The Boston Globe has picked up the story of the Sabino Canyon cougars, and this disturbing article is well worth reading. It's disturbing because of it's tone - the people at the Arizona Game and Fish Department come off looking arrogant, inflexible, insensitive and irresponsible, willing to capture or kill the cougars that the residents living near Sabino Canyon have been reporting for the past several months. And spokesmen for the Game and Fish Department are accused of having lied.
Rodney Coronado and his group Earth First!, and Daniel R. Patterson and Kieran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity, are portrayed as concerned environmentalists, committed to the preservation of the noble Cougar. Some Arizona lawmakers, including Governor Janet Napolitano, have sided with the "environmentalists" and express outrage at the way the Game and Fish people have proceeded:
A petition signed by 25 legislators halted the hunt temporarily, but a game commission after two public meetings allowed it to resume. Now everyone from Governor Janet Napolitano to animal rights activists wants the department to be held accountable.
"We object to the process Game and Fish used to make the decision," said Jeanine L'Ecuyer, the governor's press secretary. "A lot of folks were surprised when they were made aware of what has been going on. The public has the right to be involved in the process."
This is another one of those "where do you start" kinds of things.
First off, Rodney Coronado, a sometime spokesman for Earth First!, is not just another environmentalist: he is a violent religious zealot who served time for torching a lab at Michigan State University. But you wouldn't know that from having read the Globe article.
The Earth Liberation Front sprung from -- and in many ways is still an arm of -- Earth First!.
Earth First! (EF!) is a "warrior society" that takes a "by any means necessary" approach to "defending mother earth." The group declines to participate in the democratic process, preferring instead to damage, disable, and destroy the property of its ever-growing list of enemies. EF! targets include, but are by no means limited to, loggers, ranchers, and farmers -- especially those who grow genetically modified crops. Earth First!ers' crimes include assault, arson, and untold acts of sabotage.
But the Globe is quiet about this, too.
But what about the Center for Biological Diversity? They are an environmental group that is stunningly effective at using litigation and the provisions of the Endangered Species Act in pursuit of their radical environmental agenda:
Three decades after President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law, nearly every major decision about what animals or plants to protect — from the Columbia Basin's pygmy rabbit to the Washington gray squirrel — is now made, at least in part, by Arizona's Center for Biological Diversity.
That's a lot of power for any single group, but I find it particularly disturbing because CBD has ties to Earth First! that seem to extend beyond a common interest in stopping the Sabino Canyon cougar hunt. For example, again according to The Center for Consumer Freedom, CBD's Michael Robinson was a former Earth First! spokesman, and Linda Wells, a Board member for CBD, was or is the contact person for Earth First's Ranching Task Force.
But the Globe neglected to fill you in on that, and it's a shame because knowing it might put a little different spin on things. Whatever happened to the skeptical journalist?
Apart from the Globe's one-sided unprobing coverage, I wonder what's going on with the Arizona pols, who seem more interested in inflaming passions than in cooling them. My hunch is that they are playing to a popular Disney-like romantic fantasy of cougar nobility, perhaps for votes, rather than making decisions based on what might be best for the people residing in or near Sabino Canyon. And the darker angels of my heart wonder if their opposition to the Game and Fish Department's decision would be so unequivocal if they believed their own kids were endangered. I doubt it.
Finally, Governor Napolitano's strident opposition to the Game and Fish Department's position mystifies me. It seems to be a huge political gamble: think of the political consequences to Napolitano were the Game and Fish Department to bow to pressure, abandon their cougar-removal project, only to have some 5 year old kid hunted, savaged and consumed by a cougar!
If I were in her place, I wouldn't gamble with that possibility, and the only way my cynical self can make sense of her opposition is that she knows full well that the Game and Fish Department won't back down: she's playing to popular public sentiment, knowing full well that her pleas to spare the cougars will go unheeded, and the Game and Fish Department will take the heat for being the villains. That's pretty ugly stuff.