Just Who Are the Defenders of Wildlife?
by Nate Dickinson, Wildlife Biologist

Although the Defenders of Wildlife have been in existence about 50 years, it is only within the last few years that they have made their presence increasingly known in New York and New England. The Defenders’ assumed role in recent efforts to extend the distribution of the gray wolf, Canis lupis, should raise questions as to their agenda and answers should shed light on concerns arising from this controversial program.

A review of the highly acclaimed book Trashing the Economy, (Ron Arnold and Alan Gottlieb, Free Enterprise Press, Bellevue, Washington 1993) provides a good background. Defenders of Wildlife was founded in 1947 in reaction to the use of steeljaw leghold traps for predator control. Their history reveals that they evaluate hunting on a case by case basis, but campaign for non-lethal wildlife control. In 1993 they ranked 16th, in terms of income, among the national environmental groups. Insight as to their views on other environmental matters can be gleaned from their involvement in the 1988 treatise “Blueprint for the Environment.” M. Rupert Cutler, President of Defenders at the time, was a voting member of the committee that produced this work which called for a staggering rise in taxpayer funding of environmental causes, and which would gradually eliminate private property, free enterprise, and individual liberty.

The first set of recommendations of the “Blueprint,” according to Arnold and Gottlieb, dealt with human population control, and included support for organizations such as the United Nations Population Fund. The National Wildlife Federation was one of the lead organizations with others such as the National Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, Worldwatch Institute, and Friends of Earth, also having voting members on the steering committee. Does this account provide any clues? Does it raise any concerns as to whether Defenders’ programs should be supported or contributions should be made to their organization?

Kathleen Marquardt in her well-documented and widely-read book Animal Scam, The Beastly Abuse of Human Rights (Regnery Publishing, Washington, D.C. 1993) includes Defenders of Wildlife in a list of United States animal rights groups. Inclusion with the radical elements of this movement should alert the reader to what this organization might have in mind.

Some of the Defenders of Wildlife’s literature suggests the nature of their motives and direction. They follow the lead of other environmental groups in lacing their writings, such as their Fact Sheets, with the required new age buzzwords, most of which are inappropriate concoctions. The term biological diversity, or biodiversity, is liberally used. What they fail to appreciate is that the variety of living species that naturally occur on a given site is a by-product of basic physiographic features. The potential remains, under the dictates of Mother Nature, regardless what they, or others, might do. And protectionists neglect the obvious; that, if the potential is to be maximized, habitats must be carefully manicured in such a way to guarantee a niche for each species.

Of course, there must be frequent mention of ecosystems and their protection. What is usually ignored is the fact that there are infinite numbers of ecosystems, with infinite sizes and shapes, and they are constantly changing; again under the dictates of Nature. Gap analysis is another new creation; one that has the taint of the popular core/buffer/corridor syndrome and the goal of locking up vast acreages of land. The same applies to the term landscape linkage. Incidentally, in discussing the gray wolf they state that this species may occupy home ranges of several hundred square miles. This ploy seems to be commonly used by environmentalists to justify the lock up of land. Abnormally high home ranges should alert the biologist to the possibility of the habitat being decidedly marginal or that the species really does not belong.

One of the Fact Sheets advertises that they sponsored two books on biodiversity. One of these, Saving Natures Legacy, was written by Reed F. Noss and Allen Y. Cooperrider. A little research shows that Noss has been active within the extreme elements of the environmental movement for years, Michael Coffman (Saviors of the Earth, Northfield Publishing, Chicago 1994) provides a revealing resumé. At the 1993 annual meeting of the Society of Conservation Biologists, Noss presented an extreme plan, called the Wildlands Project, to protect North American biodiversity by creating a network of wilderness reserves, human buffer zones, and wildlife corridors. Involved would be about half of the continent. Sound familiar? It should.

It is not surprising that these earth-shaking goals are the same as those of the most radical environmental groups. Coffman notes that Bruce Babbitt and George Frampton attempted to push through Congress a scaled down version of such in the form of the National Biological Survey. Undoubtedly, the Defenders were sympathetic to Noss’s cause.

Noss is also a board member of the Cenozoic Society, which publishes Wild Earth and seems to have a deeply rooted disdain for people and human progress. In 1993 he contributed an article for a book entitled Clearcut, which was copyrighted by the Foundation for Deep Ecology. A review of his piece reveals that he and others of his ilk feel that their goals can only be reached with drastic declines in wood harvest and total land protection. Noss recommended that 50 percent of the United States be wilderness. Quite presumptuous indeed.

Defenders of wildlife appear to attempt to divorce themselves from the more radical elements. At the 1997 winter meeting of the Adirondack Conservation Council, Robert Ferris, Director of their Species Conservation Division, stated that his organization did not belong to the Northern Forest Alliance. A check of a slick 1995 publication of the Alliance, entitled, The Northern Forest, A Legacy For the Future, showed that Defenders was included in a list of 26 member organizations, all with a green and left lean.

At a time when the United States is setting a splendid example, despite obvious overkill, and leading the world in addressing environmental problems, the Defenders of Wildlife place a great deal of faith in the United Nations and related international organizations. Despite the wealth of funds at their disposal, the U.N. has a horrible record in solving problems, let alone accurately identifying them. The Defenders pride themselves in helping to draft the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species and being the only U.S. advocacy group to participate throughout in drafting an international biodiversity treaty. One would guess that they also favor Biosphere Reserves, the World Heritage Convention, and other entities with a new world flavor, all of which threaten American sovereignty.

A Defenders of Wildlife employee participated in a public discussion of wolf recovery programs held in January at Caroga Lake, New York. A requirement of Defenders was that police protection be provided. It was noted that such was not needed at the heated, free-for-all discussions of Adirondack deer management in the past. One of the wolf meeting organizers pointed out a major difference—the biologists promoting increased deer harvests were honest.

Forthright explanations and honest answers are now in need.

Email Nate Dickinson: rdickinson@nycap.rr.com

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