Shoshone National Forest Hosts a Heated Day-long Discussion on their Proposed 20-Year Plan

I want to write a very short blog entry on a special ‘objector’s’ meeting held October 8 of this year.  The Shoshone National Forest held an unprecedented meeting to discuss just a few very contentious issues in their proposed twenty year management plan.  I will provide a link to the transcript of that day-long meeting which I found incredibly interesting and informative to read.

The meeting was restricted to four issues, and only people who had made written comments previously could comment verbally, either on the phone or in person.  But the meeting was open to the general public.  The issues were:

1. The Forest proposes to eliminate goat-packing due to the potential for bighorn sheep to contract diseases.  The northwest quadrant of Wyoming has biggest and best bighorn sheep herd.  There’s over 4000 bighorn sheep on and around the Shoshone National Forest, more than any forest in the national forest system.  Bighorn sheep advocates and goat packing advocates made their case.Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep

2. Lynx habitat and forest management.   Biologists and conservationists defended the proposed thinning restrictions in certain areas where lynx were known to exist or there is excellent snowshoe hare habitat.  County commissioners and their hired company, Ecosystem Research Group, argued for more thinning in those recommended designated lynx areas.

3. After lunch the two most contentious issues were addressed with lots of people arguing for wilderness preservation.  The Dunior Special Management Area has long had illegal mountain biking and the Forest Service plan is calling for mountain bike specific trails. This was a fascinating discussion with knowledgeable conservationists going back to early 70′s when the Dunior was suggested for SMA and eventual Wilderness designation.  No one from the biking community showed up, but the discussion was passionate, with many locals and wilderness advocates feeling betrayed by years and years of promises from the Forest Service as to Wilderness recommendation for these areas that never appeared, but now it seems to be ‘dewilding’ this area.

Jade Lake near Bonneville pass in the Dunoir

Jade Lake near Bonneville pass in the Dunoir

4. Lastly a heated discussion of increased ATV use in the forest, and in particular Franc’s Peak and how more motorized vehicles will disturb wildlife, destroy soil integrity, and be a hazard to horses and hunting use.

We have a chance to preserve and enhance this special area…the heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem–one of the few remaining intact ecosystems in the temperate world–and preserve these places for future generations with roadless areas and habitat for elk, grizzlies, wolves, wolverines, and all the iconic species that it contains.

I think you will find this a fascinating and informative discussion.  Click this link, then at the Shoshone Forest page click the link at the top that says ‘Transcripts from October 8 2014 Meeting with Objectors’

 

 

Decomposed Granite (DG)…a new improved stabilizer!

An expensive but new product is out on the market that creates a hard surface for Decomposed Granite pathways and patios.  This product, called TerraKoat, is sprayed on with the instructions below.

One note:  There are other liquid stabilizers out there that DO NOT work.  This is because the solids content of these other products (like G3) is lower than the TerraKoat.  What that really means is the company that makes the G3 waters it down. Another difference is that the TerraKoat contains a proprietary admixture that increases the longevity of the surface. Wheeler Zamaroni has compared both products in real life applications and they found that with TerraKoat you end up with a stronger more durable surface.  Therefore, if you are NOT using TerreKoat, then use a powdered stabilizer.  TerreKoat costs about $15 gallon.  A gallon will do about 20 sq. ft.

Here are the instructions from their application sheet.  You will notice that they recommend preparing the surface just as I do in detail in my eBook Decomposed Granite and Other Materials for Walkways

TerraKoat EX Industrial Strength Stabilizer

1. AGGREGATE SELECTION FOR FINAL SURFACE: Select an aggregate that contains a variety of sizes. For instance, crushed stone mixes such as 3/8 minus, 1/4 minus or 3/16 minus work well with TERRAKOAT STABILIZER, where as single size aggregates like 3/8 rock or pea gravel are not suitable. Screenings with extremely high fine content are not suitable either. To ensure compatibility of selected aggregate with TERRAKOAT STABILIZER, prepare a test area.

