WOLF REINTRODUCTION IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
Wolf reintroduction is almost always controversial. That would not be unusual. Wolves come with a formidable reputation, much of it sinister.
20 years ago, I attended a lecture on Nature in the United Kingdom by a noted British biologist and, at question time, I asked if there was a possibility of wolf reintroduction in Britain.
The Brit looked at me as if I was proposing the reintroduction of cholera. Members of the audience chortled at my naiveté. The Englishman smiled tolerantly and mentioned the livestock industry, particularly sheep farming as a reason wolf reintroduction was a no go in Britain.
Fast forward to the near present and another lecture; a different professor, same question.
This time, no patronizing smile. "That is a very good question". He replied. It seems that Scotland is facing a population explosion of Red Deer (A species of elk) and who were literally eating everyone out of house and home. Thus, the Yellowstone experiment in elk management by wolf was being watched with great interest in the United Kingdom. At the same time, some (not all) British taxpayers were growing tired of subsidizing mountain top and moor land sheep farming.
What had been unthinkable was now well within the realm of possibility: The reintroduction of wolves into the United Kingdom.
Now most Americans believe that Europe is pretty much like the Eastern United States regarding wolves; that is, wolves have been long since exterminated; too much civilization.
Not so. Wolves are the rule not the exception in most European countries. Only The United Kingdom and the Vatican are wolfless.
There are around 300,000 grey wolves in the world and they aren't going extinct any time soon. It is true they were once largely extirpated from Western Europe, but they have been reintroduced, not by humans, but by wolves from that great wolf reservoir, the former Soviet Union, which has around 30,000.
France has 500 wolves with the population increasing, (much to the anger of French farmers). Spain has 3,000, Italy has between 600-700, Germany has 1300, Denmark is just getting started, with a pack crossing over from Germany, Norway has 68 and they are hunted. Sweden has 300, Greenland 200, Finland 100, Poland 2500, Estonia 200, Lithuania 300-400. There are even wolves in Israel! If wolves are in charge of reintroduction, then the main reason there are no wolves in England is the English Channel. Wolves are pretty good athletes, but a 20 mile swim is a bit much for them. (The reason they were there in the first place was the Ice Age, which provided a land bridge for wolves, bears, and other mega fauna).
According to folk say, the last British wolf was killed sometime in the middle of the 18th century, mourned by none. The Eurasian Brown Bear, a larger target, bit the dust in England some centuries earlier.
A bit late in the game (By several centuries) the British public developed a nostalgic hankering for wildness. "wouldn't it be nice if we could bring back some of the creatures we caused to become extinct." That would include the Eurasian Brown Bear, The wild pig, and of course, the Grey Wolf.
That would be interesting but difficult.
Now the reason that Scotland looks so wild and beautiful is not so much Nature as Economics; in this case, Adam Smith economics at its most ruthless : The Highland Clearances, celebrated in mournful song and story.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Scottish chieftains who owned the land found they could make ever so much more money running sheep on their land rather than renting it out to tenant farmers. The tenants were told that their services would no longer be needed.
The Lairds, bless their hearts, were not totally ruthless. They were willing to offer their former tenants one way ship tickets to a new life in Canada or the United States; take your pick.
After the tenants left, the cottages were burned and the walls knocked down and Scotland began to resemble the tourist brochures of today.
Even now, Scotland has the greatest disparity of land ownership in Europe with 500 families owning more than half the country.
Then along came Paul Lister. Paul is one of the 500. He is the proud owner of the 23,000 acre Alladale Wilderness Reserve in the heart of the Scottish highlands.
The goal of the Alladale Wilderness Reserve (and Paul Lister) is to recreate a slice of wild Scotland the way it was before Man caused everything to go extinct; sort of a Yellowstone with kilts.
