Aoudad, The Bogus Boogeyman

 

Eradication Science or Eradication Snake Oil?

 

This piece asks common sense questions about the increasing use of wild animal eradication as a primary conservation tool, and about the foundations on which these practices rest: Why have eradications become so prevalent? Do eradications advance conservation? Are eradications based on science or snake oil packaged as solutions?

It also offers common sense about hunting ethics, and suggestions about how to fix our broken wildlife management system. I regret the offense these may cause a few good friends.

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In summary: eradications – and the thinking behind them – are a growing threat to wildlife and habitat, being carried out in response to a trumped up “invasive species crisis.” This false emergency has, in my opinion, been promoted to the public by Big Wildlife: A coalition of government agencies, universities, NGOs and agrochemical giants who together have co-opted wildlife thinking and practices.

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In far-West Texas, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) maintains that Desert Bighorn Sheep reintroductions must include costly eradications of many species such as wild longhorn, aoudad, burros, elk, cougar, coyotes, bobcat and foxes, if the reintroductions are to succeed. This is unsupported by science and contradicted by experience.

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Obviously, Desert Bighorn Sheep should be reintroduced across far-West Texas. My family has long advocated inexpensive, low-stress, private land transplants of bighorns to best expand bighorn numbers and range. Few, if any, private landowners have more experience with bighorn; have done more for bighorn, or enjoyed greater success with bighorn than we have. Our experience has taught us that several basic TPWD tenets, policies and practices actually hurt bighorn and the many other animals necessary for their well-being.

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On every TPWD property in far West Texas, all “aliens,” which are also called exotics by the department, are killed as a matter of written policy.

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Before TPWD will reintroduce bighorn sheep on private lands it requires that landowners remove many species including aoudads and elk because they are “aggressive invaders” doing “harm” through “competition.”

Why would an agency that is tasked with managing wildlife resources for the common good advocate the eradication of several species of wild animals, including aoudad sheep and elk, to reintroduce one, bighorn sheep? The answer is found in invasion biology.

 

Invasion Biology

 

“Folks who ain’t got ideas of their own should be mighty careful whose they borrow…”                                                                                           cowboy saying

 

In discussing invasion biology’s origins, it is not my intention to attribute political affiliations or personal convictions to any person or group.

Ecology as a formal science was born in Germany in the early 1800s. Though visionary in many ways, it was deeply influenced by xenophobic nationalistic beliefs or a pervasive fear of outsiders, which made genetic purity a priority. As a sociopolitical policy prevalent in the 19th Century even in the United States, it favored the interests of established inhabitants over those of immigrants.

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Incalculable misery came from these ideas when they were used against human groups. People have tried to remove this poisonous nativist thinking from our social and political venues, but have failed to address similar beliefs in ecology. As a result, these ideas continue to survive in ecology as an authoritarian green movement, which in alliance with big government, agribusiness and education has spread across the world as the superstitious basis for what today is called “invasion biology.”

Reflecting its nativist origins, invasion biology rests on the superstitious belief that the world is threatened by thousands of “aggressive alien invaders.” Any living thing that is not “native” is, by definition, “harmful.” While only “natives” are good, if they too are “invasive” or “aggressive,” then “natives” like “aliens” also are “unnatural” and guilty of doing “harm” to “integrity” and “ecosystem health.”

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Forty years ago, the emerging environmental movement rallied around common sense concerns about the effect of poisons, bulldozers, chainsaws and rifles on habitat and wildlife.

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Today, the most discussed environmental issue after climate change is invasive species. And, in a complete turnaround of focus, the solution offered by a hijacked environmental movement, which has embraced the invasion beliefs, is poison, bulldozers, chainsaws, helicopters and auto-rifles!

Since alien, native, invasive, aggressive, unnatural, harm, integrity, eco-system health etc. are not defined they can neither be tested, nor used to develop operating rules for practices. They are useless in predicting outcomes. But they produce what most government agencies can only dream of: full employment in an ever-growing, perpetual, unwinnable war against countless enemies, identified as they choose and redefined as they wish, resulting in a river of public funding for agrochemical companies, agencies, researchers and wildlife “managers.”

 

“Invasive Aliens” Defined

 

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Let us test invasion biology as it is applied to bighorn sheep introductions in far-West Texas. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a prominent international organization dedicated to invasion biology, which is closely associated with the United Nations, offers this definition, which uses “alien” and “exotic” interchangeably:

Alien invasive species means an alien species which becomes established in natural or semi-natural ecosystems or habitat, is an agent of change, and threatens native biological diversity.

Alien species (non-native, non-indigenous, foreign, exotic) means a species, subspecies, or lower taxon occurring outside of its natural range (past or present) and dispersal potential (i.e. outside the range it occupies naturally or could not occupy without direct or indirect introduction or care by humans) and includes any part, gametes, or propagule of such species that might survive and subsequently reproduce.” (Undated). (Emphasis is mine.)

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Based on this definition, desert bighorn sheep are an “alien invasive species” and should be eradicated. Desert bighorn were extinct in Texas by 1960. Texas bighorn were said by TPWD to have been of the sub-species “Texensis.” Replacement stock is of a different sub-species, “Nelsoni” with animals gathered from present ranges in Baja California, Nevada, and Utah. Each lower taxon of these comes from a physically and genetically isolated group (a lower taxon). Each has been moved outside its past and present natural range. None could have come to Texas, or survived to subsequently reproduce in Texas, except by the direct and indirect introduction by humans. According to TPWD, none could survive without human care which includes artificial water, feed, propagation and elimination of predators including native cougar, foxes, coyotes and bobcat and “competitive” pre-existing populations of cattle, sheep, goats, horses, burros, bison, aoudad, elk and, in some instances, mule deer does, as was the case next door to Circle Ranch at the Sierra Diablo WMA. Sheep introductions are, to put it mildly an agent of change. Obviously sheep introductions as practiced by TPWD threaten native biological diversity.

 

Same Facts, Opposite Conclusions

 

This characterization of bighorn as “aggressive alien invaders”competing” and doing “harm” is consistent with the eradication justifications of several species. However, sheep advocates need not worry because there is a catch: identical outcomes of sheep and “aliens” turn out to actually be good when caused by sheep but “harmful” if caused by an “alien”. What a relief!

