YELLOWSTONE: The steam isn’t all from geysers

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1995:

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK––Filmed in Grand Teton National Park, just south of Yellowstone, the 1952 western classic Shane depicted stubborn men who thought them-selves reasonable in a tragic clash over limited range. Alan Ladd, in the title role, won the big showdown, then rode away pledging there would be no more guns in the valley.

But more than a century after the Shane era, the Yellowstone range wars not only smoulder on, but have heated up. To the north, in rural Montana, at least three times this year armed wise-users have holed up for months, standing off bored cordons of sheriff’s deputies, who wait beyond bullet range to arrest them for not paying taxes and taking the law into their own hands.

One of the besieged, Gordon Sellner, 57, was wounded in an alleged shootout and arrested on July 19 near Condon. Sellner, who said he hadn’t filed a tax return in 20 years, was wanted for attempted murder, having allegedly shot a sheriff’s deputy in 1992. A similar siege goes on at Roundup, where Rodney Skurdahl and four others are wanted for allegedly issuing a “citizen’s declaration of war” against the state and federal governments and posting boun-ties on public officials. At Darby, near the Bitterroot National Forest, elk rancher Calvin Greenup threatens to shoot anyone who tries to arrest him for allegedly plotting to “arrest,” “try,” and hang local authorities. Greenup is Montana coordinator of the North American Volunteer Militia.

In February, U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents reportedly
backed away from searching an Idaho ranch for evidence in a poach-
ing case, after the proprietor threatened to call a militia.
But the Yellowstone region battles are waged with political
clout more often than guns, and the showdowns usually come in leg-
islative offices. That doesn’t make the gunslingers less menacing.
Wildlife protection laws are so little supported in some areas that on
March 8 it was Lemhi County sheriff Brett Barsalou who ran three
Fish and Wildlife agents off of Gene Hassey’s Idaho ranch. The
agents were trying to execute a search warrant in connection with the

January 29 killing of a female gray wolf as she gnawed a still-
born calf, two weeks after being released in the effort to
restore wolves to Yellowstone and central Idaho. Michael D.
Crapo (R-Idaho), chair of a House Agriculture and Resources
subcommittee, called a special hearing on Hassey’s behalf,
took testimony favoring Hassey from Idaho Senators Larry
Craig and Dirk Kempthorne, Idaho attorney general Al
Lance, and Barsolou, then called Fish and Wildlife director
Mollie Beattie on the carpet to “establish the authority of fed-
eral agencies in local jurisdictions.”
Craig followed up on May 4 by pledging to intro-
duce a bill to disarm the 7,000 rangers and wardens of the
Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, Park Service, and
Bureau of Land Management, claiming his constituents “fear
the presence of an armed federal entity.” The agencies were
further ripped at spring hearings on domestic terrorism held
by a Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee, dominated
by invited testimony from militia members and wise-users.
Law enforcement views surfaced only at an informal hearing
convened on June 11 by Rep. Charles Schumer (D-Brooklyn).
“The rage and hate is beginning to well up,” Park
Service special agent Robert Mariott said. “We’ve always
gotten threats, but now we hear, ‘Death,’ ‘You’re going to
be killed,’ or ‘You’ll be shot.’”
Fish and Wildlife and Park Service officers are
assaulted on the job six times more often than urban police
officers, assistant secretary for fish, wildlife, and parks
George Frampton testified at an August 2 Congressional bud-
get hearing, but that didn’t stop first-term House members
Helen Chenoweth (R-Idaho) and Wes Cooley (R-Oregon)
from trying to cut $885,000 out of the Fish and Wildlife and
Park Service law enforcement budgets, because as Cooley put
it, his constituents view their officers as “sort of like foreign-
ers coming in, making an appearance of force.”
Wolf reintroduction conveniently focused much of
the fury. The Idaho legislature symbolically voted down a
proposed state wolf management plan that would have given
the state more authority over wolf reintroductions, at the price
of accepting the reintroductions in principle and paying some
of the costs. The Wyoming legislature rejected a bill to put a
bounty on wolves only after approving it on first reading.
Wolf pack
Despite the Idaho killing and the April 24 shooting
of an alpha male near Red Lodge, Montana, 27 of the 29
wolves released in central Idaho and Yellowstone remain

alive and well. Experts thought the wolves would be seldom
seen, but instead the six-member Crystal Creek pack has
become a familiar sight in the Lamar Valley, at the northeast-
ern corner of the park. Yellowstone ranger Rick McIntyre,
editor of The War Against The Wolf anthology (reviewed on
page 22) estimates that at least 2,000 people have seen them.
On June 4, two dozen tourists watched as five
wolves flushed four coyotes from a den, then tried unsuc-
cessfully to dig out two coyote pups, whom the adult coyotes
retrieved and took away after the wolves departed. Such inci-
dents have given nearby ranchers a new reason to continue
their 20-year fight against the reintroduction: wolves, they
contend, are driving coyotes into new territory. Their former
claim that the wolves themselves would kill cattle and sheep
is belied so far by the record. Six months after reintroduction,
the first packs have yet to kill livestock. This is no surprise to
wolf advocates: a Defenders of Wildlife fund that compen-
sates ranchers for wolf losses in Michigan, Minnesota,
northwestern Montana, and Wisconsin, where wolves have
re-established themselves, has paid out just $17,000 in seven
years, at $400 to $2,000 per cow.