Mr. Lister would reintroduce the Scottish Big Four: The Red Deer, (Already present) Wild Boar (recently introduced) The Gray Wolf, and Eurasian Brown Bear. In addition, Lister plans to reintroduce the supporting cast of characters, including the Lynx, the Scottish Wild Cat, the European Beaver, and the Scottish Wild Goat. Red fox, badgers and river otters can handle their own introduction.Before Paul introduces the wolves and bears, he has a few problems to solve (to put it mildly).
First, he must solve the land problem; 23,000 acres is not enough for the project envisioned. He will need an additional 30,000. Fortunately, that's why God made money. Mr. Lister is a billionaire, heir to a furniture fortune. Paul has his eye on the estate next door and the owner is willing to sell.
Then there is the matter of the neighbors. No matter how much land you have, you will always have neighbors. They may not wish to participate in your experiment, particularly if they are raising sheep or cattle.
So, how will Paul Lister keep his post Ice Age predators from straying into a neighbor's paddock?
No problem! Lister proposes an 80 kilometer electrified fence (Just like "Jurassic Park") that would completely enclose Alladale Wilderness Reserve.
That would work in Texas but not in Scotland.
You see, Texas and Scotland represent polar opposites in land use.
In Texas, you have the God given right to shoot anybody trespassing on your property; whether or not they die depends on God's mood at the time.
Scotland, on the other hand, has the "Right to Roam" Act. (Act of Parliament which allows you to wander anywhere you care to even if there is no trail. The land owner can do nothing but offer a cup of tea. Fences, of course, are forbidden (unless there is an easily accessible gate.)
Scotland has another law that forbids putting prey and predator species together in the same enclosure.
Mr. Lister believes that he can gain an exception to the above laws and move his project forward. (One of the many great things about being a billionaire is gaining exception to the rules).
There are, however, natural rules as well as human rules that have to be obeyed, as the National Park Service discovered in its Isle Royale experiment.
It was believed by some biologists that a pack of wolves who had crossed to Isle Royale National Park on an ice bridge would create the "Holy Grail" of Conservation Biology by establishing a "balance of nature" by culling the runaway moose population on the island. This actually worked for a time. However, it seems that ice bridges in Lake Superior are a relatively rare phenomenon and the Isle Royale wolf population was becoming inbred, with all sorts of life threatening hereditary ailments. The moose population began to creep out of balance. It became necessary to "mimic" the no longer extant ice bridges with fresh wolves boated in from Ontario.
Paul Lister will run into a similar problem with his wolves and bears and will need to replenish his genetic stock with recruits from another, larger wilderness reserve he is developing in the Carpathian mountains of Rumania, but he knows that.
There is a way to establish a wilderness reserve in Scotland complete with bears, boars, wolves, deer and accompanying wildlife without the necessity of building an 80 kilometer electrified fence or inconveniencing the neighbors.
This would be to turn the Island of Lewis and Harris into a national park.
Lewis & Harris are big enough to handle two distinct wolf packs and between a dozen and half dozen brown bears, the present Red Deer population and secondary wildlife.
All in all it would make an interesting national park.
Is that possible?
Yes it is neighbors.
You see, there is a strong racial memory of the "Highland Clearances" (Scotland regularly votes Labour and frequently threatens Independence.) Until very recently, there were no large blocs of public land in Scotland as there are in the United States. The present day Scots are changing that.
They are using the powerful Scottish Land Trusts to buy up private estates as they come onto the market and turn them over to public management. These blocs of land are large even by American standards.
For example, the North Harris Land Trust recently purchased 82,500 acres, followed by the West Harris Land Trust with 21,000 acres. Along came the John Muir Land Trust (Yes, THAT John Muir) who contributed even more land.
This does NOT mean that a wolf, Bear and deer wilderness reserve is necessarily in the cards for the Isle of Lewis & Harris. It just means that there is now a POSSIBILITY of such a happening. There are alternative suggestions for using some of the land for wind farms to harvest that ever present island resource.