This viewpoint switch is easy, because when closely examined, “alien, native, aggressive, competition, invader and harm” are empirically hollow buzzwords that are constantly redefined at the whim of those who use inflammatory, arbitrary jargon to promote the war on weeds and wildlife.

 

Natives” Are Also “Invaders

 

A core assumption of invasion biology is that evolution, working with the precision of a fine Swiss timepiece, eventually arrives at a “climax” stage of equilibrium where there is a place for every living thing and where everything is in its place. This climax stage, which Darwin himself never proposed, has long been disproven but is fundamental to invasion beliefs, which say that systems are so isolated and so stable that an invader can come from “just over the mountain.” Under this thinking, attacks on any number of native species can be — and are — justified:

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TPWD says elk are “native” in the Guadalupe Mountains, but they are “aliens” in the Sierra Diablo Mountains, 18 miles away! At TPWD’s direction, elk eradications are expanding all across far-West Texas, as part of private ranch transplants, even though elk were once present all across this area.

Elk eradication in Big Bend Park is under serious consideration, if not already approved by the National Park Service (NPS).

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Under NPS direction, native mountain goats in Yosemite Park are eradicated because they are repopulating from the wrong direction.

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An endangered species, Monterrey Cypress, is being cut down 40 miles from one of only three surviving native groves. Redwoods are cut down in California because the nativists say they are a few miles away from where they “belong.”

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Under the 1996 noxious weed laws of the U.S. and Canada, more than 100 species of native plants are defined as “invasive” weeds in places where they are native.

 

All “Aliens” Are “Harmful

 

Plants and animals have always moved around. Millions of plants, plus familiar animals like bison, sheep, elk, moose, caribou, deer, wolves, bear etc., evolved on other continents and migrated across the world. Many came, some disappeared and others reappeared. There have been at least eight migrations of bear.

Because such migrations are as old as life, systems have evolved to readily accept newcomers and it turns out these enrichments of diversity usually help everything.

“Not so,” say the invasionists. Anything “alien” is by definition “harmful,” so any new organism by definition does “harm.

But is this circular logic borne out with respect to aoudad? Are aoudads in fact doing “harm?

 

Myths About Aoudad “Harm

 

 

“Science is the systematic enquiry into the nature of phenomena, and it cannot progress without serious dedication to the truth.”

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Disease: TPWD personnel say that aoudads pose a disease threat to bighorns. While aoudads and bighorns share some genetic markers, where is the evidence that demonstrates that any aoudad has ever transmitted any disease to any bighorn?

In fact, no such disease transmissions have occurred in the Sierra Diablo herd, the largest, oldest and healthiest in far-West Texas, where these animals have lived together for over 50 years.

If we were to kill every animal that might pass diseases to humans or animals, we would leave few if any species alive in the desert. And that would lead to the disappearance of bighorns.

Scientists who propose aoudad eradication because of this should offer their proof.

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Aggressive Behavior: TPWD personnel maintain that aoudads are aggressive toward bighorns. On the Circle Ranch, we have aoudads and bighorns as well as elk, pronghorn, mule deer, llamas, cattle, alpaca and burros. Pictured above are aoudad and bighorn sheep grazing together on winter grass.

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We often see bighorn doing this. While occasional skirmishes and roughhousing may happen within and between species, we have never witnessed nor photographed any of the aggressiveness that is supposedly so common. How does TPWD know that alleged fighting between aoudad and bighorn rams was started by aoudad?

Scientists who propose aoudad eradication because of this should offer their proof.

 

Sexual behavior: TPWD personnel have told me that aoudad rams have a strong harem instinct and that during the breeding season they will co-opt bighorn ewes and prevent the bighorn rams from breeding them.

In 14-years of managing both species on Circle Ranch, we’ve never seen aoudad fighting bighorn for any reason let alone for ewes…

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…and never had a year where our bighorn ewes didn’t have a lot of lambs.

I seriously doubt that aoudad lust after bighorn. Scientists who propose aoudad eradication because of this should offer their proof.

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Aoudad Drive Sheep off  Water: Another reason TPWD gives for eradicating aoudad is that they drive sheep and other animals off of water.

Another bogus charge, from what we see. Here are pictures of aoudad and sheep sharing water, and of other species using that same water, or water nearby. We review 5,000 photos per month, and have sequences at other water points, confirming what is seen above (The photos date within 2-months, the summer of 2013).

Scientists who propose aoudad eradication because aoudad prevent other animals from drinking, should share their proof.

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Here are sheep together with aoudad at water.

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Here are elk at nearby water and feed . . .

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. . . mule deer . . .

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. . . and pronghorn nearby . . .

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. . . and javelina . . .

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…burros…

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…llamas

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…even golden eagles, which in all probability would also be eradication targets but for federal law.

Aoudad “Outcompete” Sheep: TPWD personnel have said that aoudad “outcompete” sheep, but we’ve not experienced that on Circle Ranch. Our aoudad herd is in balance with our habitat. If the aoudad in any number were damaging the habitat, I’ll be the first to say they should be reduced. With that said, complete extirpation of aoudads would never be my goal.

Scientists who propose aoudad eradication because of this should offer their proof.

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Aoudads provide a mountain lion buffer species for bighorns. Why kill off everything else and leave bighorns exposed as the primary food source?

And, if it is necessary to reduce aoudad populations, the means should be a combination of ethical sport hunting and predators, not helicopter missions.

 

Anecdotes Aren’t Evidence

 

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Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human motivations, characteristics, or behavior to inanimate objects, animals, plants or other natural phenomena. Attributions of human traits are common in invasive species propaganda like this poster, and, based on my personal discussions, in TPWD leadership thinking. Common themes are that “invaders” are dirty, sneaky, evil, sexually aggressive, lust after native females, “outcompete”, and carry disease.

While anecdotes and hearsay evidence make for interesting conversation, no one I’ve talked with has ever seen this behavior first-hand, nor could they provide me with verified reports of the foregoing.  Although I know that it is taken as proven, hard evidence is conspicuously absent, even after 50 years of experience with aoudad and bighorn in Texas.

