Category: the Americas


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Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a very Happy New Year to all of you!

 

May the coming year bring greater peace, protection, and abundant blessings to the world of nature and the whole earth – to all peoples, to all the animals, the trees and plants, the rivers, the oceans, the mountains, the forests, and to all wild lands. May they all be blessed.

 

Peace.

 

 

 

full-moon-over-trees-in-winter: publicdomainpictures.net

 

The white moths

Of time listen

To the silken threads of the moon glisten.

Indeed,

Perhaps it is time, not the world

That needs

To end?

For the world of men

Has dimmed,

Grown cold, like Mars,

And is no more.

Only the sting

Lingers,

The bite of ignorance past.

In the mists of Scotland,

There is hidden magic.

Where did Agni go when he went?

He fled away across the hills

Where no one could find him,

And left the land bereft of warmth.

But he did not truly

Go,

And the moonlight,

Amethyst,

Falls on the whole lake, dreamed in snow.

No one has gone,

Only the gray wraith

Of doom

Who cursed the morning

From the chill tomb.

No one is lost

On the sharp footfall

Of the descent,

Because the eagle watches

Through the ice-clawed

Storm.

The rain still

Slips

Down the rock-ringed hill.

The eyes of the deer recall

The face of sunshine, and the breath

Of the seas that sing

On the shore

Where the fingers of dawn

Awaken the sky.

The flowers of the sun

Beckon

The dragon,

Silver-pawed;

Black cows stand

In the peace of the meadow.

The calf trips

Through the tall grass.

Trees grow their leaves.

The shy

Calico cat leaps into the valley of tulips.

The frog calls the rain.

The white

Horse is the moon who wanders.

The raven is the night,

Daughter of Shani,

Born of the cosmic

Egg, the feathers of the yew,

The elbows of the eon.

Who guessed

That owls live in the stones too,

And Europe’s

Neanderthal;

The rags of clouds, of cloth

Unfurled,

Fly to where, who can tell?

In the river sails the incarnate trout

Of golden gill.

By what temple did you used to rest,

Your wooden bowl in hand?

Who lit the lamps for you

When the moon went out

And time fell?

Would the rain come again?

Broken branches

On the Great War’s trenches,

The snow was too heavy.

The dancing of branches,

The singing of stars,

Time to go north,

Fleet deer of spring,

Gone with the white-crowned sparrow.

In whose soul does the lily dwell?

Is the deer the eternal grace of the forest?

 

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2019

 

Photo: publicdomainpictures.net

 

 

 

 

 

Rainmother photos1160-1239959315PjNp -publicdomainpictures.net

 

 

You who flame fire into the dark afternoon,

 

Who shelter the white-crowned sparrow

 

Under your wandering wing,

 

You see how all is gray, in the darkening day,

 

In the echoing mist –

 

All wreathed in gray,

 

Where trees think deeply in the tall

 

Forest;

 

Black-hooded ravens cast rain-running spells.

 

Gray cliffs tower against the horizon.

 

Trees far older than the father of the winds and the snow

 

Stand still

 

From world to ebbing world, eon to eon;

 

Long-needled pine

 

Trees grow

 

Under the pall

 

Of the sky, beyond the silver hill,

 

Down to the core

 

Of the earth below.

 

Who tells

 

Each star her sacred place?

 

Rainmother – you stir

 

The simmering pot

 

Of beginnings and endings,

 

Eternal soul,

 

You rest on the shimmering serpent

 

Who floats coiled on the pearl-gray sea,

 

That rises and falls through the many

 

Bleak winters of nevermore.

 

Mother of all,

 

You bring

 

The radiant, bright

 

Bowl

 

Of peace.

 

Rainmother,

 

Friend to the mystery of becoming,

 

There appear the enchanted geese

 

Who seek solace

 

From the harsh sea-winds and the coming night.

 

Soon,

 

They hear the bells

 

Begin to ring

 

Far out on the gathering waves, singing

 

“Know now that there is no lasting woe,

 

But only the glad grace,

 

Given,”

 

Only the lone,

 

Clear call

 

From the rock-ringed shore

 

Of worlds that were

 

Before.

 

Shot

 

Downriver,

 

Broken loose once more,

 

The cold-clogged, ice-bound floes

 

Of Vritra –

 

That pale sliver of ill-intent –

 

There then arise the flowering days

 

Of flocks of golden meadowlarks;

 

Beneath the cliffs, the opal-eyed, frog-ruled,

 

Rain-pooled,

 

Rushing

 

Waters of worlds that are meant

 

Again to shine;

 

Fear not – abhaya mudra

 

Your voice,  your name – a flame still and always

 

In the numinous dark.

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2019

 

Photo: publicdomainpictures.net

 

 

 

 

One 1600px-Tongass_National_Forest_4

By Sharon St Joan

 

The earth is not just a physical thing. The same is true of the trees, the flowers, the clouds in the sky, the mountains, the rivers, the valleys, the oceans. And, of course, all the animals.

 

The other day I listened to a spokesperson for a major environmental organization explaining on national television the reasons why it’s not a good idea to log the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. I’m not going to give his name because I’m about to criticize him – even though he spoke well and gave good, rational arguments. But I felt there was an essential element missing. I don’t honestly remember all the points that he made, but they may have gone something like this. The Tongass National Forest puts a significant percentage of the earth’s oxygen into the air. It is the largest temperate forest in the world. It is a treasure for many people who visit it. It protects many wild species by providing their habitat.

