ALERT: Conservation Groups File Wolf Rider Appeal to the Ninth Circuit…

Conservation groups filed an appeal to the US Ninth Circuit, on September 8, 2011, challenging the constitutionality of the wolf delisting rider.  Leading the fight is Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater and WildEarth Guardians.  Center For Biological Diversity and Western Watersheds Project are also plaintiffs in the appeal.

Rider Appeal, Ninth Circuit Court, Opening Brief, Sept. 8, 2011

What impressed me about their opening brief was the introduction. It quotes the famed ecologist and environmentalist Aldo Leopold’s Thinking Like a Mountain, from A Sand County Almanac,  In his writing, Leopold introduces the concept of trophic cascades.

“The concept of a trophic cascade is put forth in the chapter “Thinking Like a Mountain”, wherein Leopold realizes that killing a predator wolf carries serious implications for the rest of the ecosystem.”


Thinking Like A Mountain

by Aldo Leopold

In those days we had never heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf. In a second we were pumping lead into the pack, but with more excitement than accuracy: how to aim a steep downhill shot is always confusing. When our rifles were empty, the old wolf was down, and a pup was dragging a leg into impassable slide-rocks.

We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes—something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.

Since then I have lived to see state after state extirpate its wolves. I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anaemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddle horn. Such a mountain looks as if someone had given God a new pruning shears, and forbidden Him all other exercise. In the end the starved bones of the hoped for deer herd, dead of its own too-much, bleach with the bones of the dead sage, or molder under the high-lined junipers.

I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer. And perhaps with better cause, for while a buck pulled down by wolves can be replaced in two or three years, a range pulled down by too many deer may fail of replacement in as many decades. So also with cows. The cowman who cleans his range of wolves does not realize that he is taking over the wolf’s job of trimming the herd to fit the
range. He has not learned to think like a mountain. Hence we have dust bowls, and rivers washing the future into the sea.

We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness.The deer strives with his supple legs, the cowman with trap and poison, the statesman with pen, the most of us with machines, votes,and dollars, but it all comes to the same thing: peace in our time. A measure of success in this is all well enough, and perhaps is a requisite to objective thinking, but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run. Perhaps this is behind Thoreau’s dictum:In wildness is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf, long known among mountains, but seldom perceived among men.

ALDO LEOPOLD, A SAND COUNTY ALMANAC, AND SKETCHES HERE AND  THERE, Thinking Like a Mountain, at 129–133, Commemorative edition 1989, ©1949, Oxford University Press, Inc.


Photo: Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Posted in: Wolf Wars, Wolf Delisting Lawsuit

Tags: US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater, WildEarth Guardians, Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, wolves in peril, wolf delisting rider

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