How do you define Success?

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aspen in spring snow

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For some really strange reason I have this inner calling to open my mouth and speak up for the wilds and wildlife and the mountains around me. Maybe it’s that David and Goliath thing. At times, it gets me in trouble and doesn’t always get me friends, but I can’t help myself, and feel morally obliged. I have to speak up  – maybe the only contrary voice out there – one little woman taking on a bunch of big boys.

Few of you will read this.  Fewer still will care.  And a few might even get a little riled up (safe to say, based on personal biases and connections held onto tightly).  Good.  Go ahead.  The truth can be disturbing…. Time to open your eyes, and your hearts, and look a little deeper, my friends.

Most of us believe what we want to believe.  I guess it’s part of human survival. From assumptions to core beliefs. And changing our minds is as rare as changing religion. I am not asking you to change your mind.  Only open it.

This is about the Canadian Lynx relocated to southern Colorado, and those that have worked to create a successful program… at what cost and for whom?  Now they have launched a review and I think we can safely guess what they will call their outcome.  Before you too are convinced of their self proclaimed success, please read on.

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Success!

For whom, and at what expense?

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I have nothing to lose in speaking up. Nothing riding on this but care and concern for those with whom I share this mountain and the wilds.  I also have nothing to gain.  No money, no reputation, no ego, nothing to prove to the public.

It’s been about ten years since I first voiced my concerns.  I imagine unrelated to my little voice from up on this big mountain, not too long after that, they left the remaining lynx alone.  Rumor had it the program ran out of funding, and public opinion was getting wise and getting mad.  They simply called their program “a success,” and left the mountain with their tail between their legs.  Along the way, they quietly removed their sign depicting the cute little lynx at the beginning of the road where it changes from pavement to dirt which was intended, I suppose, as a warning to people driving by. After all the trapping, touching and handling in the relocation and continued monitoring even after release, the lynx were known to walk towards humans up here, not run away.  That’s how most folks around these parts learned to identify the lynx, not to be confused with the wise and native bobcat.  Well, that and the darned collars.

I live 18 miles up that road, just beyond where they release the lynx that had been trapped, sedated, relocated, and “rehabbed” to adjust to our altitude, they say.   Not a lot of other people live here, especially in winter.  I think there’s one family about six miles away as the crow flies; otherwise, the nearest home is 18 miles away… back down by that sign. The lynx do live around me.  A few that made it.  I see their tracks, and keep my mouth shut and wish they would just hide so “they” wouldn’t come bother them again. But here “they” are, back at it.

And so, I am too. Voicing my concerns about a program that may have been born with the best of intentions. That was many moons (millions of dollars, and hundreds of lives) ago.   Now, if we dare to look deeply, we are forced to question:  who is this program really for, and who truly stands to gain from this process?

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The program I am referring to is the relocation of Canadian Lynx to southern Colorado, an area that at best may have been the southernmost range recorded for this beautiful animal currently designated as a “threatened species” but often referred to incorrectly as “endangered.” I’ve even hear the species referred to as the Colorado Lynx, which I suppose would make this a new species all together, or simply a term of endearment for those wonderful creatures that were taken from their native Canada and actually survived here.

Now they’re doing a review.  Proving their success.  Yeah!  After how much time and money and losses, there are Canada lynx alive and well in Colorado!

Yet, we must not be fooled by the “facts” we are provided with, nor ruled solely on our emotions for cheering on what we want to be: the success of this wild animal.  Whose success are we really looking at?

What we have here is an ethical dilemma.  We’re playing a game, using a beautiful innocent creature as the pawn and one of the most unpopulated parts of the country as the playing ground. Who really are the players involved?  Though we all become involved as our heart strings are toyed with too…

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Oddly enough, the “critical habit” for the Canadian Lynx in the Lower 48, as reported by US Fish and Wildlife, does not even go as far south as Colorado, not to mention southern Colorado, but includes Maine, Minnesota, Washington, Wyoming and Montana.

