Crackdown in Yellowstone

We share this planet; we do not own it.



Under the cover of “reorganization,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has pulled the rug out from under Dan Wenk, the highly respected superintendent of Yellowstone National Park. Citing no reasons, Zinke reassigned Wenk to Trump’s swamp in Washington, D.C. — which is not a national park. Wenk, finding no reason to join the swamp, announced he would retire instead.

Wildlife executioner Zilke

The real reasons for Zinke’s attack, however, have everything to do with bison, grizzly bears, wolves and science — and implementing the Trump administration’s priorities of placing special extractive interests over the nation’s rarest wildlife resources.

For those who may not know, Wenk is a 43-year veteran of the National Park Service who, among many other accomplishments, brought resolution to the long-festering conflict of snowmobile use in Yellowstone. He was also the guy in charge of re-opening the Statue of Liberty to the public after the 9-11 attacks. By every professional measure, he deserved to be the Superintendent of the America’s first national park.

But there’s a lot more to Yellowstone National Park than just the world-famous geysers and hot pools. For more than a century Yellowstone has provided the sole refuge for the nation’s remaining, genetically-pure, bison herd which once numbered in the tens of millions until nearly slaughtered to extinction by those who “settled the West.”

The same goes for the grizzly bear, recently nominated as America’s “national mammal.”

And then there are the wolves. Yellowstone was the site of their reintroduction where, like the bison and grizzlies, they could finally find safety from man’s never-ending drive to eliminate nature’s apex predators and/or competitors in favor of domesticated livestock.

Wenk: science—and some compassion—not the politics of exploitation to the hilt.

As Shakespeare wrote, “there’s the rub,” and so it proved for Superintendent Wenk, who believed wolves, grizzlies and bison deserved their place in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem that had co-existed for millennia.

Wenk’s reliance on science rather than being a puppet for politicians’ whims, however, ran counter to the approach of the Trump administration toward anything that gets in the way of development, resource extraction, or industry.

Wenk found fault with the Interagency Bison Management Plan’s contention that Yellowstone’s “carrying capacity” for bison should be 3,000 animals and that those wandering outside the Park’s invisible boundaries should be hazed, hunted, captured and shipped to slaughter. Instead, relying on science not politics, Wenk believed the Park could easily handle 4,000 bison and that any excess should go to repopulate tribal lands.

Since much of the land outside Yellowstone is also publicly owned, Wenk believed America’s bison had as much right to wander, give birth, and graze there as did the private cattle ranchers who have fought tooth and nail to contain the bison inside the Park’s boundaries for a century or more.

He also believed science did not support delisting grizzly bears or wolves from Endangered Species Act protections in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, let alone re-instating hunting them in the Park’s surrounding states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.

As Wenk told reporters last week, “We’re not a livestock operation. We’re managing a national park with natural systems. We do not believe the bison population is too high or that any scientific studies would substantiate that.”

Unfortunately, those who disagree with the mandates emanating from Trump’s chaotic White House can expect to get their walking papers right quick. And just like the other 35 senior Interior professionals who have been reassigned under Zinke and Trump, that’s just what happened to Superintendent Wenk — which is another Trump tragedy for the nation’s bison, wolves, grizzly bears and our first and most famous national park.


About the Author
 George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared. 

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One thought on “Crackdown in Yellowstone

  1. It is no coincidence that those initiating this grizzly bear cull are white, male & christian, the pinnacle of dominion… They undoubtedly all subscribe to judeo.christian dominion… the right to dominate, control & destroy animals for the most unreasonable excuses imaginable….

    What gives them right to take the life of a sentient creature? name withheld

    This may be the most important question of all… Just as the Queen believes that she has been ordained by god, so too do all the trophy hunters & holy cullers. When religion instills cruelty, it must be questioned. When religion endorses slaughter as the bloody bottom line, then every other abuse will follow. Once sown, the seeds of violence to animals will sprout, take root & spread. So long as these words remain intact, remain integral to the judeo. christian tradition, all our pleas for compassion will be cynically dispelled:

    Genesis 9:1-3 “The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.”

    We will be told that slaughter can be made humane, that killing millions of homeless dogs in shelters is an act of kindness, that culls are necessary to strengthen & preserve the herd, that it is compassionate to kill a calf out of view of his mother, all the small lies, the cover-ups, the charades of dominion will go on so long as the religions that sanctify slaughter refuse to retract the terrible words of genesis.

    These timely words are in response to the latest cull of genesis: grizzly bears around Yellowstone. Just as bear cubs are separated from their mother, think also of the brown skinned children separated from their mothers by the ruling white caste of america. It all begins with slaughter, inspired by the terror of genesis:

    ‘Thank you Ruth, I will google for information about this bear centre in India

    Have you ever heard of Axel Munthe? I attach his quote which I would like to have read out when I die. (below)

    I also attach an old email from someone who was an ardent campaigner. I believe his last name was Mason. I’ve kept this as I thought the words were very profound. You can feel the despair as well.’ name with held

    ‘Dear friends, The first New Jersey bear hunt in 33 years is now over. The death toll looks to be past 300, plus perhaps many more victims unaccounted for. In truth, we will never know the full depth of this atrocity. Tomorrow we regroup and plan our counter-attack. Tonight, however, we must take time and mourn; to give all these lost animals the proper rights which is born from our love and affection for them. To the mothers with children stolen, and babies whose mothers were so brutally torn from them, if we could have cloaked you in our arms we would have, but being so unable, we did as best we could. And while we mourn, let us, all of us, in one voice, declare to the heavens a pledge of steel resolution never to forget this cause and to never cease fighting for the hunted. To the bears, and all hunted animals, may you find peace in another world that is not so savage and corrupt as this one…’

    Beautiful words of empathy for the suffering of animals are seldom understood by those reared under the tyranny of judeo.christian dominion:

    “All that is best in me I have given to the Animals and I mean to stand by them to the last and share their fate whatever it may be. If it is true that there is to be no heaven of rest for them when their sufferings here are at an end, I for one, am not going to bargain for any heaven for myself. I shall go without fear where they go, and by the side of my Brothers and Sisters from the Forests and the Fields from the Skies to Seas, lie down to merciful extinction in their mysterious Underworld, safe from any further torments”. Axel Munthe 1857 -1949

    Those who care the most should not suffer the most. Once we understand the hope of AHIMSA, our despair is eased, & ending the plight of animals becomes a realizable goal:

    There is a way out of despair… It lies outside of the semitic religious tradition (judaism, christianity, islam). There is another world that is less savage. It is here, now, on earth. It is a world based on AHIMSA: non-violence to any living being, a cruelty free world as lived by the Jain community of India for millennia:

    “All life is sacred and everyone has a right to live fearlessly to their maximum potential. Living beings do not have any fear from those who have taken the vow of ahimsa.”..

    “…But only Jainism has made ahimsa its central doctrine. It alone has consistently held the vision of a peaceable world, realisable by moral effort and spiritual discipline.” Prof Andrew Linsey, Oxford University

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