2. STRUCTURAL STONE BASE PREPARATION: Before starting the actual project, factors such as climate, native soil type, amount of use, should be taken into consideration. As a rule of thumb, “The better the base preparation, the better the results.”

For optimum performance, install 4 to 6 in. of 3/4 minus crushed stone, then compact using a vibratory plate compactor.In restricted areas where a compactor will not fit, use a hand tamper.

3. SURFACE AGGREGATE: Spread surface aggregate over the compacted structural stone base. Rake or screed to the desired level, and slope to allow water run off. Do not compact until after TERRAKOAT STABILIZER has been applied.

4. APPLY THE TERRAKOAT STABILIZER: Using a watering can or pump sprayer, apply the TERRAKOAT STABILIZER to the surface at the rate of 20 ft2 per gallon for residential pedestrian use, or 15 ft2 per gallon for commercial pedestrian use. Allow TERRAKOAT STABILIZER to fully penetrate through the material

5. COMPACTION: While surface is still damp but not saturated, compact the surface with a vibratory plate compactor; 2 or 3 passes are recommended. In restricted areas where a compactor will not fit, use a hand tamper. The better the compaction, the better the results.

6. Seal Coat: After compaction spray TERRAKOAT STABILIZER over the area at the rate of 60 sqft per gallon.

Additional instructions include repairing cracks or using this product on an existing surface that was ill-prepared.  I have many readers who tell me their installer did not apply the DG correctly.  Depending upon the circumstance, this stabilizer might be very useful.

DG sunken patio edged with stone and Ryerson's header.

DG sunken patio edged with stone and Ryerson’s header.

Instructions for rebuilding AN EXISTING SURFACE

1. Scarify or rototill 1 inch of the surface, break up any clumps, making any necessary repairs, and add new surface aggregate as needed.

2. Apply TERRAKOAT STABILIZER at the rate of 15 ft2 per gallon; allow liquid to penetrate.

3. Compact using a vibratory plate compactor. In restricted areas where a compactor will not fit, use a hand tamper.

Instructions for maintaining AN EXISTING SURFACE:

1. Apply TERRAKOAT STABILIZER at the rate of 20 to 45 ft2 per gallon. Some judgement will be needed, as consideration for absorption and desired results should be taken into account.

2. Compact any loose areas.

Getty museum LA DG path

Getty museum LA DG path

As in my eBookTERRAKOAT recommends 3-6″ compacted Base Rock with a vibration compactor and a 2″ surface of DG.  If you are using the Strybing Arboretum method because of poor drainage etc., then only 3/4″ of DG is needed.

For complete instructions on how to install a Decomposed Granite patio or walkway, see my eBook

Wolves, Management, Cattle and Wyoming

Buffalo Bill Center of the West today’s lunchtime speaker was Mike Jimenez of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Wolf Recovery program.  Mike was scheduled months ago to speak about the success of the federal wolf reintroduction.  But as timing would have it, just days ago wolves were relisted in Wyoming.

Mike has been a wolf biologist for over thirty years.  He headed up the Rocky Mountain Region (RMR) wolf recovery for USF&W and still works for them.  The re-listing put him in an awkward position, as the Feds along with Wyoming are the defendants in the lawsuit.  His talk stuck to the history of wolves in the U.S., when they were listed under the ESA and why, and how the program was conducted and how it progressed.  He’s a biologist, not a lawyer or a politician, and he tried to be non-biased and fair in his assessment of this extremely controversial issue–wolves!Lamar pack wolf

Personally, I think the Wyoming Game and Fish has struggled to maintain wolves above the minimum level and done a good job. Although I disagree with how their hunt zones have been managed [I’d like to see either a science zone label for areas around the Park with no hunting; or at a minimum have the areas around the Park have a one month season in October when wolves are not following elk as they move outside the Park].  But WG&F has their hands tied politically, just as the Feds do. And that is why things have ended up back in the courts.