No matter. Here we are in the day of climate change and we’re thinking this is the thing to do:  let’s take an animal native to the eastern and western sides of Canada, and drop them off a thousand or two miles south in the middle of the mountains, and see what happens.

This week we have snow.  What about the rest of the winter? What about, as even “they“ have called it, the new normal?  We jokingly call this part of the southern San Juans The Banana Belt.  Compare us to northern BC, Alaska and Quebec where the animals originated, I’d say that’s not too far off.  No, we have no bananas. But here at the head of the Rio Grande and the end of the Four Corners region, we have strong sun and wonderful warm days in winter and high altitude unlike anything seen up north…

I may not be any wildlife “specialist” but it does not take such degrees to grant common sense.  It takes eyes, mind, and heart.  I’m here, and I see.  I’m not reporting from behind a desk from some big city far away.  I’m talking about my back yard.  No, I’m not the slick professional putting out the press releases to stir public interest and to support my cause.  I’m just a small woman with a big heart who is crying out to try to get some answers, open some eyes, and protect the wilds I’m lucky (or crazy) enough to live in.

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And so, they came here. First because there was no public interference. Hinsdale and Mineral Counties are each about 96% public lands.  That means, of course, only 4% private, and so, not a lot of people, period. Those folks up north were not only more plentiful, but wise to potential restrictions like road closures such a program could bring, and would not cooperate.

Recently, I read a new twist to this theory. Their story changed.  Now they say they researched and chose this location because they found so many snowshoe hare around here it seemed like a great place to give it a try.  I’ve also heard they relocated snowshoe hare here too, so I don’t know what or who to believe any more.

I do know this. My aunt scoffed when years ago I first told her enthusiastically they were bringing the Canadian Lynx to Colorado.  She’s from upstate New York.  “They tried that here too,” she scowled, “but the lynx all left.”

Ours tried to leave too. But this time, the powers that be chose a location so far away, making it back home would be close to impossible. They found “our” lynx in Kansas, and I don’t remember where else.  Many died trying, on the side of the road.  Though more of them simply starved.

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Proof that if you put enough money into a program, have enough ego to keep at it at all costs, and are willing to risk enough lives, you can make anything work.

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Now, I’m just a middle aged lady who has called this mountain home for over a dozen years. Nothing fancy; nothing powerful. In fact, kind of small and usually pretty darned quiet. I’m a homebody and would rather walk or ride a horse than get in or on anything motorized. I don’t fish or hunt and I can’t even get myself to kill a rabbit. I’ve lived up here far beyond where a lady “should” with my husband, my dog, horses, cats, chickens and a wild goose that came to us last spring and hasn’t left.  We raised our son here and at 21, he now is wintering at the South Pole station – testament, I suppose, to how remote, removed and cold one assumes it can be here. But we’re comfortable.  We live simply and eek out a living between running a seasonal guest ranch, writing and taking on odd jobs.  I’m not here to get rich. I’m here just to be here. The wilds, wildlife and Wilderness (note the capital W) mean the world to me after my family and my own animals.

This is my home, and after all these years, and all the battles I have taken on to remain here, I have an incredibly intimate connection with and fierce attachment to the land.  And for that land, I have a moral obligation.  For that land, I have to speak up and do what I can to protect the land, wilds and wildlife.

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Playing God

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As humans, we have a tendency to (1) want to care for those we feel need care; (2) want to prove we can do it – whatever it is – at whatever cost; (3) never want to admit we are wrong; and (4) want to control our environment rather than simply be in it.

Combine these all together, and you have the perfect formula for this program.

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In spite of waning public opinion and growing concerns with sightings of these normally elusive animals on  roads and/or seemingly starving, at some point, the powers that be called their own program “a success.”  I recall reading that “the success” was based on this:  there were more cats born that year than cats that died.  Oh my god.  Do you know how many kittens are in a litter?  Now do the math.  And see if you can figure this out:  how many deaths then were they thus responsible for each year?

And how many millions of dollars were poured into this program to support these efforts… and by whom?