This is normal: The false science of invasion biology often treats as hard evidence rumors and stories that reinforce negative preconceptions, interprets actual observations in ways that agree with what is already ‘known’, and routinely projects human characteristics onto plants and animals.

 

“Aliens” Hurt Biodiversity

 

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Unquestionably, biodiversity loss is a real problem but its root cause is anthropogenic – human impact – not ‘invasive aliens”. Yet, the constant alarm sounded by invasion biologists selling their “invasive species crisis” is that animals like aoudad, elk, cattle, burros, predators and others “harm” biodiversity. In truth, it is Big Wildlife’s eradications of these animals and many, many plants which pose this threat. Most plant and animal “invasions” are nature trying to heal herself by restoring biodiversity to systems unbalanced by man. This healing of biodiversity is necessary for wildlife, including sheep, to recover. Biodiversity is not something that will miraculously emerge from its own destruction by chemicals, machines and guns.

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Here are llamas, pronghorn and elk sharing and improving habitat at the Circle Ranch. The photo was taken in the midst of the great drought. Look at the excellent range condition.

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At the Circle Ranch we have burros, horses, alpaca, llamas, goats, elk, bighorn, pronghorn, mule deer and sometimes as many as 1,000 cattle.  These cattle are by the definitions of invasion biology  “harmful aliens“, yet they are essential to range health because of  the periodic animal impact that only herds like these can deliver to habitat.

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We have more than 100 sheep at any time. This is 20-25 percent of the big herd (meta-population) that TPWD says live in the Beach, Sierra Diablo and Baylor mountains. But we have much less than 25 percent of the sheep habitat. Circle Ranch has multiples of the sheep population relative to its share of sheep habitat. All these “alien invasive” species are a reason why.

Scientists who propose eradication of any plant or animal because it threatens biodiversity should have proof.

 

Any Species Introduced by Humans Is “Harmful

 

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What is the science to justify the theory that a plant or animal spread by man does “harm,” whereas a plant or animal spread by another plant or animal does no “harm?

 

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

 

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TPWD uses public money from a variety of sources to educate Texas youth on safe and ethical hunting. The North American Game Management Model, to which every one of these organizations subscribes, says that hunters should employ the Rules of Fair Chase – giving the quarry a chance to escape – and that it is unethical to kill game frivolously or to waste game. These admirable concepts were begun by Theodore Roosevelt, and continued by Aldo Leopold and millions of conscientious sport hunters.

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As any parent knows, youngsters pay more attention to examples than to advice. Arbitrary, subjective hunting ethics are unethical. Those like TPWD and others who ignore Fair Chase, taking aim on aoudads, elk, predators and other species from helicopters with automatic weapons and then abandoning their quarry set a horrible example.

They may rationalize this as management. They may reason that eradications of vermin justify mass killings. They may say that, since this is a “war,” extreme means to accomplish eradications “as efficiently as possible,” quoting the Texas Bighorn Society on helicopter missions against elk, are justified. Demonizing aoudad and “aliens” may help to ease consciences, but after all the rationalizations, obfuscations, and false pieties including “…this is a difficult but necessary task…” the ugly truth remains that they are just pouring old poison from a new bottle.

 

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With good cause, the voting public is offended. In an era when public support for hunting is waning, and organized opposition to hunting and gun ownership is growing, TPWD of all groups should not create situations where their staff, and for that matter all hunters and landowners, can be portrayed as bloodthirsty shooters bent on the extermination of wild animals by unethical means.

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The target in this gunsight isn’t an “invasive alien”. It is is Texas sport hunting, having been painted with a bullseye by those who promote, practice, or avert their eyes from unethical hunting.

 

Property Rights

 

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These aoudad and elk would be worth thousands of dollars if allowed to grow to maturity. Thousands of landowners who will never see a bighorn sheep permit could have valuable animals which would enhance their pleasure in hunting and in wildlife viewing, and enrich the biodiversity of their animal community, benefiting plants and all native wildlife. It could make their ranch more valuable. The war on aoudad, elk and other wildlife is also an attack on private property and property rights, waged by agencies we pay for.

(Since this piece was written in 2013, eradications have increased along with restored funding of TPWD. For example, in August 2014, in the Sierra Diablo Mountains, 44 aoudad were shot with auto rifles from Texas Parks and Wildlife helicopters, by TPWD personnel, and left to rot.)

 

Some Questions for TPWD Scientists, Biologists and Leaders,  About Your Eradications

 

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In my opinion, calling invasion biology bad science is unfair to bad scientists because it isn’t science at all. You claim to follow the North American Wildlife Management Model, which requires basing all actions on sound science. So, as scientists doing this, please answer a few questions for those of us who cannot fathom why an agency with a $350+ million annual budget dedicated to the mission of protecting wildlife is arbitrarily eradicating entire wildlife populations.

What do you mean by “native” “alien” “harm” “invader and “competition?” Please give definitions that allow landowners and managers to apply these terms in our own practices.

What temporal (when) and spatial (where) scales do you employ in these definitions, and what is your objective basis for using them?

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Where and when are relevant to TPWD’s burro eradications at Big Bend Ranch State Park.

When: Horses and burros evolved in North America. They and their ancestors were in our systems for 50 million years – millions of years before sheep, or humans. Horses remained in our systems until 5,000 years ago. They have been back in our systems for 500 years. How long must horses have been gone before they ceased to be “native?” How long must horses have been back to qualify as native?”

Bighorn went extinct in Texas, and remain extinct in most of far West Texas including where the Department plans to release more. Did they cease to be “native?” What are the distinctions and what science justifies your answers?

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Where: We know horses were in far-West Texas. Here is an ancient horse tooth found in our Indian Cave at the Circle Ranch.

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Paleobiologists say this horse resembled modern burros. Following bighorn disappearance in Texas, adjacent to the Circle Ranch you released a different kind of bighorn, one that survived somewhere else and was the closest animal you can find, calling it “native”, yet you say burros at the Circle Ranch are “aliens.” Are all bighorn “native” anywhere in Texas? You are putting them in some ranges where probably they could not have been. Why are they “native” in those spots? What are the distinctions and what science justifies your answers?

If you are using subjective definitions for the terms “native,” “alien,” “harm,” “invader,” and “competition,” how will these concepts be adequate to formulate a scientific discipline of ecological principles, management decisions and public policy?

