Archive for January, 2017

  • Blog
  • January 25th, 2017


By Joel M. Vance
I can see it now. Betsy DeVoss is walking down the hall to the teachers lounge when a grizzly bear leaps out of the men’s restroom and assaults her. Fortunately, a third grader armed with an AK-47, rushes from a classroom and blows the grizzly bear away.
The third grader is awarded a lifetime membership in the National Rifle Association, the grizzly bear’s pelt becomes a rug on the floor of the Oval Office and the nation once again is assured that it is being taken care of by the Trump cabinet.
This scenario is no more outlandish than the idea of Betsy DeVoss becoming the secretary of Education, an office for which she is no more qualified than the third-grader who shot the grizzly bear. Ms. DeVoss apparently gained her fear of grizzly bears in the classroom from reading an account of a school in Wyoming near Yellowstone Park that has a fence around his playground because of grizzlies in the neighborhood. That’s an isolated instance of a school in the far West but apparently she conflates that single report with an outbreak of grizzly menace that threatens every school in the nation. She should be more afraid, as we all are, of the mama grizzly herself, Sarah Palin.
But Betsy is but one of a long list of Trump cabinet appointees whose qualifications for the job they are designated for are so skimpy as to defy logic. Here’s a guy who sued the agency that he now is appointed to oversee, there a guy who once wanted to abolish the agency he is appointed to oversee, except that he couldn’t remember the name of it. The designated secretary of state is a business mogul who has ties to Russia, a country that apparently is destined to become our number one trading partner and best buddy. Just the kind of guy you want for secretary of state— someone with no experience in foreign affairs, no government experience and a person whose only aim in life is to make a profit. Somehow I don’t think the country is going to profit from that.
The Ringling Brothers Circus may have become history but apparently it has merely moved to the federal government, thanks to Donald Trump, the clown president. I’ve hesitated to write about the entire election circus because what can you say that truly describes the disaster that our federal government has become.
The major difference between the closing of Ringling Brothers and the Trump Circus is that its continuation only offended animal-rights advocates, whereas the opening of the circus in Washington has the potential to destroy our Republic as we have known it for 250 years. There may be a few disappointed elephants left over from Ringling Brothers, but there are millions of us not only disappointed but frightened by the potential of the Trump clown Circus.
We are all to blame for this debacle, you and me and anyone who voted for Trump and for that matter anyone who didn’t. Any minority person who didn’t go to the polls and vote against Trump is culpable. Any woman who voted for him should be immediately forced to undergo a sex change operation, turning her into someone with a Pabst Blue Ribbon in one hand keys to a rusty pickup in the other and a drizzle of Red Man chewing tobacco cascading down his grubby cheek. Any young person, suffused with the ideals that young people are prone to, who didn’t vote against Trump deserves to be forced to go to some sort of make-believe charter school. The Democrats who chose a person that not very many people like on the ballot as a choice against Trump also are to blame.
We are all to blame. It’s not as if we didn’t know what Donald Trump is. He’s a narcissistic braggart, a womanizer, probably guilty of numerous actionable transgressions, obnoxious to anyone who is not him, a bully and all around despicable example of humanity at its worst. He is what they pump out of septic tanks. We have had fair warning for years, those who watched him strut his way through reality television (and for that matter anyone who watched that trashy crap on television). We’ve seen his true personality— it’s not as if he hides it, he seems to take great pleasure in exhibiting how obnoxious he really is.
This is an administration of “alternative facts.” There is no such thing as reality, despite what Trump called his long time silly show on television. Reality now is what the administration says it is. I don’t like Chuck Todd, NBC’s political analyst, but at least he had the guts to tell the wicked witch of the White House, Kellyanne Conway, that ”alternative facts” are not facts but lies. One of these days during a news conference, I expect to see Conway turn green leap on a broom and fly away accompanied by winged monkeys. I would say, “we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto” but considering Kansas’s weird record on politics, I would say that actually we are.
In the 1960s a combination of young people and African-Americans forced the always reluctant Congress to adopt meaningful civil rights legislation. Both of those groups were conspicuously short at the ballot box in the 2016 election. Where were the many thousands of college students like those who protested, burned draft cards and turned out in the 1960s to protest both the Vietnam War and the inequities of racial prejudice? And where were the victims of that same racial prejudice in 2016?
But there is a new kid on the block and her name is women’s rights. Women proved that they are a powerful voice on the political scene the day after the election when they turned out by the millions to demonstrate not only in many cities across the country but also worldwide. Right now, women are Donald Trump’s worst enemies. He has already proved that he has nothing but contempt for women in general and specifically. He has insulted women as a sex and individually as reporters and rival political candidates.
Kellyanne Conway notwithstanding, women are a life force far more rational and trustworthy than the pudgy white men who dominate our political system. Look at the Trump cabinet and other appointees. Where are the women? The administration is largely white, male and dominated by billionaires cut out of the same cookie-cutter that made Trump. He has formed a government in his own image and it’s not one that reflects the historic vision of the United States of America.
But woman power will work only if women stand united and continue to lean on Trump’s white power bluster. It took several years of protest by African-Americans and their allies to gain the civil rights that they should’ve had for 100 years. Those protestors suffered violence. Ask Georgia Congressman John Lewis who suffered a fractured skull marching to gain equal rights while white racist cops were beating him over the head.
Indiana state senator Jack Sandlin, the state that gave us our vice president, Mike Pence, summed up the Trump administration attitude toward women when he said, “in one day, Trump got more fat women out walking.” Now there’s a really admirable representative of half the population of the country. It simply is time for all women in this country to throw open the window and shout as did the character in the 1976 movie, Network, “I am as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
Our daughter, Carrie, came up with the perfect cartoon summary of Donald Trump and the New Yorker is welcome to her idea for a cover. It shows the Statue of Liberty with an agonized expression as a leering Donald Trump grabs her by the crotch.
The president doing what he does best.

