May 28, 2023

Romance Biology – Now and Then

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Guest blog by James Beers:

The following lurid prose is from a recent article about wolves in Yellowstone. It is foisted on the public as some sort of “scientific” factoid.

The following two paragraphs say all that need be said about the sad state of public information, public gullibility and government propaganda disguised as “science” today.

Regarding government-introduced wolves in Yellowstone National Park (totally isolated from the millions of acres surrounding the Park but who cares?) we are told:

“Photos taken in the early 1900s, when wolves roamed Yellowstone, reveal that young trees such as aspen and willow were abundant. In 30 years, after wolves were hunted out, the forest stopped regenerating. “Wolves are shaping what you see here,” Douglas W. Smith, leader of the Yellowstone Wolf Project, told Scientific American magazine. “In 30 years, when you drive through the park, it will look very different.”

Maybe more like it did a century ago. You can see the colour return to those black-and-white photos. If only Jack London had lived to read about this.”

So “young trees” “were abundant” “in the early 1900’s”. So what? Is it written somewhere that “young trees” are better or necessary or belong in particular places? Are aspen and willow prettier or better for stream fish you either can’t fish for or are being eradicated to be replaced by fish species that provide less fishing opportunity? Are the aspen and willows better for elk and moose that no longer provide hunting opportunity but only food for more wolves?

“After wolves were hunted out”? I thought job #1 for Park Rangers, since the Park was withheld by federal fiat from Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, was to prohibit all use (hunting, predator control, trapping, etc.) of animals in the Park?

“The forest stopped regenerating”? When the “Cedars of Lebanon” (of Biblical fame) were cut for Phoenician ships that ruled the Mediterranean economy for centuries, rural Lebanese folk set sheep and goats to graze on all the grasses, brush and young trees that suddenly were so abundant. Between the slopes and all that hard grazing (before folks realized how important and beneficial it was to manage grazing pressure) on lands that were communally-owned, soil eroded and soon only grasses and brush were present. For many centuries that modified landscape has supported and supports pastoral communities of villages and herders. THAT forest truly stopped “regenerating”: Yellowstone merely began regenerating differently as it no doubt has done since time immemorial thanks to fires, diseases, predators, native impacts, drought, earthquakes, torrential rains, snows and snow melt, and all the other vagaries of nature. Thinking there is some absolute ideal picture that always was and always should be is as silly as saying wolves are benevolent and belong in settled landscapes such as The Lower 48 States.

Speaking of which, “Wolves are shaping what you see here,” is certainly true. So too is the lack of former elk and moose numbers and the presence of tourists and campers and tourists feeding animals and etcetera, etcetera “shaping what you see here”. That is merely an academic observation slanted to the observer’s wishes. Is the Park “better” with no wolves and abundant elk in the meadows and moose in the ponds being observed enthusiastically by the “once-in-a-lifetime” tourists and harvested outside the Park each fall by thousands of hunters supporting rural economies and state conservation programs to the tune of Millions of dollars annually? Or is it “better” with only a rare tourist glimpse of an elk or moose or a wolf and the presence of all the dangers (disease, human safety, etc.) associated with the presence of wolves even in this tightly regulated and scripted government enclave where there are no dogs or livestock or kids walking alone to rural bus stops or old ladies walking to rural mailboxes for the wolves to menace.

So the head Pooh-Ba scientist tells a “Scientific” magazine that “In 30 years, when you drive through the park, it will look very different.” Really? It looked different 50 years ago and it will look different 50 years hence despite all this twaddle about some mythical and sacred Park landscape that only government employees and environmental extremists with access to unlimited funding and political power can provide. The Park was set aside for “the People” as in “We the People”, the first three words of our Constitution. Making it into a federal reserve differing from the lands of bygone monarchs only in being unmanaged estates of unused renewable natural resources lacking herbivores and stuffed with trees and undergrowth that yield catastrophic fires in surrounding settled landscapes is not only a travesty, it is a betrayal of “the People”. It violates the Constitutional charge to a federal government to “establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, …”promote the general Welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”.

