Breaking News
Home » Community Blogs » George Wuerthner’s “On the Range”

George Wuerthner’s “On the Range”

Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act Misses on Weeds and Wilderness

The Coalition to Protect the Front supports the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act as a means of “protecting the Front”. It justifies the legislation by the “threat” noxious weeds make to the native plant communities of this magnificent landscape. Weeds, by displacing native plants, reduce the carrying capacity of the Front for native wildlife—which everyone agrees is one of the special attributes of the Front. Unfortunately, the Heritage Act only proposes a paltry 67,000 acres as wilderness. While any new wilderness on the Front is welcome, the Heritage Act misses an important opportunity to protect the bulk of the wildlands that exist here, including the Badger Two Medicine and other important roadless lands. Indeed, on their web page, the Coalition sees the threat of more wilderness as one of the reasons for supporting their plan. So to prevent the “threat” of wilderness, locals want to designate the majority of land along the Front as “Conservation Management Areas.” What a misnomer that name is.

Read More »

Wallow Fire Reporting Misleading

The Wallow Fire is now the largest in recent Arizona history, encompassing more than 500,000 acres. The media discussion of the fire often leads to misinformation and misunderstanding of wildfires, and feeds the political agenda of politicians and industries from developers to the timber industry. One of the problems of media coverage is that most reporters have little or no training in ecology, much less in-depth understanding of wildfire ecology. Context for large blazes like the Wallow Fire are often missing from reportage. The emphasis on fuels makes for easy reportage, but misses some important nuances that lead to simplistic solutions—the common refrain that if we only logged more of the forest such fires would be prevented. It also tends to reinforce the idea that thinning is needed in all forest ecosystems, when in fact, many fire regimes in higher elevations and more northern locations are more or less still within historic norms. Furthermore, there is a tendency to focus on the most unfortunate losses which can exaggerate the perception that such fires have done a lot of “damage” to people, seldom holding people accountable for their own losses because they have chosen to build in a fire-prone landscape.

Read More »

Wolf Hunting–Popular Misconceptions and Response

There are a number of misconceptions, and a lack of perspective that drives the wolf hysteria in these states. Below are a number of commonly heard popular comments about wolves and a response. Like any popular quip there is typically some kernel of truth that often is greatly exaggerated or is repeated without verification. These assertions are repeated so often they are adopted as “truths” without critical examination of the fundamental assumptions

Read More »

Oregon’s assumptions on cougar hunting misplaced

Oregon, like many western states, allows cougar hunting. Part of the justification for hunting is the assumption that killing cougars will reduce livestock losses and increase public safety. There is growing scientific evidence that suggests that sport hunting is more likely to increase cougar predation on livestock and may even increase the likelihood cougar attacks on humans.

Read More »

Why Wolf Hunting is Unethical

In light of the recent successful delisting of the wolf by Congress, I have been thinking a lot about why I so strenuously object to killing wolves.

Read More »

Bison Slaughter A Smoke Screen for Livestock Industry

Deep snow in Yellowstone National Park is once again forcing bison to seek out winter range at lower elevation. In their search for exposed forage, bison naturally wander to snow-free lands outside of the park. Unfortunately for the bison, once they leave the park, they are killed by the Montana Dept. of Livestock ostensibly in the name of controlling brucellosis. Brucellosis cnotrol is being used to hide another objective of the livestock industry--to prevent the restoration of bison on public lands--which would be a threat to public lands grazing across the West.

Read More »

Reflections on Wilderness and Mountain Biking

I’ve had debates with mountain bike supporters over the question of whether bikes and, by extension, other wheeled vehicles, should be permitted in designated wilderness. The mountain bike crowd feels their activity should be allowed in wilderness areas. Many mountain bikers oppose any wilderness that does not permit biking and/or at least if designation closes a trail that mountain bikers have come to use. Since by definition of the Wilderness Act, mechanical access is prohibited, any lands designated under the 1964 Wilderness Act is automatically off limits to mountain biking. There are many reasons to exclude mountain bikes from wilderness--not the least is that recreation is not the prime reason for wilderness designation.

Read More »

Ominbus Wilderness Bill Likely

During the last session of Congress many wilderness and park bills were reported out of committee, but have not yet been voted on by the entire legislative body. Many of these bills will protect important wildlands across the country. And the recent election of many anti-wilderness legislators means that if these bills are not passed in the Lame Duck session coming up, these wildlands may not garner protection for a long time into the future.

Read More »

Do ranchers have a right to predator-free landscape?

One of the unquestioned and unspoken assumptions heard across the West is that ranchers have a right to a predator free environment. Even environmental groups like Defenders of Wildlife more or less legitimize this perspective by supporting unqualified compensation for livestock losses to bears and wolves. And many state agency wolf management plans specifically call for compensation to livestock producers—but without any requirements that livestock husbandry practices be in place to reduce or eliminate predation opportunity.

Read More »

Hunting and Predators–Does it Work?

State wildlife agencies and hunting organization demand that predators like wolves should be controlled, preferably by sport hunting. Among the underlying assumptions are that hunting can reduce human conflicts, including livestock depredation, and potential attacks on humans. Yet there is little scientific evidence to back up those assertions. In fact, recent research suggests that sport hunting disrupts social organization among predators, thereby increasing social chaos which manifests itself with greater human conflicts. A self fulfilling feedback mechanism results whereby state wildlife agencies institute hunting of predators, creating more social chaos, which in turn leads to greater human conflicts, and more demands for even greater predator control.

Read More »