 

During the interview, footage was shown of this incredibly spectacular land – tall cliffs covered in green forests rising up out of clear lakes.

 

I do absolutely completely understand that in trying to defend old growth forests from logging and other destruction, it is useful to appeal to concerns that are meaningful to most people. It is helpful to stress the importance that the forest has for human health – replenishing the earth’s oxygen – it is also much loved and enjoyed by visitors. It is the essential habitat for so many animals, and wild animals – really all of them – are quite endangered. The forest is useful, it is loved, it is rare now on the planet, and it is important to take care of it. Absolutely!

 

Two 1600px-Brussels_Zonienwoud

 

A missing element

 

But there is a missing element, which is a very key element. The forest – quite apart from its value to humans and other animal species – also has an intrinsic value all its own. Its value does not lie solely in its usefulness to human beings or in its beauty as perceived by humans. The forest is not just a thing. It is not an object – and this is true of the entire earth. The trees, the rivers, the cliffs, the lakes, the sagebrush, the moon and the sun overhead, the clouds, the birds – these are not just physical things. They have a spirit.

 

So, what is the point of actually saying this – of making sure that we mention it often, whenever possible? Of speaking up, without being intimidated or being afraid of being ridiculed? After all, it wouldn’t be the first or the last time that people laugh. As long as we do not mention what we see as the truth, then we are ceding the most important point to the side that wishes to objectify the world of nature. We are tacitly agreeing that the natural world really only has value if it is beneficial to us as humans – or has value only by preserving habitat for wild animals so that we may go and visit them or at least watch them on film.

 

But ceding this point is not right. It is not correct.

 

Protecting the earth isn’t all about us as humans.

 

It is the objectification of the natural world by human beings – especially in modern times, and especially in the west (where this worldview originated) — that is the root cause and the justification for the destruction of the earth which is taking place all around us. It is our collective alienation from the natural world that gives some the excuse basically to kill nature. We’re not just talking about climate change – though it is that as well – it is also the very direct, immediate destruction through industrialization and pollution – drowning the earth and the sea in chemicals – and removing the sand that holds water that prevents drought.

 

A great many people, myself among them, feel that all the beings of the earth have a spirit and a spiritual dimension – not only the animals, but also all the trees and the plants, and even the rocks, the cliffs, and the oceans. They are not just physical things. This is not as odd a concept as it might seem. Virtually all tribal peoples and all ancient peoples saw the earth this way. It is only the modern world that differs from this age-old, traditional view. It is the modern world that is the outlier – and perhaps not coincidentally, it is the modern world that is dismantling all the life of the planet more rapidly than any society that has gone before us. So, are we modern people as wise as we think we are? Perhaps we are simply more decadent, and farther removed from the basic truths of existence.

 

717px-Urban_Coyote,_Bernal_Heights

 

 

An older, wiser view

 

It is well-known that Native Americans viewed all of nature as alive and as having a spirit. Among some of these stories and legends, known and not-so-well-known – the Abenaki nation of Maine see the drum as the heartbeat of Mother Earth. The Munsee of Delaware tell of great thunderbirds that cause storms and lightning. The Shoshone people of western states tell stories about the trickster coyote, and his elder brother, the wolf, who is a creator hero. The north wind, known as Winter or Biboon, is the spirit of winter for the northeast woodland tribes, like the Iroquois. The Paiutes of Utah have a story about a mountain sheep who became a star. In other words, all of creation is seen as alive and sentient. There is no sharp distinction between animals and rocks or lakes or other geological features – all are considered living beings. This appears to be true of all tribal people everywhere – from the Americas to the Pacific islands to the native peoples of Australia.

 

Furthermore, it is not only tribal people who see the world in this way – virtually every early civilization and every civilization which still has some connection with its roots also recognize a spiritual dimension as belonging to the earth and to every aspect of nature – from the ancient Egyptian, and on into modern times – to the Chinese and Japanese, just to mention a few.

 

The most striking example is the complex, intricate beliefs of Hinduism, which go back perhaps 10,000 years and which, even today are as alive as ever. The moon, the sun, and the wind are among the millions of gods. Every major Hindu god has an animal vahana or vehicle. The rivers are goddesses and the mountains, generally, are gods. All things have life. And, as is stated in the earliest writings, all the gods and all that exists are ultimately part of one God, Brahman. A deep reverence for nature is intertwined with the Hindu worldview.

 

In March of 2017, The Guardian reported that a court in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand had accorded the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers the status of personhood, citing as precedent the declaration by the New Zealand government of the Whanganui River, long revered by the Maori people, as a living entity. This modern legal recognition of the personhood of rivers is in accordance with the perception of many people all over the world, today, as always in the past.

 

It is exclusively a modern, western viewpoint to assume that the world of nature is composed of objects or things – that rocks, rivers, mountains have no spiritual nature, and even in the western world, this may be a minority view. Many everyday people acknowledge the spiritual nature of the living world around us. Sadly, it is those who seek to exploit the natural world that talk about it as inanimate, lifeless, insentient – and existing only as “natural resources” to be gobbled up by mining, oil and gas, fracking, and every form of destruction and desecration.