What are your criteria for ecological “harm?” The criteria need to be measurable and objective, not just subjective speculation. They should apply to all species, irrespective of whether they are theoretically “native” or “alien.” In the absence of these criteria, on what basis are you determining which species to control or exterminate?

What are your objective, ecological criteria of “alien” species? Of “invaders?” These need to be precise so any biologist or landowner can identify “non-native” or “invader” in any ecosystem by evaluating the criteria without being told in advance what the designation is for a specific plant or animal.

It must be possible to confirm this through double-blind experiments, which do not give away in advance the definition of the plant or animal tested. For example, how does the Department distinguish between “native” and “alien” plant monocultures, between expanding “native” and “alien” populations, and the effects of “natives” and “aliens” on the ranges? If TPWD can’t give these definitions, or develop them, then its conclusions about the effects of these plants and animals are entirely subjective and its procedures are not scientific. Without such objective criteria how do TPWD employees justify actions against species you call “alien?”

How will you distinguish harmless or helpful characteristics of a new species from “invasion” particularly at the early stages? The example that comes to mind is when TPWD wiped out 100 burros that ranged on 500,000 acres of state and national parks with 100 miles of river frontage because the burros supposedly threatened water sources for bighorn. Elk and aoudad are also targets, yet, none ever existed in sufficient numbers to be a threat to anything.

What protocol does TPWD propose, or have, for determining the conservation value of new populations that have moved outside of historical ranges? We’re putting sheep in some remote mountains where, according to my research, sheep never existed and killing many animals to do it. This is considered “good,” whereas a few elk spreading by themselves back to where they always existed are “harmful?” Are all such population moves “invasions?” And if so will they be exterminated without regard to possible conservation value? Are we going to exterminate the tiny numbers of Scimitar-horned Oryx in addition to the Gemsbok eradications currently pursued by the game departments in New Mexico and far West Texas?

If the mere presence of these animals is not considered sufficient reason to act against them, what reasons are sufficient? Who will make these decisions? Under what authority are those decisions made? If there is disagreement as to whether a species is harmful how will these be adjudicated? What measures have TPWD put in place to ensure that harmless species or species that serve useful conservation purposes are not the object of harmful control or eradication measures?

If we abandon native/alien criteria in favor of invasive/non-invasive criteria or aggressive/non-aggressive criteria how will these terms be defined? Considering that population numbers of native animals swing widely, how do we justify any efforts to impose stability on these “exotic” populations?

How is the cause of “invasion” to be determined? If human impact is the only reason will the extermination of the species spreading as a result of this solve the “problem” or will this create a downward spiral of inappropriate interventions? Shouldn’t we be treating causes instead of symptoms?

How has TPWD attempted to ensure against potential conflict of interest inherent in accepting money for research from sources that may have their own agendas?

Considering the agency’s position on “aliens” how did your community of scientists justify releasing the salt cedar leaf beetle, an alien insect, in an attempt to contral salt cedar, an alien plant? (Were I to agree with your idea that exotics are always dangerous, the introduction of a new parasite would raise a red flag, and, be directly counter to efforts to eradicate exotics).

 

The Emperor’s Clothes

 

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This is an invasion biology chart propagandizing for continuous preventative eradications.

  • The public is unaware until it is too late (thank heavens for Monsanto and agency experts!)
  • So long as the preventative eradications are in effect, conditions are green and good.
  • Without continuous eradication the war is lost: the color shifts towards red and danger, and severity as projected by the ‘area infested’ axis grows rapidly.
  • All along the chart timeline axis, there is the explicit need for eradications.

We again see arbitrary definitions and scales, emotionally loaded imagery and jargon: junk science propaganda for the war on plants and animals.

Most people take this at face value, trusting the scientists on whom we lavish public money to conduct themselves scientifically.

 

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Aoudad are just one of many scapegoats of the “invasive species crisis,” sold to the public by an authoritarian coalition of self-interested regulators, agencies, universities and agrochemical giants. This group recognized that the bigger the “emergency,” the bigger the piece of the public pie they could claim for solving it. They have struck pay dirt with a never-ending, unwinnable, ever-expanding war waged against a host of enemies identifiable however they wish.

Wild animal ‘management’ according to financial self-interest, authoritarian ignorance and superstitious pseudoscience is the worst thing ever to happen to wildlife, and what is being done to plants by the invasion biologists is even worse.

 

Smaller is Better

 

Big government and big business are two faces of one coin, which seeks subsidies, protection from competition, favorable regulations, support for (and from) politicians, agencies, universities and regulators. The larger the conglomerate grows the more ineffective its individual parts become. Eventually, as can be seen in industry-after-industry, agencies in these aggregations do things contrary to the purposes for which they were established. Take wildlife: conservation began in order to protect wild animals and plants from reckless destruction. Today’s increasing conservation challenge is protecting plants and wildlife from Big Wildlife.

TPWD’s only essential functions are: 1) operating parks and 2) supplying game wardens. TPWD’s “wildlife management” practices, increasingly based on invasion biology, are a classic example of wasteful attacks on core principles. Thoughtful citizens and elected officials should come together and insist these be reduced to the lowest level possible, to protect wildlife, habitat and and the public coffers.

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Wherever possible, let the private sector take over, as in this privately-funded road and erosion class at the Circle Ranch. Let’s stop undercutting private advisors with “free,” bad advice. Let people who receive services pay for what they get – and get what they pay for. Allow free markets to reward those experts whose advice produces good results and winnow out those who sell snake oil and failure.

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Acknowledgements:

I wish to acknowledge authors whose books and advice have helped me in writing this piece.

Allan Savory & Jody Butterfield: Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making

David Theodoropolous: Invasion Biology: Critique of a Pseudoscience

P.A. Yeomans, Ken B. Yeomans: Water for Every Farm: Yeomans Keyline Plan

Bill Zeedyk: Water Harvesting From Low-Standard Rural Roads

Posted by Chris Gill

Ranching, wildlife management, finance, oil & gas, real estate development and management.

  1. Chris
    Great article ! We don’t have bighorn in the glass mtns , if we did I’m sure we would see the same behavior that you all have experienced. We do have all the other species mentioned and have had all my life. They cohabitate very well.