A wilderness reserve, complete with wolves and bears is just one of the possibilities. Another possibility is crofting. Crofting is one of those "Only in Scotland" sort of things. It is a form of subsistence tenant farming. A croft is an agricultural unit, around 12 acres in size, usually with a crofter's cottage, and usually enclosed with a picturesque stone wall. In addition to the 12 acres, the crofter has access to the local grazing commons upon which he may run an agreed upon number of sheep or cattle. The crofter pays rent to the "Laird" who owns the croft. The laird may own (and rent) more than one croft.
If you think crofting is an invitation to instant poverty, you would be correct.
Except for one thing: The computer revolution. Computers allow you to run a lucrative business from the comfort of your crofter's cottage; a business that may have nothing to do with crofting.
In your spare time, you can raise vegetables, apples and pears on your 12 acres and livestock on your grazing allotment. You can also rent out spare rooms to hill walkers hiking Lewis & Harris.
"But wouldn't a national park preclude crofting and other human activities?"
Not at all! Humans have been part of the Scottish landscape for thousands of years and should be part of the national park. In addition to providing bed & board for park visitors, the crofter (or his family) could provide guide service for the hill walkers, helping them to find the wolves, bears, and other wildlife.
"But aren't wolves and bears dangerous?"
Wolves and bears are certainly dangerous to livestock and brown bears are certainly dangerous to people. You will want to carry bear spray (You can rent a can from your friendly crofter) Other than that, you should have no problem. (Unless you are Little Red Riding Hood.)
"But what about the livestock; the sheep and the cattle? Won't the wolves and bears attack them?
"Yes! Enthusiastically! It would be very cruel to expose sheep and/or cattle to predation by wolves and bears, because they are so very helpless. We bred them to be that way to meet our needs, not theirs.
If we were to reintroduce bear and wolves we would also have to reintroduce their prey; which would be red deer (present), musk oxen (from the fossil record) and the European bison (Wisent).
These animals have evolved with wolves and bears and over the eons have developed defensive tactics that work most of the time (If they worked ALL the time, there would be no wolves.)
Perhaps most famous is the defensive ring of the musk oxen. At the first sign of wolves, the adult musk oxen form a circle, horns pointing out, with the calves in the center of the circle. The bulls make short charges in the hope of hooking the alpha male or female wolf.
Swapping musk oxen for sheep should be no big problem. From the view point of the park visitor a herd of musk oxen is a lot more interesting than a herd of sheep. The wool of the musk oxen is the finest wool in the world, far warmer than sheep's wool, in fact, it is 8 times warmer. (Then why haven't they replaced sheep as a source of textile? The answer is that they are a wild animal and do not give up their fleece easily. If you desire a sweater made of Musk Ox Qiviut, you must pay dearly.
As for as the Wisent or European Bison, there are herds of these half ton creatures wandering the forests of every European nation, with the exception of the Vatican and the United Kingdom, same for the wolves.
Now there might be a time in the not too distant future when you can visit the isle of Harris for a walking tour and spend the night with a crofter, toasting the evening with Single malt and listening to the haunting cry of the Grey wolf.
OTHER THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT ASIDE FROM CORONA VIRUS
There is a knock at the door; I open it. An indistinct figure stands in the doorway.
"GREETINGS! I'M BILLY BROKEN HIP AND I'M HERE TO REMIND YOU THAT THERE ARE OTHER THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT THAN CORONA VIRUS! THE LAW OF GRAVITY HAS NOT BEEN REPEALED AND YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONES ARE VERY MUCH SUBJECT TO IT AND ITS COROLLARY, "VERY HARD SURFACES".
Reluctantly, I admit Billy. No sooner than I had done so there was another knock on the door. Another indistinct figure.
HOWDY, PARTNER! I'M LARRY LYME DISEASE! I'M HERE TO REMIND YOU THAT IT LOOKS TO BE A GOOD SEASON FOR DEER TICKS IN THE EASTERN UNITED STATES AND I CAN PROVIDE YOU WITH MORE MISERABLE SYMPTOMS THAN CORONA VIRUS EVER DREAMED OF, SO IF I WERE YOU......