Jimenez’s assessment of the ‘two’ sides of the wolf issue was, I thought, overly-simplistic–characterized as the pro- or anti-wolf—cuddly/cute, or killing machines.  People who think about wolves know it is more nuanced than that and I’m sure Jimenez knows that too.

Not today's wolf but here is an example of collaring.

Collaring a wolf by Wyoming Game and Fish

I’d like to address my feelings on some of these issues.

First why was Wyoming targeted for a relisting lawsuit?

Wyoming is the ONLY state that has a predator listing for wolves in the RMR. Although one could argue that most of the state is unsuitable habitat for wolves (true), Montana has the same issue.  Montana is a bigger area state, with its entire eastern side unsuitable habitat.  But Montana does not have a predator zone.  Predator status means that an animal can be shot, run over, trapped at any time of the year.  There are other animals, such as foxes and coyotes or badgers that receive that status in Wyoming.  In general, ‘predator’ status in most U.S. states was abandoned back in the 1920′s and replaced with hunting/trapping seasons.  Wyoming is still in the caveman era on this.

As wolves are delisted in other states, such as Washington and Oregon, a ‘predator’ zone will not fly.  Wyoming is a lone wolf here so to speak here.  The Predator Zone must go before wolves should be de-listed here.

Hard to see, but the small dot in the foreground is the wolf mousing amongst the cattle

Hard to see, but the small dot in the foreground is a wolf mousing amongst cattle

In addition, Wyoming, in a back door deal with Governor Mead and, at that time, Secretary of the Interior Salazar, came up with a ‘flex-zone’, ostensibly to insure habitat connectivity for genetic diversity.  In other words, a portion of the state near the Idaho border is a trophy zone during the hunt season, then a short few months rest, then reverts to predator status.  This too is ridiculous and no other state has this, nor will they.  This was a pure political ploy, and not based on science.

But apart from how Wyoming got itself into this relisting mess, I want to address the issue of predation and wolves.  As far as objections to wolves because they eat elk and ‘hurt’ hunters, this is not even an issue to address, but just whining on the part of hunters.  Hunter elk success in Wyoming has been at an all time high for the past two years.  And although elk numbers in some areas are down, there are many reasons, including wolves, for this.  In fact, some of the reasons, like in the Northern Range in Montana, have to do with over-hunting by humans! Wolves as competition for hunters is a non-issue.

IMG_0453

But wolves predation on livestock is an issue that needs addressing.  Jimenez rightfully pointed out that wolves will and do take down cattle and sheep, especially when their preferred prey–elk and deer–is unavailable.

When wolves were brought into the RMR under the ESA, Jimenez pointed out that the agreement with ranchers was that they wouldn’t have to change any of their practices. Under the 10J rule, the USF&W would surgically kill wolves that had predated on livestock, and Defenders of Wildlife would pay compensation.  As a general rule, that seemed to work out well.  Cattle predation since 2006 went down, wolf population in the states went up.  This kind of agreement was necessary to keep ranchers happy.  But it is not a long-term solution, and I will tell you why.

Mike pointed out the Service tried several non-lethal means like fladry and loudspeaker noise to deter wolves, but because wolves are smart, they all failed as solutions for large ranches.

In my work as a landscape designer and horticulturist, although I didn’t work with livestock, I did work with wildlife issues relative to plants.  In Marin county where there is essentially no hunting, deer are abundant and people have made their homes in deer habitat.  Deer are a big problem in terms of a nice garden.  Especially in August/September, plants that deer normally might not touch, deer will eat in order to find water.  Deer, like wolves actually, are very smart and adapt to your methods of ‘control’.  And like wolves and bears teach their young what to eat, deer will do the same.  Even in a small county like the North Bay of San Francisco, deer in different areas will eat different plant material.  And non-lethal control methods have to be constantly changed.

In addition, a much bigger issue than deer are gophers and moles.  Gophers are abundant in Marin’s Open Space.  Once you till soil, they move in even if they weren’t there before.  They can destroy even a 5 year old Redwood Tree, making it disappear into hole overnight.  Moles don’t eat plants, but dig tunnels next to roots.  The roots of the plants than dry up and the plant dies.