With many key Senate and House committees now
led by wise-use western Republicans, wolves may win the
battles they can wage themselves, yet lose in Washington
D.C. On July 29, with a bare quorum present, the Senate
Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to a land
and resource management spending bill that would bar the
Department of the Interior from using funds to bring more
wolves to Yellowstone, and would divert $200,000 from the
current reintroduction effort to study the trout parasite respon-
sible for whirling disease, a malady afflicting stocked
trout––and revenue from trout fishing––all over the U.S.
“Whirling disease represents a real threat to
Montana’s economy and environment, while wolf reintroduc-
tion is misguided and frivolous,” said amendment author
Conrad Burns. About 15 wolves a year were to be brought to
Yellowstone and central Idaho until the resident population
reached 300, an estimated decade from now.
Bargaining chips
Should the Burns amendment pass, wolf reintro-
duction isn’t expected to be an issue over which President Bill
Clinton would use his veto. The anti-reintroduction amend-
ment could become a bone tossed to Burns and other influen-
tial wise-use wiseguys, however, if Clinton moves to block
another Burns bill that would institute the biggest bison mas-
sacre since the heyday of Buffalo Bill more than 120 years
ago. The Burns bison bill aims to pre-empt a Department of
the Interior plan, to be published in November, to control the
burgeoning Yellowstone bison population. Numbering just
2,500 a decade ago, the bison herd spread out of Yellowstone

n late 1988, after forest fires swept half the park, including
both dense stands of lodgepole pine and the rangelands where
the bison sought winter forage. As hungry bison wandered
into the Gallatin National Forest of Montana, hunters drew
lots for state cull permits and shot 570 bison.
For many landowners and leaseholders whose prop-
erty adjoins Yellowstone, and perhaps for the Montana divi-
sion of wildlife, the bison exodus was a windfall, as hunters
paid heavily for access. Some ranchers also admitted not
wanting bison to compete with their cattle for grass and water.
But the official rationale was that the bison might carry bru-
cellosis. About 53% of the herd do carry the brucella bacteri-
um, according to one estimate. And brucella, in domestic
cattle, does cause brucellosis, a disease resulting in still-
births. Ranchers, whose business depends upon the fecundity
of cows, fear brucellosis as the Grim Reaper, not least
because the only sure way to keep it from spreading is to kill
every animal in an infected herd. Since 1954, the USDA and
state agricultural agencies have bought and destroyed more
than 124,000 diseased herds, at cost of $3.5 billion, slowly
extirpating brucellosis from most of the country. The estimat-
ed number of infected herds is now below 150, down from
1,000 as recently as 1990. Complete eradication, projected
then for this year, is now projected for mid-1998.
But bison, unlike domestic cattle, often seem to
carry brucella without ill effect. The rise of a hue and cry
about bison potentially spreading brucellosis coincided with
the beginning of a bison baby boom. The former Yellowstone
pine forest, opened to light, became lush meadows, while
pressure from snowmobilers obliged the Park Service and
Forest Service to begin grooming trails year round. The trails
enabled the bison to migrate farther than they had in a centu-
ry. By the start of the unusually harsh winter of 1994-1995,
the Yellowstone bison herd was up to 4,200. Again bison
moved north en masse. Montana agricultural agents shot 400.
The massacre, together with natural causes, dropped the herd
to the present 3,500, which Yellowstone natural resources
chief Stu Coleman says may still be 1,500 too many.
The toll at the Montana border could have been
higher if attention from the Fund for Animals hadn’t encour-
aged the Park Service and Montana rangers to use helicopters
to chase another 170 wandering bison back into Yellowstone
on May 22, after they entered the Gallatin National Forest.
No man’s land
Gallatin has long been the no-man’s-land in this
range war, but it won’t be for much longer. Says D.J.
Schubert, leader of the Fund’s bison campaign since 1988,
“All indications now suggest that Montana will implement a
complete ban on wild bison entering the state from the park.
This means that if a bison is found outside the park on private
or public land any time from this day forward, the Montana

Department of Livestock may kill the bison, even though the
animal poses absolutely no disease threat to cattle or safety
threat to humans. The Fund for Animals believes,” explains
Schubert, “that Yellowstone bison should be allowed to
freely roam into Montana without becoming targets.”
That position holds philosophical appeal, and not
just to animal rights activists. Two Princeton professors,
Frank and Deborah Popper, have won note on the lecture cir-
cuit over the past five years by promoting the notion of
returning marginal ranchlands up and down the eastern
Rockies to the use of great migratory bison herds. The
Bitterroot National Forest, Gallatin, Yellowstone,
Shoshone, Grand Teton, Bureau of Land Management graz-
ing land, and military property would all be linked by the
purchase or lease of connecting land (inholdings) now pri-
vately held. The idea has resonance, as bison ranching is
increasingly popular. As if in salute, the Denver airport on
September 8 will pick a bid from several firms interested in
“managing a nonexclusive, first-class airport buffalo herd,”
on 333 acres of pasture along the main terminal approach.
Yet the so-called “buffalo common” is also the sort
of grandiose scheme that stokes wise-use paranoia about east-
ern intellectuals plotting to rope and geld the west––even
though the needed federal funds aren’t there. Under the much
less sweeping Gallatin Range Consolidation and Protection
Act, for example, the Forest Service is to buy or trade for
83,000 acres of inheld land belonging to the Big Sky Lumber
Company. So far, 43,000 acres have been purchased––but
the acquisition of another 3,000 acres has been delayed by
cuts in the budget of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

