing. Once again, it is the chauvinism I see in our society, where certain species are much more highly valued than others. I believe that the whitebark pine issue was a real handy argument to monkey wrench de-listing. The opponents of de-listing were able to round up enough qualified support for their argument that they were able to convince a judge to throw the brake switch. I'm sure many of these individuals look at this issue, and remember David Brower's statements, late in his life, about his regret for not having fought tooth and nail against the Glen Canyon Dam. I do not doubt the motivation of the de-listing opponents. I am sure they are well-intentioned individuals, with the well-being of the Greater Yellowstone grizzly population at heart. At the same time, I personally believe that the whitebark pine population in Greater Yellowstone is destined to be a bit player at best. The day is fast coming where there might be a few remnant stands in isolated places, and you will see monumental efforts advocated to protect these stands, much like old growth redwoods, not for the sake of grizzly bears, but for the sake of the trees themselves.

So, from my perspective, the news on whitebark pines is dismal, at best. What about the Yellowstone grizzly? I feel more optimistic about the long term survival of the Yellowstone grizzly population than I have in thirty years. I'm convinced that the population has recovered from the big hit it took in the wake of the implementation of the new management plan in the early/mid-1970s. I think it has recovered to the point where carefully crafted hunts, with very limited takes allowed (think somewhere between 1 and 5 licenses potentially in a given state) where there has been a lot of bear/human conflict, would make sense.

Our society is out pitching the value of environmental tourism to third world countries, to try and sway the government and the populace away from exploiting rare resources for subsistence. We have had some remarkable success here and there, particularly in Central America. I see the same thing happening in Greater Yellowstone, although some would argue against it, where bison, wolves, and livestock growing interests intersect. Up here in Alaska, we see one of the few places remaining on the planet where there is a relative bounty of wild animal species. Subsistence hunters complain to the government about wolves killing the moose that those hunters rely on, so the government goes in and kills a bunch of wolves. How's that for a contrasty management mechanism?

It will be real interesting to see how well the new invasive plant species plan is implemented. The biggest single problem will not be visitor wrath. It will be lack of dollars! I have watched the NPS try to manage the dalmatian toadflax in the Mammoth area, and laughed out loud. Employees or volunteers on ATV's, or with tanks of spray on their backs, fan out and spray the plants. You can see them miss lots of plants. I have watched whole patches of the yellow invaders within 3 or 4 feet of the roadside, between Mammoth and Golden Gate. When I multiply what I've seen around Mammoth by the number of places in the park and the number of invasive plants, I come up with the realization that it might be a nice plan, but it will be a losing battle, unless someone commits mucho dinero, which is not likely.

I'm glad someone got to see a good display of Northern Lights. It did not happen up here. This is the time of year when we hide from perpetual daylight behind blackout curtains or cardboard. Actually, between midnight and 3 or 4 a.m., we have a sort of twilight, while the sun lurks just below the horizon. Up north, in Fairbanks, the sun stays up pretty much the whole time. They play an Alaska Baseball League game every year on the solstice, that starts at midnight! Can you imagine that? I have to get up there and catch that game some year.

We did have a few really good displays during the winter. I tried to photograph one of them, but failed miserably. Shooting at night was a lot easier with film cameras!


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