Skunks and Raccoons are abundant too.  They eat grubs and love to dig in gardens, especially new lawns or new plants, seeking insects.

These are all big problems for homeowners who spend big bucks on their landscape installation; or for small farmers who supply specialty crops to restaurants.  I’ve worked with all these critter problems.

Expensive landscape losses are no different for a rich homeowner than the loss of cattle for a rich cattleman

Expensive landscape losses are no different for a rich homeowner than the loss of cattle for a wealthy cattleman

These folks, and especially the farmers [which is a direct equivalent to ranchers because this is their livelihood] experience the same sorts of frustrations that ranchers do with wolves or coyotes.  I know, because I’ve been on the other end.  It becomes easy to ‘hate’ something that continues to damage your crops or your cattle.  It is then not much of a step to turn to lethal, and easy, means to deal with the problem.  Poison the rodents, kill the deer, shoot the coyote or wolf, etc.

Yet our wildlife is valuable.  They are making a living themselves; plus they have value on the landscape. Wolves control the coyote population.  Coyotes control the rodent and raccoon population. etc.

Over the course of twenty years of working with wildlife ‘problems’ in the landscape, my solutions evolved to be non-lethal yet creative.  If the wildlife are outsmarting you and your only solution is to kill them–how smart are you?  Wildlife can be outsmarted non-lethally, but it’s a matter of working with the land, with your livestock or your plants. Really, its part of your job as a grower or a rancher.Deer and fawn nursing

I’ve created entire wedding flower gardens in deer areas and the neighbors were amazed.  How did you do that?  They’d ask.  I used plants that deer like but also didn’t like, interspersing them in certain ways so as to deter, and fool, deer.  Instead of endlessly poisoning gophers, we used a bitter tablet that plant roots uptake and makes the plant taste bitter to them.  Edible gardens must be fenced and so on.

I have worked creatively with the land to minimize wildlife damage in non-lethal ways. That is the pact one takes on when working with plants and animals.  Aldo Leopold called it ‘The Land Ethic’ and it still holds today.

So although the initial ‘promise‘ to ranchers when reintroduction began was that ‘things won’t change’, now that wolves are to stay, things with the ranching industry must change.  Ranchers need help and education in how to manage creatively.  And it’s time they make that commitment.  These predators, such as wolves and grizzlies, have so few areas they can live, the RMR needs to be one of the places where wildlife comes first.  Federal lands should not have ‘kill’ orders’  Federal lands are where wolves, and bears, survive.  Ranch at your own risk on public lands would be the first important change.  If that means cowboying more frequently, or not putting calves out on the allotments, then the ranchers need to make those changes if they want less predation.

Grizzlies too are killed for cattle predation on public lands

Grizzlies too are killed for cattle predation on public lands

It also would mean that a rancher is not reimbursed on federal lands.  Every year I see cattle killed on the highway by me.  They are on the road because the rancher, whose cattle are on public land allotments, doesn’t want to bother to turn the electric fence on or cowboy them off the road.  I’ve been told ranchers just factor these losses into their bottom line.  Its easier and more economical than sending a cowboy out.  So if car losses don’t matter on public lands, why should the miniscule amount of wolf predation?

On private lands, ranchers will probably have to be issued a shoot-to-kill permit.  But this should come with help and education, implementing methods to reduce predation.  Livestock reimbursement, and Wildlife Services, should be phased out slowly.  Reimbursement should only come with evidence of livestock non-lethal predation management.  Money should be spent helping the rancher, not giving him a handout which only encourages complacency.  I’ve run many businesses, and the federal or state government never reimbursed me for business losses.

Lastly, there are now many ranches in our state that are not making a living ranching, but using the generous subsidies that come with livestock to reduce taxes for extremely wealthy one-percenters.  These billionaires are still receiving not only reimbursement for predation losses, but receive Wildlife Services assistance on our public lands to kill wolves and other predators. This is plain abuse of even our existing broken system which was implemented to assist subsistence ranchers.

Especially in our Western States, we need a new model.

 

The Wild Excellence. What it means and why I wrote it

I thought now was a good time to do a post on my new book The Wild Excellence: Notes from Untamed America. The book has just been released in stores and online.  Kindle version is now available on AmazonThe Wild Excellence front cover lrg

The Wild Excellence title comes from a line in a Pablo Neruda poem, one of the last he wrote as an old man.

Without doubt I praise the wild excellence

That line, in a nutshell, describes my relationship to the fullness of the natural world.

When I moved from the Bay Area to the Absaroka mountains east of Yellowstone National Park, I found myself in the wildest country in the lower 48 and one of the last, whole intact ecosystems in the entire temperate world.

Doug Smith, Wolf Biologist for Yellowstone National Park says “country without wolves isn’t really good country. It’s incomplete. It doesn’t have its full spirit.” Over time that wild spirit of lands with grizzlies, wolf packs, large elk herds, wolverines, and cougars instilled in me a new perspective of our natural world and my place in it.

Grizzly mom with two cubs of the year near my house

Grizzly mom with two cubs of the year near my house

I’ve always been interested in Land so I began hiking to ancient Shoshone Sheep Eater sites, settler remains, learning fencing work and water development, but foremost learning how to be in tune with the wildlife here. Because of my proximity to the Park, wolf and elk studies were being conducted in the valley where I live and I had the opportunity to assist as a citizen scientist. ‘Bad’ grizzlies were dropped off at the end of my dirt road with the hopes they’d go into the Park.  Sometimes they ‘homed’ back to where they came from, yet other times they came to the nearby woods to dig for grubs or eat chokecherries.

Two adult cougars travel together

Two adult cougars travel together

With time, I became aware that a parallel internal process was taking place.  This wild landscape, with its full suite of wildlife, was having a healing effect on me.  And that healing seemed dependent on its expansive, untouched space and the play of predators and prey so abundant here.  That healing illuminated for me the sacredness of wildlands and their necessity for the human spirit.

Middle Fork Lake...the Divide

Middle Fork Lake…the Divide

My book, The Wild Excellence, is a description of many journeys–the science and the sacred, and what moves the Heart to want to protect all that is fragile and wonderful.  It is my sincere hope that this communication will inspire others to experience the mystery and wonder of wild places, and work with their vote and their voice to protect them. They are the last and fragile remnants of what Lewis and Clark saw over 200 years ago.
For updated information on The Wild Excellence  visit my facebook page

Narrating from the borderlands of Yellowstone National Park, Leslie Patten brings us vivid accounts of wolves, grizzlies, the seasonality of ecosystems and tales of prehistoric Indians–all written with a naturalist’s eye and woven in a personal network of modern day homesteading, dogs and community. There are times when the best reporting on national parks comes from voices just beyond the legal boundary, close enough for a passionate attachment to the beauty of the land but sufficiently distant for critical appraisal of governmental management. Leslie Patten is one of those voices.

— Doug Peacock, Author of Grizzly Years, In the Shadow of the Sabertooth and other books.

CONTENTS

Introduction

Chapter 1 A Dog and a Lesson 

Chapter 2 First Days 

Chapter 3 The Peoples Before 

Chapter 4 Close Encounters of the Wolf Kind 

Chapter 5 A Most Magnificent Animal 

Chapter 6 Woods, Water, and Wildlife 

Chapter 7 Bear Dreamer 

Chapter 8 Sagebrush Stories 

Chapter 9 Medicine Dog 

Chapter 10 Sacred Land Ethic 

Epilogue 

wolf

Smart Urban Planning and Wildlands–an interconnection

As a horticulturist and wildlands advocate, I heard a story on yesterdays Science Friday that got me pondering.