There was another knock. (I've got to stop opening doors!)
"HI THERE! I'M STEVE STROKE! IF YOU THOUGHT CORONA VIRUS WAS SERIOUS, WAIT TILL YOU MEET ONE OF THE STROKE FAMILY!'
You see, life goes on in spite of the Corona virus, both the good and the bad.
This was brought home to your editor in a forceful manner one spring evening.
We were sitting around watching television, a not unusual diversion in the midst of the Covid19 pandemic. So far, so good. We were still free of the virus.
My wife, who was recovering from a broken hip, said that there would be a dramatization of an E.M. Forster novel PASSAGE TO INDIA on public television. I wondered "Who E.M. Forster was?"
(Thank God for internet.) Turns out he was one of those turn of the 20th century English writers that were obsessed with class the same way we Americans are obsessed with race.
So, enriched with Internet wisdom, I opened my mouth and said with a smile:
"ROOK'S NEST GAY NOBEL PRIZE, HILL OF DEVI, ELIZA FAY, GRADE 1, KINGS COLLEGE, HOWARD'S END......"
My wife and daughter exchanged significant glances. I was spewing out a laundry list of words with no rhyme nor reason.
It was obvious I was entertaining a TIA or mini-stroke.
A TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) occurs when a tiny bit of plaque detaches itself from a blood vessel wall and proceeds to the speech center of the brain where it temporarily clogs an equally small blood vessel. This causes one of two things:
A. You start babbling like a snake handling Evangelical Preacher having a glossolalia fit: speaking in a language never spoken by another human being.
Or B: You speak perfect English words except that they have no order, grammar or syntax. (Your brain does a normally wonderful job of rounding up all those nouns, adverbs, verbs, gerunds, and pronouns and herding them into good order for proper understanding. It is only when there is a TIA or a major stroke that there is a problem.
I had previously had "A". Now I was having "B".
One of the "good" things about TIA is that it is a passing thing, gone in a few minutes with no ill effects.
One of the "bad" things is that it is often a precursor to a major stroke, the kind that leaves half of you paralyzed or explaining your life to Jesus.
"Should we call 911?" inquired my daughter.
"Let's call the advice nurse" I replied, my speech clear and crisp. The TIA had passed.
So I did.
The advice nurse was cheery and helpful. She asked about the symptoms... I described them. She advised me to call 911. I thanked her for her advice
"Are you going to call 911?" asked my very interested spouse.
"No, I said.
I explained that it was the peak of the Corona virus pandemic in Maryland. In an emergency room triage, stroke and heart attack patients take precedence over Covid 19 cases simply because there is a greater chance of immediate death with stroke or heart attack.
"So"? Joan asked, skeptically.
Stroke and cardiac incidents are an "all hands on deck, full court press sort of thing; I would tie up a lot of Emergency Room personnel and equipment; assets that should be going to treat one of the incoming Covid 19 patients.
"But aren't you important"? insisted daughter Dee, anxiously.
"Indeed, I am", fully aware that our esteemed President would kick expectant mothers and veterans in wheelchairs out of the way in order to get to the head of the line, if he were in a similar situation.
"But you have to realize that this is not an emergency. This is not my first TIA rodeo: I have done "A" and all the symptoms disappeared BEFORE I had all the tests and examination.
Now I have done "B" and everything seems to be going well. Therefore, I feel I can take the calculated risk of not tying up scarce emergency room resources.
"Besides", I intoned solemnly "It's the noble thing to do."
My daughter rolled her eyes.
I had always wanted to play Sydney Carton, the hero of Charles Dickens story of the French Revolution, TALE OF TWO CITIES. Those of you who read the novel in Sophomore high school English will remember the scene where the alcoholic (but noble) brilliant lawyer Sydney Carton swaps himself for the heroine's boy friend who was on his way to the guillotine, Carton famously saying "It is a far, far better thing that I do today than I have ever done before."
