If we were naive, we would think that a National Wildlife Refuge would provide a refuge for wildlife.
This isn’t how it works. The Refuges end up acting like protected breeding ground for specific species, so that the hunters have a good hunting season down the road. When things, such as nature and natural predators, get in the way of this plan, action is taken, and those actions are far from ethical.
There has been an ongoing struggle to prevent the hunting of mountain lions on Kofa NWR. The reasons the NWR officials give to justify killing mountain lions is absurd. If a mountain lion kills two bighorn sheep in a six month period, he is to be executed. The fact that they put radio collars on the mountain lions they are tracking makes hunting them down easy. The fact that the radio collars are presumably put on the mountain lions for scientific data is ignored in the face of a mountain lion competing with hunting permits.
The bighorn sheep have been under some environmental pressure this year. Humans are dumping billions of tons of carbon in the atmosphere every year, billions more than the earth can adjust to. As this imbalance builds up, we reach tipping points. The ice caps are melting, and melting fast. Parts of the Amazon are dying in droughts. The carbon sinks on the earth are releasing some of their stores, and this creates what is known as positive feedback, which will only encourage this, and more, to continue.
What this means is that the bighorn sheep are not just under environmental pressure this year. They will continue to be under this same, and worse, pressure for the upcoming future. The Earth’s climate is unstable in the best of times. We’ve had an unprecedented run of good luck, we humans have, with a stable climate we’ve come to take for granted. Except that, in the earth’s history, this is not normal, and we can’t expect it to continue. Not even if we weren’t dumping these billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, forcing the process along.
The changes are here, and we should expect to continue to need to deal with them.
This isn’t just about Kofa, it isn’t just about bighorn sheep and mountain lions. This is what we are going to have continue to face, in our fight to protect all species.
Taking humans and their obsession for hunting out of the equation, we would find that the mountain lions and bighorn sheep, that all predator and prey species in fact, would find the equilibrium that current ecological factors force them to reach. There can’t be more predators than prey to support them, after all. That’s just how nature works.
But humans aren’t content with that. In the name of sport, they insist on disturbing this balance. The impacts are far reaching, and end up layering on each other.
Despite the environmental pressure humans have put the bighorn sheep under, the hunters, with the backing of the refuge’s officials, insist that their sport comes before the survival of other species. Humans do not need to hunt to survive. Humans do not need meat to survive. Mountain lions, however, are obligate carnivores. They need to hunt to survive, they need meat to survive.
The conclusion should be obvious to the officials whose duty is supposed to be creating a place of refuge for wildlife. They ignore science and ethics, and kill the mountain lions they are tracking, all because the mountain lions are doing what they need to do to survive. Hunt.
It is not just the specific ethics around nature, equilibrium, and the right to live free from human interference that we should grant to these animals that is in question. It is the ethics that comes from telling the truth and being honest to the public that these refuge officials are lacking.
The officials are going out of their way to hide from the public what they are doing on public land. They secretly request from hunting clubs assistance in changing the ecology of sensitive areas on the refuge, making sure the general public can not be aware of what has happened until it is too late. They try to avoid getting public opinion on decisions they are making about public land.
We can write letters. To the newspaper, to the refuge officials. Technically the refuge officials have to be responsive, on some level, to public concern. Realistically they are not constrained from misleading and lying to the public. Expressing our opinion is the best way I know at the moment on how to influence recent events.
A more encompassing strategy would be good, because I guarantee this, everything that has been going haywire in the past few years, is just the start. Climate change is upon us, and natural systems continue to be stressed. This, in addition to the many other stresses humans have been loading on the environment, means that the most basic survival of species is going to be competing against hunters on the very land that is meant to be their refuge.
Leaving aside edge cases for now, hunting is not ethical on its own. The lying and misleading of government officials in conjunction with special interest groups is nothing new, I suppose, but this is still a fight I feel is worth a few hours of my time in letter writing. I hope you feel the same.
Ron, who has been working hard to keep me in the loop with the goings on at Kofa, offered me this advice with regards to letters:
Letter writing is a good means to counter the agencies actions, but they are good at perpetuating false statements. Unfortunately, it is not against the law for government officials to make false statements to members of the public or to be deceptive. I will keep you and your readers apprised of letters I send and mention how you might be able to help. Your ideas are always welcome. To me, this is all a matter of fairness and ethics in government.
Here is the .pdf of the recommended actions for Kofa (lions, water developments, bighorn sheep, etc.) on the website: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/arizona/kofa/kofa.html
You and your readers could request that the AGFD Bighorn Sheep 4-17-07 recommendations be halted until there is public review and comments on the agencies’ recommendations. The water developments were constructed in wilderness and the lion was killed without giving the public a chance to comment on the agency document. Other Arizona Regions ask for and allow public review of such documents before implementation.
RDTuggle at fws dot gov (Region 2 Director Dr. Benjamin Tuggle)
Chris_Pease at fws dot gov (Chief NWRS Region 2)
Tom_Harvey at fws dot gov (Refuge Supervisor AZ/NM)
Paul_Cornes at fws dot gov (Kofa Refuge Manager)
Lvoyles at azgfd dot gov (AGFD Region IV Supervisor Larry Voyles)
Duane Shroufe (AGFD Director) directorsoffice at azgfd dot gov
AGFD Commission directorsoffice at azgfd dot gov
So that should give some basic ideas of where to start and who to send the letters to, if you are so inclined. Some recent articles in the Yuma Sun, the paper local to where Kofa NWR is located: