Years ago, my reading of such people as Aldo Leopold was quite limited. I read most of his writings, post-adaptation. In another word, he learned from error, just as we do so today. He had an open-enough mind to admit defeat, which many today simply do not; of which, his wiping out a wolf population, i.e. eradication, ultimately generated a thorough destruction of that same habitat where he worked, where he observed things of consequence, and where Mother Nature taught him facts he could not deny any longer.
Yes, within his process of wiping the wolves out, browsers (deer, Elk, and other game species) run foot loose and fancy free through the woods and mountains, to the point of eating one another out of food, and ruining the ecology of all the “island groups” that at one time, due to diversity and availability of predators (wolves, et al.) were quite healthy and experiencing growth. Growth stopped, human-caused drought followed, and those same forests and mountain range no longer supported healthy vegetation nor a healthy and diverse wildlife arena of ecological zone health. . .
Humans and Dynamics of Nature
Natural circumstances change, well, within a natural dynamic. Not so surprisingly, our human species rolled with those changes, but unfortunately, some grasped at those changes nature provided us, lessons of fact perhaps left unlearned; which, e.g. corporations viewed the changes as profit-margins of raw material made available to them for their special interests only, and to hell with everyone else.
Business as usual, the dollar profits often much more within short-term, and we see the falsehood of Economic Sustainability (even though un-needed), which ignored once again the necessity of priority in Ecological Zone Sustainability, or ubiquity of change, and due to this the necessity of perception to, in reality, change or to constantly adapt within nature, ignored in total.
The overall reasoning of adaptivity is to establish our Natural Systems as beneficial to humankind. This being a “Priority” as it is a fact this is where we all live, on this planet; thereby, we are all connected in one way or another, whether some accept this fact or not, the evidence quite clear, always.
Suddenly, and the paradox that exists here, is we often find ourselves, or our society, having to change, or adapt, to what may be referred to as our own erroneous adaptations, previously. But do we, as a society acknowledge the difference between a negative and a positive, or can we acknowledge within a beneficial outcome, the difference between group-acceptance of an ideology, or understand through evaluation the change within nature’s dynamics, must be adaptive toward those positive changes along side of nature, and not within a oppositional-disregard toward those changes. Oddly, it seems to be, rather, ignorance or just blatant hate most often in our decision making. And this is what we currently see within government interventions toward wolves, wild horses, et al. . . .
“So, understanding the “natural” relationship of humans to land,” (in this discussion, land also involves wildlife and the well-established and observed connection between both), “requires a dynamic view. . .” Aldo Leopold
Leopold learned within his experiment, or what some called his perceptions at that time and later changed or should we say he adapted, that he observed an ironic result. He viewed first hand, and over a short length of time and with his wolf removals (i.e. 1930’s), that some human activities not only change the local context in which those activities are undertaken, but can also set in motion changes that radiate outward, affecting larger and normally slow-changing systems at a much larger scale.
The term “Expect Change” was his motivator at that time, but unexpectedly, it was not the change he assumed would take place. He immediately recognized the kind of changes he observed within a wolf-free landscape (Islands or Ecological Zones) were much different than the limited effects of small groups of hunters-trappers-gatherers. Yes, a challenge was put before Leopold then, as similar challenges that face us currently. And recall the last article/blog I stated many of us felt Leopold did not go far enough, well, let’s look further into this situation. . .
“Evolutionary changes, however, are usually slow and local. Man’s invention of tools has enabled him to make changes of unprecedented violence, rapidity, and scope.” — Aldo Leopold, 1939, p 727
The problems then, as right now in our Nature’s Overall landscape, remains tremendous. Yes, the actions of small groups, lobby groups, or hunters, trappers, and corporations, all being separate but certainly entities Nature has got to deal with, ultimately effect entire landscapes. In another word, the problems of available larger systems of our Natural Environment, usually assumed to be relatively stable and could endure human presence, have become vulnerable to human actions – no matter how innocent or slight these human actions may appear out-rightly.
Sub-groups of small presentation to our environment, with their special interests or needs or circumstance, does have lasting effects to much larger systems within our overall landscape. We must be made aware of this situation, and express concern over the inability to many human’s who do not understand that not only “all is connected” (by the overall evidence we see constantly) as a Universal Truism, but indeed, our slightest endeavors when, also accumulative, does have an effect on our overall landscape of environmental difficulties.
The Dynamic of Human Impact
As we define, and redefine evidentiary and data gathering of the overall ecology, as well as sub-groups and “Islands” from the land mass within the United States, we find for certain, humans do have a serious impact on our natural systems within nature, as well as far exceed Leopold’s landscapes of the southwest.