I felt smugly noble. Take that, Trump!
A few days later, the advice nurse called me to ask if my 911 and Emergency Room treatment had been satisfactory.
I had to tell her that I had not availed myself of Montgomery county's 911 services.
"Why not?" she asked.
I told her that due to the Pandemic, I thought it best to leave the Emergency Room staff and equipment available to those who really needed it. (I left out the nobility part).
That was not the correct answer.
It seems that the Emergency room of this particular hospital (and indeed most hospitals in the nation) had arranged themselves into two streams of emergencies.
One emergency stream was the Covid 19 virus whose symptoms are spectacular enough for easy diagnosis and treatment.
The other stream was the more traditional emergency room fodder: Gun shot wounds, automobile accidents, stabbings, falls, broken bones, strokes, heart attacks and so on. In short, they had the situation under control and there was no need to second guess experienced medical personnel and that I should have called 911, so there!
I felt as though I should be apologizing for my failure to use 911, but the advice nurse let me off with a promise to call 911 in the future.
I later discovered that 911 calls and emergency room use for the usual shooting, stabbings, explosions and accidents, were declining nationwide during the pandemic.
Apparently, people were postponing their emergencies, much to the surprise of Emergency room staff!.
With the TIA affair safely over, there was nothing left to do except wash my hands.
That's the scary thing about this virus. You know that the medical folks are at a loss when the best advice they can give is "wash your hands often, wear a mask, and avoid crowds." That's the same advice given during the great pandemic of 1918 and the Polio epidemic of the 1940's.
There is not much you can do against an ambitious virus unless you have a vaccine.
I dutifully washed my hands.
Strange. There was a speck of dirt at the base of my left finger that would not wash off.
I soon discovered the reason why it would not wash off. It was not a speck of dirt. It had six legs. It was a deer tick, the vector for Lyme disease.
For better or for worse, every day life continues during the pandemic.
LEE AND OTHER STATUES
Recently "No Nonsense Nancy" Pelosi ordered the Architect of the Capitol to "remove" the statues of avowed fascists and racists from The National Statuary Hall. There were eleven of them.
Now it is possible that you did not know that we had a National Statuary Hall, let alone that it was flooded with bigots.
The National Statuary Hall is located in The Old Room of the House of Representatives in the National Capitol Building, Washington, DC.
It is a good example of "When given lemons, make lemonade" and the Old Room was certainly a lemon. It was very beautiful, but the curving surfaces created an echo that made it difficult to understand speech. Since speech is mostly what politicians do, this made the room sort of unusable.
In 1864, Congress suggested that the room be turned into a sculpture gallery with each state contributing two statues of their favorite sons or daughters.
It was a cute idea, though it does lead to strange bedfellows (California's choices are Ronald Reagan and Father Junipero Serra, founder of the missions).
People also go out of style for one reason or another, not necessarily Nancy Pelosi.
North Carolina's favorite son Charles Aycock, a vicious White Supremacist, was replaced by the evangelist Billy Graham.
Arkansas' James Paul Clarke, another white supremacist, had his statue replaced by one of Johnny Cash.
The state of Virginia is represented by none other than George Washington and Robert E. Lee.
Now does Nancy Pelosi plan to make Virginia give up Robert E. Lee?
Well, as far as the National Statuary Hall goes, that seems to be the case.
So, what is Pelosi's rationale for this move?
Nancy pretty much lets the bad guys hang themselves with their own testimony.
Take Alexander Hamilton Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy, whose statue represents Georgia. Mr. Stephens is worth quoting because he refutes that old lie that the Johnny Rebs were just demanding states' rights and it wasn't about slavery at all.
According to Vice President Stephens "The assumption of the equality of the races was something that was made in error. Our new government is founded on exactly the opposite idea. Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests on the Great Truth that the Negro is not equal to the White man, that slavery subordinate to the superior race is his natural and normal condition."