    Reply

    1. Thanks for these kind words Chance.

      Having spent many happy days in the Glass Mountains (your ranch), I think that it is great sheep country. The animals can be trapped and released by cowboys using pickups and stock trailers.

      As ranchers, you are already getting animal impact. Besides cows, the other thing that really works for sheep (and elk, deer, aoudad) is plenty of permanent water in the high country.

      With lots of species including cows, and water, all you need do is release sheep – then leave the system alone because nature will figure this out better than any ‘expert’, in my opinion!

      Thanks again.

      Reply

  2. “The war on aoudad, elk and other wildlife is also an attack on private property and property rights, waged by agencies we pay for.”

    Nail on the head, Chris. Due to the basic nature of mankind and what motivates him, no government bureaucrat can (or will) ever manage any resource better than the man who owns a capital interest in it.

    Reply

  3. Thanks Dr. Jimmy.

    Yes, “…the best fertilizer for any soil is the owner’s footprint” as the Chinese saying goes.

    Reply

  4. Absolutely spot on. This was a great article. I honestly thought I was the only person who thought this way. Good to know I’m not the only person to believe in such “heresy.”

    Reply

  5. Dear Charles,

    I am both surprised about how many people agree with these ideas, because so many do, and disappointed that so few will say so: Most will not openly disagree with the Big Wildlife orthodoxy.

    Thanks for your comment.

    Reply

  6. I am wondering how Texas Parks and
    Wildlife has handled the invasion of Nilgai in Willacy County or the invasion of Axis deer in Kerr County?
    Is there any correlation?

    I do know of landowners in Kerr County who shoots “hogs” out of helicopters- maybe that is sanctioned ?

    This was interesting and well written.
    Denise

    Reply

    1. Thirty years ago, the wildlife press celebrated Nilgai and Axis as marvelous and useful additions to the biodiversity of our ranges. Texas A&M Press published books extolling the vision of those who introduced exotics, including such men as Caesar Kleberg (King Ranch) – who founded and endowed the Caesar Kleberg Foundation – which today advocates the war on exotic alien plants and animals, and is in some ways anti-cattle!

      Regarding ‘invasion’ by these animals, what native wild animal have they displaced? I have not noticed a deer shortage and lots of us like the hunting and viewing they provide!

      As I have tried to explain, the agrochemical & agribusiness giants have hijacked the environmental movement as the food, ranching and farming industry has evolved from a diverse competitive business with millions of competitors to one controlled by a few companies. Big Food has joined with its cronies, the agencies and universities, and so now Big Wildlife is all about eradications, poisons (using the products of Dow, Monsanto, DuPont), and attacks on biodiversity.

      TPWD released elk for years yet, now requires their eradication anywhere bighorn are introduced: they agree elk are native, but say they are ‘invasive’.

      Texas A&M (and their colleagues across education, science and government) has gone from advocate to enemy of exotic animals and become a leading advocate of poisons and of true ‘alien invasive species’: GMO’s which in the recent versions of engineered seeds are grown using glysophate (Roundup) and 2,4-D (as in Agent Orange) to suppress all other plants. We are dosing our croplands with deadly poisons and destroying soil fertility and soil life, without which native plants and animals die. Our universities and agencies promote, teach and subsidize the practices, then they blame “invasive” species for the inevitable shifts in plant and animal communities, and prescribe more poisons and eradications as “silver bullets” for the “invaders”. And, wonder why quail are disappearing, and demand money to solve the mystery.

      The feral hog “problem” is caused by Big Food who effectively made it illegal for farmers and ranchers to sell free-range pigs as food, something that has been done for thousands of years. Go here for more information on this: http://circleranchtx.com/tag/feral-pigs/

      These perversities are as intertwined in their origins as are their consequences.

      Thank you for your comments.

      Reply

  7. Brandt Buchanan March 21, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    After studying aoudad for the last 10 years I’ve learned alot but the more I see of aoudad the more questions I have? I think we still need to learn so much about them in order to effectivly “manage” them. So my question can we answer some important questions and how?

    Movement

    I believe that about 4-6 months per year specifically the times surrounding the breeding seasons aoudad cover large amounts of country and move frequently. During this time the dominant herd ram ( they appear to have a similar social structure to elk) does not seem to make any un-pressured decisions in regards to movement. When the herd moves it’s usually appears that a young aoudad trips or ventures a little far from the herd and they all think its time to go and start following. Then the young surprised leader seems to be somewhat alarmed or confused and the herd moves over or around the next hill or two. Then they’ll stop to rest and feed and this constantly exept in the heat of the day where they typically bed in cool dirt. Of course the heightened activity of breeding seasons influence the movement but I have observed that external influences greatly effect as much if not more activity than just internal genetic program to breed when the weather is nice. External influences include:
    hunting pressure!
    temperature
    amount of sunlight each day
    moon cycles
    wind
    feed
    water
    predators
    violent or extreme weather conditions
    ect.

    No matter what time of year it is there is one thing that is somewhat consistent and that is behavior directly related to body temperature regulation. This appears to be one of the largest parts of an aoudad’s life and something that must considered every time you study these sheep.
    During the rest of the year I believe they’re are in somewhat of a “survival mode”. This is the time that evokes many questions for me which are just as important as the answers.

    Do they hold fast to evolutionary adaptations which provoke irresistible nomadic behavior?

    Do they seek out the most remote areas or areas void of human activity?

    What else influences the movement of an individual aoudad gender, age, specific areas? What are the variables at play?

    If they have adapted well enough, been hunted enough, or has natural selection changed the genetic make-up of our local sheep enough to be considered a new sub species? If so wouldn’t that make them native?

    Are there specific area old rams congregate during “survival mode”? Is it a place they return annually?

    Are there locations that individuals return to? Something similar to salmon?

    Does diet effect amount of activity? Example: more ideal environments with strong resources v.s. badlands type country.

    When a ram get so old and his horns inhibit they’re sight picture and range of movement do they seek softer country or more isolated regions?

    “Depletion of resources”
    It seems as if aoudad prefer to browse more in the spring/summer and switch to grasses in the fall/winter. Obviously they’re large very active animals that must consume alot of calories but what exactly do they consume and how much?

