Gray wolf
Gray wolf (AB Photographie / Shutterstock)

By Austin Snedden, Ranching Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

Environmentalists place a great deal of importance on native species. The religion of valuing native species is almost as fervent as the believers of the manmade climate change religion. I call it a religion because it requires faith, just as the manmade climate change religion requires faith in an unproven theory. The definition of “native” is very subjective and requires some fixed point in time that divides whether something has been in someplace long enough to be considered “native.” Species have always been moving, expanding or decreasing their territory. With humans there is some kind of spoken or written word that generally gives us a synopsis (back to a certain time) of how long they have been here. Plants and animals don’t seem to communicate their cultural heritage quite as well. How far back should we go in deciding what is native? Who decides the parameters of what makes something native? When bureaucrats decide something is “native,” should these plants and animals have superior rights to humans?

With the advent of the government led environmental movement, particularly the Endangered Species Act, the designation of “native” became far more important. Protection and reintroduction of native species was used as motive for Federal and State governments to lock up vast tracks of land, particularly in the west. With the expanded powers of the government led environmental movement, species deemed native are routinely re-introduced to areas they were documented to be in, or areas that bureaucrats believe they once occupied. When the first Gray Wolf meandered back into California in 2011, after nearly 100 years of not being in the state, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) began considering adding the wolf to the State endangered species list. During this period, I attended a hearing in Oxnard, where the CDFW listened to people’s opinions as to the listing of the species. One woman from San Francisco conveyed that she guides children on walks through the redwoods, and that it was heartbreaking to her that kids couldn’t see wolves on the walks. It was clear by her instincts that she is likely to become an endangered species as well as the children she is entrusted with if left to her desires.

The Tule Elk is another native species with vast re-introduction. From near extinction a century ago, they are now pretty widespread. Sure, their family tree looks like a telephone pole, and sure many are semi domesticated free loaders, but they are native. They may be eating non-native plants as they pillage a grass fed dairy on the north coast or eating tens of thousands of dollars of non-native alfalfa in Owens Valley, or they may be eating grass on a drought year in the Kern County foothills that some rancher was hoping to keep for his cows. If a sheep property in northern California was purchased when wolves were extirpated, and the re-introduction of wolves causes repeated, grotesque economic damage, has that property owner lost some of their property rights and the assumed value of that land? If non-irrigated grazing ground was purchased for cows based on a stocking rate and water availability, and then 100 state introduced elk set up permanent residence on the same limited grass and water, has that property owner’s rights been damaged?

Who decides what is native enough but not too native? There are shark teeth in the Bakersfield area, and skeletons of saber tooth tigers and woolly mammoths in the McKittrick tar pits. Should we extract DNA and clone these native critters? If we are going to override natural selection to unnaturally support the preservation of these recently native species, I think we should also not discriminate and unnaturally support these native species. If you think it is perfectly acceptable for a sheep rancher to have once native wolves roaming through his herd, but you think it is unacceptable to have once native sharks swimming in your Bakersfield pool, you might need to reanalyze your environmental philosophy. If you think it is perfectly acceptable to have once native elk munching and tromping a farmer or ranchers crop, but you think it is unacceptable to have a once native woolly mammoth compacting your lawn and munching your trees, you might need to reanalyze your political philosophy.