ENVIRONMENT People and
The biocentric eco-activists who seek the removal of industrial civilization from North America consider human life just another link in the food chain.
‘‘Biocentrism," the ideology that inspired the Wildlands Project, holds that humanity is just one species in a democratic "biosphere." From this perspective, humans who choose to live within the habitat of a protected non-human species are interlopers. This is why Wildlands fanatics — in addition to shutting down economic development, private land ownership, and recreational use of "re-wilded" lands — seek to "re-colonize" those lands with non-human species. This process is presently underway within the proposed Yellowstone-to-Yukon (Y2Y) "bioregion."
"Already, transplanted wolves from [British Columbia’s Muskwa-Kechika] region formed the foundation of Yellowstone’s successful lobo transplantation program," reported the Christian Science Monitor. "Thriving Canadian lynx and wolverine populations could also be tapped for augmentation. And [last] November, the US Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS], in conjunction with a plan by Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation, announced that in 2002 Canadian grizzly bears will be relocated to the Selway-Bitterroot wilderness of Montana and Idaho."
Animals like the grizzly, lynx, and wolf are what Wildlands co-architect Reed Noss calls "flagships" — "charismatic species that serve as popular symbols for conservation." Wildlands propaganda abounds in poignant pleas on behalf of threatened "flagship" species and invocations of the duty to preserve such animals "for our children." Such media-friendly mantras are used to conceal the vicious misanthropy that animates the Wildlands Project. As Wildlands activist John Davis stresses, "in the long run all lands and waters should be left to the whims of Nature, not to the selfish desires of one species which chose for itself the misnomer Homo Sapiens."
According to Wildlands-linked activists on the Canadian side of the Y2Y zone, human beings across most of the western half of North America may have to be shoved aside to make room for grizzlies. British Columbia’s Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy, which was published in 1995 and remains the basis for the province’s protected areas policy, employs the "charismatic species" concept by insisting that "nothing is a better measure of our success in maintaining biodiversity than the survival of this species."
Apparently, "recovery" of the grizzlies will require ample Lebensraum, since "over its lifetime, a single grizzly bear will require a home range between 50 and 100 square kilometers, and — in some cases — up to thousands of square kilometers." Within "grizzly bear management areas," continues the document, human activities "that are not compatible with grizzly bears [will be] carefully controlled or not allowed."
The Wildlands Project mission statement speaks of a day in which "Grizzlies in Chihuahua have an unbroken connection to Grizzlies in Alaska...." British Columbia’s provincial Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy reflects that same vision by describing the historical range of the North American grizzly as encompassing "the western half of North America from the Arctic to central Mexico" — thereby conjuring up the decidedly improbable image of grizzlies frolicking on the slopes of Popocatepetl (see map).
"Zone of Imminent Danger"
The case of Montana rancher John Shuler, who was fined $7,000 by the FWS for killing a grizzly that had attacked his sheep and threatened his home, illustrates that in conflicts between humans and non-human predators within protected areas, it is the predator that will be given the benefit of the doubt. When Shuler appealed the FWS fine, a federal administrative law judge ruled that when he had sought to protect his property he had "purposefully place[d] himself in the zone of imminent danger of a bear attack" and fined the rancher an additional $4,000.
Wildlands activists seeking to recover large predators throughout the mountainous West are placing landowners across the region in the "zone of imminent danger" by design. According to one supporter of re-wilding Western lands, the introduction of large predators like grizzly bears and wolves is to "bring back another element that has been vanishing from the Western back country. That ingredient is fear. Wolves [and similar large predators] are killers.... People will think twice before traipsing into the back country."
According to Wildlands Project board president Harvey Locke, "helping large carnivores recolonize parts of their former range" is a major aim of the re-wilding process, since the effort would "preserve or restore species at the top of the food chain." This would come as news to those people in the areas slated for re-wilding, who may have assumed that humans are the "species at the top of the food chain." Difficult though it may be for rational people to understand, many biocentric radicals consider ecologically "unenlightened" humans to be little more than a source of protein for non-human predators.
In July 1997, a female cougar killed a 10-year-old in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Park. Rangers tracked the animal down and killed it, prompting voluble protests from several biocentric fanatics. "The female lion represented the future of her species, which I believe has an equal right to exist on this planet," wrote environmental activist Gary Lane in a letter to the editor of a local paper. "The lioness deserved better treatment from the rangers." The cougar’s destruction also angered Sherrie Tippie of Wildlife 2000, a Denver-based biocentric group, who complained that "the only species we have too many of is the human one. I am very concerned about the influx of people into our state who are not educated about our wildlife."
In 1990, California voters approved Proposition 117, a measure banning the sport hunting of mountain lions. In predictable fashion, the cougar population exploded, ravaging food sources and driving the starving carnivores into human population centers in search of sustenance — with lethal consequences for both livestock and human beings.
After a cougar attacked a 10-year-old girl near Los Angeles in September 1993, two park rangers reluctantly dispatched the crazed predator. Other attacks resulted in physical injury to human beings. Finally, in April 1994, a woman named Barbara Schoener was attacked by an 82-pound female cougar. The cat crushed Schoener’s skull, then dragged the hapless jogger 300 feet and devoured her face and most of her internal organs. Fish and Game officials hunted the cougar down and killed it, and in doing so provoked the wrath of local biocentrists.
In a letter to the Sacramento Bee, one eco-radical suggested that "this noble creature may well have been venting centuries of mountain-lion anger against the humans who have driven it from its land, destroyed its home, ruthlessly hunted it down, and, as the final indignity, debased it to an advertising device to sell cars." Wayne Pacelle, vice president of the Humane Society, accused those who were outraged by the death of Barbara Schoener of using harmful stereotypes. "The HSUS accepts that individual animals judged to be a threat to people should be removed. But the injurious act of one animal should not provide a license to wreak vengeance on other members of an animal population. We are encroaching on their habitat, and we must respect that they should have a place to live as well." (Emphasis added.)
In late 1995, 56-year-old high school counselor Iris Kenna was attacked and mauled by a 140-pound cougar in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park near San Diego. Commenting on that and other cougar attacks, pollster Michael Manfredo told the January 8, 1996 issue of Newsweek: "There’s a value shift about how people view wildlife, a high willingness to accept mountain lions on the urban fringe — even if they kill people." As the Wildlands Project unfolds, cougars, wolves, bears, and other predators will have ample opportunities to test that "value shift."
Some eco-radicals have candidly admitted that one purpose to be served by re-colonizing predators in or near populated areas is to drive recalcitrant humans off the land. Few biocentric radicals have expressed this militant misanthropy as candidly as David Garber, a research biologist with the National Park Service:
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