American Rivers, Trout Unlimited, and other con-
servation groups are meanwhile fighting proposals to mine in
and around Gallatin, including a bid by Crown Butte Mines
Inc. to buy 27 acres from Gallatin under the 1872 Mining Act.
Crown Butte would pay the U.S. government $135 million,
for access to ore worth an estimated $500 million.
These legal battles to some extent pit two wise-use
factions against one another: hunters and fishers vs. miners.
One possible outcome has the proceeds from the proposed
mine going toward the purchase of the other inholdings. If it
happens, however, it won’t happen before further lawsuits.
The Gallatin River valley, stretching from
Yellowstone’s north gate at Gardner, Montana, toward the
growing city of Bozeman, is filled with cattle and ranchers
who have no more interest in packing up and leaving than did
the homesteader Joe Start in Shane, no matter what the cash
offer. They love their land, both owned and rented from the
BLM, and they love their lifestyle––at least until someone
buys them out with the kind of bucks, much more than the
Forest Service can pay, that already bought out most of their
counterparts to the south, around Jackson, Wyoming.
As with the wolf reintroduction, concern voiced
about invading animals tends to mask deeper anxiety over
how animal protection might impact on the chance to make a
buck. In country where conventional wisdom once held that,
“The only good Injun is a dead Injun,” and the prevailing the-
ory on sharing habitat with endangered species is often said to
be, “Shoot, shovel, and shut up,” there is strong sentiment
to shoot bison first and ask questions later––even though the
leading industry for hundreds of miles in any direction from
Yellowstone is not ranching, nor real estate, but tourism,
mostly related to the chance to see animals.
Prongs of dilemma
Seventy years ago Yellowstone was indeed the last
place where one could still see pronghorn, elk, blacktailed
deer, and bison at will, each extirpated almost everywhere
else by both market hunting and trophy hunting.
The extirpations were encouraged by stockmen.
Pronghorn, often called “antelope,” had thrived on the range
since Pleistocene times, five to 10 million years ago, when
North American species of rhinoceros roamed in bison-like
herds and the ancestors of bison had yet to arrive from Asia.
As many as 40 million pronghorn occupied the west 200
years ago, from southern Canada to northern Mexico, the
Mississipi River to California. But they were killed as merci-
lessly as the bison, with less publicity. By 1918, fewer than
1,000 remained. “Beyond all possibility of doubt,” wrote
William Hornaday of the New York Zoological Society, it
will be our next large species to become extinct.”
However, the sheep industry declined, and the wild
ungulates were encouraged to regenerate as targets for

hunters. And come to find out, pronghorn coexist rather well
with cattle, much as sheep and cattle have been found to
complement each other on healthy range, if neither are pre-
sent in excess. Across the west, pronghorn numbers have
recovered to an estimated 750,000, including about 97,000 in
Wyoming, where they now outnumber mule deer by an esti-
mated 23,000. In Colorado, where live the next most, there
are about 60,000 pronghorn. Colorado hunters shot 9,500
pronghorn last year during a three-day season––but shot
47,500 elk and 61,500 deer.
Deer and elk recovered sooner, reclaiming most of
the Rockies, as would bison, if allowed. Already bison or
bison signs appear almost everywhere in Yellowstone and on
adjacent public lands that offer forage, except to the west,
where migration is obstructed by the Grand Teton mountains.
The Burns plan, as Burns explains it, is just a way
to keep bison from overcrowding their habitat, a problem
expected to get worse if and when the burnt pine forest recov-
ers, again replacing grazeable glades with dense canopy. The
Burns plan would mandate testing each Yellowstone bison for
the presence of brucella. Carriers would be killed.
University of Florida College of Veterinary Science
brucellosis expert Dr. Paul Nicoletti warned that the Burns
plan won’t work. “Test and slaughter?” he asked. “You’re
going to round the bison up? Are you kidding? They’re a
national symbol, and Senator Cowboy Conrad Burns is going
to go in and slaughter those animals in Yellowstone National
Park? Give the American people a choice between survival
of the bison and of the livestock in Montana, and I’ll tell you
what they’re going to pick. Burns doesn’t have a chance.”
Even if the Burns bill does clear Congress,
Nicoletti added, it is founded on a false premise. “The
USDA has very adequate surveillance in place for surveying
cattle brucellosis in the Yellowstone region,” he explained.
“In all the surveillance performed out there, these is no evi-
dence whatsoever that brucellosis has ever been transmitted
from bison to cattle.”
Elk yay, bison nay
“We sympathize with concerns over the disease,”
Jeanne-Marie Souvigney of the Bozeman-based Greater
Yellowstone Coalition told Miller, “but this is a national
park, after all, and the idea of conducting capture, testing,
and slaughter on 3,500 or 4,000 head of bison in a wilderness
national park is ridiculous.” Souvigney said her group will
support any workable plan to keep the Yellowstone bison
herd at “self-sustaining” levels while protecting private land,

