There’s a recent brouhaha in the State of Oregon over wolves. There’s an article in Wend Magazine about a scheduled Oregon wolf hunt (for purposes of extermination) that was temporarily suspended because of citizens fighting for some sense of wildness amidst our modern sea of drive-thru agrarian monotony.
“A scheduled wolf hunt in northeastern Oregon will remain on hold. At least for awhile. In September, the Imnaha wolfpack found itself under the close watch of local ranchers and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).” [source]
Okay, that seems pretty straightforward, and I’m not trying to get all tree hugger or PETA on you. I can kinda see where there’s room for discussion about the pros and cons of wolfpacks <sarcasm>roaming the streets at night trying to devour your children</sarcasm>. But… this is where it gets weird:
“the court wants a $5,000 security deposit [from the group representing the public interest] to cover potential livestock losses caused by the two wolves that would have been dead if the state’s plan had gone forward. [source]
Say what? This has a few implications that I find disagreeable:
- The default mode of existence in the minds of our bureaucracy is the complete subjugation of wildness.
- It is The State’s obligation to facilitate the eradication wildness.
- Land ‘owners’ have a reasonable expectation of zero external risk whenever externalities can be exterminated.
- The public’s interest in wildness in our agrarian state system is subject to individuals’ economic interest.
- Theodore Roosevelt was cooler than a lot of other Republicans
In response to the comments on my post about libertarianism, I’ve turned a significant amount of attention to analyzing the evolution of property rights — with an eye to ascertaining any fundamental differences between land and products. Some of the comments in that post brought my attention to the native (I’m increasingly disenchanted by the categorization of natives and non-natives — once any individual is stripped of “native” status, the state makes stronger claims on ownership of their lives) people of the Pacific Northwest. It was suggested that these hunter-gatherers were ferociously defensive of strict rights to land, and this was meant as a refutation of my claim that land rights are anathema to HGs. It turns out that the groups in question were not hunter-gatherers anyway, so it doesn’t at all refute my line of argumentation, but that’s beside the point for today. The point is that these PNW cultures persisted in ecological stability for 2,000 years with a conception of land rights that didn’t require the eradication of wildness, and especially didn’t require the public to subsidize the destruction of wildness at the behest of insular landowners.
The burden of responsibility among land ‘owners’ in PNW tribes was on the owners themselves. The people did not exist to support them; the landowners were responsible for providing for the people. The ‘owners’ acted as stewards of the land. If the land was not productive, they were stripped of the privilege to act in an ownership capacity. In other words, the PNW natives’ system, and what we’ve inherited from the British/French, are not direct comparisons. Forgive the apparent U.S.-centricity. It just happens to be the case that many of the world’s governments are adapted from U.S. law, and thus share a similar provenance. Had a chief of a PNW tribe requested a $5,000 security deposit from the general public, he would have been deposed and/or killed for violation of the public trust.
“Further, it appears that livestock producers may have other sources of compensation, such as county grant programs.” – Oregon Court Document
The obvious counter-argument as it pertains to the wolves is that current ranchers would be acting as effective stewards by exterminating the wolves. However, contrary to the myth of the myth of the ecological “savage”, PNW tribes followed elaborate rules and norms that ensured the functioning of the ecological system. There was no barbed wire management required. Rather than the extermination of wildness, the focus was on fostering and perpetuating the productivity of the wildness.
I’m not going to build my entire land rights case today. I had no intention of writing this post until the visceral reaction I got from the notion that people interested in the ecology we all live in somehow owe real cash money to those poor maligned landlords who enjoy the privilege of excluding the rest of us from ‘their’ land. For now, I feel pretty confident putting the 2,000 years of PNW tribe resilience up against the fuedalistic remnants of our relatively brief experiment with the agrarian-corporation state — in terms of ethics and optimal human experience. Obviously, the U.S./European systems had a leg up in the violence and authoritarian domination department. And that, ultimately, is where this issue leads. My analysis will continue to observe the spectrum from egalitarian hunter-gatherers with high levels of autonomy, humor, and play to centralized authoritarian agrarian states with huge disparity between the impoverished and the wealthy, low levels of individual autonomy, and a bunch of boring, subdued people wading through rationalizations and coping by drug use. This notion of play vs. boredom also maps to wildness vs. civility.
My concern in all this is not petty battles between the Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum political parties in the United States. This is a war between the wild animal side of our shared human nature and the warped motives of our modern world to pave, sterilize, and install child-proof caps on the entire planet, convert it to a personal ATM machine for a few individuals, then sell it back to us as if they’ve done us some favor. Newsflash: Disneyland has always been a cheap imitation of my imagination, and I don’t take kindly to milquetoast plutocrats trying to sell me tickets to their lobotomized version of The New and Improved Simulated Earth™. And… this war ain’t limited to the borders of Los Estados Unidos.
OregonWild discusses the gray wolf’s return to Oregon after 168 years with a bounty on its head. Also, Vilhjalmur Stefansson says wolves are delicious.
"the pros and cons of wolfpacks <sarcasm>roaming the streets at night trying to devour your children</sarcasm>."
It's not like it hasn't happened before – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolves_of_Paris
And Portland doesn't even have any walls, so it's in super duper danger! Heh
We have roving coyotes in Portland. They are roaming just blocks from where children play! Think of the children! (actually think of the coyotes, traffic has got to be totally confusing for them.)
Of course, we have to pay the overlords to live period. Sad to think that we’re born into a world owing others if we want to be allowed to exist.
And how is this incident not classified as extortion, plain and simple? I mean, if those same words were uttered by some guy with a Brooklyn accent and a middle name like “the squirrel”, people would be shouting RICO from the highest peaks.
I have the upmost love and respect for your writing. Great article.
I live in Canada’s most prominent wilderness: Yukon Territory. There are many thousands of wolves here, and no attacks on people or livestock. None, at least, that I’ve ever heard of.
Oregon’s seeming aggression toward wolves is really just foolishness. Once you start taking down top predators, you start taking down the land. We should be able to see this by now, what with our 10-12 thousand year record of agrarian atrocities, and our accompanying drift away from our own top predator place in nature.