Environmentalist versus Conservationist
What is the difference between a conservationist and an environmentalist? I'm sure the dictionary has great definitions of both words, but I'm going to explain what I see as the definition of each and how they are different.
Environmentalists see humans almost as alien visitors to this planet. While schools teach evolution, when it comes to the environment, that screeches to a halt. If we did evolve, we are no different than rats, wolves or polar bears and we owe nothing to those species ethically. They can eat us, fight to take back their territory and if we evolved as they did, we have the same rights. We can take back territory, eat them, etc. We are equal in every way. So if we did not evolve, that leaves that we were created by a god or we're aliens from another planet. If the religion or the planet of origin has rules concerning treatment of animals and the planet, we are bound by said rules. If the rules do not exist, we have no such obligation. So environmentalists are correct only if we are aliens or created by a god, so environmentalists should probably be in favor of not teaching evolution. There is a lack of consistency in the position.
Let us assume that we did not evolve and/or that it is the best interest of our species to preserve the earth. This is what I would call conservationist. Realistically, the only way we can practice true environmentalism is to completely eradicate man from the earth. Everything man does impacts the earth. So let's try conservationism. Conservationism recognizes that mankind is on the earth and is part of the system. It asks that we think before we slash and burn a rain forest in the Amazon and seeks to find ways of preserving forests and people.
In Wyoming, there is a huge split in the state's personality on this. While putting up signs that say "Like no place on earth", the major push has always been energy development and to eventually become like Colorado or other populated states. The push currently is economic development while paving over and selling out the open spaces that made Wyoming different. The question is not whether or not Wyoming can practice conservation and preserve the open spaces, but rather, does the state have the desire and the will to do so.
If no intervention occurs, evidence to date is that no, the state will not preserve the open spaces. Environmentalists will probably make little headway in the state--since their major push is to stop all development and give the state back to the wolves. If a change is to occur, it will be through conservationists providing ideas on how to develop energy to some degree and still preserve much of the open spaces. And it will probably have to come from groups outside of Wyoming in addition to those inside.
This site is dedicated to conservation--preserving open spaces and wildlife while allowing energy development. Now how does one do this? One problem this state has is subdividing ranches and destroying thousands of acres of wildlife habitat in the process. And because Wyoming has lacked regulation in this area, developers from all over the region buy ranches and sell them in 35 plus acre parcels. Sales like these are not necessary for energy development. Smaller subdivisions and man camps can serve just as well for an expanding population. This is about making millions of dollars through internet sales and using large parcels to avoid any cost of road maintenance or services of any kind. The legislature recently passed a bill allowing more regulations on these sales and I thank them for their action in this area. Hopefully, a more accurate picture of what is being sold will be required of the developers.
As much as I am not a fan of the Endangered Species Act, the current threats to sage grouse and the pygmy cottontail may be the only thing that eventually halts some habitat destruction. Sage grouse need wide open spaces and sagebrush to survive. While drilling for oil and gas does disturb their habitat, people, horses, dogs, buildings, fences, and so forth are much more permanent and take up more space.
There is also the problem of how much development is too much and what constitutes "wide open spaces". In some countries, our large backyards would be considered wasted space. Developers have been know to say that the 35 acre subdivision is created to preserve open spaces. What is not disclosed is many of these subdivisions allow two homes per section (usually only one well). This halves the open space....(This could change in the future.)
The following before and after photos show developments of approximately 20 acres per lot:
Do the after pictures still show open space? Do the after pictures still show sufficient open space for antelope, eagles, prairie dogs, burrowing owls, and sage grouse? It depends on your perspective. Yes, space still exists, but the wildlife now has to contend with fences, dogs, horses and people. Very shy creatures are going to have a harder time adapting.
One interesting note here. Most land developers sell land in the west using photos that show NO houses whatsoever, but rather wildlife and scenery. If the houses are not hampering the "wide open spaces" of the west, why are they not shown in the sales literature? Because they do matter and the realtor is selling the very thing he is destroying.
It appears the environmentalists are again trying to remove grazing on public land and to stop the killing of elk with
brucellosis. I often wonder if anyone ever really considers the ramifications of these ideas. "Save the elk, save the land".
Sounds good, right? So finally the evil ranchers are denied grazing land and they lose their brucellosis-free designation
if the elk spread out. This raises the cost of ranching to new heights. Eventually, the cost makes it necessary for the rancher
to stop ranching and sell the ranch. Victory, right? Now more cattle trampling the land and no more killing elk. The rancher,
however, is probably not going to simply give the ranch to a conservation or environment group, especially since he probably
views said groups as the reason he lost his livelihood. Instead, he find a land developer and sells it to him. Or maybe he
sells it to a very wealthy person who wants a private hideaway. Class envy aside, the second choice is probably the best for
conservation. There will probably be fewer fences and fewer people living on the land. The land developer cuts the ranch up
into 5 to 40 acre plots, people move in, fence, bring horses, cattle, maybe even some hogs or sheep. Fencing occurs in 40
acre sizing, causing problems with antelope migration, at least until the antelope learn to jump fences. The elk will eventually
learn to live among the development occupants, eating the landscaping and hay stacks. The residents will undoubtedly
develop countermeasures to preserve their little piece of earth. Now, no cattle are grazing, but the elk need to learn to rob
haystacks, the antelope to jump fences, and we haven't even touched on what prairie dogs will do....
Many years ago, I asked if people really believed that animals could live just on the public land in Wyoming, since that
is where the most protests of oil-drilling and ranching occur. It would seem the answer is "yes". It would be environmentally
acceptable to remove over 50% of the land animals occupy to save less than 50%. (According to the numbers I have found,
less than 50% of Wyoming is public land.) I would be very interested in finding out why some environmentalists find substantial
habitat loss and/or change acceptable to remove cattle grazing and oil drilling. It also seems that an environmental
reduction/change of such a magnitude would adversely affect wildlife.
Let me know if you have answers to the questions, if you have questions on points I didn't consider fully, etc. In order to
keep from following paths that lead to endings we really did not plan on, we have to think things through and find the best choices.
There are some signs of change in Wyoming. There is a rancher who is selling one acre plots in groups of four
or five to maintain the open spaces originally found in ranching. He is trying to provide housing while preserving
Wyoming open space.
Jackson put a moratorium on 20 acre developments through the end of the year. It was not popular with developers.
As the quest for more oil intensifies, keep in mind that it is possible to produce oil with minimum impact only if there
are regulations concerning land development and growth. Oil itself does not do as much damage as the associated
population increase and habitat loss.
It is interesting to note that if realtors, land developers and others came out in favor of subdividing the rainforest,
there would be a huge outcry. Sometimes it appears the only habitat that really counts includes trees and the
only species we worry about are those that live in the forest or those that we perceive as warm and cuddly
(as in polar bears). Rarely is there an outcry if antelope lose their "home on the range". The closest thing to a
protest involves prairie dogs. I guess prairie dogs are cuter and more lovable. Unfortunately, they carry plague
and are extremely prolific. Prairie dogs can have several litters each summer. Antelope have triplets max, once
a year. Which is going to be hit hardest by development? If antelope lived in the forest, would people care
more about them? I don't really know, but it's important to find answers to these questions before we find
out too late that we cared about the wrong animal......
Again, I am not saying that these animals will become extinct if we keep building. Animals adapt. However,
as we encroach on more and more land, the animals have to live up close to us. This year there have been
at least two cases of cats with the plague. Prairie dogs have learned to live in the road ditches next to a
convenience store in town. It seems probable there is a connection. Nature will work around us, but will it be
in a way we can adapt to?