Rank Propaganda and Hypocrisy: Wyoming Wildlife’s “Summer’s sovereign” plays to grizzly killers like Cecil the lion’s slayer
Having beaten down the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Wyoming is girding to cull the Greater Yellowstone grizzly population to 500 if delisting is not derailed
Fall is upon us, and with it will come the Obama Administration’s new rule to delist the Yellowstone grizzly bear from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The worst kept secret since Wyoming’s Congressional delegation was informed that the earth has been in existence for more than 6,000 years and man didn’t walk with dinosaurs is expected to be announced by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in early November. By threatening to withdraw funding for grizzly bear management in the state, Governor Matt Mead got his way. The June 2015 edition of the Governor’s Wyoming Wildlife featured an article entitled “Summer’s sovereign” that purported to tell how “Wyoming’s grizzlies claim the season of their eminence.” What the article actually did was disgorge some of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s (WGFD) delisting talking points.
Surprising? Not really, as Wyoming Wildlife is published by WGFD to promote Governor Matt Mead’s “wildlife” agenda, and convince us all that WGFD is operated by “good ol’ friendly pokes” who love critters almost as much as guns and God or the pretense thereof on Sunday. Well, maybe not all of us, the small print on the cover states that Wyoming Wildlife is, “Published for anglers, hunters and wildlife enthusiasts.” Or put another way, that small minority of wildlife enthusiasts who are enthusiastic about killing wildlife and happen, by demographic, to be 95% white males. The biggest event in the June edition’s calendar was the “Super Tag” and “Super Tag Trifecta” raffle application deadline. The inside front cover had a photograph of last year’s Super Tag raffle winner knelt behind a dead buffalo he claimed as his prize. How long will it be before that is a grizzly slumped lifeless and bloody at the lap of WGFD’s raffle winner?
Not long is the answer, after FWS’s feckless director, Dan Ashe, once again demonstrates his penchant for mendacity this fall by insisting that the new rule to delist the Yellowstone grizzly bear was based solely upon “the best available science,” a claim even he questioned in an email to his assistant, Gary Frazer, that was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. “I maybe missing something, but this recommendation seems at odds with the ‘best available science’ standard of ESA,” Ashe wrote to Frazer, after being apprised of FWS Grizzly Czar Chris Servheen’s game plan to skirt legal challenges and claim his crown as the man who recovered the grizzly. Alas, like the boy cried long ago, the king has no clothes. Servheen, the so-called “Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator,” has authorized the killing of 190 grizzlies and counting in the GYE since 1979 according to Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) and Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST) data. Servheen has condemned more grizzlies to death in his reign than were estimated to exist when the grizzly was first listed.
The first page of Wyoming Wildlife always features a smiling Scott Talbott, Governor Mead’s appointee to the Directorship of WGFD. Talbott attempts to invoke a Garrison Keillor-esque feel to “harvesting” Wyoming’s wildlife, a kind of Prairie Home Companion with steaming entrails. Among other claims, Talbott is on the record as stating that grizzly bear trophy hunters will help “promote coexistence, management of populations and reduce conflicts between bears and humans,” and has gone so far as to claim that trophy hunters are responsible for the recovery of endangered species. At the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) meeting of the IGBC June 16-17, Talbott participated in a presentation which attorney Bethany Cotton described as “appalling” and “incredibly disrespectful” to the Tribal Nations opposed to delisting the grizzly from the ESA. With IGBC spokesman, Gregg Losinski, of Idaho Fish and Game, Talbott alleged that tribal opposition to delisting the grizzly bear was “staged” and concurred with Losinski’s theory that tribes were being manipulated by environmentalists, principally Louisa Willcox, and that tribal objections were being “orchestrated” by the Center for Biological Diversity.