    How does they’re body metabolize what the consume?

    What other impacts may aoudad have on the “native” flora and fauna?

    Does there feces contain seed and fertilizer that promote the growth of certain plants?

    As a member of a very bio-diverse environment do they play any positive roles in maintaining a healthy equilibrium?

    Disease,
    If aoudad do carry communicable diseases or virus’ and they are successful in transferring them to “native” wildlife what are they?

    What and how much of an effect if any does this have on “native” species?

    Is there an effective and efficient solution to this specific problem?

    How much of what is known about Aoudad is only pseudo-scientific propaganda?

    Psuedoscience and myths:

    #1 aoudad only drink water once a month.
    I gotta call BS on this although aoudad possess a unique ability to metabolize water I think is would border on insanity to present that as a tempered fact. I do think they CAN go a month without drinking free water however there must be certain times of year where the demand much more water than can be metabolized via diet. Lambing, breeding, extreme heat ect.

    2. They primarily rely on eyesight as a defense.
    Yes they’re eyesight in incredible but how does it work exactly? are there variation of the typical sheep eye?

    I think hearing plays just as important a roll. It seems that the areas they prefer to be located are acoustically more ideal for detection of predators or threats.

    They also seem so cover blind spot with smell. On old rams favorite place to be when he’s not feeding is against a rock where the is no direct sunlight facing him and a rock or cliff face protecting him from the wind while also creating an eddy that allows him to carefully smell that blind side without being seen.

    Anyhow I could go on and on for days but for the sake of not overloading anyone I’ll leave it that.

    Reply

  8. Dear Brandt,

    These are interesting points, observations, and questions.

    You have not said anything with which I disagree, although I frankly do not have an encyclopedic knowledge of aoudad.

    We observe these animals constantly. I have just reviewed many, many winter 2014 photographs taken at water points around our ranch. These numerous drinking places are shared by mule deer, donkeys, cattle, desert bighorn sheep, pronghorn, elk, llamas, alpaca, horses, coyotes, javelina, quail, doves, and many other species.

    Simply stated: There is neither conflict between them and aoudad, nor damage to habitat, that close and long-term continued observation reveals.

    The point of this article is to challenge those who disagree with what I have said and what you have said, to come forward with evidence. My letter and article, directed to these folks has been neither acknowledged, nor answered: Nor can it be because when deconstructed scientifically, Invasion Biology is exposed as voodoo science being used by agency bureaucrats – and their cronies in government, academia, and agribusiness – to increase funding for their needless and destructive practices.

    Thanks for commenting.

    Sincerely,

    Chris Gill

    Reply

  9. […] a detailed analysis of how these eradications and poisonings are affecting animals specific to far-West Texas, including Desert Bighorn Sheep, Go Here , or click the topic tags appearing below and alongside this […]

