By New Times Staff
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Though Holaday earnestly solicits the opinions of the folks who live near the potential release sites, she clearly loses patience with the clich‚s spouted by ranchers with made-up minds.
"We live with lions and bears," Holaday goes on, "and they are far more dangerous to livestock, children and pets. And yet the wolf has been the devil, the evil creature. The ranchers feel they've got a God-given right to all of this land and everything in their way; whether it's lions, wolves or spotted owls, they want it out of there."
There are ranchers who are not afraid of wolves. Rukin Jelks, who runs cattle in Elgin, near the Mexico border, thinks that the presence of predators makes the cattle herd together, which makes it easier to keep track of them. "When we started out, we were controlled by predators," he says. "The buffalo was controlled by predators. All herding animals were controlled by predators. We have domesticated our cattle to the point where they don't even recognize a problem, even other humans coming in to take them."
For the most part, like all complex environmental arguments, the debate is reduced to slogans that fit on bumper stickers: "Wolves Not Cows" or "Cows or Condos." The latter is meant as the rancher's threat to sell out to development and turn the wide-open Western spaces into suburbs.
Dave Foreman answers that by pointing out, "A cow-burned area is going to have fewer birds than a properly done subdivision."
If the ranchers are inflexible, at least the Fish and Wildlife Service has the political good sense to compromise. As a concession to the livestock industry, the wolves that may eventually be released will be designated a "nonessential, experimental population." This means that they can be shot if caught taking down sheep or cattle, that they can be harassed away from herds, that they can be removed from the area if they misbehave. It means that even though they are listed as an endangered species, they will not have full protection under the Endangered Species Act.
"You know," Foreman drawls, "the greatest danger to the wolves once they are reintroduced is good ol' boys cruisin' around in a pickup truck."
@body:Dave Foreman spread his first draft of a Southwestern "vision map" on the conference-room table. His colleague Rod Mondt, a roly-poly man with a big, black beard, is as talkative as Foreman is laconic:
"If you release a wolf today in the Blue Range, he could be in Santa Fe tomorrow," Mondt says. Wolves have been known to travel as much as 100 miles in a day. Radio-collared wolves from Montana have been tracked as far as the Yukon. The Fish and Wildlife Service has ceded as "wolf recovery areas" more than 7,000 square miles of national forest land surrounding the Blue Range and more than 3,000 square miles in the White Sands Missile Range. Foreman and Mondt and the biologists they work with think that is still not enough.
"When the wolves stray outside of the area, [the agencies] intend to hook em and book em and bring em back," Mondt says. "And if they continue to do what we consider to be normal wolflike activities, they are going to take them out of the released population and put them back into captivity."
Rather than keep the wolves in isolated islands of habitat, where they risk genetic stagnation from inbreeding, Foreman and Mondt want to find a way for the wolves to travel from one reintroduced population to another, and from reintroduced populations to those wolves that may already be wandering up from Mexico.
"How do we connect the Sierra Madre and the Mogollon Rim? How do we tie the Mogollon Rim to the southern Rockies? How do we hook the southern Rockies to the northern Rockies and then on to Alaska? How do we do it to the Appalachians?"
The map in front of him is a hand-drawn chaos of red- and green-colored ink. The Blue Range and the Gila National Forest are enclosed in red: these he would like to see as a core wilderness, and at the center would be areas restricted from human use so as to keep them in as natural a state as possible. Fanning out from the center would be various buffer zones in which human activities such as hunting and backpacking would be permitted.
Green lines on the map snake out in all directions from the core wilderness--corridors that would be relatively free of development, so that wildlife could pass on to other core areas. One such corridor follows the Salt River across the Fort Apache Indian Reservation to another core wilderness circling Phoenix from the Superstition Mountains north to the Mazatzal Wilderness. From there, yet more corridors wind northward toward Utah and the Grand Canyon.
To draw his map, Foreman studied maps of roadless areas, landownership maps and wilderness areas to try to find paths of least resistance, routes relatively unencumbered by private land ownership.
"Most conservation groups fight brush fires," he says. They appeal each timber sale as it comes, each open-pit mine. They lobby for one species at a time. With the Wildlands Project, Foreman wants to set priorities, to say beforehand, you can have that for development while we keep this for biodiversity.
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