When subsequently asked to provide any evidence that they had to support their allegations, Losinski could not, and Talbott did not. It is easy to understand why – they have no evidence, as none exists. What Talbott and Losinski did provide was an abject demonstration of the total lack of respect the bodies they represent hold toward Tribal Nations. “I was really shocked with their tone,” wrote Ms. Cotton. “Chris Servheen just sat there and didn’t say a word,” she reported, and confirmed that Servheen was sat next to Talbott and Losinski. Another observer, Brian Peck, asked why Servheen and other federal personnel did not challenge what he described as, “Wyoming’s ‘The Only Good Indian is a Silent Indian,” attitude. Talbott had no answer, but you will find plenty of his opinions in Wyoming Wildlife, his department’s magazine. The response of the Servheen-Talbott-Losinski axis was as predictable as it was ethnocentric. The same tactics are being employed by the enablers of Rio Tinto, the parent company of Resolution Copper, which is poised to lay waste to Oak Flat in Arizona, sacred land of the San Carlos Apache. The $64 billion copper mining operation will despoil the earth where Changing Woman infuses a girl with the power to emerge from her Naiiees a woman.
“Anti-mining opponents have sunk to a new low by using members of the Apache tribe to further their misguided effort,” claims Representative Paul Gosar, who accuses “environmental extremist groups” of “orchestrating” Apache opposition to the mine. The Arizona Republican’s colleagues, Senators McCain and Flake, authored the Oak Flat transfer to Resolution Copper in an eleventh hour rider they attached to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015. Senator McCain, that well-known authority on Western Apache culture and grizzly bear DNA, whose dalliance with a “mama grizzly” of his own making has doomed him to wander the political hinterlands, insists that the San Carlos Apache do not have “any religious or cultural grounds” for their objections. The elders who know the songs of the Ga’an, the emissaries of Ussen, the Giver of Life, that were first heard in that country, say differently. McCain is to Oak Flat what Mead is to the tribes and the grizzly. Ignorance has a color, and ironically it is green. “Mining will never satisfy its appetite,” warns San Carlos Apache Chairman, Terry Rambler.
The fight of the San Carlos Apache over Oak Flat is the fight of the thirty-nine Tribal Nations over delisting the grizzly. It is culture, it is spirituality, it is sovereignty; it is that which makes the being of a human. If the Great Bear is stripped of its protections, the land here too will be rendered exposed, and she will be there for nothing more than the taking. Two million acres of grizzly habitat in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) will be open to oil and gas development, with two-thirds of National Forest lands in the GYE then available for leasing. If mining wasn’t enough, over 70% of National Forest lands in the GYE could be opened to logging. The San Carlos Apache will not be the only people to suffer from contaminated aquifers and a landscape irrevocably slashed and burned. All of these activities require service by road, and grizzly bear deaths are five-times more likely to occur where roads exist, and approximately two-thirds of National Forest land in the GYE is open to road construction. Some scars will never heal. The federal government is aware that the twenty-six nations it categorizes as “Associated Tribes of Yellowstone” all have songs that were first heard here, but as Sitting Bull said of the government in 1876, “They have no ears.”
“Losinski and Talbott’s assertions are not only completely wrong, they are sickeningly colonialist. I'm truly shocked and disgusted,” wrote Kieran Suckling, Executive Director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Instead of apologizing to the Northern Cheyenne Tribe for disrespecting its sovereignty and culture, Wyoming and Idaho have ratcheted up the condescension by claiming that the tribe’s intervention was ‘orchestrated’ by environmental groups. How much disrespect do they expect the tribes to tolerate? Are they unable to see how condescending and colonialist their attitudes are?” he questioned in the statement. “The Grizzly Bear Committee is run by the Department of Interior which has a sacred and legal duty to respect and uphold tribal interests. On two occasions now it has sat by and done nothing. Its silence is complicity. Interior needs to immediately put the committee and the grizzly bear delisting on hold, meet with the tribes on their home ground, and ensure that Wyoming and Idaho are held accountable to the tribes’ satisfaction,” Suckling concluded.