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  • Blog
  • January 16th, 2017


By Joel M. Vance
‘tis said the wheels of progress grind slowly. For conservation it seems like sometimes they simply grind to a halt. That’s the danger facing the country now if the Trump administration turns the nation’s public lands legacy into history.
As citizens and taxpayers we all have a stake in and own a piece of public lands: national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, national grasslands— and that great unknown the Bureau of land management.
BLM controls 264 million acres. All those acres are open to hikers hunters and others who want to enjoy the nation’s outdoor legacy. Then there are those who would use those same acres for exploitation. Congress has the power to sequester that land for everyone or to turn it into a giant shopping center for special interests. Think mineral, oil and gas exploitation.
The threat to sell off public lands is real and imminent, but the Obama administration used a little-known piece of legislation to set aside a number of BLM lands, supposedly forever. It’s called the Antiquities Act, signed into law in June, 1906, by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt. Its aim was to protect cultural and natural resources in the United States.
We have not had a president since Teddy so dedicated to the preservation of the outdoors. A hunter and fisherman, the blunt spoken Mr. Roosevelt was the outdoorsman’s best friend one hundred and eleven years ago and he still is. There has not been a president like him since, although a couple have come close.
Pres. Obama used the Antiquities Act to set aside and protect a number of areas that fall into the category of cultural and natural resources. To name a few, Rio Grande del Norte, Berryessa Snow Mountain, a bunch of others and, most recently and notably, Gold Butte and Bears Ears, in Utah). Unfortunately, what one president giveth by executive action, another can just as easily taketh away. Likewise Congress can pass laws that hamstring protection for outdoor resources.
Critics of Pres. Obama have objected to his use of executive action. For the record many presidents have used executive order or action more frequently than Pres. Obama. You have to go back as far as Grover Cleveland to find a president who use the congressional circumventing executive order fewer times than Pres. Obama. It’s worth remembering that Theodore Roosevelt created the first of the world renowned national wildlife refuge system by executive action in 1903 because Congress wouldn’t. Other president similarly has set aside natural resources by executive action, both Republican and Democrat.
As one of his final acts in office Pres. Obama designated Utah’s Bears Ears area as a national monument. The area has been sacred to Native Americans for thousands of years and still is an important source of native medicinal plants and wild game for the estimated 20,000 Indians who live within the boundaries of the monument.
Bears Ears is a huge area, some 1.2 million acres, roughly equivalent to the size of the state of Delaware. According to critics of Obama’s designation, the area could be a source of mineral and energy extraction. Thus, the almost inevitable collision between those who would plunder a national resource and those who would protect it. No president in the 111 year history of the Antiquities Act has reversed the decision of a predecessor, but Pres. Trump could do it with the slash of a pen.
Peter Metcalf founder of one of the outdoor industries largest manufacturers, Black Diamond, has called for the outdoor retailers to pull their winter expo out of Utah because of political opposition to the Bears Ears designation. Thus twice yearly show attracts about 22,000 people and brings in an estimated $45 million to Utah. The Associated Press quotes Metcalf, “if they don’t want to change their policies, we should respond with our dollars, with our conventioneers, with our money, and take the show to a state that is much more aligned with our values.”
The Antiquities Act has been a blessing to those who would protect natural resources and a curse to those who would plunder them. Pres. Jimmy Carter designated 56 million acres in Alaska over the protests of local politicians and others who opposed protection for those lands. Predictably, Congress was deadlocked over the idea of setting aside such a large chunk of the nation. Another president, Bill Clinton, designated more national monuments than any other president.
The first big battle under the Antiquities Act was when Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt set aside Jackson Hole, Wyoming, as a national monument, after Congress had refused to give the area protection. Congress passed a bill to abolish the national monument but Roosevelt vetoed it. Finally, in 1950 Congress created the grand Teton National Monument.
If there is a single situation which summarizes the possible course of the nation in regard to conservation Bears Ears is it. The United States has much to answer for over the course of its history, especially over its treatment of Native American rights. Even before there was slavery as a blot on the white man’s resume, white European pilgrims were busily slaughtering Native Americans and stealing their heritage and resources.
Native Americans proved that they do have a voice in what happens to their natural resources when many banded together in North Dakota to block a proposed pipeline that had the potential to damage the area’s drinking water supply. The standing rock Sioux tribe at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers vowed to stop the proposed pipeline, which would have stretched 1,100 miles and would have been built under a permit from the US Corps of Engineers, and which was to have been financed by a consortium of banks, oil and gas companies.
The Sioux quickly gathered supporters from conservationists across the land, of all races creeds and colors. Despite determined efforts to break up a large sit-in camp, which included the use of water cannons, arrests, mace and guard dogs, and the removal of water and sanitation resources from the tribe’s reservation, the conservationists prevailed— in December, 2016, the Army said it would explore alternate routes for the pipeline, but the fight is not over (it never is) because president Trump, who owns stock in the company building the pipeline, could reinstate the original route.
A similar fight could be brewing over Bears Ears, but like the pipeline brouhaha, Bears Ears could bring together a diverse team of conservationists to fight any attempt to undo protection for the Utah national treasure. It’s worth mentioning that attempts to protect the Bears Ears area as a national monument date to 1968. It will be jointly managed by BLM and the U.S. Forest Service.
Predictably, the national monument designation of Bears Ears has been greeted by a mixed reaction. Present plans are to allow all activities that now exist including hunting, fishing , grazing, and timber management, but to prohibit new development of oil gas and mineral resources. While many sportsmen endorse the Bears Ears monument designation, others are equally opposed to it, apparently fearing that somehow they will lose access to the area.
The Conservation Lands Foundation is one organization dedicated to, in the words of one of its workers, “turn the Bureau of Land Management into a better conservation agency.” The nonprofit group donates collected funds toward protection of otherwise vulnerable natural resources. “BLM is a system just as big and worthy and great as our national parks or national wildlife refuges. And they’re better, because people can hunt and fish in them. It’s just that nobody knows what they are.”
That some sportsmen should oppose legislation that protects their right to hunt on public land, and which was signed into law by the greatest sportsman/hunter president we’ve ever had, is hard to believe. As another great American forefather, Benjamin Franklin, who proposed the wild turkey as the national bird , said at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “we must indeed all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

