We’re doing no favors for wildlife
John Hoffman recently wrote a letter praising Dorothea Farris and Dale Will for their hard work protecting wildlife and sensitive environments from development. He paints a pretty picture, where wildlife prospers under our admiring attention.
Unfortunately, that’s not the way things really work in nature. Wildlife neither needs nor wants human contact. Those that do are no longer wild. What John has described sounds more like a well-run zoo. The truth is much closer to that described by Edward Abbey, who warned that it is no favor to wildlife to “lead them to believe that anything manlike could be trusted.” This couldn’t be proven more pointedly than by displacing wildlife from their own designated preserve, as was done at Rock Bottom Ranch.
Without knowing exactly what wildlife sightings John refers to in his letter, it’s obvious to everyone by now that all the human-sensitive species have cleared out, including the resident deer herd, the wintering bald eagles, the blue herons and countless other, less obvious species. This has been the true impact of our “attentions.” Skunks, coons and coyotes are no more a sign of healthy ecosystems than are rats in a city. These are all species known to be opportunistic adaptors who thrive on human disturbance. Deer, elk, eagles, herons, peregrines, river otters, lynx, mink, neotropical birds and the vast majority of all other wildlife potentially in this area do not adapt well to human interference. Even most of these species can tolerate enough human disturbance to allow the use of primitive trails by those interested in observing and respecting nature, but none of them can tolerate the laying of pavement to channel in the entire bicycle, recreation and exercise traffic of this whole valley and visitors, many of whom race through some of the richest sights and sounds of nature wearing headphones, with their eyes riveted dead ahead, totally focused on speed, breathing and heart rate.
These lands have not been protected from development but instead have been opened up to one of the most disruptive sorts of development, in the form Abbey referred to as “industrial tourism.” These areas were theoretically already protected as habitat for state and federally protected species and would otherwise have remained protected prime wildlife habitat indefinitely. If anyone had been interested in protecting wildlife, this could have been done with minimal sacrifice by merely following the advice of all the wildlife experts involved. Despite repeated public promises that their “Adaptive Wildlife Management Plan” would be used only to increase closures to protect wildlife and NEVER used to shorten closures to favor recreation, both Dale and Dorothea not only voted against helping the wildlife already displaced but even voted to sacrifice the remaining, even more critical winter habitats to allow year-round use of their trail. So where’s the protection?
While John’s optimism and positive viewpoints are admirable, they present a great danger by helping people feel good about wildlife destruction. John likes to use the Galapagos as a good example of human/wildlife interaction. How many species were driven to extinction from the Galapagos alone before this area received sufficient protection? The remaining wildlife has survived only because there is no unsupervised traffic allowed. They don’t invite the world of recreation to come bike, jog and picnic with Darwin’s finches.
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