Thirty-nine official resolutions and declarations made by Tribal Nations in opposition to delisting the grizzly bear on the basis of potential sovereignty infractions, violations of spiritual and religious rights, and the contravention of federally-mandated Orders and Acts have not been, and simply cannot be, “orchestrated” or “staged.” Kieran Suckling is correct: The suggestion itself is grossly insulting, and implies that tribes are not competent enough to act upon their own initiative, and require a white puppet master to pull their strings. Being unable to provide any factual evidence to support their allegations, Governors Otter and Mead should be asked to account for why their employees, Losinski and Talbott respectively, are opposed to Native Americans exercising their First Amendment rights under the Constitution?
“Summer’s sovereign” extensively quotes Dan Thompson, WGFD Large Carnivore Section Supervisor. Thompson is undeniably empathetic to bear trophy hunters; Thompson was with WGFD “bear management specialist” Luke Ellsbury when they spotted the “nice black bear” Ellsbury ran back to Cody to buy a tag for, and then ended up killing a grizzly by mistake later that September 6, 2013. According to FWS’s “grizzly czar,” Chris Servheen, WGFD is eminently capable of managing grizzlies if and when they are delisted, but when one of your “bear management specialists” cannot tell the difference between a black bear and a grizzly, but illegally shoots across a road to kill the bear regardless, a reasonable person might expect the shooter to be canned and that confidence to be revisited. But we are not dealing with reasonable people; we are dealing with a particular kind of “wildlife enthusiast.”
It was “Summer’s sovereign” interviewee Thompson who ignored correspondence from Tribal Nations prior to his specious “Grizzly Bear Management on Tribal Lands” presentation at the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee (YES) of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) in Cody (4/30). Thompson’s address supposedly emphasized phantom collaborations between Tribal Nations and state and federal agencies, specifically the Eastern Shoshone on the Wind River Reservation. However, as Thompson was busy spinning his yarn, Eastern Shoshone Chairman, Darwin St. Clair, Jr., issued an official release that stated:
“The Eastern Shoshone Tribe wishes to reiterate the position made in our official resolution of 10/28/14 opposing the delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear. The Eastern Shoshone Tribe is not, and will not, be involved with any collaborations that seek to further the proposed delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear, and this position must be made plain in any presentation.”
But of course, Thompson ignored Chairman St. Clair’s statement in yet another show of arrogance and disrespect. Thompson then aided IGBC Chair and WGFD Wildlife Division Chief, Brian Nesvik, in pulling the plug on Northern Cheyenne Tribal Government representative, James Walks Along, and manhandling him from the floor, which showed the extent to which WGFD is interested in tribal collaborations. At these meetings, Wyoming wants Indians to be seen, but not heard. And so what more credible source to hand the platform to in “Summer’s sovereign” than Thompson? Naturally, his main objective was to reassure any in the choir who harbored doubts that a grizzly could soon become “their critter of choice” in hunting season. Super Tag raffle entrants breathe easy: WGFD says you have no cause for concern. Raffle or no, these “wildlife enthusiasts” should be able to apply for a tag soon enough because “Summer’s sovereign” reiterates how the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is at “carrying capacity” for grizzlies, that mark-resight is a reliable counting method, and that radio-collaring grizzlies is vital to deducing “survival and reproductive success.”
“Summer’s sovereign” omitted to report how WGFD was then at an impasse with FWS over delisting because Wyoming, as it has long stated, wanted to cap the Greater Yellowstone grizzly population at 500 bears. And they got their way with FWS. Those photographers who seek to make a living and reputation from photographing Yellowstone’s grizzlies, or merely do it for the joy the Great Bears bring them, might want to consider this: how many grizzlies are you going to be photographing if Wyoming actually prevails beyond the courts and there are only 500 grizzlies in the GYE, and those 500 are being trophy hunted? The day is dawning when the pretty little grizzly peering out from June’s cover with doleful eyes will be sightless and gutless if she strays beyond Yellowstone National Park, her home range forever changed from Hayden Valley to a wall where her head is mounted, or a floor where her skin now flayed and tanned is a rug to garnish a polished wood floor. You may have spoken for the bear you thought was Blaze, and the bear you learned was 760, but who is going to speak for these other grizzlies you claim to love so much if you do not? Is each time they have lifted your spirit not worth you taking a stand for them?
