May 19, 2013
Does a Bear Vote in the Woods?
Posted on Oct 28, 2010
Letter From the West is a monthly series by Deanne Stillman that explores what is going on in our wide open spaces and what we do to one another and all that lives there.
Let me put it to you this way: Bears hibernate during election season.
That’s just one of various things that show that Sarah Palin and her comrades—the self-professed Mama Grizzlies among the nation’s aspiring tax-funded representatives—have nothing in common with our ursine sisters.
Here’s another: Mama Grizzlies protect their cubs and in fact are known for their fierce defense of young offspring. Palin has made her motherhood a political issue, but in doing so she has exposed her young. Remember when she was running for vice president and passed her Down syndrome baby Trig around at the Republican Convention a couple of years ago, to thunderous applause and under the heat and glare of more than a thousand points of light? This would be a sensory overload for any 4-month-old baby, but according to the testimony of various mothers of Down syndrome babies at the time, children with that affliction are particularly sensitive to such stimuli and it is not wise to subject them to such an experience. You can be sure that a true Mama Grizzly would have put many miles between her baby and a roaring crowd.
And here’s one more: Like other wild animals, Mama Grizzlies hunt to live. Of course, Palin and many others who like to hunt and fish eat the animals and fish that they kill—and we all, or at least a lot of us, eat the animals and fish that others kill for us. However, trophy killing is not part of the Mama Grizzly program. Nor do Mama Grizzlies wage war on their own cubs. Let’s revisit Palin’s record on this front, something that seems to have been lost in recent coverage—and it was barely covered in the first place.
Williams goes on to report that although wolves and bears are safe if they remain on land units that are managed by federal agencies other than the Bureau of Land Management, “on six state predator-control areas covering 70,000 square miles they’re dying en masse. In virtually all of this area wolf populations are to be reduced by 80 percent and held there indefinitely. In the 11,105-square-mile Predator Control Unit 16, west of Anchorage across the Cook Inlet, black bears are to be reduced by 60 percent.” In addition, he writes that in March 2009, the Board of Game “legalized the long-banned practice of ‘same-day airborne hunting,’ in which hunters take the ‘fair’ out of ‘fair chase’ by locating bears from the air, then landing next to them and blazing away—this in the 8,513-square-mile McGrath predator-control unit near the Kuskokwim River in interior Alaska.”
Taking on the argument that it’s just a bunch of outsiders from the lower 48 who don’t have a clue about what’s going on in Alaska, let alone the right to talk about policy in someone else’s backyard, Williams cites local figures who understand exactly what’s going on in the woods and what it means for wildlife—which, in the end, belong to no one but their own tribes. For instance, Mark Richards, at the time the co-chairman of the Alaska chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, wrote to Williams via satellite e-mail due to the lack of phone service in a remote area, and stated that “political meddling” has “never been so blatant and detrimental to our system of wildlife management as it is under the Palin administration.”
If the faux Mama Grizzlies move into positions of power, they will amp up the war on the animal whose name they dishonor and we will all be saying hasta la vista to bear nation. The animals are already listed as threatened in the lower 48 states. And we’ll also be uttering farewell to the Endangered Species Act, and the animals, plants and fish covered therein, something that various constituencies including the “sagebrush rebels”—now back under various other monikers, including “Mama Grizzlies”—have been trying to take down since Ronald Reagan was president. As it stands now, those protections are under siege, with the Obama administration reportedly considering changes in the Act.
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