including plans for recreational bison hunting outside of
Yellowstone proper, “but we’re not interested in a firing
line,” she emphasized.
Schubert, against hunting bison, argues that before
any are shot, “The snowmobile trails need to be shut down.”
Agrees Souvigney, “We think it’s a little hypocriti-
cal for the surrounding states to say, ‘We want Yellowstone
to be open in the winter so we can enjoy the economic bene-
fits, but don’t let the bison come out of the park.”
There’s also the matter of the roving elk, who also
carry brucella, but are welcomed because of their popularity
with hunters. “If you put a fence up for the bison, is that
okay with elk, too?” Yellowstone natural resources chief Stu
Coleman asks. “What if you clean up the whole bison herd
and don’t do anything with the elk?”
The elk herd long ago outgrew Yellowstone. As far
back as 1911, officials proposed cull hunts, which finally
began about 20 years later. Estimating the winter carrying
capacity at 5,000, park staff killed elk each fall, but the herd
still grew, peaking at about 10,000 in 1961. Finally, killing
5,000 elk during the winter of 1961-1962, the Yellowstone
staff got the herd down to the presumed carrying capacity and
kept it there until 1967. That much upset hunters, used to
killing elk who wandered out of the park, who now couldn’t

ind any. Acting on the hunters’ behalf, Senator Gale McGee
of Wyoming used his influence to halt the winter culls. The
Yellowstone elk herd now numbers circa 20,000––and are
blamed by some critics, such as Utah State University dean
of natural resources Frederic Wagner and syndicated colum-
nist Alston Chase, for destroying the park’s grizzly bear habi-
tat. One rationale for wolf reintroduction is that the wolves
will lower the elk population.
Rancher Roland Whitman, of West Yellowstone,
told Miller that the elk are okay. But as to bison, “We got 72
head down here last year,” he complained. “We weren’t pre-
pared to feed bison––they eat 30 pounds of hay a day. And
they take over: they killed 22 elk calves just by goring them,”
a claim biologists find rather fanciful. “They’re dangerous.
And they’ll be back this winter. No question about it; they’re
starved out in the park. Back when we’d have two or three
out here on the lawn, we’d enjoy them,” Whitman said. “We
love animals. We’ve fed elk over here 65 years, and we’ve
never had this many buffalo. But when we get 100 head,
that’s altogether different. Even if they didn’t have brucel-
losis, I can’t have 100 of them down here eating my grass.”
Who plays God?
“The Park Service philosophy is that we’re sup-
posed to hold an area sacrosanct,” Coleman says. “We’re
supposed to let God play God in Yellowstone.”
But that may be the option with the least support.
While Interior works on its bison policy, not only Burns but
many others have advanced alternatives. Representative Pat
Williams (D-Montana) has proposed allowing bison to graze
outside of Yellowstone in specified management areas, and
would set up a bison neutering program. The Inter-Tribal
Bison Cooperative, led by Fred DuBray of the Cheyenne
River Sioux, wants to transport surplus bison from
Yellowstone to tribal reservations, where they would join the
6,000 bison already on ranches run by the 20 member tribes
of Pte Heaka Inc., a nonprofit marketing venture.
“Bison can bring our people together,” testifies
DuBray. “Now it’s our turn to take care of them,” for both
spiritual reasons and profit.
In June, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department
offered an interim bison management plan covering the
Absaroka herd, provisions of which prompted Schubert to
declare it “nothing more than a miserable attempt to placate
federal and state cattle interests. It is irresponsible,” Schubert
added, “for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to base
bison management decisions on the unsubstantiated fear,
speculation, and paranoia of a special interest group.”
Schubert’s blast coincided with outrage against
western ranchers’ influence in Congress from many other
directions, including the front page and editorial page of The
New York Times, prompted by Congressional attempts to
exempt leased grazing land from environmental protection
laws. First came Section 504, a rider to the initial Recisions
Bill, vetoed by Bill Clinton. This would have halted
enforcement of restrictions on grazing on the 87 million acres
of pasture owned by the Forest Service. When Section 504
was cut from the Recisions Bill, Senator Pete Domenici (R-
New Mexico) introduced the Livestock Grazing Bill, S-852,
including language to much the same effect, repealing por-
tions of the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act and the
1978 Public Rangelands Improvement Act to designate graz-
ing as the primary use of all public lands now leased as pas-
ture: about 270 million acres, one eighth of the entire U.S.,
mainly in the western states––or one acre for every U.S. resi-
dent, used and controlled by just 22,000 ranchers.
Stalled temporarily by Democratic opposition in the
House Resources subcommittee on national parks, forests,
and lands as Congress broke for summer recess, the
Livestock Grazing Bill would override the “multiple use” pol-
icy of the Bureau of Land Management, in effect since 1979.
It would also set the grazing fee at about 25% of the going
rate for grazing on similar private land, in effect obliging tax-
payers to subsidize range beef for at least another 24 years.
Further, the Livestock Grazing Bill would block the
Nature Conservancy and other advocacy groups from leasing
grazing land without actually using it to pasture livestock, a
range-saving tactic pioneered by Jon Marvel of Sun Valley,
Idaho. In 1993 Marvel bid successfully on four pieces of
state-owned grazing land, leased to raise funds for public
schools. One tract had been used since 1952 by J.R. Simplot,
the wealthiest man in Idaho. Rather than be evicted, Simplot
appealed to the state legislature. The legislature passed a bill
requiring grazing leaseholders to graze livestock, vetoed by
then-Governor Cecil Andrus, who was Secretary of the
Interior under Jimmy Carter, 1977-1981. However, the leg-
islature passed the bill again this year, and this time new
Idaho governor Phil Batt, a Republican, promptly signed it.
Not to be denied, Marvel has appealed to the courts,
holding that the Idaho law violates the state constitution,
which requires the state to seek the “maximum possible
amount” for land whose revenues go to schools.
The Misfits
In addition, the Animal Protection Institute warned
in an August 10 alert, the Livestock Grazing Bill would undo
much of the 1971 Wild and Free-Roaming Horse and Burro
Protection Act. “The language of the 1971 wild horse law,
and its 1978 amendment by the Public Rangelands
Improvement Act,” API warned, “directly implements the
policies of the National Environmental Policy Act to manage
the public land from an ecological perspective. The wild
horse law requires the BLM to base wild horse removal deci-
sions on the impact of grazing,” with half the available forage
allocated to the use of wild horses and other wildlife. If the
Livestock Grazing Bill repeals the relevant parts of NEPA,
API explained, the Wild and Free-Roaming Horse and Burro
Protection Act is effectively amended to allow a return to the
days when ranchers culled horses at will.
The BLM wild horse and burro adoption program,
already to be terminated under the House budget proposal,
would no longer have a mandate to exist.
“That would be it for wild horses and burros,” said
Gene Chontos of Wild Burro Rescue.
Added the API alert, “Equally important is the sig-
nificance of wild horse advocates acting as interested parties,
challenging grazing decisions and grazing regulations in the
administrative appeals process. Senate majority leader Robert
Dole’s Regulatory Reform Act, S343, threatens wild horses
and all public land wildlife by taking us, a citizen’s group,
out of the public comment process.”
Good for wildlife?
The use and abuse of western grazing lands has
been politically contentious for nearly 30 years. Attempts to
ncrease grazing fees, conserve water, protect endangered

