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New West Daily Roundup for May 31, 2016

Today in New West news: Boy Scouts of America to sell 848 acres of land to Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Zayo co-founder leaving, and Wyoming Business Council Board of Directors signs off on $7.3 million in grant and loan requests.

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The Hard Questions Of Raising Bison For Supper

Do you know where your meat comes from? Was the animal raised and killed with "compassion?" Do its survivors grieve? Bob Jackson says it all sounds so New Age, so Left of center, so radically alternative, so touchy feely, and yet many Americans are making a conscious shift in their diets and attitudes toward more healthful, natural foods. As the movement gains both cultural and economic momentum, consumers also are facing questions they never pondered before. One of the native edibles appearing increasingly on family dinner menus is bison. Over the last several days, NewWest.Net has carried on a conversation with "Action" Jackson, the bison rancher who first made headlines as an outspoken backcountry ranger who battled big game poachers in the wilds of Yellowstone. But every autumn when he went home to Iowa for the winter, Jackson's lesser-known parallel life took shape as he steadily grew his own bison herd. In this, the conclusion to our interview with Jackson, he takes readers metaphorically and physically into his own backyard where he has enlisted bison to become a better land steward and to tweak the sensibilities of our consumer, fast-food society.

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In Animal Kingdom, Are Bison Equal In ‘Value’ To Humans?

In the big picture of earthly existence, are the lives of bison and other animals equal in value to humans? Bob Jackson doesn't think of himself as an animal rights activist, nor as a philosopher nor an intellectual who is immune to personal hypocrisy. In fact, he admits in plainspoken, opinionated, homespun English that at times his command of proper grammar is sorely lacking. But he is no Neanderthal. As a consumer and capitalist, he raises bison for sale to provide meat on the dinner table for hundreds of human families who are his customers. Nonetheless, he relates to bison as sentient creatures that possess their own range of emotions and sense of belonging to one another. Is there a contradiction here? This kind of paradox in Jackson has not only attracted responses of incredulity from members of the scientific community, who have pegged him with a "Dr. Doolittle" label, but it has left Jackson staking out contentious terrain, for it challenges our own value system. In this, the third part of NewWest.Net's continuing conversation with 'Action' Jackson, the topic moves from a discussion of Bison Culture to the relationship humans have with bison and other species.

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Bob Jackson on “Bison Culture” And Traditional Ag

Do wild animal populations have their own "culture"? In the first part of NewWest.Net's interview with Bob Jackson, the former Yellowstone ranger turned private bison rancher said there is far more to an animal's relationship with the landscape than meets the human eye. Look closer at bison, he suggests, and one not only sees culture, but matriarchal and patriarchal roles, not unlike those which existed among native American tribes on the western plains. In the second part of a continuing conversation with Jackson, the blunt-talking former civil servant suggests that wildlife biologists, including those working in Yellowstone, need to broaden their perspective and let go of biases, instilled in their thinking by academics, about how wildlife herds actually live. When Jackson suggests that among bison family groups there are grandpa and grandmas, parents and subadults, mentors and students, all carrying out specific functions, is he guilty of anthropomorphising?

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Former Controversial Yellowstone Ranger Becomes Bison Rancher

Bob Jackson knows that viewed from any angle, he is a living, breathing enigma. During his three decades of civil service as a seasonal backcountry ranger in Yellowstone National Park, Jackson cultivated a mystique—and generated controversy—for his maverick approach to confronting big game poachers in the remote Thorofare section of the park and for allegedly treating his living quarters there as a personal fiefdom. His vigilant stewardship earned him rousing praise from regional conservation groups. His outspoken opinions netted him scorn from superiors in the National Park Service, which imposed a gag order on him, preventing him from talking with the press. No matter what one thinks of Jackson, any Westerner who has ever met him quickly realizes they are staring into the eyes of an American original.

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America Is Paying A Steep Price For Cheap Food

George Wuerthner has been called a brilliant provocateur who knows how to get under the skin of Western ranchers. With this essay, one that is certain to incite a strong reaction from readers, he examines the costs of America's cheap food policy on both the U.S. Treasury and the environment. Wuerthner writes: "Agriculture is the most destructive land use in America." As an activist, trained biologist, photographer and environmental writer, he has become a prominent figure in the campaign to eliminate livestock from public lands. The author of several dozen books, Wuerthner also has written prolifically about forest ecology, wildfire, the impacts of ATVs and, of course, the effects of non-native cattle and sheep on native species. His coffee-table picture book,Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West, set off a firestorm of debate over the impacts of livestock and the multiple ways that beef production is subsidized by U.S. taxpayers. His most recent book is Wild Fire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy. With this first piece, NewWest.Net is debuting a regular column from Mr. Wuerthner that will run twice a month on all things nature-related and anything that suits his fancy.

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Critical Outfitter Now Embraces Yellowstone’s New Winter Tourism

A decade ago, Randy Roberson believed he was fighting for his livelihood against hostile people whom he was convinced were trying to run him out of business. The family man and winter tourism outfitter from West Yellowstone, Mont. saw environmentalists as an enemy. Along with despising conservationists for seeking dramatic reductions in the number of snowmobiles allowed to enter Yellowstone National Park, Roberson directed enmity toward Yellowstone Superintendent Mike Finley and Finley's employer, the National Park Service. As he watched the federal government clamp down on old-technology snowmobiles in the late 1990s because of the noise and air pollution they carried with them, Roberson had a Darwinian awakening. He realized he needed to either adapt and change, or perish. Today, Mr. Roberson has transitioned his park-oriented rental fleet away from snowmobiles into offering guided snowcoach rides into Yellowstone's frozen interior. He still rents snowmobiles to those who want to ride on the national forest. In the essay that follows, he shares his thoughts on how his own attitude has shifted, persuading him to conclude that the forced change has been good after all.

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Wisconsin Bestiality Case Certain To Draw Attention Of Western Big Game Hunters

Every so often an email arrives that is too good not to share. For New Westies who passionately enjoy the great out of doors and love to hunt, this real life court case comes courtesy of a dear (not deer) old college friend, Fredric "Fritz" Anderson. Together, we were classmates at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. Today, Fritz is a public defender in northwestern Wisconsin and recently took on a case involving a man who allegedly had amorous feelings for wildlife and apparently, it seems, for other animals. The case, as one might expect, attracted local media attention back in the upper Midwest which led to it being featured this week on The Smoking Gun blogsite. It involves two interpretations of the law that are sure to become fodder for sportsmen and women in saloons across America. Is it legal to have sex with a dead wild animal?

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Nez Perce Youth Exercise Treaty Rights To Harvest Yellowstone Bison

Hundreds of Yellowstone bison this winter already have been shipped to slaughter. Others have been harvested by hunters in Montana. With hundreds more likely to leave the protected confines of Yellowstone before this winter ends, the controversy surrounding the treatment of these popular wildlife icons is only going to swell again. This week, it was announced by a group of teenagers from the Nez Perce Indian Nation in Idaho, exercizing 150-year-old treaty rights, will come to national forest lands outside the park to harvest up to 16 bison for their tribe. How will it be greeted and does it set a precedent for other tribes to exercise their treaty rights pertaining to traditional hunting grounds? So far, the state of Montana has welcomed the hunt with open arms. But will those who have portrayed hunting as cruel do the same?

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