The essential jest of the story is that trees, like all plants, emit different chemicals, many of them considered toxic.  Plants do this for a variety of reasons.  Some might attract pollinators, others to ward off predators.  Of course we’ve all known this for years.  That is why some plants have medicinal uses, while other plants might give you a terrible reaction.  But we have never considered that trees might be doing the same thing and those chemicals could be reacting in negative ways with pollutants in our cities air.Japanese Maple

In this short segment Biologist Todd Rosenstiel explains some of the studies being done at Portland State University–that we only know a few of the emitted chemicals–like turpenes–and there are many more we are still investigating.  He explains how these chemicals can react with ozone in polluted atmospheres to create more pollutants.  Some trees make more of these toxic chemicals than others; and also chemicals might begin as toxins yet then combine with ozone in such a way as to actually scrub pollutants out of the atmosphere.

As a horticulturist, I’ve planted thousands of trees in suburbs and cities.  I’ve thought of problems like soil, sun, wind, climate, insect resistant, etc.  But this is an entirely new area of study.  For instance, Rosenstiel points out that Oaks are big emitters of these toxins, while Maple not so much.  But we can’t just plant Maples; we also need a diversity of trees in cities.

That got me thinking again about livable cities and how proper city/suburb planning is an important tool for saving our wildlands and wildlife.  Proper planning so cities become more self-contained–growing their own foods [using rooftop year round gardens], solar power that is concentrated within the immediate area [rather than generated from massive wind/solar farms in fragile desert habitat or energy trucked from far away], green spaces for recreation, smart transportation, clustered housing, and other techniques will make the need to ‘escape’ less, and preserve lands for wildlife.

Rooftop garden

Cities/suburbs in general should be planned with wildlife in mind.  Although cities won’t be having elk or wolves running around, there are ways to plan for wildlife corridors.  Los Angeles as well as Santa Cruz’s Highway 17 are good examples of needed cougar corridors.  While there is good habitat around the edges, freeways block corridors cougars use.  And living with wildlife that has learned to exploit urban centers, such as mesopredators and their prey, –coyotes, foxes, raccoons, deer, possums, fishers–will enhance city living.

Urban coyote rests mid-day in local cemetary

Urban coyote rests mid-day in local cemetary

Smart city planning for liveable cities, which seems to now include taking into the account the chemical biology of trees–is a necessity if we want to inhibit the sprawl that now threatens some of last remaining wildest lands in the United States.

Jade Lake near Bonneville pass in the Dunoir

Jade Lake near Bonneville pass in the Dunoir

More about Grizzly Bears! Grizzlies, the PCA, and the Wind River White Bark Pines

What is the PCA?  If you care about grizzlies, then this knowledge is important.

The PCA stands for Primary Conservation Area and is a designated area within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem with special rules to protect and insure that the grizzly bear population will thrive into the future.  This area has special rules regarding activities that would disturb bears, such as excessive roads, ATV’s, numbers of elk hunters, etc.  The aim is to ensure genetic diversity and keep a minimum of 500 bears.  This area was first outlined during the bear’s period of recovery.  The PCA rules will still apply even after grizzly bears are delisted, which will probably come in 2015.

Primary Conservation Area in Blue. Suitable habitat for bears in Red.

 

Now look at the above image.  The actual designated PCA is in blue.  The suitable habitat is in red.  Notice there is an ‘Italy-shaped’ leg in the lower right that is not in the PCA but is suitable habitat.  The majority of this is the Wind River range.  See there is a main highway between Riverton and Jackson that cuts right through a small section of the PCA.  In order for bears to inhabit the Winds, they have to cross this highway, and the main corridor into the Wind River range from the north side (Gros Ventre/Upper Hoback area) of the highway to the south is through the Upper Green River Valley.  Per Wyoming Game & Fish own conservation guidelines:

Based on current road densities, presence of domestic sheep and current levels of conflict with livestock, the upper Green River area on Forest could also be considered unsuitable for grizzly bear occupancy. However, important biological issues make the Upper Green River area very important in ensuring CS (Conservation Strategies) population and distribution objectives will be met long-term.The Upper Green River area is presently occupied by grizzly bears and is important contiguous habitat that links the bear population between the Gros Ventre/Upper Hoback area, Upper Wind River Range, and core bear habitat north of this area.

So why am I talking about this?  Because it is rare, and I mean rare, for a bear to get through the Green River corridor without getting into trouble with livestock.  That valley is saturated with sheep and cattle allotments (these are on public forest service lands with some 7500 sheep and 22,500 cattle in a 323 square mile area).  Bears are moved, or removed lethally.  Recently the ‘take’ quota for grizzly bears was just raised in that area and even more important, the limit for female grizzlies kills was eliminated there.  Therefore, it is difficult for a bear to get pass through this bottleneck corridor into the Wind River habitat. Yet the Winds provide excellent, essentially uninhabited habitat.

Another red flag for the Winds and bears is that the southern portion of the range is excluded from conservation strategies because of several factors.  First because there are still very active sheep allotments there (these are sheep allotments on Wilderness).  Also because of heavy backpacker summer use. But I am here to tell you that the best and healthiest white bark pines are in the southern portion of the Wind Rivers.

I’ve been backpacking the Winds every year for over 15 years.  I’ve seen many of the northern and central Wind River White Bark Pines face a heavy toll from the beetles.  Not as heavy as the rest of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, where White Bark Pines could be considered to be functionally dead.  Reading my previous post, you’ll note that even the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team admits their own transects are 75% dead.  But it appears that even in the worst portions of the Winds, its more like 40-50%; while my recent trip to the Shadow Lake area of the Southern Winds, I’d estimate the mortality at around 20-30%.

Notice the tops of the tree.  Cones are produced on the new growth.

Notice the tops of the tree. Cones are produced on the new growth.  Tree is full of cones!  See how healthy these pines look.  This is the pass near Washakie creek.  Notice the dead trees in the background.  This is a good visual estimate for your reference of dead vs. live percentage.

And while the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team noted that this years cone production was ‘good’ at 20 cones per tree, my estimate in the Washakie Creek environs was more like 70-100+ cones per tree!  Yet, not one grizzly bear will be able to reach this area!

Another pine full of cones

Another pine full of cones

Although the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team completed their legally required study on the grizzly bear diet last year, they  stated that while white bark pines will not last in the Greater Yellowstone, bears will find other foods.  I feel this statement makes assumptions that cannot be known.  Rocky Mountain grizzlies are not like Alaskan bears that eat salmon with high protein and fat. Our bears depend on limited sources of fall fattening foods–essentially moths and pine nuts.  If we want to ensure the bear’s survival, we should be opening up all the ‘suitable habitat’ in the GYE.

Avalanche Peak, Yellowstone.  Dead whitebark pines

Avalanche Peak, Yellowstone. Dead white bark pines make up this dead forest

Corridors like the Upper Green, full of livestock on public lands, need tighter livestock rules, not dead bears. These are not private land ranchers, but ranchers using public lands at very low rates.   Rules like running cowboys with cattle, removing sheep or at least penning them at night with guard dogs, need to be set down by the Forest Service.  And public lands ranch-at-your-own-risk should be another.   And even cattlemen do this in other circumstances.  Cattle are run over on highways regularly.  Cattlemen who run herds on open range factor these losses into their bottom line.  They just figure they’ll lose a certain amount to cars every year and so don’t bother moving their herds.  In my area, they don’t even turn on the electric fences that the forest service provides them.  So why don’t they factor in predation by bears on these same lands?

One other thing that irked me in their conservation strategies comments was that because of high use of summer backpackers in the southern Winds, the area is unsuitable for bears.  Just like the rest of the PCA, backpackers and hikers need to learn to hike and live with bears.  The southern winds are particularly heavy use because of the Cirque of the Towers, an awesome array of granite peaks that attracts climbers from all over the world.  People have to adapt and begin to carry bear spray and learn to share the area.  Bears are quite good at avoiding people, using corridors at night, bedding in hidden places during the day.  Grizzlies in the winds will heighten hikers awareness–a good thing.

Yellowstone grizzly

Yellowstone grizzly

Hiking in this fabulous bear country, seeing all those wonderful nuts, yet observing no bear sign, contained a certain sadness for me.  In my own area next to Yellowstone Park, 90% of the white bark pines are dead and bears are roaming around looking for food. Here I was surrounded by their prime fall food going to waste due to inept human management.

I like to remember what Native Americans called Grizzlies–’humans without fire‘.  Let’s treat them with that kind of respect.

 

 

The Wild Excellence: Notes From Untamed America

My new book is finally available from Amazon.  The Wild Excellence:  Notes from Untamed America takes its title from a Pablo Neruda poem.

Without doubt, I praise the wild excellence

The Wild Excellence

Over 60 years ago, Aldo Leopold proposed a new way of looking at land. He called it ‘The Land Ethic’. This view is the model all conservation groups use today. In my book, The Wild Excellence, I propose to broaden that template to include another element: our ancient relationship to Land as source of vision, spiritual awareness and awakening–The Sacred Land Ethic.  This idea of mine did not come out of a vacuum, but naturally evolved from living in this wild ecosystem of the Greater Yellowstone.

In my book I tell the story of how I was transformed through direct connection with wildlands and wildlife:  I work on a wolf project; my valley is the center of an elk study that reveals very interesting data; I track bears, find coyote dens and search for evidence of first peoples–all in this unique ecosystem, living just a few short miles from Yellowstone National Park’s eastern border.

Observing wildlife and wild nature changes my views on the Land and how we must treat it.   From the Epilogue:

I walk out into the night air and the brilliance of the evening sky intrudes upon my feelings.  The celestial dome above me is packed with star light.  The local wolf pack is howling.  They’ve made a kill nearby and with their bellies full, they announce their pleasure into the blackness.  A rustling of hooves beats back and forth in the large meadow in front of the house.  I go in and grab a high beam flashlight.  As I shine it towards the pasture, a thousand eyes stare back at me. The elk herd has come.  Disturbed by my dog and the nearby wolves, they move restlessly as my beam tracks only their eyes, focused on me with curiosity and fear.  Something familiar rustles through my bones.  My flashlight becomes a torch, my house the village, and I sit with friends around a fire, ten thousand years ago, with this same sea of eyes staring from the darkness.  There is an eeriness to it, and a vulnerability.  And a rightness.  I feel my humanness and my place in the Universe.  I am grateful, once again, to be living here, in one of the last places on earth where all things are intact.  It is my home and without any doubt, I praise the wild excellence.

Some praise for The Wild Excellence:

Narrating from the borderlands of Yellowstone National Park, Leslie Patten brings us vivid accounts of wolves, grizzlies, the seasonality of ecosystems and tales of prehistoric Indians–all written with a naturalist’s eye and woven in a personal network of modern day homesteading, dogs and community. There are times when the best reporting on national parks comes from voices just beyond the legal boundary, close enough fora passionate attachment to the beauty of the land but sufficiently distant for critical appraisal of governmental management. Leslie Patten is one of those voices.

— Doug Peacock, Author of Grizzly Years, In the Shadow of the Sabertooth

 “The Wild Excellence” belongs in every library and personal book shelf. Leslie lets us enter her world of wilderness and all its beauty and wonder. Then encourages us to preserve all that is wild for future generations. Her words, “The grizzly bear’s gift to man is the Power of the PresentMoment” sums up the essence of this book.

— Dan and Cindy Hartman, Photographers Yellowstone Ecosystem Wildlife Along The Rockies

 

I hope you will buy my book, enjoy it, and be moved to love our remaining wildlands and wildlife.  If you do, please leave your comments on the Amazon page.  That will help more people find the book and read it.  My sincere hope is that all the million plus people who visit this Ecosystem every year will come to support this unique area with their voices and their vote to protect it for future generations.

Grizzly front foot

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