species, and prevent soil erosion touched off the so-called
Sagebrush Rebellion that helped sweep Ronald Reagan into
the presidency over Jimmy Carter in 1980. Many of the same
people and organizations are behind today’s Wise Use move-
ment. Conflict over use of public land and water is particular-
ly intense in the Rockies, where rapid recreational develop-
ment has challenged the old west ambiance with an influx of
monied, educated immigrants.
Yet despite the efforts of Republicans and
Democrats to stake out political turf, the fight over grazing
does not lend itself to simple political analysis. The ranchers,
self-identified with the political right, claim a privilege to
protect their livelihood most often associated with organized
labor. Responds Karl Hess, a speech-writer for Republican
presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964, now a senior
fellow at the Cato Institute, “The Livestock Grazing Bill
would create and sustain a land-use monopoly that is anathe-
ma to American values and harmful to the west.”
Clouding the issue where animals are concerned is
the prospect that the Livestock Grazing Bill might actually
help some wildlife. While it would obstruct endangered
species protection and void the guaranteed grazing rights of
wild horses and wildlife, it would also obstruct recreational
use of grazing land, including hunting, fishing, trapping,
riding off-road vehicles, and mountain-biking, all of which
tend to do more species more harm than grazing cattle and
sheep––if the livestock are not allowed to overgraze, a big
“if” under the terms of the bill. Environmental groups ranging
from the staid Nature Conservancy to the radical Earth First!
argue that overgrazing is an imminent peril on public lands,
while ranchers contend that they are the true stewards of the
earth because overgrazing, erosion, and depletion of water-
ing holes in the long run don’t help fatten beef.
Studies comparing the impact of today’s cattle herds
and yesterday’s bison offer varying conclusions, but cumula-
tively suggest that overgrazing is to some extent a self-cor-
recting problem: no forage means eventually no grazers, and
the grazers, wild or domesticated, don’t return successfully
until the forage does. The real issue is not whether the land
will recover so much as it is how long recovery might take,
and how much soil will be lost to erosion meanwhile.
Inspecting the range from western Colorado to
southern Montana in late May 1995, ANIMAL PEOPLE
found that sweeping generalities don’t apply. We saw severe-
ly eroded and depleted BLM grazing land in southeastern
Wyoming. Yet the richest and densest variety of wildlife we
found outside of Yellowstone and the Shoshone National
Forest occupied BLM-leased land near Dinosaur National
Monument in northwestern Colorado. Throughout one long
afternoon, we bumped over dirt roads used chiefly by ranch
hands, blocked at times by herds of cattle who used the bare
dirt as a rolling-hole, dusting themselves to discourage flies.
We observed three different bands of wild horses; more
pronghorn and deer than we could count; prairie dogs; chip-
munks; rabbits; and prairie hens. Certainly coyotes and bad-
gers were about, and possibly pumas––we’d seen one badger
earlier in the day, and saw one coyote somewhat later. Old
lodges and dams testified to the fairly recent presence of
beaver, who might have been trapped out or shot, but might
also have moved to more heavily wooded areas after consum-
ing most of the nearby alder. If the ranchers let the beavers
come to harm, it was bad husbandry, as the beavers built and
maintained valuable cattle watering ponds, free of charge.
We were unable to ascertain what predator control
measures might have been in effect, if any. We also could
only guess to what extent the successful coexistence of live-
stock and cattle was due to the National Environmental Policy
Act, rather than voluntary conservation. We did, however,
note frequent postings against hunting and trespassing, even
in areas to which the ranchers were, technically, supposed to
permit multiple-use access.
On the one hand, for more than 100 miles we wit-
nessed the fulfillment of ranchers’ claims about stewardship.