How many millions were spent trapping live animals in Canada, and (we must hope) caring for them in transit, rehab and relocating in to Colorado. On top of that, how many millions more were spent on salaries and snowmobiles and flights, and fossil fuels used to track from the air and trap in the snow?

The only “facts” and “figures” I can find are those provided by the very same people operating this program.

How do we find the truth about these beautiful animals with which we’ve played god, uprooting them from their native lands and turning them out to see what would happen here?

With all the monies poured into this program on behalf of one species, did anyone consider the affect upon other species who now have to co-exist in these changing times, in this changing climate, such as the bobcat, the coyote, and the fox?  What impact would the “success” of the lynx have them?

I do care. About them all.

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Keep trying… keep spending… money and life… sooner or later, it’s going to work!

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Sure, some will make it.  Look at the moose.  They were never here before and were dropped off and for whatever crazy unknown reason, they are currently thriving. The lynx is not as lucky, but he’s still around.

Before you support or negate this program, I would suggest you try to find the facts.  What are the numbers?  The real numbers – not those readily provided by the program.  How many were released? How many died? How much money was spent?  Where did the money come from, and where did it go?

And while you’re at it, ask them this:  why?

~

Success, they have called it. I suppose after all the monies and lives expended, they have to. And who has thought to question? We are all guilty of wanting this to work so badly we were willing to forgo the facts.  Now we have to ask: success for whom, and at what expense?

15 thoughts on “How do you define Success?

  1. Success might be determined by your goals to start with. It’s not a fixed measurement. If something of value has been learned; something of value has been saved, something harmful has been stopped–that’s success no matter what.
    If a problem has been clarified, abated or defeated, that might count too.
    As long as you don;t create more problems in the solution.
    Success might just be the best way to reach a satisfying goal.
    My success might not be yours. Room for judgement gets in the way.

  2. Animals are so far and beyond the intelligence of humankind in finding their way. They tune into a frequency that humankind is only beginning to DARE admit exists. Will I live long enough to see this respected?

    • I do hope so, Amy. And like all changes, we must start with our own actions (as you do) and hope that others might follow suit. But every once in a while, we have to step up – and shout STOP. Because it matters. Because they matter. Because maybe in doing so we’ll open just one other person’s eyes, mind and/or heart – and be one step closer to that place. People can make a difference.

    • Of course I would love that. However… I am aware this piece is powerful… but not popular. It may not be salable to their readers. It’s not what people want to read. The cute little lynx has captured many a heart – which is exactly why this animal was chosen to “work” (or play?) with in the first place. (Yes, it was a choice – there were other animals considered.) As this is a publicly funded folly (yes – that means you and I have paid our dues) public support has been critical to not only its progress, but it coming to fruition in the first place. They chose well. We’re dealing with pros here. Yes, the big boys (though interesting to note, their “Front Man” is a little older woman like me – talking about playing their cards right!)

  3. Good post Gin. I get it. Sadly here in a city which claims to want sustainable growth, smart growth seem to be quietly yet visibly heading to big city style growth. So far it still has a small town feel to it, but fast bldg up and out it will eventually lose that small town feeling…which was the reason many of us moved here. VERY SAD.

    • Oh boy, Ann – that “sustainable growth” is a hard can of worms to open. Seems like the small towns that feel so good in part because of their small size end up attracting so many – thus the growth – and thus the change. How do you stop this? How do you say, “I moved here because of the small town feel, but if you move here now, that will change”? There is a woman in a town down river that heads up an organization trying to prevent further development along the Rio Grande. But… she lives – and builds a big house – along the Rio Grande. See – people seem to do this often. I understand we want things to be pristine, as they were when we arrived – but we forget that we’ve already made changes by moving there. Your case is different, Ann, as you didn’t build and change, just filled an open spot so to say. I understand the vast difference and respect that – so I’m probably off on a big tangent with the development thing – just another pet peeve of mine. Anyway, I am truly empathize with your dilemma of how to keep the small town small, and wish there was an answer. I believe there can be. Working with the town – joining together – rather than keeping separate – to protect and preserve what matters most to you all – before it is too late.