 

River in Karnataka, IndiaDSC01419

 

Intrinsic value

 

For those of us for whom the earth and all the beings of the earth, have an intrinsic value, a profound beauty in and of themselves – the more we say this clearly, the more accessible that view will be to more people – and the more we all will be able to see plainly that the Tongass Forest, for example, is far from being just a resource to be devoured by humans. It is a living entity filled with spirits and presences, and astonishing beauty, which as humans we can only begin to see and appreciate.

 

Among environmentalists, all perspectives that value the earth are very much needed – scientific facts, legal arguments, and also views that take into account the benefits to humanity. Our lives and happiness do indeed depend on the natural world.

 

Still, the many millions, billions, of us across the planet, who see the natural world and the earth as spirit, as well as physical, should not be afraid to say so. As is so often quoted, “We belong to the earth; the earth does not belong to us.” The earth is Mother Earth and is a living being – far older, greater, and more worthy of reverence than the human race could ever be.

 

Standing up for the essential life-essence of the earth is a missing key in the fight to protect and preserve our fast-vanishing planet. We who see the earth, and all of nature, as spectacularly alive with an intrinsic beauty and validity must speak up and not be silent.

 

It is our alienation, as humans, from the natural world that leads to its destruction, and it is our re-connection with the earth that can hold the prospect of some help for all the myriads of beautiful, majestic, innocent beings with whom we share the planet. So, we must see clearly, and speak bravely.

 

Photo Credits:

 

One) Mark Brennan from Oakton, Virginia, United States of America / Wikipedia / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. / Tongass National Forest

 

Two) Donarreiskoffer/ Wikipedia / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / Beech trees in the Sonian Forest, Belgium.

 

Three) Frank Schulenburg/ Wikipedia / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. / Coyote in San Francisco.

 

Four) Sharon St Joan / River in Karnataka, India, near Mysore.

 

 

To learn more:

 

http://www.native-languages.org/legends.htm

 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/21/ganges-and-yamuna-rivers-granted-same-legal-rights-as-human-beings

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2019

 

 

 

Within the bowl

 

Of translucent roses,

 

A star-sung reality.

 

The meaning is the soul

 

Of the word; which word?

 

The unseen hand weaves

 

Together the forest mists

 

Into the far, far lights – the hooked beak of the bird,

 

The blue

 

Green mountains, the cliffs,

 

The spirit houses

 

Which have ever been present

 

In the depths beyond time,

 

More real than the silver sparkling leaves

 

Of the aspen trees

 

Near the flickering domain

 

Of the sage

 

Grouse,

 

More real than the turning tidal sound of the seas,

 

More real than the fog-bound whiffs

 

Of bison noses

 

In the cold-trodden winters of the plain.

 

No, you cannot find them in the bending

 

Desert sage –

 

Until they are within you.

 

You who?

 

Beyond the swift-footed fires of the sun,

 

Beyond the leaping waters that hurl

 

Themselves from heights

 

Down steep mountain rocks,

 

Beyond only the winds that curl

 

Along the empty docks

 

Of the shipyards of forgotten time,

 

The spirit houses, within earshot of the sounding chime

 

Of eternity,

 

Remain

 

Each one,

 

Radiant,

 

In the light-toed, gray-winged rain

 

That blows through all the realms from age

 

To age to age

 

To snow-enchanted age,

 

While the wild horse

 

Runs with his herd

 

His ancient course,

 

His hooves flying,

 

Dancing,

 

Through wind-lit streams of moonbeams.

 

 

© Sharon St Joan, July 2019 

 

Photo: ID 113986688 © Heather Mcardle | Dreamstime.com

 

one ID 59266198 © Adriana Maria Leenheer | Dreamstime.com

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

On Friday, November 2, 2018 at 11 pm in Maharashtra, India, a tiger called Avni was shot and killed by the Forest Service, leaving her two ten-month old cubs, who are too young to survive on their own, without their mother. There has been a major outcry against this injustice in the Indian press. For details, you can google “Avni” – beware of numerous fabricated justifications (lies) being given by the authorities.

 

In Utah, in the U.S. (and in other states), hunting native big cats is not illegal. Every year in Utah the number of cougars allowed to be hunted is increased, despite the fact that there is no real data on the actual numbers of cougars left in the wild. This hunting season, the target for cougars has been raised from 581 to 642 – the equivalent of 61 additional, innocent “Avni’s” slated to lose their lives. (Please see the link below.)

 

twoID 39369001 © Belizar | Dreamstime.com

 

A cougar is not a tiger and is not – not yet anyway – endangered. Not being endangered, however, is not a reason to allow the senseless killing of living animals – for the sole purpose of displaying their heads on the living room wall. Both tigers and cougars are astonishing, magnificent animals. And every other animal on earth – from the bright fish in the sea to the squirrels who are gathering their food for winter is a living, sentient being, whose life has worth and value.

 

Connectedness

 

Entirely apart from the consciousness and sentience of each living animal, to whom her life is as precious to her as ours is to us – we, as humans, are all connected to the world of nature.

 

This connectedness is extremely ancient knowledge, still alive in India – and, to some extent, in the west as well. In Hinduism, every God or Goddess is linked to an animal. The Goddess Durga, one of the forms of the wife of the great God Shiva, is also an independent, powerful deity in her own right. She is fierce, a warrior Goddess who fights and defeats evil. Durga and the tiger are inseparable.