On the other, as we returned to paved road, we saw a group
of cowboys hard at work castrating and hot-iron-branding
calves without anesthetic: exactly what makes most animal
protection people leary of reaching any sort of truce with
western ranchers, even if it might be mutually beneficial.
Colorado State University philosophy professor
Bernard Rollin, author of The Unheeded Cry: Animal
Consciousness, Animal Pain, and Science, holds that ani-
mal protection people and ranchers should not only reach a
truce, but should unite against shared foes––a position also
taken in 1989 by former Farm Journal editor Gene Logsdon.
Rollin points out that while ethical vegetarians object to the
existence of any meat industry, some meat consumption is
certain to continue for the foreseeable future. Given that real-
ity, Rollin contends, the next-best scenario is that whatever
meat industry persists uses the fewest animals possible; rais-
es them in the way most natural for their species; treats them
with the least cruelty possible; and uses husbandry practices
that avoid cruelty to other species.
Of all the players in the meat industry, Rollin con-
tinues, western ranchers come closest to filling the bill. They
do not confine animals, or separate calves from their moth-
ers. They allow their cattle to live in semi-natural herds under
semi-natural conditions, for an average of two to four years
apiece, depending on beef prices. Few range cattle producers
fill their animals with antibiotics and artificial growth stimu-
lants. Rollin also notes that ranchers were quick to join him
and Henry Spira of the Coalition for Nonviolent Food last
year in opposing the since-abandoned USDA requirement that
all cattle imported from Mexico be facebranded, and in
amending the requirement that all cows brought from Mexico
be spayed, a procedure then done without anesthetic.
Finally, Rollin argues, the beef industry as a whole
needs western ranchers a lot more than the ranchers need the
feedlot beef growers. Open-range ranchers are by far the
smallest part of the beef industry, and if economics were all
that mattered, he suggests, the feedlot growers would have
finished them off long ago. Cowboy imagery sells beef,
Rollin points out, much as outdated family farm imagery sells
pork and poultry raised on factory farms, and the myth of the
Native American trapper helps sustain the fur trade (though
Native Americans have never accounted for more than 5% of
all the animals trapped for fur in the U.S. and Canada).
Accordingly, Rollin thinks it would be in the west-
ern ranchers’ interest to play up the distinctions between
themselves and factory farmers––and even to make common
cause with animal rights activists in attacking factory farming,
since reforms that would make factory farming less lucrative
would help to make open-range ranching more lucrative.
Meanwhile, ranchers and animal advocates look
warily ahead to further conflict over predator control. The
wolf issue has brought renewed attention to the Animal
Damage Control program, managed by the USDA, which
kills almost 100,000 coyotes a year at behest of ranchers, plus
thousands of other predators, and tens of thousands of nontar-
get animals who are caught accidentally in ADC traps. Since
1988, when ADC spending peaked at $37.7 million a year, it
has come under close scrutiny from Congressional budget-
trimmers. The current ADC budget is circa $20 million a
year. Lethal predator control is to some extent being replaced
by other methods, such as the use of guard dogs. But the
ADC does still kill coyotes en masse––and sometimes kills
wolves, too. Indeed, an ADC coyote trapper accidentally
killed a wolf in northern Idaho just as the wolves introduced
to Yellowstone and central Idaho were being released. The
incident drew national publicity. This in turn gave Friends of
Animals the chance to point out that in Minnesota the ADC
has killed 439 wolves just since 1992, in response to only 219

