To The Point

by Caren Cowan

In God We Trust . . .

Call me cynical but I think we have found the reason we are seeing the federal government working so hard to erase God from our vocabulary, education, currency, Pledge of Allegiance, public buildings and anything else they think they have the powers to control. They think they can replace him.

With all due respect to our friends who work for the bureaucracy, the evidence of this God complex mounts every day. We have been hearing for some time about the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) looking at what they consider the need to remove barred owls in the name of northern spotted owls in the Northwest (not to be confused with Mexican spotted owls in the Southwest – that are now mostly fried).

This removal is moving forward despite the fact that environmental groups long ago admitted that there was no crisis with spotted owls. They only used the spotted owl as a way to control the land.

Barred owls of Oregon, Washington, and California are about to be a part of the “limited experimental removal” of 3,600 birds, according to www.opposingviews.com.

Lawmakers have been watching this species since 2005 and concluded that the “Habitat loss and competition from recently arrived barred owls (are) the most pressing threats to the northern spotted owl.”

Now, however, the barred owls are sitting ducks. The FWS published an environmental impact statement recently that outlines plans for the removal. Allegedly, the removal will both save the spotted owl and the habitat, killing two birds with one stone (or, 3,600 birds with one law).

The 505-page report wrangles with its own mission, spending seven pages wrestling with the ethical dilemma of killing so many birds. The FWS have even spent taxpayer dollars to hire an outside “ethicist” to consult on whether to chicken out. Ultimately, the report decides that the Barred owl must be barred for the spotted owl to be spotted once again.

In fact, the statement specifically outlines how it will go about “terminating” the birds, since, after all, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush: “the general approach involves attracting territorial barred owls with recorded calls and shooting birds that respond when they approach closely.”

Closer to Home

That same FWS decided that elk on their Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge located in New Mexico must die because they had the audacity to eat corn intended for sand hill crane and other fowl. Furthermore, the federal agency decided that they were not required to follow state law or guidance in the murder of pregnant mothers and trophy bulls that are under the management of the State.

There was agreement between the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish (NMDGF) and the FWS that the elk herd needed to be thinned. How and who should do that thinning was the parting of the ways, according to an April Albuquerque Journal article by Charles D. Brunt.

The controversy lies in whether it is right for refuge staff to be killing elk without giving public hunters a reasonable opportunity to do that. In February the federal and state wildlife agencies reached an agreement that allowed “population management hunters” – hunters who didn’t draw big game licenses in the state’s lottery system but signed up to help cull wildlife under the direction of the NMDGF – to go onto the Refuge and shoot some of the elk. That only lasted for about two weeks.

After hunters had killed 11 cow elk in late February, Bosque del Apache officials abruptly ended the project and began allowing their own federal employees to shoot elk, according to the NMDGF.

Unlike population management hunters, refuge employees are not allowed to keep the elk they kill. Rather, they are required to turn the carcasses over to NMDGF, which then sells them. With this kind of handling, particularly in warmer seasons there is great risk that the meat could spoil and go to waste.

Another point of contention is the time period in which the elk are killed. The FWS/NMDGF agreement calls for no elk to be taken from March 15 through June 30 to limit the number of pregnant cows that are killed.

But refuge management says the 107-day moratorium on killing pregnant cows only applies to NMDGF’s population management hunters, not to refuge employees. The refuge manager told the Journal that refuge employees had been killing elk since mid-March and would continue to do so indefinitely.

Management has no target number of elk to be killed and that refuge employees will continue killing until they determine that the elk are no longer impacting resources. The killing will stop when there is enough corn for the migratory bird population.

Though refuge managers tried other ways to mitigate the elk damage, including hazing techniques such as chasing elk from the cornfields with vehicles, using pyrotechnics, motion lights and shooting them with rubber bullets, none were successful. Relocating elk to other areas of the state ran the risk of spreading disease and opening the refuge to regular hunters would create logistical and regulatory problems according to a Draft Emergency Elk Management Environmental Assessment done for the property the FWS.

And it goes on . . .

Then there is the FWS that orders the removal of a wolf by Wildlife Services – a separate agency who isn’t receiving funding for that removal – yet that FWS continues feeding the depredating wolves and hazing them away from traps. Even more ridiculous is the fact that the agency determines that a single wolf in a pack is responsible for depredation the entire pack engages in.

As a result every member in the pack can and often is trapped before that single offender is caught. Nice way to make sure they are “wild” right?

And oh by the way, let’s wait until right before hunting season to decide that action must be taken.

On the subject of “wild” . . .

With more than 20 bears running around Albuquerque foothills neighborhoods, we are getting a big dose of the NMDGF and the police chasing bears around in yards and in trees. When they are captured, they are returned to the “wild” according to the television news reports.

Dictionary.com defines “wild” as:

  1. living in a state of nature; not tamed or domesticated;
  2. growing or produced without cultivation or the care of humans, as plants, flowers, fruit, or honey;
  3. uncultivated, uninhabited, or waste
  4. uncivilized or barbarous
  5. of unrestrained violence, fury, intensity, etc.; violent; furious

It is my sense that often wild means roaming free in pristine habitat that is untrammeled by man – some of this language is in the federal Wilderness Act. These words stir up a Walt Disney vision of lands where mountain lions have the voice of Rex Allen and rabbits raise Bambi.

The truth is that there are few “wild lands” left. We are a nation of laws and people and property rights.

When the Game Department picks up bears in Albuquerque and takes them to the “wild,” they are likely going to federal or state multiple use lands that are shared by business owners, wildlife enthusiasts, recreationist, hunters, trappers and fishermen, hikers, families and many more.

When people take their unwanted horses to the “wild” they are usually taking them to lands that are privately or tribally owned or leased.

The reality is that in both cases they are just taking a problem from one place to another, usually merely making their problem someone else’s problem. Nothing is being fixed. And, you are moving toward the last three parts of the definition.

The other one that really eats at me is restoring wolves to the “wild.” I never fail to be surprised when a college student calls the NMCGA office from out of state, and sometimes even from right down the street, and wants to know why the Association opposes wolves.

After we explain to them that these canines are NOT wild, that they are habituated to people and prefer to stay close to houses and people where there isn’t a lot of work in finding the next meal, they are stunned.

Their vision is that there is some vast wild area/wilderness out there where there are no roads, no people, no homes and well-fed sleek and shiny wolves stand on rocks and tree stumps posing for pictures. We know that isn’t so and it is terribly frustrating when federal employees ignore the reality and try to perpetuate that vision.

It is those people who issued a death sentence for one of the wolves released this spring and have the other one back in captivity. It is those people who on Mother’s Day had some NMCGA members tending a cow that lost her newborn calf to a wolf the day before. It is those people who even after a complete investigation verified the wolf kill still published a report saying otherwise. Perhaps it was the overdose of beef that they called for once the killing wolf was trapped.

It is those people who published a report stating that a wolf had been “found” shot, noting that an investigation was underway. They knew full well that they were misleading the public at best and setting the stage for well funded environmental groups to embark on another fund raising campaign.

The truth is that yes, a Mexican wolf was shot – in the act of attempting to kill cattle. The killing was lawfully reported and investigated. While part of the investigation is ongoing, it is clear to most that the taking of the wolf on private property in the act of harming more private property was completely legal and justified.

The wolf program is a failure on all level . . . there is no way to put lipstick on that pig. One of the greatest levels of failure is and has been the refusal to work with the families who live and work on the ground. The level of distrust and dislike is insurmountable at this point, but it would be refreshing if the federal government would put employees in the program that had a propensity for the truth.