 

This ferocity is also the nature of the tiger – powerful and dynamic, a mother who defends and protects her young. Or a male who represents the wild spirit of the forest.

 

The tiger is the essence of the wild – untamable and free.

 

threeID 50336351 © Sonsam | Dreamstime.com

 

Who would want to kill such a magnificent animal?

 

Paleolithic and neolithic people did hunt for survival, but not for sport.

 

Since the beginning of time, animals have been hunted for food by tribal people. For at least 10,000 years Native Americans lived off the land, hunting and fishing, as well as growing whatever vegetables they could. In the sixteenth century, when Europeans arrived on the shores of America, they found a land of unbelievable beauty and magnificence – filled with a vast abundance of wildlife and wild lands which had not been destroyed or diminished – which they promptly set about to demolish. This destruction continues unabated to this day, until there is not much left of the great wilderness that was once here.

 

Europeans, my ancestors and perhaps yours, brought with them a culture of dominance (over other peoples and nature), which is also a culture of alienation from the natural world. It’s a case of “us” and “them,” which proclaims, “I’m a human, and that thing over there, unfortunately, is just an ‘animal’ – just an object to be used for my benefit.”

 

Malevolent intent?

 

We can see this thinking alive and well today in the way that the word “animal” is still being used, endlessly, sometimes to apply to anyone who is simply “other.” The word “animal” is also used for those who demonstrate disgusting or criminal behavior – despite the fact that animals are innocent beings, and no animal behaves, or thinks, like a criminal. The attribute of “viciousness” can logically apply only to humans, because it applies to malevolent intent, which animals simply do not have.

 

It is this malevolent intent which is the problem. Not all humans, thankfully, have this trait. And not all cultures either. It is something gone awry in the history of our race. If one goes far back to the time of the Romans, the Europeans, then pagan tribes, were worshipping trees and nature, just like other early peoples.

 

They had genuine spiritual traditions, really not so different from those of India, which were based on peace and harmony with nature. Not that they were entirely peaceful, they certainly weren’t, but there was an underlying premise of being at one with nature – of being part of one overall earth – of not being alienated or superior to this planet – and there was an absence of the desire to kill nature. (Sadly, western religions seem to have little to do now with their own origins, and they have, in large measure, been taken over by the western view which sees everything as a dichotomy.)

 

Inciting fear

 

Killing a tiger, a cougar, a bear, or a wolf, is, in a way, emblematic of this malevolent intent – this destructive, evil force which has, to some extent, possessed the human race. These great archetypal animals seem to incite fear and to have a magical power within them – some sort of force, a will, which is untamed and untamable. They are hunted for no rational purpose – hunted to near extinction. No one in Utah, or elsewhere in the U.S., is in any reasonable danger of being killed by a cougar. We are in far more danger of being killed by our own cars, while we are driving them, than we are of being harmed by any of these animals.

 

There is something vastly irrational about the destruction that we as humans are inflicting on the earth. We have already destroyed 60% of the animals on the planet. We have turned half of the earth’s land mass into farm land, destroying forests and natural ecosystems.

 

fourID 63152963 © Wonderful Nature | Dreamstime.com

 

With our artificial chemicals pouring into waterways, we are rapidly poisoning the ocean – as well as the air and the land. And, as we know, we are destroying the climate.

 

Since we are dependent on the earth for our survival, there is absolutely nothing sane or rational about these human activities. They are like a suicidal madman waving about a bomb that is about to detonate.

 

Yes, of course, there is an element of greed and self-centeredness in the way humans go about taking over and then obliterating all life on the planet. But this, in itself, is really not a rational explanation for the obsessive level of destruction that is taking place.

 

One might posit that there is some underlying, driving, unconscious force which compels us to behave in this immensely self-destructive way. We seem to want to kill ourselves.

 

Why?

 

This major isolation and alienation from nature which has taken hold of us is propelling us toward a cliff, a bottomless abyss — and seems to predetermine our will as a species, and our actions.

 

Yet, although this is, I am aware, profoundly gloomy, there is something else also, a certain light – which lies in the fact that not all of humanity has always behaved in this self-destructive way.

 

Ancient people saw themselves as part of the earth, as, ultimately being at one with the animals, the trees, the rivers, and all life.  Even today, especially among those cultures and countries not altogether swept up in the falsehoods of the modern worldview, there are remnants and in some cases the reawakening of a true realization that we are the earth and the earth is us. We are all one, intertwined and interrelated.

 

There is, moreover, a dynamic, and growing movement, all over the planet, both east and west, to return to, and go forward with, the knowledge and vision of deep reverence for the world of nature and the sacredness of all life.

 

Looking ahead

 

fiveID 102516960 © Avspream | Dreamstime.com

 

This is the great end battle. Nature, of course – even if it takes several millennia — will recover and will win, in this world or in another. The question that remains is — will we join with nature, protecting her as the earth, our mother, or will we, as a species, self-destruct? We shall see.

 

In the meantime, each of us can open our eyes and our hearts — and live, as best we can, in harmony and peace with the natural world and its numinous, alive, wild presence – encountered in the wonderful, fiery eyes of the tiger and in all of nature.