We can surmise logically, via the term “spillover” and from Leopold’s supposedly “successful” wolf eradication program (and later even he deducted his actions indeed a failure, whereas new concepts had to adjust for those same failures) what he found was that, “…while killing a few wolves would have little effect on larger systems, extirpating the top predators set in motion cascading changes, that began to accelerate changes in normally slow-changing, environmental systems (Eisenberg, 2011).”
Did we learn from these circumstances, happenings and research from decades ago, and repeated just about every other decade, and the same evidentiary data developed time after time, looking at us square in the face? No, we have not, and now other wildlife groups are in danger of extinction (wild horses versus government intrusion – elephants versus trophy hunters – wolves and wild horses versus rancher’s overpopulations of cattle i.e. greed – cougars versus human’s infringement upon wilderness areas, and the list goes on) not so ironic, and due to the slow-movement of change from larger Ecological Systems.
As Leopold found, and what has triggered response over the decades of similar activity, was that his program to remove wolves was so extreme that it did not resolve within a reasonable evolutionary process. Due to the extreme change within that particular environment, populations of deer, and Elk, and a robust of smaller-critter populations exploded – due to no predation available within that ecological system. We see the same effects in Idaho, and In Eastern Oregon, where deer and Elk run amuck, wreaking havoc with farmers crops, as well as woodlands, and forests where the trees are devastated and die within higher altitudes.
When I traveled to Eastern Oregon, as well as crossing the boarder into Idaho, I seen, without a doubt, browsers starting to eat themselves out of several habitats, or ecological zones. Obvious as well, the once very healthy “Islands” deep within three or four natural wilderness areas, due to the hatred and killing of wolves and cougars alike, the landscape was quickly approaching a landscape one would consider moon-like – signs of over-browse dominated the landscapes entirely.
Leopold learned, way back when, that his experimental spirit must be also accompanied by a measure of humility and he came to regret the violence and irreversibility of his wolf-removal experiment.
“Remember,” my mother would tell me, “it takes a good man to admit his mistakes, while a weaker man will go through his life wasting time, trying to persuade others his errors were right and not wrong, despite the obvious.”
Human and Land-Mass “Island” Contact
It is time for humans to leave their comfort zone of just enjoying nature, and start to understand the reality, the background so to speak, of what it is within the beauty they observe. When we speak of Wild Horses enhancing an ecological zone, or “Islands” where they roam — it is not just by foolish whim, but rather an accumulation of what Ecologists and Paleontologists, among others, have found over centuries of research, observation, and well referenced history, that tells us the truth. It is about how economics is not the only ruling situation that requires sustainability, but rather a secondary situation that, indeed, merely thrives on the raw-materials that those who use those raw materials destroy, then move onward to destroy other healthy “Islands” of wilderness, then to another, then another yet, and on it goes…
It is time that we, as humans, must understand there remains a more inclusive and intricate picture of how ecology and human activities play out within a much larger scale, and then with hope, understood. Ignorance becomes no excuse when one stands in a field that looks like a lunar surface.
So, is it just Wild Horses, and rancher’s claims (unproven, yet they remain claiming the destructiveness of wild horses being dreadful – no, there exists no evidence at all, and when they attempted to bring-fourth evidence in Federal Court they lost their case, due to “falsifying information” (judges’ comments not mine – and that is fact), or what many refer to as lies, in order for wild horse herd roundups to even exist? Or the wolves, and all the hatred toward them driven by deer and elk hunters, who also do not have any evidentiary exhibits, other than ignorance and hate, that show beyond a doubt that wolves are not needed, and simply destructive? No evidence, but more history of such. But indeed, we can show the necessity of all predators, in assisting to establish Healthy “Islands” or ecological zones that thrive, for things presently – healthy trees, healthy wildlife populations, healthy streams, healthy fisheries –
Oddly, Leopold discussed the pattern of overpopulation following Predator removal, as one of several instances of damage to ecological systems in more scientific terms and within his essay, titled “A Biotic View of Land” (Leopold, 1939). Interestingly, this is an essay that the rancher’s, hunters, trappers, of others of that ilk do not want the public to know it even exists. These same small groups, mostly hate groups stirred by animosity, remain familiar with only the wolf-eradication program that Leopold started – but ultimately changed his entire perspective of what promoted a healthy Ecology, and thus presenting a healthy, and much larger scale, overall Environment.
If you leave this short essay with only one perspective, I hope it to be that change within our environments are a good thing. But remember, that a healthy Ecological System (system or process is essential to understand here) is developed by a well-diversified and healthy chain of components, that consistent of – Wild Horses, Wolves, Cougars, Bears, small critters and healthy creeks, streams, and rivers, with plenty of biotic life, Beavers, Otters, and the entire realm of vegetation and tree stands, among many other components as well… — Research and article by John Cox, Cascade Mountains