complaints from ranchers about wolf predation.
On July 10, seeking to halt the Minnesota wolf-
killing, FoA sued Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, who is
responsible for administering the Endangered Species Act,
including provisions for wolf protection; the USDA; and
senior ADC staff. The suit seeks to replace the current ADC
wolf control program in Minnesota with a program emphasiz-
ing the use of nonlethal methods, and to require the ADC to
better document ranchers’ allegations that wolves are respon-
sible for livestock deaths.
“Until 1978,” the FoA suit explains, “the
Minnesota gray wolf was classified as an endangered species,
pursuant to the relevant provisions of the Endangered Species
Act. In 1978,” however, in response to complaints about
wolves attacking livestock, “the gray wolf was reclassified”
as a threatened species. Threatened species still receive some
protection, but while officially endangered animals may not
be deliberately killed for economic reasons, individuals of
threatened species may be killed to stop predation.
Following the 1978 reclassification, lawsuits filed
against ADC wolf control by the Fund for Animals in 1978
and by the Sierra Club in 1984 brought a series of rulings by
federal courts and the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that
while some wolf-killing is now permitted, wolves may only
be killed under relatively narrow circumstances. As the FoA
suit states, there must be “significant, verifiable and provable
livestock depredation, requiring the presence of wounded or
dead livestock, evidence that a wolf or wolves were responsi-
ble, and reason to believe that there would result additional
losses if the particular predating wolf was not removed.”
In addition, the courts held in the 1978 and 1984
cases, wolves may be killed only by humane means.
Waged far from Yellowstone, the FoA suit could
still effect predator control in the Yellowstone area––and fur-
ther erode support for the ADC, which spends about 60% of
its budget to protect livestock and about 80% of that to protect
livestock in the 11 westernmost states. Western members of
Congress accordingly favor the ADC; eastern members are
more inclined to see it as a subsidy to western ranchers.
If the standard of “significant, verifiable and prov-
able livestock depredation” were applied to a l l ADC work,
the ADC would be obliged to virtually cease coyote-killing.
Since the ADC program began in 1930, coyotes have been
killed merely for being potential predators. Yet the weight of
evidence from both field studies and analyses of the stomach
contents of coyotes killed by the ADC indicates that though
coyotes do prey on sheep when they get the chance, they
rarely disturb live cattle. Their main involvement with cattle
is scavenging the remains of those who die from natural caus-
es or accidents, stealing afterbirths, and eating dung.
Grizzly fate
Coyotes have little activist constituency––but griz-
zly bears do, as a signal species of wilderness, whose endan-
gered status could help preserve huge amounts of critical
habitat, which might otherwise be logged and/or opened to
motorized traffic. However, aware of the political stakes, in
January 1994 the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a Grizzly
Bear Recovery Plan which failed to designate critical habitat.
The omission enabled the Plum Creek Timber Company to
log the Swan Valley in northwestern Montana, albeit with
restrictions to avoid disrupting bear travel patterns. The deal
was announced in March 1994 as a model for amicably
resolving conflicts between economic interests and habitat
protection. But the non-designation of critical habitat also
brought a lawsuit jointly filed in May 1994 by the Fund for
Animals, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation, the Swan View
Coalition, and various other plaintiffs.
Fish and Wildlife Service grizzly coordinator Chris
Servheen said then that there were no plans to downlist griz-
zlies. However, since January 1995, the FWS, Interagency
Grizzly Bear Committee, Yellowstone Ecosystem Grizzly
Bear Subcommittee, and other government bodies have been
reviewing the possibility of downlisting grizzlies from
“endangered” to “threatened,” as the grizzly population in the
Yellowstone range has increased from about 180 in 1975,
when they were first protected, to circa 287 today.
No matter what they decide, the decision is sure to
be fought in court, and perhaps, in Congress. Hoping to
head off confrontations that might harm grizzlies, a coalition
including Defenders of Wildlife, the National Wildlife
Federation, and the Intermountain Forest Industry
Association has proposed to Fish and Wildlife a unique proto-

col for negotiated grizzly habitat management in the Selway-
Bitterroot Wilderness, northwest of Yellowstone. Decisions
would be made by a committee consisting of seven members
appointed by the governor of Idaho, four appointed by the
governor of Montana, and one each by the secretaries of
Interior and Agriculture. Fish and Wildlife could reclaim
control if grizzlies failed to progress toward recovery.
“This provides a place for people to land, a safe
haven,” says Ken Kohli of the IFAF, “so we don’t have to go
back to our bunkers and resume shooting at each other.”
But, warns fellow timberman Bill Mulligan, “If
Fish and Wildlife insists on limiting timber to an advisory
role, we’re out of here.”
“My guess,” says Hank Fischer of Defenders, “is
that given all the facts, local people will make the right deci-
sions.” At a recent public hearing on the plan, however, held
in Hamilton, Montana, adamant opposition to grizzlies came
from elected officials, local residents, and Tom Greer, presi-
dent of the Western Montana Horse Council.
“If this is forced on us,” predicted Clearwater
County Commissioner Jim Wilson, “it’s going to be shoot
and scoop. That’s sim-