 

Link to Salt Lake Tribune article about cougar hunting:

https://www.sltrib.com/news/environment/2018/09/15/utah-is-putting-more/

 

 

Photos:

Top photo:ID 59266198 © Adriana Maria Leenheer | Dreamstime.com

Second photo:ID 39369001 © Belizar | Dreamstime.com

Third photo: ID 50336351 © Sonsam | Dreamstime.com

Fourth photo: ID 63152963 © Wonderful Nature | Dreamstime.com

Fifth photo: ID 102516960 © Avspream | Dreamstime.com

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2018

 

 

 

 

Cover-Vol3-The East

 

By Laura J. Merrill

 

Readers of Sharon St Joan’s blog site, “Echoes in the Mist” (recently changed from “Voices-and-Visions”), will be familiar with her ethereal poems, which have always resonated with me as a view into the sacred soul of Nature.

 

Over the last two years, Sharon has graciously devoted some of her time and creative talent to composing twelve poems for the latest volume of Secret Voices from the Forest—Thoughts and Dreams of North American Trees.

 

Volume Three: The East, in which you will find her verses, concerns a few of the trees native to the eastern part of this continent—from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean—some well known and some quite uncommon, and some wholly unique to this continent, although not necessarily familiar to all of us; examples are Sugar maple, American chestnut, Pawpaw and Tulip Tree.

 

These brightly illustrated volumes familiarize us with each tree, utilizing facts about it and its native surroundings, as well as a few particulars about some of the animals and other plants that share its environment. At the same time, each tree is given a chance to “speak for itself,” in a section titled, “Reflections,” in which we can imagine how the tree might see its place in the world and how it may view us, as fellow travelers on the Earth.
In the world of books about nature, these publications are distinctive, blending fact and fantasy for adults who are willing to consider the idea that we are all equal participants in the great work of Creation.

 

You can find this, as well as the first two volumes, The West and Midcontinent, on Amazon at this link.

 

Enjoy!

 

4 ID 64684980 © Maik Brand | Dreamstime 

By Sharon St Joan

 

To read part one first, click here.

 

A fallacy – that killing cougars protects calves

 

Concerning the mortality of young calves, only 1 to 2 percent of these deaths are caused by predation — from all predators, including dogs. All the other calf deaths are caused either by illness or are weather-related. Ranchers are compensated for the loss of their livestock, and non-lethal forms of predator control have been shown to be the most effective response. So there is no reason to kill cougars to protect calves.

 

Just the opposite is true. It has been shown that increased hunting causes more, not fewer, calf deaths.

 

It is, in fact, a grave mistake to increase cougar hunting quotas in the hope of lessening livestock predation. Hunting cougars (and other predators) disrupts their social order. This means that young cougars are separated from their mothers while they are still learning to hunt their natural prey. With fewer adults in the population, hungry adolescent cougars are far more likely to engage in erratic behavior – to attack livestock or to roam near agricultural fields and structures, potentially leading to more human/wildlife conflicts.

 

The higher incidence of livestock deaths noted in certain areas in Utah was most likely directly caused by the increased hunting of predators in recent years. If the hunting quotas are increased again, as is planned, then the greater numbers of cougars hunted will almost certainly lead to even higher livestock deaths in these areas next year and the year after. Like pouring gasoline on a fire – killing more cougars will not work and will only make things worse.

 

5 ID 32644895 © Mazikab | Dreamstime

 

Cougar mothers ought not to be killed

 

When their social order and their habitat are left undisturbed, cougars do not seek out or attack human beings or livestock, and they do not hang around human structures. They prefer living deep in the wilderness, and maintaining wilderness for them to live in is the best way to help both wild lands and ourselves.

 

The lives of individual cougars and their offspring have a value conferred on them by nature. When they are chased with packs of dogs, treed, and then shot, this is inhumane and is not ethical hunting.

 

Both female and male cougars are hunted. From a distance the hunter cannot with any certainty tell male from female. At any time of year, kittens may still be with their mother because they stay with her, learning survival skills, for up to two years.

 

Although, according to Department of Wildlife Resources regulations, killing a mother accompanied by kittens is prohibited, as is killing any adult accompanied by a young cougar, this does nothing to protect very small kittens left in their den, or left to play while their mother goes off to hunt, or kittens which are separated from their mother (and therefore are out of sight) when their mother is fleeing a pack of dogs. About one third of all cougars killed are females, and clearly a great many kittens die as a result.

 

It is a universally accepted norm that female animals with offspring should not be hunted – though, sadly, this basic humane principle is often disregarded. In the case of cougars, wherever any cougar hunting at all is allowed, whatever the season, females as well as males will be killed, and kittens and youngsters not old enough to fend for themselves will inevitably die.

 

Since cougars are not hunted for food, increasing the numbers hunted is for no good reason. Fewer cougars should be hunted, not more.

 

 

No taking into account future threats

 

Without a scientific estimate of the numbers of cougars in Utah, there is no basis for increasing the hunt quotas.

 

The increase is arbitrary, and may be critically harmful to sustaining the cougar population. This is true especially since there has been no taking into account of clear, predictable threats to wild lands, such as the shrinking and chopping up of wild lands and wilderness corridors. Further loss of habitat is likely in the wake of more intense wildfires, possible droughts, more people moving into Utah, and government policies that promote extractive fossil fuel activity, along with the accompanying pollution and habitat deterioration that oil wells, coal, and fracking bring.

