- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Fortunately, Roosevelt and a growing number of allies were ready to stop them. In 1887, with the editor of Forest and Stream, George Bird Grinnell, Roosevelt organized the Boone and Crockett Club, for the promotion not only of gentlemanly sport, wilderness travel and exploration, but also observations on the natural histories of wild animals, and measures for the preservation of large game. The club included among its members Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Elihu Root, Judge J. D. Ca-ton, Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan and the aged Francis Parkman. Its imposing membership undoubtedly lent weight to the club's aspirations, and it brought pressure upon Congress to pass, in 1894, the so-called Park Protection Act. The latter, supported strongly by Roosevelt on the basis of his personal impressions of the Yellowstone region as well as on the fact that a last wild herd of bison occurred there, defended the landscape and animals of Yellowstone together with those of the newly established Yosemite and Sequoia parks in California from further exploitation.
With the Park Protection Act giving new impetus to the national parks movement, two magnificent areas were set aside at Mount Rainier and Crater Lake just after 1900. These pioneer parks were to be followed in the next half century by two dozen more, one of the most recent of which is the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park, established in a wild, grassy region of North Dakota Badlands in 1947.
Thus were the beginnings made; but conservation as a science, in the first quarter of the century, remained quite primitive, dependent more on restrictive legislation than on constructive action. Except for the reservation, of wilderness areas and the establishment of wildlife refuges, increasingly important as civilization consumed the land, it was characterized by such expensive and ineffective panaceas as indiscriminate predator control, the introduction of exotic species, and the random transplanting of native animals.
The first two programs were generally discredited by 1930, but the widespread attempts to infest one part of this continent with creatures which Nature, for her own excellent reasons, had developed in another, continued. The latter program was to achieve frantic proportions before biologists determined that the mortality rate of wild creatures transplanted without extensive prior study-was almost as high as that of those raised in captivity and released.
On the other hand, transplanting based on careful study proved often desirable, especially where a suitable ecological niche exists but where the species in question is, for one reason or another, absent. The wild turkey, elk and a few other forms were successfully stocked not only in parts of their original range but in areas entirely new to them where conditions were decided in advance to be conducive.
Unsuccessful transplantings, however disheartening to hunters who have subsidized them, have contributed much to the understanding of the principle of range quality, or carrying capacity, which is now a basic premise of wildlife management. The animal numbers on a given range are precisely controlled by its quality, which in turn is determined by the available food, cover, water and other variable factors controlling both productivity and survival. But in the main, transplanting and artificial propagation, like the bounty system, have provided their most significant rewards not to the hunter but to the state officials, for whom they constitute a more spectacular evidence of zeal than the creation, restoration and protection of good habitat which would actually benefit the game. In some states, enlightened sportsmen's groups are coming to appreciate the importance of wildlife habitat, but the fact remains that over $3 million are spent annually in this country for artificial propagation and transplanting, a very minor part of which goes to the occasional program in which these methods have been determined in advance to justify their cost.
Three million dollars, on the other hand, is only a quarter of the amount devoted each year to the rearing and transplanting, for the public diversion, of fish. Originally these hatchery fish were distributed almost at random, and were commonly cast, with the best of intent, upon waters not "fished out" at all but so polluted or silted that no sport fish worthy of the name could live there. The stocking later became more selective, but as in the case of the game animals, only specialized situations—new waters, or those empty of the same or competing species, or those where conditions have been manipulated in advance—would seem to justify the practice, unless the fish have been raised to legal size and are introduced yearly, not to propagate their kind, but to be removed again quickly and efficiently by the taxpayers.
Siltation, which coats stream bottoms with sterile slime and kills aquatic plants supplying both food and oxygen to certain species, may well be the most destructive single enemy of American fresh-water fishes. In western environments irrigation and dam construction, which drastically alter water levels and, in times of drought, produce dry river beds, have contributed their effects to those of siltation, and the dams are particularly harmful when, as in the Pacific Northwest, they block the spawning runs of species such as salmon and steelhead trout.
Dams may serve as emergency controls of flood (though the real solution to flood lies farther upstream), and dams providing reservoirs and hydroelectric power are sometimes necessary. But too often expediency replaces responsibility in their purposes and location. The Echo Park Dam, under the Bureau of Reclamation, which would have impounded the wild rivers of the Dinosaur National Monument on the Utah-Colorado border and demeaned great regions of scenic value, and the Bruces Eddy Dam of the Army Corps of Engineers, which would have submerged important tracts of Idaho elk range and other wilderness and sealed off the run of steelhead and Chinook salmon to their spawning grounds on the north fork of the Clearwater River, were two shortsighted projects blocked recently by the vigilance of conservationists, including a small, honorable band of Senators and Congressmen who took the trouble to ascertain the facts.
As indicated above, dams and levees for the control of floods would be largely superfluous were the watersheds given proper attention. But many of the watersheds have been denuded; according to a Forest Service estimate made in 1931, the virgin forest in the U.S., exclusive of Alaska, is 100 million acres, or about one-eighth what it is thought to have been before the white man came. The spring rains, unchecked by forest roots, reach flood proportions as they accumulate downstream. Not satisfied with deforestation, man furthers erosion by the drainage, usually for agricultural ends, of marshes, potholes, ponds and lakes. Millions of acres have been drained in this country in the present century alone. The seasonal rains, pouring away through dikes, ditches and straightened streams instead of collecting in natural basins to nourish the land through the long summers, have compounded not only the flood problem but, succeeded by drought, the scourge of erosion by wind as well. In terms of wildlife, the primary victims of drainage have been fish, aquatic fur animals and waterfowl; over a third of all North American ducks once bred in the grassy sloughs and potholes of the northern prairie states and the wheat provinces of Canada, now ruthlessly bled away.