For those unfamiliar with the spelling of color as “colour”; colour is the accepted British spelling. This anomaly may be attributable to the Yellowstone ecology author’s (Bijoy Venugopal) background as likely somewhat distant from Yellowstone? You see, Romance Biology compositions are only limited by the imagination of the author. Experience or truth are neither required nor expected.

Finally we have the piece de resistance, “If only Jack London had lived to read about this.” When I was young I greatly enjoyed Jack London’s fiction. So I searched high and low to discover the reason for this reference but while I found that old Jack abandoned his wife and kids, was an alcoholic, ran unsuccessfully as a Socialist for Mayor of Oakland, was picked up for vagrancy in Niagara Falls and had visited Korea, Australia and England; nowhere could I find an interest in or visit to Yellowstone. Thinking it may have to do with his frequent mention of wolves in his writing, I searched those mentions and discovered that Jack London too could have been a successful Romance Biology writer today if only he “had lived to read about this”. Perhaps it was due to passages like the following that Mr. London’s name is evoked?

In “Love of Life” a prospector who has abandoned a friend and walked for hundreds of mile in N Canada to reach the Arctic Ocean endures unbelievable hardships with the thin hope of finding a ship to rescue him. As he lies almost dead on an Arctic beach a whaler appears on the horizon as he encounters a sick wolf. The account of this man and wolf interaction must surely be why Romance Biology authors everywhere admire Mr. London and why he must have a secure place in the Romance Biology Hall of Fame:

“The patience of the wolf was terrible. The man’s patience was no less terrible. For half a day he lay motionless, fighting off unconsciousness and waiting for the thing that was to feed upon him and upon which he wished to feed. Sometimes the languid sea rose over him and he dreamed long dreams; but ever through it all, waking and dreaming, he waited for the wheezing breath and harsh caress of the tongue.

He did not hear the breath, and he slipped slowly from some dream to the feel of the tongue along his hand. He waited. The fangs pressed softly: the pressure increased: the wolf was exerting its last strength in an effort to sink teeth in the food for which it had waited so long. But the man had waited long, and the lacerated hand closed on the jaw. Slowly, while the wolf struggled feebly and the hand clutched feebly, the other hand crept across to a grip. Five minutes later the whole weight of the man’s body was on top of the wolf. The hands had not sufficient strength to choke the wolf, but the face of the man was pressed close to the throat of the wolf and the mouth of the man was full of hair. At the end of half an hour the man was aware of a warm trickle in his throat. It was not pleasant. It was like molten lead being forced into his stomach, and it was forced by his will alone. Later the man rolled over on his back and slept.”

In true Romance Biology fashion, the man on the beach is first seen from the whaler by “scientists” on a “scientific expedition” whereupon he is rescued. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Yet, what would Jack London have thought if he “had lived to read about this”, i.e. Yellowstone and wolves? My guess is he would have admired how fellow authors were making money from such silliness; he would have gotten a kick (do “Socialists” have a sense of humor?) out of a public so gullible as to believe even bigger tales than he wove; and finally he would have shook his head and wished to be back in his world where people knew the truth about things like wolves and understood that even a dying man couldn’t kill a wolf with his teeth and then suck out wolf blood.

But, all Romance Biology today must have these propaganda chestnuts in them to qualify; besides the only difference is that people once merely enjoyed such fiction unlike today when they actually believe it.

Regardless of what these authors and their bureaucrat/radical friends tell you, wolves do NOT belong in the settled landscapes of The Lower 48 States, bombastic prose or not.

Jim Beers
19 March 2014

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Jim Beers is a retired US Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist, Special Agent, Refuge Manager, Wetlands Biologist, and Congressional Fellow. He was stationed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Washington DC. He also served as a US Navy Line Officer in the western Pacific and on Adak, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands. He has worked for the Utah Fish & Game, Minneapolis Police Department, and as a Security Supervisor in Washington, DC. He testified three times before Congress; twice regarding the theft by the US Fish & Wildlife Service of $45 to 60 Million from State fish and wildlife funds and once in opposition to expanding Federal Invasive Species authority. He resides in Eagan, Minnesota with his wife of many decades.
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