 

Not planning for future conditions that are scientifically and statistically probable leaves wildlife populations at risk. Not only will they have to deal with overhunting, but they will have to do this while being exposed to all the other growing threats to wild lands and ecosystems – the harm we as human beings are causing to the earth.

 

Just as we normally plan for any disasters likely to strike, future threats to wildlife should also be taken into account when setting hunting quotas – because they are a foreseeable part of our future.

 

6 ID 39369003 © Belizar | Dreamstime

 

Nature must be left in peace

 

We need to take a new look at wildlife, cougars included, to see them once again as our valued and beautiful fellow beings on this planet, whose presence is a gift, enriching the natural world and our own lives. Let’s let them live in peace.

 

 

 

How you can help

 

Please send an email to help cougars.

 

You may choose one or two of these points below and use your own words. Ask that cougar hunting be reduced, not increased. Please indicate the state and/or country where you live. See the link at the end for the email address.

 

One: Cougars’ lives have an intrinsic value. They are not hunted for food, and hunting them does not provide humans with anything that is actually needed.

 

Two: Overhunting harms the balance of nature.

 

Three: Cougars are beneficial to the ecosystem. A scientific study in Zion National Park demonstrated that where there are cougars, there are abundant deer herds, healthy streams, and a far greater abundance of life forms: three times as many fish, and more saplings, birds, butterflies, frogs, and small mammals.

 

Four: Cougar hunting leads to more deaths of ranchers’ calves. Cougars self-regulate their populations according to availability of food and habitat considerations. Only one to two percent of calf predation can be attributed to predators. Hunting disturbs the cougars’ social order, leading to erratic behavior by young cougars who are then more likely to kill calves.

 

Five: Hunting cougars is inhumane. Chasing cougars with dog packs up a tree and then shooting them is inhumane. Killing females with kittens who will then be left to starve is also inhumane. Because there is no certain way to hunt cougars without killing females that have dependent kittens, hunting cougars is not ethical hunting, and they should not be hunted.

 

Six: Predictable future threats to our wild lands ought to be taken into account when determining cougar hunting quotas.

 

 

Please send an email expressing your views to Dave Black, Chair of the southern Utah RAC region. daveb@racivil.com

 

Or better yet, attend the RAC meeting on August 1, 2017, at 7 pm in Beaver, Utah, at the Beaver High School and speak up for cougars!

 

Information for this was drawn from the HSUS cougar report – State of the Mountain Lion: A Call to End Trophy Hunting of America’s Lion

humanesociety.org/stateofthemountainlion ,

from communications with Kirk Robinson, Executive Director of the Western Wildlife Conservancy, and from other sources. Any inaccuracies are mine alone. – Sharon St Joan

 

 

To read the article in BIOLOGICAL CONSERVATION 133 (2006) 397–408

Linking a cougar decline trophic cascade, and catastrophic regime shift in Zion National Park by William J. Ripple and Robert L. Beschta, who conducted the cougar study:

http://www.mountainlion.org/Library/Lion_Research/UT-R-Ripple-Beschta-2006-Linking-Cougar-Decline-Trophic-Cascade-Zion-National-Park.pdf

 

To read an article about the Zion cougar study published in Park Science, 4 September, 2015, Impact of a cougar decline on Zion Canyon, Zion National Park, By Betsie Blumberg:

https://www.nature.nps.gov/parkscience/index.cfm?ArticleID=318&ArticleTypeID=28

 

 

Photos:

 Top photo: © Dan Stroik Dreamstime

 Second photo: © Lynn Bystrom | Dreamstime

 Third photo: © Lukas Blazek | Dreamstime

 Fourth photo: © Maik Brand | Dreamstime

 Fifth photo:© Mazikab | Dreamstime

 Sixth photo: © Belizar | Dreamstime

 

© text, parts one and two, Sharon St Joan, 2017

 

1 © Dan Stroik Dreamstime

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

Standing on a rock in the sunlight surveying the lands below or leaping through a rushing stream, cougars, like all wild animals, have a striking, incredible beauty – an intrinsic worth and value as individuals and, collectively, as a species. The value of their lives is their own and is quite independent of their usefulness or benefit to human beings.

 

The natural world is an interwoven net, grown up over many millions of years, in which each species plays an essential role in the health and well-being of the whole. We are part of this net.

 

Extirpating or decimating any natural species harms the ecosystem and adversely impacts the vitality of the whole system.

 

Every year in Utah these beautiful animals, the lions of North America, are targeted for more killing. This year the planned hunting quotas are being raised yet again. For the 2017/2018 season, the proposed target for cougar hunting is 565, up 40 from last year. This does not even count certain areas where there is unlimited cougar hunting.

 

Like all of our fellow beings on the planet, as humans, we do need to use some resources – but, really, cougar hunting, which is mainly trophy hunting, is not a normal use of natural resources. It serves no purpose at all – not even for food.

 

2 ID 29753610 © Lynn Bystrom | Dreamstime

 

Human beings’ use of the earth’s resources to live and thrive ought to be minimal and limited to what is actually needed. When we use more than our fair share, we are harming not just other species, but also ourselves. By using too much, we undermine the whole of nature, and nature is also our own habitat. It is the home where we live, and we cannot continue to live without the natural world. We are dependent on nature and the earth.