Dr. Walter Palmer likely considers himself above entering the Super Tag raffle. With a collection of body parts from mutilated animals he has killed in a globetrotting spree, Palmer would appear well able to afford WGFD’s out-of-state grizzly tag, or even Idaho’s proposed $100,000 fee reported by the Teton Valley News (11/27/13). Palmer needs no financial shortcut to the photo of the great white hunter knelt over his bloody victim, crossbow or rifle leant across the cooling rump or withers, but he apparently needs a shortcut or two to make the kill. When Palmer shot Cecil the lion, the leading attraction of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park had been baited out of the sanctuary for the Minnesota dentist to satiate his killing gene. Palmer has already killed a grizzly, but what price would he and his ilk pay to kill an iconic Yellowstone grizzly, or a Glacier grizzly from the land of the Blackfoot Confederacy?
In the fall when the bull elk fill the mountain valleys with the cries of bleeding hearts that tell how love is war, it is customary to find other WGFD wildlife enthusiasts huddled mere yards from Yellowstone’s boundary, contriving to bugle dominant bulls out of the sanctuary of the National Park and into an arrow or bullet. “All we’re doing is knocking on the door,” they’ll tell you. Unencumbered by ethics, do you really think that if nobody is there to see they wouldn’t bait a grizzly out of the Park with a carcass as Palmer’s “guides” did with Cecil? For Palmer, that is a legitimate question. CNN reported that the Eden Prairie slayer “illegally killed a black bear in Wisconsin several years ago according to court documents.” What Palmer did to Cecil another with Minnesota connections, the Wild’s former blue-liner, Clayton Stoner, did with Cheeky the grizzly in the territory of the Wuikinuxv, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai'xais, and Nuxalk First Nations in British Columbia. Palmer has earned the media evisceration he is experiencing, but he is not an exception, he is the rule among trophy hunters. When Jimmy Kimmel asked Palmer in a monologue, “Is it that difficult for you to get an erection that you have to kill things that are stronger than you,” he unmasked the root of the trophy killers’ gene.
The virus that carried the killing gene down the immigrant trails westward is as potent in its transplanted domicile as it was where it originated. The land was no mother to them, or none they would admit to, it was a bitch to be raped and pillaged, and these prospectors of land were prospectors of flesh, and what was ordained to be tamed and made bloom was theirs for the taking, theirs for the killing and theirs for the plundering. She must be dominated. She must be overpowered. She must be controlled. All born of the earth are the matter of her body, and in spirit they are feminine, each a shape of the earth. Those mutations of misogyny and patriarchy fester within the sexual repression of what the seed of the vagrants were raised to believe was sin. The girl in the bar with the short skirt is asking for it, even if she says no. The elk that strutted by with the huge rack was a beauty, and was asking for it too, the size of its horns a measure of the sexual potency its killer might soon boast by forced transition from life to bloody ownership at the end of a weapon’s discharge. Make no mistake, the only difference between the stories in a porno magazine and a hunting journal is the type of skin in the photographs. The literary style and the psychological impulse response indicators are the same. As the naked woman lays at the feet of those who have “taken” her, grins upon their faces, their semen smeared across her face and body, so the bear or the elk or the lion they have “taken” is sprawled below them, grins upon their faces, its blood on their hands now coagulating in its mouth.
Robert Hansen had the killing gene. Hansen had a world’s record Dall’s sheep, a second, and two barren ground caribou in the Pope & Young record book. His trophies adorned what he called his “den” at his home in the suburbs of Anchorage, Alaska. He also collected other trophies, mostly jewelry, that he took from his victims. Some of the women he abducted were raped in his trophy room surrounded by bearskins and beneath the glassy stares of the severed heads once attached to those rugs. When satisfied with his dominance, Hansen flew them out to a hut he had in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley to demonstrate his power. When he was done sexually abusing them, he ordered them to strip again and told them to run. He thought it was sporting, giving them a head start, and then he would hunt them down. It was, Hansen confessed, like “going after a trophy Dall’s sheep or grizzly bear.” Pope & Young removed his kills from their record book, whereas some of the remains of his victims are still there in the Alaskan bush, waiting to be removed. Hansen is known to have committed seventeen murders and thirty rapes, although authorities believe there were more. Hansen wanted investigators to know that he didn’t “hate all women” and wouldn’t kill “what you might call a decent girl.”