Pelosi argues that the statues should be of those who embody our highest ideals as Americans.
"Monuments to men who advocated cruelty and barbarism to achieve such a plainly racist end are an affront to these ideals. The statues pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed.".
Very good, Nancy, but where do they go and who owns them?
In addition to the 11 undesirable statues in the National Statuary Hall, there are upwards of 700 statues of Confederate soldiers, weeping Southern maidens, lugubrious poetry and other stone and metal tributes to The Lost Cause scattered around the South.
The statues and memorabilia were generally placed in the village square or the county court house lawn, both to commemorate the fallen and remind Black Americans who was in charge.
The statues were bought and paid for by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a turn of the 20th Century outfit considerably more conservative than the Daughters of the American Revolution. They were, for example, quite chummy with the Ku Klux Klan.
The main goals of the UDC were to (A) get statues of Confederate soldiers, officers or officials onto every Southern courthouse lawn and big city square, and, (B) make sure that school textbooks, even in the North, provided a "balanced" (Pro Southern)view of history. The UDC was remarkably successful in both goals.
So, what do we do with the statues?
There is the vague suggestion of "put them in a museum somewhere." Umm, which museum? where?
Then there is the vindictive solution "turning YOUR heroes into MY heroes" that is, melting down the statues to create statues of Civil Rights icons. That would run into property issues (somebody owns the statues) as well as counter-vandalism of the new statues by the Other Side.
How about donation of the statues to the National Park Service? We don't want to put words in any superintendent's mouth, but we would reckon that the Civil War parks are pretty much "statued up" when it comes to metallic or lithic replicas of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and other heroes of the Confederacy.
Fortunately, there is a slam dunk solution for the largest of these statues; the heroic equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee that now stands (in mortal danger) on Monument Boulevard in Richmond, Virginia. That's the statue that the governor of Virginia is trying to get rid of.
The solution would be a home for the statue in Richmond's Hollywood Cemetery. This historic old cemetery (Est 1847) is known as "The Arlington of the Confederacy" and is the resting place of no fewer than 27 Confederate generals as well as numerous other ranks. Clearly, this is the place for the Lee statue.
But what of the other 700 Confederate statues?
Well, that's where the UDC comes in.
Yes, the United Daughters of the Confederacy is still around. (Their Richmond headquarters was fire bombed just the other day.)
There aren't as many as there once were (Over a 100,000 at one time), but I think we can confidently say that there is a UDC in every state of the Union, including the hated Yankee ones.
Since they were part of the cause, the UDC should get a chance to be part of the solution.
The solution would be a UDC "Adopt a Confederate Statue Program".
Participants in the Program would agree to select a Confederate soldier from those to be stored at UDC headquarters and transport it to their home (Every Southern family owns a pickup truck, so that would not be an imposition.) The participant would agree to erect the statue on their property, presumably in the back yard garden (Though some participants may wish to make a statement by erecting the statue on their front lawn). The participant would agree to care for the statue in perpetuity, that is, if they moved, the statue would go with them.
The reader can see the multiple advantages. The statue would no longer be on public property and would no longer be intimidating anyone. The statue would get "Perpetual and affectionate care" as stipulated in UDC by laws and everyone will be happy.
The question of the Army bases named after Confederate generals is another "no brainer" and is easily rectified.
Obviously, the bases should not have been named after people trying to destroy the United States.
In reality, the bases should be named after Medal of Honor winners and it is a bit undemocratic to insist that only general officers be so honored with having an army base named after them.
"But what about honoring women?" No problem! The Medal of Honor is often granted posthumously, as in the case of Theodore Roosevelt. The Medal of Honor could be awarded to Harriet Tubman for being the first American woman to lead troops in battle. She could then be further honored by having a Fort Tubman named in her honor.
Now who would do all this nice stuff?
