There are many silent conservation heroes who are making a difference
In between the government endorsed wolf killings and the negative environmental impact of off-road ATVs, there are many silent conservation heroes who are making a difference and setting examples for the rest of us.
As I do research for my blog posts, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that all is not gloom and doom in the world of conservation. Despite the wolf killings and the ATVs, there are many silent heroes who are making a difference and setting examples for the rest of us. I’ve already noted examples of positive conservation in previous posts. Rachel Carson, is probably the most well known conservation hero. But today, there are many silent and unsung heroes. In this post, I offer some examples that offer hope and encouragement to those of us who are sometimes overwhelmed by a sea of discouragement.
Some of my conservation heroes are readers of this blog. A number of you, professionals in various fields of endeavor, have reached out to mentor me and encourage me as I write on various subjects. To those of you who are by my side, I am deeply grateful. Your efforts have resulted in a significant improvement in the material offered in this blog and on Twitter. Through your help, you have provided important information to a growing audience of readers and followers.
Non-lethal predator control really works
As many of you know, I’m a big fan of passive restoration where we let Nature do her own thing. In previous posts, I’ve been outspoken against the idea of killing wolves and other top predators either as a convenience to ranchers and farmers or by hunters who want a trophy. But, beneath the emotional rhetoric put out by the agricultural industry and hunting advocates, there are groups of conservation heroes who have emerged with successful stories about how ranching interests can be protected while preserving the top predators.
I begin by praising Yellowstone National Park for their reintroduction of the wolf as well as biologists Bill Ripple and Bob Bechta for developing the scientific evidence at Yellowstone that the great carnivores are revitalizing forces of Nature. Their work is chronicled in the wonderful video, Lords of Nature. From this work came the realization that these creatures are an important part of Nature’s ecosystems. They warrant non-lethal human measures to protect top predators while protecting livestock.
Some ranches are having great success using range riders to protect their livestock. Take a moment to read this story about the success of using range riders to protect livestock from top predators. In part, the article states:
“Well, the cows did finally come home last fall—every last one of them, with no losses to wolves or, for that matter, any other predator. After weighing the cattle, the Dawsons were proud to report some of the best weight gain they could remember after any grazing season on their allotments.”
Here is another story from the White Mountains of Arizona where volunteers help manage the reintroduction of the Mexican Gray Wolf. The article reports:
“In 2000, commissioners in Marin County, Calf., developed a comprehensive non-lethal predator management program. Of the 29 ranches operating in Marin, 18 set aside lethal methods. Instead, they used a combination of 22 guard dogs, 19 llamas, 24.6 miles of electric fencing, 16 strobe light and radio devices, and a number of sheep bells. The cost was $40,000 a year. Over five years, County Agricultural Commissioner Stacy Carlsen reports that the non-lethal strategies did a better job protecting livestock than Wildlife Services’ lethal methods: an average annual livestock loss of 2.2 percent [using non-lethal methods] versus more than five percent [ when Wildlife Services is killing wolves]. “
Building Wildlife Bridges
The uncontrolled growth of the human population, and humanity’s use of land without consideration for other species has resulted in highly fragmented ecosystems. The result is the “corralling” of once free-roaming animal populations. Even our public lands do not usually provide for animal migration corridors. There has been a growing effort by some conservation heroes to correct this problem. All over the world, we are seeing the construction of wildlife bridges that provide pathways for animal groups to roam from one sector of land to another.
One example is the construction of a number of wildlife bridges on interstate highway I-90 in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state in the United States.
Reintroducing Nature’s Engineers
At one time, humanity regarded the Beaver as a pest because it’s dams destroyed or altered mankind’s designs for the flow of water. The Beaver’s pelt was highly prized. Consequently, without the Beaver, many riparian ecosystems sustained damaging change.
The San Pedro River that runs south to north from Cananea, Sonora, Mexico to the Gila River in Northern Arizona suffered damage and change to its ecosystem as the Beaver population was decimated by mankind. The happy ending to this story is the reintroduction of the Beaver by the US Bureau of Land Management.
Saving The Turtles
I’ve experienced conservation heroics in my own back yard. I recently wrote about the volunteer groups of local residents and visitors who rescue newly hatched Olive Ridley sea turtles on beaches along the shores of the Sea of Cortez near San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico.
In order to survive, these babies must walk from the dunes that line the beach to the water line where they enter the sea. Their hazards during their walk are the desiccating heat of the sun and aerial predators such as vultures and gulls.
Despite the fact that this beach is a protected reserve where there are signs in English and Spanish prohibiting ATV activity, the ATVs are driven up and down the beaches endangering human beings and leaving deep ruts in the sand. These ruts, which run parallel to the waterline, prevent the newly hatched turtles from getting to the water from where they hatched. The baby turtles are caught in the ruts and are forced to move parallel to the beach rather than to the water. The result is death from predators or from the heat of the sun. Our caring heroes create pathways so that the little guys can walk to the water and avoid certain death.
Working with government biologists and other professionals, our conservation heroes have received training and have organized themselves to patrol the beaches looking for new turtle nests and hatching activity. When a nest is discovered, it is protected with markers, stakes, tape, and signs. The volunteers also provide environmental education to people who are walking the beach. We believe that environmental education is a more powerful conservation tool than police officers.
Young People Providing Environmental Education
There is one group of conservation heroes with whom I am very proud to be associated. This group of high school students in Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico offer conservation education activities to elementary school students throughout the community. The idea of developing a conservation consciousness in our young people is the primary goal of this group. These programs are offered outdoors where primary and secondary students can experience Nature while developing a consciousness for Her protection.
I’ve written about these heroes in a previous post. As of this writing, the program has been operating for five successful years. It is a privilege for me to work with this young and energetic conservation team. Here are some pictures of this group at work.
Annual Lists of Conservation Heroes
You might be interested in Cox Corporation’s web site where annual lists of conservation heroes are presented.
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Thanks for reading this essay.
It is always a happy event for me when I write about conservation successes such as the examples I’ve noted in this blog. There are plenty more great stories to be told about our conservation heroes. I would be honored if you would take the time to share your conservation success stories in the comments section of this essay. You are also invited to write a guest essay on some positive conservation event or experience. If you don’t have time to write much, simply put the URL for a good story in a comment.
My name is Bill Graham. As a Marine Biologist who has worked in the US and Mexico for 30 years, I am a student of Nature, a teacher, a researcher, and a nature photographer. Through my work, I have acquired an ever growing passion for how everything in Nature is connected. Today, I travel extensively contemplating about, writing about, and photographing Nature’s connections. I also work with conservation projects in the USA and Mexico and mentor talented youth.