Saturday, August 2, 2008

An Editorial, Red in Tooth and Claw

Last weekend I proposed shipping the West’s surplus wild horses off to West Virginia, where they’ve found a champion in House Natural Resource Committee Chairman Nick Rahall. Today, in response to this misinformed and insulting editorial in the New York Times, I propose letting our surplus wolves loose in Central Park.

One really shouldn’t expect that Times editorial writers would offer any nuanced, in-depth understanding of Western issues, since this is all just fly-over country to them, a huge swath of squaresville between the ultra-hip coasts, where the deer and the antelope and the cutout cowboy caricatures play. But the sheer depth of their misperceptions about the West, and the people who populate it, were on full display in this editorial, which lauded a Montana federal judge for re-listing wolves at the behest of environmental groups.

It was headlined “A Stay of Execution for the Wolves,” implying that without the judge’s intervention, it would once again be open season on wolves in the West. The Times seems to think that without the restraining hand of Uncle Sam, we knuckle-dragging Westerners would be piling into our pickups en masse, armed to the teeth and jacked-up on hooch, to sally forth in total war against our sworn enemy, the wolf. This not only betrays an amazing lack of understanding of Westerners, but of the Endangered Species Act, a law venerated most by those it effects least.

The wolf population in some places is increasing by 20 percent a year, a growth rate that's unsustainable in the "new West." Plenty of safeguards exist for the animals even with de-listing. And the states, including Wyoming, are perfectly able to manage them responsibly; if they don't, re-listing will result. Hunting is the most practical means of keeping their numbers in check.

All the goals of the reintroduction effort have been met or exceeded, but the animal worshippers now want to move the goal posts. And this is outrageously unfair to Westerners, who have been forced to go along with this bizarre re-wilding experiment, and who now have to live with the consequences -- unlike editorial writers in Manhattan, who watched too much Walt Disney as kids and get most of their exposure to wolves in coffee table books. Their romantic nature fantasies; our serious animal management problem.

Demonstrating how disconnected the writer is from on the on-the-ground realities of wolf management, the editorial even indulges in a bit of pop-psychology, explaining that the “deep-set hostility” wolves face in the West “has only a little to do with ranching.” “It is really driven by the competition between human hunters and wolves for the same game animals: elk and deer. And underneath it all is a false myth — the wolf as a kind of ferocious coward and an indiscriminate killer — that says less about the true nature of wolves than it does about human fear.”

Wow. Somebody at the Times read too much Edward Abbey when they were a sophomore at Bryn Mawr. If anyone's guilty of perpetuating "false myths" (as opposed to true myths?), it's editorial writers who traffic is such simplistic clap-trap, which they obviously got spoon-fed by some old college chum who now works for Friend of the Woods or some other neo-Druid group.

I wonder what their reaction would be if wolves were reintroduced to Manhattan Island, or if the discovery and ESA listing of the Central Park Elephant-Eared Mouse placed large areas of their playground off limits? I venture to think their arrogant attitudes would change.

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