The job could be done by Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy who could invoke Army Regulation I-33 on Monuments to form a committee to select "Ten guys and gals who fought for the United States to replace ten guys who didn't." Writing in the June 19 issue of THE WASHINGTON POST, Brigadier General (ret) Ty Seidule, Professor emeritus of History at West Point, suggests the following changes:
Well, there you have General Seidule's list of replacement heroes. Not all of them are Medal of Honor winners, but all were accomplished citizens and all fought on our side. Perhaps you have your own list of replacement.
Could we get Seidule's list (or any list) past the Neo-Confederate clown in the White House? We all know that Trump has threatened to "veto" any base name changes, but does he actually have that power? He has claimed the Divine Right of Kings to do whatever he likes, but the question remains whether he would have the authority to countermand base name changes endorsed by, say, the Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and General Miley (The officer and gentleman embarrassed by the President in the famed "Battle of St John's Church.")
True, McCarthy and Miley have not indicated a position on the base closing and it is true that McCarthy was appointed to his position by Trump.
It is also true that Trump appointees do not have a long shelf life. Secretary McCarthy might wish to join the "John Bolton Society" : an ever growing congregation of those who have noticed that Trump is as dumb as a box of rocks and as amoral as a Krait.
Thus, Secretary McCarthy might choose to go out in a blaze of glory after recommending base name changes. You never can tell, and as President Trump always says, "We'll see what happens."
THE BUNDY BOYS, BILL MCKIBBEN AND THE CITIZEN RANGERS
It is probably for the best that the Bundy family took up illegal ranching rather than bank robbery as being morally justifiable.
According to the Bundy family (and their writ supersedes any thing that the Supreme Court has decided) the Federal Government cannot own public land; only the county and the state can do that.
Now the reason the FBI gets so upset about bank robbery, rather than, say, murder, is not because they love bankers, but rather because banks are usually federally insured.
Using Bundy logic, one could say that the Federal Government has no right to be in the insurance business and the Bundy Family has the right, nay, the duty! to make a .45 withdrawal from the most convenient bank.
So far, the Bundy family has not pursued this line of logic, possibly due to the presence of the pesky FBI.
Ryan Bundy, however, has branched out into illegal irrigation, commandeering several springs that rise on Federal property, namely, Gold Butte National Monument, owned and operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Ryan is gravity piping the spring water to stock tanks for the purpose of watering the herd of cattle owned by his father, Cleven Bundy, the Chieftain of the Clan and grazing illegally on BLM land. It is believed that with a permanent water source, then Bundy will be able to graze cattle until the range is completely destroyed.
Or until someone does something about it.
That "someone" is unlikely to be the present Director of the Bureau of Land Management.
The current Acting Director, William Perry Pendley, does not believe in Federal ownership of land and therefore does not believe in the mission of the BLM.
He does emphatically believe in the 24/7 production of fossil fuels on government land, despite dire warning of catastrophic climate change and holds no brief for wilderness or scenery if it interferes with mineral production.
Pendley is also a "Golly Gee!" admirer of the Bundy Clan, even though that family will endanger BLM employees at the drop of a hat.
So, if Pendley is unlikely to stop Ryan Bundy and the latest family outrage, who will?
Yep! You. Your very self. You may get a chance to be an environmental hero.
"How?" You ask, with some trepidation.
Well, you might become a "Citizen Ranger."
"Yep! Who do you think blew the whistle on Ryan Bundy and his theft of government water? "
"According to the newspapers, it was a couple of "hikers" who were out enjoying Nature and just happened to stumble across Ryan Bundy's waterworks.
They were able to provide not only photographs, but the GPS coordinates not only to the BLM (One would be interested in Pendley's reaction), but also to the local media, where, as the say goes, it went viral.
But were they innocent "hikers" out enjoying the view?
Maybe. Maybe not.