 

This core principle applies in a unique way to predators, which are keystone species. Scientific studies have shown that predators are essential to the health of wild lands and wild species. We must stop trying to get rid of them.

 

 

A study on the benefits of cougars

 

A scientific study done by Oregon State University, published in 2006 in the online publication Biological Conservation 133 (2006) 397-408, looked at the impact of cougars in Zion National Park. (Please see the links at the end of part two.)

 

This study uncovered profound, long-term effects following the decline of cougars in Zion.

 

As the numbers of cougars took a downward dip, herds of mule deer no longer kept moving along as they would naturally do in the presence of cougars. Instead, the deer began to spend a lot of time hanging about, congregating in stream beds, browsing on cottonwood and other saplings, and leading a “sedentary” lifestyle. The forest was diminished and the abundance of all wild species: mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and other plant and animal life went into decline. The stream beds were trampled and muddy, and all life near them dwindled.

 

By contrast, in the North Creek area of Zion National Park, where there was far less human intrusion, both the cougars and the deer remained lively and active much as they always had. With far less trampling, streambed erosion and loss of soil were less than half what they were in the rest of Zion. There was an abundance of young cottonwoods, squirrels, butterflies, lizards and water plants. There were three times as many fish found in streams in this area. The wild lands stayed healthy and thriving.

 

All this was thanks to the continued presence of the cougars. Cougars are essential to Utah’s wild lands.

 

3 ID 53530707 © Lukas Blazek | Dreamstime

 

Cougars benefit human beings too

 

A healthy ecosystem does, of course, also benefit human beings. Who would not prefer to be surrounded by wild lands where wildlife are active and in good shape, where lands shine with the natural vitality, health, and the beauty that nature intended?

 

When our wild lands are healthy, we too can breath clean air, drink pure water – our agriculture benefits, and so does our economy – not too mention our own health, peace of mind, and happiness.

 

Predators, including cougars, are keystone species that have been proven to sustain and invigorate the well-being of the environment on which our own lives depend.

 

Yet, paradoxically, we continue to persecute and attempt to eliminate these essential, beneficial predators. Coyotes, wolves, foxes, cougars, bobcats, and other species that belong in nature are systematically targeted, year after year, with increased quotas for hunting and/or trapping.

 

 

Why hunt cougars?

 

The hunting of cougars is not real hunting at all. No one hunts cougars for food.

 

They are hunted for trophies and also because of a mistaken perception that where there are fewer cougars, deer hunting will be better, and ranchers will lose fewer calves to predation. None of these beliefs is true.

 

The head of a cougar is far more beautiful and magnificent on the living animal where it belongs, than it is when it is dead and mounted on a wall.

 

Whether or not one is a deer hunter, we can all appreciate that the health of deer herds is enhanced by cougars and other predators who maintain a dynamic and beneficial relationship with the deer. The natural order of things serves the animals far better than human interference. Cougar populations are self-regulating and do not require human management. Their mating and breeding are determined by the numbers of cougars that the land will hold. Killing cougars does not regulate their population. The availability of food and good habitat does.

 

 Continued in part two (with how to help, sources, and photo credits)…Click here.

800px-Metate_Arch_-_Grand_Staircase-Escalante_National_Monument

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

The 27 National Monuments now under review for downsizing are some of the most uniquely beautiful wild lands on the planet earth, with spectacular mountain ranges, enchanting rock formations, magnificent wild birds and animals, essential wildlife corridors, and hundreds of thousands of sacred Native American sites. Nature really is not ours to destroy, and the continued protection offered by National Monument status is needed to prevent opening up these lands to threats – either from coal, oil, fracking and other development, or from further changes in status down the road which could lead to their being sold, exchanged, or otherwise disposed of.

 

Please send a comment to the U.S. Department of the Interior, asking that the 27 National Monuments and the oceanic Monuments which are also now under review, not be diminished or downsized in any way.

 

The comment I have sent is given below.

 

Bighorn_lamb_Alberta

 

Here is the link where you may send your comment. Sometimes this link doesn’t work. You can also go to www.regulations.gov and continue from there.

https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOI-2017-0002-0001

 

The deadline for comments is July 10, 2017. The deadline for comments on the Bears Ears National Monument was May 26, and has already passed.

 

If you live in southern Utah, or even if you don’t, you may wish to comment specifically on the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, which is the largest of the Monuments.

 

800px-House_on_Fire_Ruin

 

Several criteria are listed which Secretary Zinke will be considering when making his decisions about these Monuments.

 

If you can submit a comment that relates to these criteria, please, by all means do so. That may be most effective. I’m not suggesting that you write a comment similar to mine below. Sticking to the criteria given may work best.

 

I confess that I was unable to force my comments into something that could be fitted into the pigeon holes of the criteria. Because we have freedom of speech and freedom of thought, it seems that our comments ought to be considered, whether or not they fall within the stated categories. Also our own sense of justice requires that we speak up clearly on behalf of nature that is in peril.