col for negotiated grizzly habitat management in the Selway-
Bitterroot Wilderness, northwest of Yellowstone. Decisions
would be made by a committee consisting of seven members
appointed by the governor of Idaho, four appointed by the
governor of Montana, and one each by the secretaries of
Interior and Agriculture. Fish and Wildlife could reclaim
control if grizzlies failed to progress toward recovery.
“This provides a place for people to land, a safe
haven,” says Ken Kohli of the IFAF, “so we don’t have to go
back to our bunkers and resume shooting at each other.”
But, warns fellow timberman Bill Mulligan, “If
Fish and Wildlife insists on limiting timber to an advisory
role, we’re out of here.”
“My guess,” says Hank Fischer of Defenders, “is
that given all the facts, local people will make the right deci-
sions.” At a recent public hearing on the plan, however, held
in Hamilton, Montana, adamant opposition to grizzlies came
from elected officials, local residents, and Tom Greer, presi-
dent of the Western Montana Horse Council.
“If this is forced on us,” predicted Clearwater
County Commissioner Jim Wilson, “it’s going to be shoot
and scoop. That’s sim-
ple: nothing is going to change.”
And then there are the matters of fire policy and sal-
vage logging. After decades of combating forest fires, only
to find them necessary to forest regeneration, Interior began
letting some fires burn during the 1980s, if they kept within
set limits. Firefighting began only if a blaze threatened build-
ings or seemed about to get out of hand. The Yellowstone
fires of 1988 got out of hand, however, bringing a return to
quick fire suppression, costing $900 million in 1994 alone.
The expense is controversial; letting fires raze timber is even
more so. The hottest issue of all involves the aftermath of
fires that ravage “critical habitat,” designated wilderness,
and other land that has been off-limits to logging.
Loggers hold that dead yet still useful trees should
be recovered from such areas––noting with self-serving but
compelling logic that salvage decreases the need to cut living
trees elsewhere. The Sierra Club and other conservation
groups argue that such sites should remain sacrosanct.
Salvage logging incites arson, they claim, citing the case of
former millworker Ernest Ellison, who confessed to setting
three 1992 forest fires in Trinity County, California, claim-
ing he had been hired to do it by a trio of salvage contractors.
On June 11, the Clinton administration unveiled a
revised let-it-burn policy that will allow fire to clear out tin-
dery understory (underbrush and dead limbs near the bottom
of living trees). Then, on July 27, Clinton signed an edition
of the Recisions Bill that allows expedited salvage logging
through 1997. The bill covers “the removal of disease-or-
insect-infested trees; dead, damaged, or down trees; or trees
affected by fire or imminently susceptible to fire or insect
attack,” as well as “the removal of associated trees or trees
lacking the characteristics of a healthy and viable ecosystem.”
Charged Save America’s Forests, “Clinton made a
deal with the Republicans and in secret last-minute negotia-
tions, completely surrendered American territory, 100 mil-
lion acres of our National Forests, to the international timber
industry”––although the Forest Service only owns 191 million
acres, of which just 104 million are wooded.
For animals, salvage logging, like grazing, may
mean more good than harm. Some living old growth will be
spared, for a few years, while much habitat now covered
with dead and dying trees will be opened to second growth, a
forest phase favorable to many species, despite the value of
old growth to some of the rarest.
In the Yellowstone area, elk and bison might espe-
cially benefit––which is no comfort to those dealing with the
purported overpopulation of each species.
Dogfight over the prairie
So might prairie dogs and their predators, including
badgers, coyotes, burrowing owls, kit foxes, and the highly
endangered blacktailed ferret (only recently returned to the
wild after more than a decade of captive breeding) along with
more than 150 other animal species who use habitat created
by prairie dogs. That’s 40 species of mammal; 10 species of
amphibian; 90 species of bird; and 15 species of reptile.
About 80 plant species like prairie dog colonies, too.
Long persecuted and little respected, prairie dogs
have been reduced to an estimated 2% of their numbers of
200 years ago, occupying barely 5% of their former range.
Only recently have biologists realized that prairie dogs are the
true keystone species of the high prairie. As William K.
Stevens explained in the July 11 New York Times, “In forag-
ing, as well as in creating a better view of approaching preda-
tors, prairie dogs clip all vegetation to within three or four
inches of the surface. This changes the temperature and mois-
ture content of the soil, encouraging broad-leafed, non-
woody plants like wildflowers and legumes. The constant
cropping also makes plants more nutritious and digestible by
eliminating the decline in nutrition and roughness that comes
with aging. And the more rapid plant growth and recycling of
energy inherent in a regime of constant grazing simply
increases the amount of vegetation over time.”
Thus ranchers who kill prairie dogs actually hurt the
productivity of their own land. A study of competition
between prairie dogs and cattle done in the Custer National
Forest found that from four to seven percent of the forage
eaten by either species might have been taken by the other.
Taking nutritional content into account, cattle were beneficia-
ries of the presence of prairie dogs.
Thriving in such sites as gas fields, where machin-
ery has loosened the soil and shooting guns is banned as a
safety hazard, prairie dogs also help to regenerate fire zones.
Yet prairie dogs get no legal protection. On the
contrary, report Josette McIlwaine and Renee Grandi of the
Predator Project, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture
calls the 500,000 to 600,000 acres of prairie dog habitat in
that state “infested,” and may order landowners to kill prairie
dogs under the state Weed and Pest Control Act. South
Dakota requires state agencies to control prairie dogs by poi-
soning and recreational shooting. North Dakota lawmakers
designated prairie dogs as a pest species just this spring. And
a 1903 law makes it the “imperative duty of the State of
Nebraska upon state-owned lands and any landowner…to
totally exterminate any prairie dogs.”
Such firms as Dogbusters, run by Miles Hutton in
Turner, Montana, and Western Safari, run by Jerry Geidd in
South Dakota, charge hunters $160 a day to sit at a table
overlooking a prairie dog colony. “The rule, rather than the
exception,” Hutton told The Wall Street Journal, “is that the
guys want to see the dogs blown to smithereens.”
A petition to add the black-tailed prairie dog to the
endangered species list, filed last October by biologist Jon
Sharps and the Biodiversity Legal Foundation, is apt to be
rejected, not only because prairie dogs are still fairly numer-
ous and widely distributed, but also by Congressional pres-
sure against listing a new endangered species.
In any event, a fight over critical habitat for prairie
dogs could make the fights over wolves and grizzlies look like
passing spats. What prairie dogs and equally underappreciat-
ed coyotes really need is not a piece of the continuing brawl
over grazing and development, but rather a bit of good will,
in a climate where good will is scarce.
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