|Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.|
by Vin Suprynowicz
JAN. 14, 2001
Bruce Wilkin is a Pioche native and 1958 Nevada high school graduate who came back to Ely to practice medicine in 1975.
Like many long-time Nevadans, Wilkin remembers when the game herds were thick on the land those animals shared with Nevada's cattlemen. He's seen the campaign by government regulators to move the cattle off the land (Clark County retains only two of what were once 50 ranching families and the federals have been trying to run Cliven Bundy off his Mesquite allotment for eight years now) ... walling off human access to swatches of real estate the size of New England states under a brand of "environmental protection" that forbids cattle or sheep from grazing back the forage, which subsequently dries out and leads directly to our current wave of cataclysmic wildfires.
Furthermore, Bruce Wilkin the country doctor has done the studies and can show the graphs proving it's not cattle that are responsible for these bigger and more destructive wildfires, or for the thinning of game species like the deer and the sage grouse.
Dr. Wilkin's graphs (based on the state's own data) show Nevada's deer herd was healthiest precisely when the most cattle were run on the range from about 1948 to the early 1970s and then dropped precipitously when the poisoning of coyotes was halted during the Nixon and Ford administrations.
Further, while government regulators claim ranchers and hunters are to blame for the thinning of the sage grouse, the good doctor hands me a copy of the 1990 study which he says the Nevada Department of Wildlife has "buried" ... precisely because it shows the problem is not the cattle, but the end of programs to control the now exploding populations of coyote, raven, and mountain lion.
The official October 1990 report "Sage Grouse Production and Mortality Studies," prepared as the final report of the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Project W-48-R-21, Study XVII, Job 1, edited by San J. Stiver and prepared by Don Klebenow, Gary Zunino and others, demonstrated (by using chicken eggs to set up mock sage grouse nests near typical raven habitat) that the decline in sage grouse populations can be entirely attributed to raven predation of the nests.
"At the completion of the 15 day period, all 1,400 eggs were destroyed in both study areas," the report concluded. "On the Grassy Meadows Study Area in Surprise Valley, 84 percent of the nests were destroyed in the first three days. Ravens were believed to be the chief nest predator."
The 1990 study only confirmed earlier studies such as that of researcher Warren Allred, who found that in Wyoming in 1942, "Eighty percent of all sage grouse nests were being destroyed by predators of which 23 percent were attributed to ravens and 14 percent to coyotes. It was found that even in areas completely protected from hunting, sage grouse were steadily declining."
In fact here Dr. Wilkin agrees with such long-time Nevada ranchers as Cliven Bundy and Cliff Gardner the journals of the first white men to cross Nevada found it so bereft of game the Indians were reduced to eating insects, while the travelers often considered eating their pack animals to make it through.
Thick herds of deer and flocks of game birds showed up only after ranchers moved in to improve the water features (clearing springs, building tanks and ponds); set their cattle to improving ground cover by cropping plants which evolved in an ecosystem dependent on large ungulates to clear room for new growth and to help the plants re-seed; and finally completed the equation by severely thinning out such predators as the coyote and the raven all now "protected" by muddle-headed "environmentalists."
But because information like the Klebenow-Zunino report doesn't mesh with the current drive to force ranchers and hunters from the land in keeping with the new state-established religion of Environmentalism (which designates "untouched wilderness" as its cathedral), the 1990 study was "buried" by Willie Molini's state Department of Wildlife, Wilkin insists.
Over dinner at the Prospector restaurant in the Ely Holiday Inn, Wilkin glancing occasionally at his pager in case he should be called back to the ER hands me an invitation to the "Nevada Land Use Summit 2001," being put on by Assemblywoman Marcia de Braga and Sen. Dean Rhoads in Carson City Feb. 23 and 24 (call 775-883-7863), which intends to focus on the interrelated issues of noxious weeds, wildland fires, and Nevada's sagging sage grouse population.
Wilkin points out a section on page 2, underlined by the organizers: "There have been questions about distributing materials other than those provided by the 2001 Summit. We respectfully request (that) NO outside materials be brought in by any individual or group for distribution."
This is so the state wildlife bureaucrats can make sure no one presents copies of studies even their own studies which contradict the current myths about hunters and ranchers, Dr. Wilkin says.
I called both Assemblywoman De Braga and Sen. Rhoads both of whom are in the ranching business to ask about that. Both denied it was their intention to ban any such relevant material.
I asked if Dr. Wilkin or Cliven Bundy or Cliff Gardner has been asked to address the meeting. Ms. De Braga said there "are no specific invitations, we're not going to have many actual speakers." (Actually, two hours are set aside Friday morning for a motivational talk by "renowned facilitator" Susan Carpenter, on the topic, "How to Get to Yes.") "But certainly anyone is welcome to attend."
Cliff Gardner says he has no intention of showing up where he's not wanted. "They don't want Cliff Gardner and his stuff; they don't want the truth. What do you suppose that 'no outside materials' rule is all about? I've got more scientific evidence about what's happened to the sage grouse than anyone else in this state, but do you think Cliff Gardner is welcome there? All it is is a PR event for the (Department of Wildlife) bureaucrats."
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the
Las Vegas Review-Journal.
14 jan 2001