At any rate, they were not naïve enough to simply notify the BLM (One could imagine the reaction of William Pendley ie "Dirty squealers")
It is possible that the "hikers" were actually "Citizen Rangers" who chose to document misdeeds that have, for some reason, escaped the attention of the respective federal or state land management agency.
The "Citizen Ranger" documents the environmental outrage and sends a copy of the documentation to (A) The responsible agency (B) The Media and (C) The responsible Congressional Committee (or state legislative committee if it is a state matter)
Now who are these "citizen rangers"?
Well, they could be anybody, or they could be---you!
"Who would appoint these Citizen Rangers?
Nobody. They would be self appointed.
What would be the qualifications for the position of Citizen Ranger?
Generally speaking, retirement from the one of the federal or state land management agencies OR a life long demonstrable environmental hobby.
Would the Citizen Ranger wear a uniform?
No. A uniform can aggravate an already tense situation (The nearest thing to a uniform would be a lanyard with one of those photo ID card identifying you as a Citizen Ranger and the land management agency you used to work for and your former job title (We realize you had more than one; pick your favorite.)
Would the Citizen Ranger be armed?
Are you crazy? One of the surest ways of becoming dead would be to show up armed on contested public land. You are an information gatherer and only indirectly a law enforcement officer-a duty and responsibility possessed by every other American citizen over the age of 18.
What, exactly would a Citizen Ranger do?
Pretty much what you did before you retired, except that you would be reporting directly to your Congressperson and the appropriate Congressional Committee. You would also send a copy of your report to the Media and a copy to the environmental watchdog, PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.) You might be documenting overgrazing, timber theft, off road vehicle damage, oil or fracking spills and so on and so forth.
Do Citizen Rangers get paid?
Only in sunsets (and the satisfaction of a job well done)
Can you give examples of Citizen Rangers?
Sure! Bill Mc Kibben and Roger Siglin.
McKibben is a well known environmentalist and writer ("The End of Nature")
We heard him speak at the University of California Santa Barbara last February.
The theme of the talk (If I recall correctly) was "WHAT THE HELL CAN THEY DO TO YOU? In which Mc Kibben pointed out that one of the very few benefits of old age is the ability to defy authority without serious career repercussions. You are, after all, retired or on Social Security, so you might as well do something useful like getting arrested for protesting a pipeline. (Which McKibben has done on numerous occasions.)
Likewise Roger Siglin, former Chief Ranger of Yellowstone National Park and Superintendent of Gates of the Arctic National Park, who chained himself and friends to the front gate of a major pipeline company down in Alpine, Texas.
There is no limit to the things you can do as a Citizen Ranger!
THE SAFETY MESSAGEAh! There you have it, neighbors! The Safety Message! Your sole reason for reading THUNDERBEAR on government time! Your tireless desire to keep yourself updated on the Safety challenges facing you and your park!
You say you don't have any challenges: That they shut down your park due to the Corona virus; no visitors, no problems.
That is a narrow minded view on your part, friend, and a short sighted one at that.
Pressed by anxious governors, concessionaires, and chambers of commerce, the parks will shortly reopen and you will be soon faced with a sneezing, coughing, drooling flood of cabin fevered visitors bent on going anywhere except home.
You say that you are prepared. You have your blue latex gloves in case you handle visitors. You have copious amount of hand sanitizer. Above all, you have your mask; several of them, as a matter of fact.
Ah! But do you have your eye protection? Unless you have a face shield or goggles, your eyes are exposed to the elements, which might be a sneeze burst of water (and Virus) droplets, which may have a range of 25 feet and linger in the air for several minutes.
You want to protect your eyes from respiratory virus for two main reasons. First there is a direct connection between your eyes and your nasal passages (Which is why sometimes you can taste eye drops) and second, the virus can get into your eyes themselves, causing major problems.
If you don't immediately have goggles or face shield, your glasses or sun glasses will provide at least some protection, but be sure to wash your glasses as regularly as your hands, especially in crowds.
Good luck to you all in the pandemic.
PJ Ryan can be reached at: