Thursday, May 03, 2007

Catron County Scares Me

OK, so every state has its redneck counties. California has them, New York has them, Massachusetts has them. But of course we focus on particular places where scary white people live. These rednecks usually get split into 2 camps--the southern racist kind and the western militia kind. The western militia style are said to live in the northern Rockies and particularly in northern Idaho. And there are a lot of these people up there. Randy Weaver lived there. Mark Fuhrman moved there after the OJ trial.

But I'll take southwestern New Mexico's Catron County and put it up against anything Idaho can throw at us. These are some of the most anti-government radicals you will find anywhere. For a decade now, they have been vigorously fighting the federal government's attempt to reintroduce wolves into the Southwest. In the northern Rockies, wolf reintroductions have been a tremendous success, with wolves spreading throughout the region, even with killings of packs that take out too much livestock.

But it's been a total disaster in New Mexico and Arizona because ranchers down there want all the wolves there. Catron County and surrounding areas still believe it is 1880 and that wolves are there to eat your children. Literally. I have heard these arguments made by the wife in a ranching family with my own ears.

Last week, a female wolf was released in Catron County. Local residents are already claiming that the wolf killed 2 cows and they want it dead. They are also threatening to do it themselves, a federal crime, if the government doesn't take care of it.

Now it is possible that the wolf did kill these cows. That's what wolves do after all. And cattle are so stupid that wolves see them as easy pickings. But these aren't cows hanging out behind your yard. These cattle are grazing on Forest Service land. And there are lots of reasons cows die out there. Just because a cow dies, doesn't mean that it was taken out by a wolf.

On the other hand, let's just say the wolf ate these cows. Who cares? There is no, and I mean absolutely ZERO, economic future in ranching these forests. Ranchers are trying to get out all over the place. Globalization and factory farms have completely undermined these ranchers. They are hanging on for cultural reasons more than any. In fact, so many ranchers are looking to get out that environmental organizations are offering to buy their grazing permits and retiring them in order to get cattle out of the forests. This has infuriated western rancher's associations, which are trying to get legislation passed making this illegal, and of course taking the one financial option many ranchers have away from them.

So if the wolf killed the cattle, good. The cattle don't belong there anyway. The wolves do. If ranching was a legitimate economic option in these places, that might be different, but it's not. It's too bad these ranchers are losing their culture and traditions, but I don't see how it's the government's responsibility to prop these people up, particularly at the cost of undermining forest ecosystems, of which the wolf is a vital part.