Prior to Hansen’s arrest, FBI profiler John Douglas reviewed the evidence and provided insights into the perpetrator’s motivation and character traits. “I also made much of the fact that Hansen was known as a proficient hunter,” wrote Douglas, who believed Hansen had grown tired of sheep and grizzlies and sought to exert similar dominance and power over these young women. “This would have been the ultimate control,” Douglas concluded of Hansen’s acts. He was right, as Hansen later admitted, adding the standard caveat that “the excitement was in the stalking.” Hansen’s name may not be in the trophy record book anymore, but it was. The killing gene is not so easily erased. Douglas said that he didn’t mean to imply that all trophy hunters “are inadequate types” though, he said, “In my experience, if you have an inadequate type to begin with, one of the ways he might try to compensate is by hunting or playing around with guns or knives.” Trophy hunters are serial killers by definition; all that is left to debate is the nature of their victims. WGFD, for these you exist to serve, and by these you are cowed Director Ashe.
Ashe described Palmer’s slaying of Cecil as “tragic” and assured those concerned that he would ensure FWS’s investigation into the dentist would “go where the facts lead.” Ashe apparently has a different standard for lions, black rhinos, and grizzlies. What rises to the level of tragedy for Ashe is, it seems, influenced by initial levels of public outrage, and then diminished by time and other headlines in his supposed deliberative process. When Corey Knowlton committed $350,000 in a 2014 Dallas Safari Club auction to kill a black rhino in Namibia, Ashe prevaricated on whether or not FWS would furnish Knowlton with the requisite permits to fulfill his desire to slaughter the critically endangered perrisodactyl so that he could add its head to the mounted menagerie in his trophy room. When secure that the public’s gaze was averted, Ashe rubberstamped Knowlton’s black rhino trophy hunt. “United States citizens make up a disproportionately large share of foreign hunters who book trophy hunts in Africa,” Ashe rationalized. “That gives us a powerful tool to support countries that are managing wildlife populations in a sustainable manner and incentivize others to strengthen their conservation and management programs.”
The death of the patriarch lion Cecil is “tragic” to Ashe, but he finds the killing of the anonymous patriarch black rhino for its head and maybe legs for use as exotic trash cans or umbrella stands to be a legitimate conservation management tool. The great con job sold as “Hope and Change” by President Obama is encapsulated by his FWS Director; there is no change in the hopeless ideology of the white patriarchy that dominates wildlife management practices. The real tragedy is that these patriarchs still top the bureaucratic food chain. If Ashe were credible, an enduring optimist might find solace in his assertion that FWS would “go where the facts lead” in the case of Cecil and Palmer, because that would be a positive departure in his agency’s approach to delisting the grizzly bear for the Talbotts of this miserable cycle to have their metaphorical palms greased by the Palmers and Knowltons who are lining up to kill them. But this is Director Ashe, who in the week he told Senator Barrasso he agreed with the Wyomingite’s thirst to see the grizzly delisted and was working to that end with governors Mead, Bullock and Otter, he had his deputy write to GOAL Tribal Coalition and state that no decision on delisting had been made. Only the gullible doubt that the decision about to be announced was that made in 2007, and since then all that the Obama Administration’s two secretaries of the interior, and the FWS under their purview, have done is spin and obfuscate while their minions found a formula they believe will work in answering the courts on whitebark pine.