 

Among many of us there is a feeling that perhaps the decision has already been made, and the die has already been cast. There have been a great many occasions; however, when public comments have actually been heard and have modified an outcome. In any case, speaking up in defense of wildlife and wild lands is worth doing, regardless of whether or not one is being heard, even if only the clouds and the wind are witnesses.

 

Also, hearing happens on many levels. We ourselves hear what we have said, and all those who have ears to hear do also hear. This gives strength to the global movement to protect the natural world, and on some level, joins forces with the plants, the wild animals, and the earth itself.

 

Berryessa_Snow_Mountain_National_Monument

 

 

 

Here is the comment that I sent:

 

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the review of certain National Monuments established since 1996.

 

I am opposed to this review, and I ask that Secretary Zinke not recommend diminishing any of these Monuments which were designated by former presidents.

 

In my view, there are no legal grounds and no justification for attempting to undo or downsize any Monuments designated under the Antiquities Act. The Antiquities Act provides for the establishment of such Monuments by American presidents, but it does not provide for their dismantling by any succeeding president.

 

The efforts to downsize or diminish any of these Monuments are misguided.

 

Cascade Siskiyou in Oregon is home to two hundred species of birds, including the endangered Great Grey Owl. Craters of the Moon in Idaho is made up of amazing volcanic landscapes found nowhere else. Giant Sequoia Monument in California has some of the oldest and most spectacular of these beautiful trees. Gold Butte in Nevada protects the threatened Mojave Desert Tortoise, Bighorn Sheep, cougars, and magnificent desert rock formations. Grand Canyon-Parashant includes remote natural wilderness areas near the Grand Canyon.

 

Grand Staircase Escalante has some of the most beautiful rock formations on earth as well as sacred Native American sites and essential wildlife corridors. The only remaining jaguars within the United States, whose presence is greatly endangered, are to be found in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument in Montana is filled with scenic wild lands, still unspoiled since the Lewis and Clark Expedition passed through in 1805. The Vermillion Cliffs in Arizona holds 12,000 years of Native American settlements and some of the earth’s most astonishing 3,000 feet high rock formations. For 11,000 thousand years, human beings have lived among the forests and rivers of the Katahdin Woods and Waterways National Monument in Maine. Each of these Monuments has unique and irreplaceable natural wild lands.

 

The five marine National Monuments also being reviewed, the Marianas Trench, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Pacific Remote Islands, Papahanaumokuakea, and Rose Atoll are the homes of some of earth’s rarest and most endangered sea birds and sea creatures. The preservation of these great ocean expanses is essential to the continuation of life in the sea.

 

When my ancestors and the ancestors of many Americans first arrived on our shores around five hundred years ago, and began to travel west, they found a continent overflowing with life. From coast to coast, there was such an unimaginable abundance of wild lands and wildlife that it would have been impossible to imagine that today it would be mostly gone. The Native Americans who lived here for 13,000 years used what they need to survive and destroyed nothing else. They left the natural world as they had found it.

 

A September 9, 2016 article on the online site Science Alert, reports on a study which estimates that today only 23 percent of the world’s wilderness areas remain intact. Very little is left of the natural world. Yet, instead of striving to protect whatever bits of nature are left – every tree, every mountain range, every wild species, the rivers, the oceans, and every blade of grass – instead, we continue to plunder the natural world.

 

The claim that the natural world “belongs” to us, because our forbears traveled across the prairie displacing the Native Americans who were here for many thousands of years before us – or that wild lands exist solely in order to be gobbled up by coal, oil, fracking, and other industrialization, is absurd. The earth does not belong to us; we belong to the earth.

 

This is not a weird or unpopular point of view. The vast majority of the American public supports protecting public lands, including the National Monuments, along with all wild lands and wild species. Americans, like all peoples on the earth, value the intrinsic beauty and worth of the natural world. We are part of nature. We cannot exist without nature, though, irrationally, we are rapidly killing the very source of life on which we depend. When the natural world is gone, we will be gone too. Yet that, in itself, is not the primary reason to protect life on earth. The earth has it’s own existence and its own value, and it is not ours to destroy.

 

When we destroy our past – the ancient sacred sites that are the legacy of this continent, and when we destroy the great beauty and sacred integrity of the rocks, the rivers, the mountains, the wild animals and birds, and all the life that was put here long before we arrived, that is a mistake that cannot be undone.

 

I would like to request that the Department of the Interior and Secretary Zinke undertake a review of all the as-yet-unprotected wild lands in the U.S. with the intent of seeing how they can be safeguarded by being designated as National Monuments, National Parks, or other protected lands.

 

Thank you for your consideration,

 

Sharon St Joan

Canyons_of_the_Ancients_ruin

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2017

 

Photos:

 

Top photo: John Fowler / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.” Wikipedia. / Metate Arch, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, in Utah.

 

Second photo: Philipp Haupt / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.” Wikipedia. / A Bighorn lamb.

 

Third photo: Snowpeak / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.” Wikipedia. / House on Fire Ruin; Anasazi Ruin in upper Mule Canyon near Comb Ridge in Utah.

 

Fourth photo: Bob Wick, BLM / “This image is a work of a Bureau of Land Management employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain in the United States.” / Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument in California.

 

Fifth photo: Bob Wick, BLM / “This image is a work of a Bureau of Land Management employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain in the United States.” / Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, in Colorado, Painted Hand Pueblo.