DISPATCHES
Passports to Paradise
by Rob Schultheis
Oct 27, 2011 | 801 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sometimes I think that living in the mountains should be considered a privilege, not a right; that people who move here should have to pass some kind of test regarding the mountains and the ancient community of living-things that dwell here.

Ever since I moved here in 1973, I’ve had to choke back a fit of projectile vomiting at the turnips who arrive and immediately proceed to howl that they want the environment changed to fit their misconceptions. 

They write letters to the local papers, claiming that coyotes are dangerous and should be wiped out lest they devour elementary-school students waiting for the school bus, that prairie dogs “don’t belong here” and should be exterminated, and so on. When wildlife experts proposed reintroducing wolves to the area (up until less than a century ago, they were an integral part of the local ecosystem) know-nothings amped up their anti-coyote rhetoric with predictions of Big Bad Wolves devouring locals and tourists en masse. 

(Interestingly, a veteran biologist once offered a  $100,000 reward to anyone who could produce evidence of an unprovoked attack on humans by North American wolves; no one even tried, except for one fellow who said he stumbled on a wolf’s den and was killing the cubs he found inside, when the cubs’ mother showed up and bit him.  No comment.)

There’s no end to it all. I actually had a friend tell me in all seriousness that hummingbirds were dangerous.  “My uncle was fly fishing when a hummingbird got confused by the sunlight reflecting off his glasses and flew into one of the lenses, cracking the glass. It could have blinded him!”

Quick, get out the miniature Sam-22s and Stingers: The Hummingbirds Are Coming!

The species that has fared the worst due to human ignorance are the beavers. No matter that scientists say beavers have virtually created the West as we know it, with its meadows, wetlands and trout pools; every time you turn around some eejit is trapping beavers he-or-she claims are “flooding MY property.” Aside from the fact that (a) it ain’t your property, it’s only on loan for the brief time you are on earth, and (b) maybe you shouldn’t have built in wetlands in the first place, beavers are incredibly easy to live with.

Just put a PVC pipe through their dam at the level you want their pond to stay: hardly rocket science. 

Ironically, Western Slope ranchers are now importing breeding pairs of beavers, displaced by the suburbanization of the Eastern Slope, in order to improve their ranchlands.  One set of before-and-after photos shows a dried-out wasteland cut by deep eroded gullies; five years later, after a pair of beavers was placed there, the same area is a maze of pools surrounded by brush, with meadows spreading outward from the banks.  Trout, elk, and grazing land for cattle have replaced the dead badlands.  Yet we still have locals trapping out whole beaver populations to preserve “their” turf.

Sad, is it not?
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