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  10. This is a worldwide problem, and I think you’ll find New Zealand may be th sickest of all.
    Best wishes.
    Bill,
    A Letter to the New Zealand Ecological Society.
    The editorial (below) of the December 2011 edition of the NZ Ecological Society’s newsletter is an interesting window into the mind of one of those involved in New Zealand’s conservation science. While the editor may not be the society, it is reasonable to expect that the editor’s views and attitudes would reflect those of the ecological society as a whole.
    It chronicles the events of the year, starting with Prime Minister John Key’s likening ecologists to lawyers, much to her chagrin. It then recounts the editor’s travels, in the first instance, beset by the sight of posters on the West Coast seeking to ban 1080. She questions the motives, or “just the plain ignorance” of those responsible. Her second event was an encounter that left her feeling frustrated with a fellow passenger “misinformed about 1080” on an airline and who, despite her obvious badgering, failed to accept her views. She reflects that people only take on new information that supports their view. In her blinkered vision, does she not see that it is her, and even possibly the Ecological Society itself, that is equally as guilty of failing to see the legitimacy of other viewpoints?
    The editorial outlines coming advocacy strategies of an ecological society that believes its ends can be best achieved by carpet bombing the land with a deadly universal poison; even to the indoctrinating school children – just like the Hitler Youth movement! Of course, if the arguments supporting 1080 were sound, there would be no need for this indoctrination as advocated by the editor of the Ecolgical Society’s newsletter –
    It is interesting to consider the pre-disposition displayed in this editorial when looking at the society’s role as the publisher, through its journal, of peer reviewed scientific articles on the impacts and benefits of aerial 1080 operations.
    Typical would be a study to determine the effects of 1080 on kaka and kereru survival and nesting success. It is cited by both DoC and Forest and Bird as a success story for 1080. (Powlesland R.G. Wills D.E. August A.C.L. & August C.K. Effects of a 1080 operation on kaka and kereru survival and nesting success, Whirinaki Forest Park. New Zealand Journal of Ecology. Vol 27 No2. 2003. P 125 to 127.). What is interesting about this study is that there is a poisoned area and an un-poisoned control. The impacts of the poisoning are monitored for the “predators” (possum, rats and stoats) in both areas and the results compared. They show aerial 1080 is a stunning success story for stoats whose numbers have exploded post poisoning; rats have recovered to their former levels in two years. Slow breeding possum have logically not recovered. For the kaka and kereru, the results on survival and breeding success between the poisoned area and the un-poisoned control have been combined, so absolutely no conclusion can be drawn as to the benefits or otherwise arising from 1080 operations. It begs the question, would the results have been combined if field observations had shown a clear and conclusive benefit to the birds from 1080 poisoning? The abstract then claims that aerial 1080 “should” benefit these bird populations. There is absolutely no evidence it “should” or “should not” benefit. Although the study is meaningless in terms of what it set out to achieve, it does provide compelling evidence that predators are the real beneficiaries of aerial 1080 and, as the result for the birds has been concealed, we are left to assume that the consequences for them were dire.
    Other peer reviewed studies published by the society reveal similar flaws:-Sweetapple P. Fraser K. and Knightbridge P. “Diet and impacts of brushtail possum across an invasion front in South Westland”. New Zealand Journal of Ecology28(1) 2004. P19 -33. This study claims in the abstract, the part most people read, that forest bird populations “declined with increasing length of possum occupation”. In the body of the report, it changes its tune to “weak support” for the hypothesis that native bird numbers decrease with increased length of possum occupation. From examination of the actual observations a case can be made that there is an increase in bird numbers with increasing length of possum occupation.
    Another would be the often cited Powlesland R, Knegtmans J, Styche A. “Mortality of North Island tomtits (Petroica macrocephala toitoi) caused by aerial 1080 possum control operations, 1997-98, Pureora Forest Park”. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 24(2): 161-168 (2000). This study is claimed by DoC to show the beneficial effects of aerial 1080 to tomtits, robins and moreporks. To the untrained the study looks sound, but to scientists, Drs. Pat & Quinn Whiting O’Keefe, there is significant and deceptive use of statistical analysis of the raw data. They also found tests of statistical significance were not used to support major conclusions. The only explanation they could offer is deliberate misrepresentation. (Drs. Pat & Quinn Whiting O’Keefe. “Aerial Monoflouroacetate in New Zealand’s Forest”. Submission to ERMA. 2007.)
    The question has to be asked, is this peer reviewed science, as published by the New Zealand Ecological Society, the result of incompetence or is it a deliberate and ethically questionable manipulation of data to suit an agenda? The December editorial would suggest the latter but, either way, I think many people would call it “junk science”. It certainly does nothing for the reputation and integrity of New Zealand science. The real tragedy is that it is the “science” used to justify the continued destruction of New Zealand’s unique beautiful wildlife and forests. It is used by people such as the Parliamentary Commissioner of the Environment in the preparation of her report endorsing the continued use of 1080. It is used by both DoC and the Royal Forest & Bird “Protection” Society to support their venal objectives to the expense of New Zealand’s conservation.
    Clearly, to have any credibility, the New Zealand Ecological Society should immediately examine the role of its journal editors. The whole published catalogue should then be properly scrutinised and purged of rubbish such as the examples here. When you think about it, it is lawyers who may feel aggreived by John Key likening them to ecologists!
    Yours Faithfully. W.F. Benfield.
    (W.F. Benfield is the author of the book “The Third Wave – Poisoning the Land” published by Tross Publishing. E-mail Address trosspub@gmail.com
    From the Editor of the Ecological Societies Newsletter
    “A series of recent events has convinced me of the importance of getting sound ecological knowledge out into the public domain. John Key’s BBC interview in which he likened ecologists to lawyers was a shocker. A West Coast holiday with anti-1080 “Poisoning Paradise” posters lining the otherwise empty roads was hardly surprising. The “Ban 1080” election hoardings placed by vote-hungry (or possibly just plain ignorant) politicians were rather more galling. A random conversation on a flight home from Auckland with a stranger misinformed about 1080 but unprepared to read about the facts (good and bad) left me feeling particularly frustrated. Perhaps it was a manifestation of the phenomenon observed by social scientists that people tend to only take on board new information that supports the viewpoint they already hold.
    So what can we do as individual ecologists and as a society? In the short term, it’s policy makers, politicians and other decision makers that we need to influence. Some politicians never let the facts get in the way of a good story, so maybe these ones are a lost cause. But I’m pleased to say that Fleur Maseyk has taken on the role of Submissions Officer for the NZ Ecological Society, so we will now be able to respond much more effectively to important issues. In the long term, we need to dramatically improve the ecological knowledge of the general public. Ultimately, the New Zealand public will decide the future of our country by how they vote and their submissions during public consultation. I’ve always said we need to indoctrinate children when they’re young—I’ll be keeping that in mind when doing my Christmas shopping this year!”
    Bill’s Blog. http://billbenfield.blogspot.com
    * Professor Sir Paul Callaghan’s bunker vision for New Zealand’s conservation.
    * What will Forest & Bird do if we run out of possums?

    Reply

  11. […] To read more about Big Wildlife’s war on aoudad and many other wild animals and plants, click here… […]

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  12. I agree completely that the eradication of one species, so that another can survive, is a poor idea. I do agree with managing the numbers, if they get out of proportion. I also think the TP&W is operating outside their mission, which is to regulate hunting of native species. Why is a hunting license required to hunt non-native species? TP&W also has free rein as to what they want to do, without answering to the public. When was the last time TP&W listened to the public and changed what they do? The public hearings they have, are nothing but a waste of time. The House of Representatives is suppose to control the TP&W, but the House thinks the TP&W are the experts, so the House approves anything that TP&W asks for. Totally disgusting. And then, TP&W has people like Walter Humphrey on their Board of Directors. A asbestos lawyer, with no more qualifications than I, to run TP&W, excpet he owns a lot of land and has more money than a dump truck can carry.

    Reply

  13. I find your arguments compelling and well written.
    I also find a lot of the rhetoric on invasive species to be tiresome.
    It appears to me that the general thinking is a thinly veiled attempt designed to legalize aerial hunting and generate targets for same in direct contradiction to the 1971 Federal act prohibiting it.

    Reply

    1. Invasive species eradication is full employment for those who have no idea how to restore wildlife and habitat, but need to be seen to be doing something dramatic.

      Thanks for writing.

      Reply

  14. Brian Bransford March 21, 2015 at 11:19 am

    We see what has happened in the northwest and all over our country with wildlife control by these green thinkers. Thanks for the informative firsthand experience article.
    There is one creature however, that I would like to see eradicated. The Fire Ant, It has destroyed the earth in any place it has invaded. Where a child could once sit in the grass and look at the sky or roll around and play, that place no longer exist in the range of the Fire Ant.

    Reply

  15. […] To read more about Big Wildlife’s war on aoudad and many other wild animals and plants, click … […]

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  16. WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by
    searching for invasion biology

    Reply

  17. Chris well done – your usual thoroughness. Sorry you only had the old dated edition of my textbook – the 2016 3rd edition covers this matter of the bureaucratic (not scientific) use of native vs non-native.

    I do believe you are making the same mistake I did for many years – criticizing TP&W. Like all human organizations, they are complex soft systems as defined in Systems Science. And as such they, like all organizations, exhibit “wicked problems” (meaning almost impossible to solve). There are 3 wicked problems that are involved here.