      • It is rather complicated Gin. It is actually a city, but has/had a small town feel. The downtown is turning into a big city feel with many new apartment bldgs, and other tall bldgs for offices etc. Most if not all the people “up there” in the various city offices/politicians/other decision makers, and the developers/builders are home grown residents.
        And of course, the more people and businesses they bring into the area the more money they get. It is a sad sign of the times in this country. There were people who created visions which are meant for a quality of life for all, but those people have died. Some people who have taken over the task are trying to carry on those visions, but many who make the final decisions say it is “what the people want!”

        I just have to find my own niche and remember all the positive reasons that brought me here; even though that small town feel may completely fade into the background in the next few years :(

  4. I am unfamiliar with who the “they” are. A federal group? A state group? An NGO? Your arguments are certainly well stated and logical. I find your thoughts very inspiring so hope you can mount a letter-writing campaign? Or some sort of protest? Just the time and energy you have put into these thoughtful comments starts the brain thinking and the ball rolling.

    • Today of all days is a good reminder of how powerful we can be if we are willing to start, stand, and move… together. I lay low today in honor of the dark days in our country and in our soul. How much we have to learn. How far we have come. How far we still have yet to go.

  5. This is so interesting to me. I was living in Jackson Hole when they began to introduce the wolves back into Yellowstone! Holy Smokes!!! There was, and IS, no end to the rights and wrongs in this type of situation. I lived and worked on ranches there, before JH became what it is now, and saw first hand the arguments from both sides of the fence. I suppose the difference is that the wolves actually WERE native to the area, whereas the Lynx has adapted – or would, if they could be left alone.
    I live in the Midwest now, but last fall I made a journey back to Jackson. Of course, it’s not even the same town: too expensive, too crowded, everyone that comes in wants to shut the door behind them. But you know – that same thing was going on 30 years ago. The same argument and the same problems. Teton County is also only 3% private lands – the difference being that the public lands include Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. The public lands get pretty crowded in the summer.
    And the wolves? They’re still there – and spreading out and finding their own way, but how “natural” could that be when they are “managed” to the nth degree?
    I used to hunt. My then-husband and I hunted for our annual supply of meat. I despised the trophy hunters and I still do, but now – I hate the idea of killing. (Ok – how do I say that when I don’t have a problem with fishing?) I live next door to a family that has made a lifestyle out of duck hunting and I’m surprised at how disturbed I am when they proudly display a couple dozen dead ducks at one time. Beautiful, beautiful creatures, gone forever. At least they eat the meat, I’ll give them that. What I noticed on my trip back to JH in mid September was that I didn’t lay eyes on a single coyote. I saw only one moose. I saw only one eagle. In the fall the hunters used to keep the elk and deer population on the move, but this time even the elk and deer were a rare sight. Unusual. Sad. People there blame it on the wolves. I was told the wolves, while plentiful, were leaving. Like you said – who knows what it believe? So did this management return the wildlife to a pre-park natural state or did it disrupt an ecosystem that had settled down into a new norm?

    You make good points, Gin. Maybe only a few will read this – but I guarantee we care.

  6. VIP TO TALK AND WRITE MORE—YOU ARE -WERE THE VOICE FOR THE BLUE SPRUCE–SOME HUMAN MUST SPEAK FOR THOSE WHO DO SPEAK BUT NOT IN OUR HUMAN LANGUAGE! JULIA BUTTERFLY WOULD APPRECIATE YOU—-I MET JULIA ON A SPEAKING TOUR FOR THE GIANT REDWOODS—-REMEMBER THE POWER THE BOOK ¨LUNA¨ HAD.
    THE SINCERE WRITTEN WORD HAS AFFECTED MILLIONS!!!
    ON WITH IT , GIN…..
    ADELANTE….MISS YOU, GINNY
    DE PATAGONIA

  7. Pingback: Two different sides of wild. | Gin Getz

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