> THE LIBERTARIAN, By Vin Suprynowicz

> 'Now they've made it all "wilderness" and there's no deer left'



> Last time we were talking about the official state Department of

> Wildlife study on sage grouse eggs being eaten up by ravens -- a report

> which Dr. Bruce Wilkin of Ely contends Willie Molini's Department of

> Wildlife managed to keep "buried" since 1990, since it gives solid


> that the decline in sage grouse populations must be attributed to the end

> of the predator control programs that worked so well from 1948 into the

> early '70s -- not to ranchers or hunters "overusing the land."


> Joining me and Dr. Wilkin for our Friday dinner in Ely, Harry Pappas,


> was appointed by former Congresswoman Barbara Vucanovich to the BLM


> Advisory Council and later represented the State Rifle & Pistol


> on the Clark County Tortoise Advisory Council, chimed in with a few tales

> of the absurdities he's witnessed over the years.


> "They said the tortoise was threatened, so they had to fence off these

> huge areas and shut out all the cattle, which means no one is out there

> shooting the coyotes and the raven or trapping the lions any more, so of

> course that wrecked the hunting. They said anyone who found a tortoise had

> to turn it in.


> "So what happened? They got so overrun with tortoises being turned in

> that they told us they were going to have to start euthanizing them. I


> 'Hold on a minute, here. Euthanize them? Why don't you just drop them out

> in the desert?' They said 'Oh no, they'll fight with the native tortoises

> that already live out there and they'll kill each other, because all these

> lands are already at saturation levels.' I said, 'Wait a minute, now:


> is it? How can they be 'threatened,' or 'endangered' ... but now you tell

> us all these lands are at 'saturation levels' for tortoises?"


> Harry recalls a wildlife biologist from California who, years earlier,

> spoke before the BLM's Citizen Advisory Council (on which Harry also

> served), bringing in "two huge plastic garbage bags full of baby tortoise

> shells -- there had to be hundreds of them, probably thousands. Every one

> of these shells had a hole pecked through the top where the ravens had

> carried them off and pecked through the shell and eaten the baby tortoise

> right out of the shell, and he said they picked these up in middens around

> the raven nests, just thousands of them.


> "Well, he showed up once, and then we never saw or heard from that guy



> In fact, when "desert tortoise preservation" became the main rationale

> for pushing most of southern Nevada's cattle ranchers off the land, Harry

> remembered the ranger from California with his bags of tortoise shells,


> asked if he couldn't be brought back to address the Tortoise Advisory

> Council. "At that point they all said they didn't know who I was talking

> about; they couldn't find him.


> "I followed him out to his truck that night and asked if I could have


> of those shells. He didn't want to do it, but I talked him into giving me

> one." Harry carried with him a photographic slide showing the baby


> shell with the hole pecked in its back. He delivered it to Cliff Gardner


> the Gardner Ranch in Ruby Valley the next day.


> "But now they say the way to protect the tortoise is to fence off the

> land and not let the ranchers and the hunters in, when the biggest


> populations we ever had were in the '50s and '60s, when you had plenty of

> ranching, and plenty of hunting, and plenty of predator control," Harry

> continues, turning back to his spaghetti and meatballs while eyeing with

> considerable skepticism the carrot and cauliflower vegetable medley.


> "I hunted the Star Valley (east of the Rubies) for 10 years. There used

> to be lots of deer there, but now they've made it all 'wilderness' and

> there's no deer left. But where Cliff has his cattle running up and down

> the east side of the mountain, there's plenty of deer." (Harry turned out

> to be right; the next day we spotted more than 80 deer just driving the

> snowy road through Harrison Pass with Walt Gardner, who hires out as a

> hunting guide -- mostly does and fawns, and the tracks of a 150-pound

> lion.) "You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out."


> "The Fish & Game data show they're losing 60 to 80 percent of the fawn

> crop each year -- not to hunters, to predators," Dr. Wilkin concludes. "A

> lion will take one deer a week; 50 in a year. You can't sustain a herd at

> that rate. Not without predator control."



> Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas

> Review-Journal, and editor of Financial Privacy Report (952-895-8757.) His

> book, "Send in the Waco Killers: Essays on the Freedom Movement,

> 1993-1998," is available by dialing 1-800-244-2224; or via web site