    1. They are engaged in reductionist management, and this issue of scientifically based management of the wildlife requires Holistic Management – but they like all organizations ridicule and oppose new counter-intuitive scientific insights, and they simply cannot change until the public begins demanding management be holistic. There is not one case in history of any organization ever accepting new paradigm-shifting knowledge ahead of the public view shifting.

    2. Organizations seldom admit to error, but almost universally if criticized circle the wagons and protect the organization, even when it means going totally against their mission. Example Catholic Church and pedophile priests – known problem for centuries but the organization chose to protect the church and not the innocent which is their mission.

    3. No matter how intelligent, good, well-meaning, etc. the people in an organization, such is the nature of complexity that the outcome commonly lacks commonsense and humanity. Example, ask any person does it make sense for America to produce oil to grow corn, to produce fuel? No stupid – but literally thousands of institutional scientists do it, and how few protest.

    TP&W are like all organizations exhibiting these three wicked problem behaviors. They cannot do otherwise.
    I no longer criticize any of these organizations for the simple reason that they are staffed with some wonderful intelligent good people, but simply cannot do any different because they are complex soft systems. I finally heed the research.

    If you want to change things, and if we heed what the research and history tell us about how our organizations behave, then all we need do is concentrate on better informing the public about the one thing no scientist or normal human can argue. That is simply that management needs to be holistic, embracing the best science we have at all times. Who can fight that? And the moment the public are insisting on that, supported by many people in TP&W who are also members of the public, then it will change. I face the same in Africa – the worst biodiversity loss and wildlife habitat destruction is occurring in the major national parks surrounding our land, but no point criticizing them because again it is entirely due to reductionist management and till the public insists they cannot change that (you may have seen this blog about it http://www.savory.global/uncensored/national-parks/ )

    I know you are battling this on the wildlife front, but it really is on all fronts as I stated in my recent address to the European land owners major conference in Brussels http://www.savory.global/uncensored/time-for-solutions-conference-european-landowners-organization-talk-by-allan-savory/

    All the best with your efforts.

    Reply

    1. Dear Allan,

      Many thanks as always, your advice and insights have been transformational to my thinking as well as so for many others.

      I completely understand your suggestion, but I have a specific problem that pretty much obliterates my objectivity: We are next door to a TPWD-run wildlife management area where these well-meaning folks are diligently eradicating animals from the same herds that we are trying to protect. I makes me crazy to find a cow elk gut shot and dead in our mountain pasture, having been shot by public employees next door and then running to our side to die. Or to have 40 aoudad from a herd that is on us half the time gunned down from TPWD helicopters and left to rot, effectively obliterating a treasured resource.

      How would you approach the slaughter of ‘our’ animals by a neighbor unrestrained by even the weak wildlife rules that apply to the public?

      Sincerely,

      Reply

  18. Remember Shakespeare – I come not to praise Caesar but to bury him! Acknowledge their sincerity, dedication and concern for conserving the wonderful wildlife we all value. (Don’t question their motive) However, as their neighbour sharing the same love of wildlife and concerns you are observing the wildlife habitat on their land continuing to degenerate, and you are experiencing the results of the killing – pictures of gut shot animal, dying animals, carcasses – emotion is what people respond to and little else. Because you once thought as they do, you understand that they must be very concerned that no matter how much of this killing they do they cannot help but observe land continue to deteriorate – because they, like you, know that habitat management is the most vital aspect of wildlife management. So state publicly that their concern must equal your own. (they cannot come out in public saying they like killing and seeing their land continue to deteriorate for all life because I am sure they do not) Don’t fake this be sincere and understanding because you knew no better till you became aware of this being reductionist management and that there was an alternative in Holistic Management.

    Link their actions to others who think the same and use pictures you can take from my stuff or get for yourself – national parks in absolutely shocking degradation in New Mexico – like Chaco or the Aldo Leopold Memorial Forest on the Rio Grande here in Albuquerque – in the Chaco all large grazing animals removed long ago and now it is worse than anything in Africa. Use examples of people who believed land damage equals too many animals – people like me who made major blunders like I did leading to killing 40,000 elephants needlessly. I know they think species compete that is standard teaching in the local university here. And I got into a good bit of friction with a prominent professor from Princeton in Africa – he was telling everyone there nature functions through competition (really antiquated thinking) and could not accept that we now understand it functions not at species level or population level, but at community level through synergy. What you learned and experienced – and inviting them and everyone to consider that the problem might just be reductionist management (which is true). Not easy I know and far easier to simply fight. If you do not set yourself aside in opposition as a critic, but rather link them to you and your caring – because you are all just people with the same aim – higher biodiversity on regenerating land with diverse and increasing wildlife, etc.

    Use quotes from others who ridiculed and opposed Holistic Management for nearly fifty years – such as the lovely one from Dr Sanjayan who was a Senior Scientist at TNC when he hosted the National Geographic/PBS documentary Earth a New Wild. Here is his quote when they filmed on Dimbangombe:

    “If Allan is right, then we may have to completely rethink life on the plains. The message is an extraordinarily powerful one, and it could be the best thing, the absolute best thing that conservation has ever discovered.”

    “In a million years, I never thought that cows could be so beneficial for the wildlife I love . . . As an ecologist I was taught that people, and especially their livestock, are the enemy of wildlife, but my journey from Africa to the Arctic to here in Montana, is forcing me to rethink everything I know about conservation.”
    …Dr. M.Sanjayan

    Just keep reminding yourself – not until enough ordinary people see that it makes sense to manage holistically can TP&W change. Their staff are just ordinary people too and if you experience what I have, literally hundreds of staff, range science academics and bureaucrats helped me privately in defiance of their organizations that all ridiculed and opposed as is normal.

    Wish there was an easier way but there is not when dealing with human organizations. And lastly what well-attended public talks can you and others who care arrange – I am finding since twenty minutes on TED did more than fifty years of trying to convince organizations, that I am achieving more in just short talks to large audiences – talking to the public to whom things make sense, while those in organizations sit in the audience. Powerful learning while no one puts them or anyone on the spot or blames.

    Reply

    1. Dear Allan,

      Thank you for these observations and the advice. Your work is the most hopeful development of environmental responsibility in my life, and I will heed your advice where possible. Meanwhile I feel I must speak for the animals that cannot speak for themselves: It is a balance.

      Your friend sincerely,
      Chris

      Reply

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