There is a seat in the clown car for Ashe aside Ted Nugent, for whenever a media ripple rises to the surface on trophy hunting, Uncle Ted screeches in to spew verbal excrement of varying quantities. Nugent’s justification for trophy killing what he called “Cecil the lion’s greatgreat [sic] grandpa, Fernando” mirrored Ashe’s for Knowlton’s killing of the black rhino. “Pure sport, trophy, meat, fun” Nugent added, and implied that either he or his forty-person crew ate Fernando. Being a dentist, one might imagine Palmer could have fashioned his incisors for similar lion kebobs, other than the evidence shows that he left Cecil’s skinned torso to rot in the bush. It would be remiss to forget that Ted, in common with other trophy hunters, is just doing God’s work. However, Ted may want to bring a bus and a bible next time, as the righteous and camo-clad have borne God’s word on trophy hunting to the eye of the heathens in cyberspace.
Of course, it’s not really God’s word on trophy hunting they regurgitate, it’s God’s decree to Noah in Genesis 9:3 and is given in the context of that cataclysmic flood, but that might be splitting hairs to these Remington and Bowtech theologians. For their purpose, Genesis is actually a poor choice, as Genesis 1:29-30 reveals how God’s original intent was for man and beast alike to be vegetarian, the meat God spoke of being the fruit of seed. Ted, if you really ate the lion, it is time to repent: “Every animal that does not have a divided hoof or that does not chew the cud is unclean for you; whoever touches the carcass of any of them will be unclean. Of all the animals that walk on all fours, those that walk on their paws are unclean for you” (Leviticus 11:26-27). Maybe there is hope for the grizzly bear after all, one that walks on its paws? Or maybe not. For as long as man has manufactured and manipulated them, religious texts have been the last bastions of maniacs in their attempts to legitimize and vindicate acts of sadism. Look around you, and ask yourself what comfort you find in that?
Memo to Dan Ashe: There are approximately 30,000 lions surviving in the wild, some 5,000 or so critically endangered black rhinos, and maybe fewer than 1,400 grizzly bears in Greater Yellowstone and the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem combined. And your conservation and management strategy for the grizzly is what? Delist them from the ESA and permit trophy hunting. For Ashe, Nugent and the rest of their passengers, the prescient insight of GOAL co-founder, Don Shoulderblade, is necessary: “This is not a hunting issue, it is a killing issue. We come from a subsistence culture, where there is ceremony and great respect accorded those beings you ask to offer their lives so that you might live. That is what you call a hunting tradition, not a killing tradition.” Time and again, the Cheyenne Sun Dance Priest has attempted to offer this explanation to those wildlife enthusiasts spawned by the Uncle Teds and nurtured by agencies akin to WGFD. “It is impossible to articulate in a sound-bite the spiritual significance of the grizzly in our culture,” he says. “The grizzly is sacred, an ancient spirit, a great healer and teacher. The grizzly is integral to our traditional spiritual lifeway. We will not stand by in the land of our ancestors and watch grizzlies be blown apart by high-powered rifles and mutilated just to satiate the bloodlust of some rich, ‘great white hunter,’” the Cheyenne spiritual leader has promised.
What truer phrase has ever been uttered than, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”? In the case of Director Ashe and WGFD’s Wyoming Wildlife, there is none. Wyoming Wildlife is yet to publish how, since 1979, 109 of the grizzlies in the GYE the “Griz Reaper,” Chris Servheen, has condemned to death were killed by, and at the behest of, WGFD. Servheen, lest it be forgotten, is Ashe’s hand and go-to on the grizzly bear. That staggering statistic equates to WGFD being responsible for almost 58% of “managed” grizzly deaths in the GYE in just over a quarter century. The WGFD’s message in “Summer’s sovereign” was that the Yellowstone grizzly bear is ready to be delisted and trophy hunted, and you, the “wildlife enthusiast,” can trust the “science” and the techniques that make it the “best available,” and place your faith in WGFD to “manage” the grizzly when the Great Bear is delisted. The facts present a different conclusion and slogan – “Wyoming’s Wildlife, Worth the Watching?” Not so much. “Wyoming’s Wildlife, Worth Killing.” At least that is intellectually honest, is it not, Messrs. Ashe, Mead, Talbott and Servheen? Then again, honesty appears not to be your collective strong suit; that would be your taste for the killing gene.
© 2015 GOAL Tribal Coalition.