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I’m With Stupid – March 14, 2014

by Todd Hartley

Todd Hartley-smallI got an email from my dad, an infrequent emailer, about a week ago that read, “This is interesting and might be food for a column.” It was a link to some website, and I could see from the email chain that it had been sent to him by an aunt of mine who seems to pass along every link to conservative propaganda she stumbles upon, regardless of the veracity of the linked sites’ content.

Suffice it to say, I had my doubts about how interesting the link was going to be, despite my father’s recommendation.

But then I clicked on the link, and it took me to a site called FilmsForAction.org and a short film called “How Wolves Change Rivers.” The movie — essentially stock footage with an enthusiastic British chap providing the voice-over narration — described a fascinating phenomenon called a trophic cascade that has taken place in the Yellowstone area since wolves were reintroduced in 1995.

In short, as the wolf population has increased, the elk and coyote populations have decreased and have been driven from river valleys back to their natural habitats. Fewer elk has led to healthier vegetation, which has helped increase the numbers of birds and beavers. The beavers, in turn, have created habitat for more fish, otters, amphibians and other species. Meanwhile, fewer coyotes has led to an increase in the populations of mice, rabbits, badgers, weasels, foxes and other forest critters.

The way the wolves have changed the rivers — the part the British chap claimed was “really interesting” — is that the increased vegetation has stabilized the riverbanks, leading to less erosion and helping the rivers to meander less.

Out of all the cool stuff about the trophic cascade, I would call straighter rivers the most boring part, but that’s just me.

Anyway, the movie was, as my dad claimed it would be, interesting and apparently food for a column, but I had my doubts as to how seriously I could take it. After all, there are still plenty of critics of the wolf-reintroduction program, and their side was not represented whatsoever in the film.

Besides, every time the British guy said the word “deer,” the movie showed footage of elk. If the film’s director doesn’t know a deer from an elk, why should I trust him to get anything else right?

Being open-minded to both sides of most arguments, I decided to do a little research into the subject. Turns out, more than half of Wyomingites surveyed in 2012 believed the wolf reintroduction has had a mostly negative effect.

The argument goes something like this: Wolves kill elk and livestock. This means fewer elk to hunt and more expensive beef. In Wyoming, where pretty much everyone is a rancher, people love hunting and red meat; therefore wolves are bad.

It’s a pretty logical line of reasoning that was first espoused to me a few years ago by the mountain-sized man who drove our horse-drawn sleigh on a tour of the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyo.

Of course, in his official capacity as a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee, the sleigh driver couldn’t come right out and say so, but it was obvious what he thought of decimated elk herds and preyed-upon livestock. He was very much against them and would have been quite happy to see wolves eradicated from northwest Wyoming once again.

To me, the positives of the trophic cascade far outweigh the perceived negatives. I’d rather have a vibrant ecosystem than a cheap steak, but I can lean a little left from time to time. I don’t hunt, and I’m not a rancher. I totally understand why more conservative folks than I am might be opposed to wolves.

Here’s the thing I don’t understand, though: Normally, there are few people I know who are more conservative than my aunt. If there’s anyone I’d expect her to agree with, it would be a big, strapping cowboy from one of America’s reddest states. The fact that my aunt was passing along a link to such an obviously libtarded, left-wing, lamestream-media, pencil-necked, vegan, gay-marriage-supporting piece of communist drivel was virtually unthinkable. Nothing could be more out of character.

So I would caution everyone who reads this to take all the good wolf news with a grain of salt. Not only are liberals willing to present solely their side of an argument to make their point; evidently they’re also willing to kidnap my aunt and replace her with someone who emails links to leftist propaganda.

Todd Hartley is praying for his dear, sweet aunt to be released unharmed.

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