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  • Blog
  • January 8th, 2017


By Joel M. Vance

Two momentous events happened in 1912—the Titanic went down and Elizabeth Schwartz was born. The “unsinkable” Titanic proved eminently sinkable….but for the next 101 years nothing sank Libby as she was universally known.
Libby was half of one of the most recognized and renowned wildlife conservation teams ever. They did landmark research in prairie chickens and box turtles, made award-winning movies, wrote many books and Charlie was one of the all-time great wildlife artists. If anything their lives were characterized by an insatiable curiosity. When they noticed one of their Labs consistently retrieving box turtles on their 40 acres, they began marking the turtles, trained Labs to retrieve them and did a study that ranks as the most definitive ever done of the animal.
Charlie and Libby were people of insatiable curiosity. Writer John Madson “once said Charlie ”Schwartz is 65 going on 17” He had found Charlie in the Schwartz backyard sitting in a new canoe with a paddle as if he were on a canoe float trip, like a little kid with a new toy.
Well in her 70s Libby began taking guitar lessons because the family was grown and there was no one to play music on canoe trip gravel bar camps. In her 80s she was taking college courses because her intellect was ever restless and curious. Once, after they retired, she and Charlie were prowling native prairie south of Sedalia when they ran across a grizzled local who turned out to be a retired cowboy who owned a piece of native prairie. They befriended the old fellow and that precious piece of prairie now is a conservation area thanks to that friendship. Another swatch of Missouri’s almost vanished tallgrass prairie is named for Charlie and Libby Schwartz.
Charlie and Libby were a team as tightly efficient as a Swiss watch. They produced a series of wildlife movies for the Conservation Department that almost invariably won national honors. And there was the 1959 University of Missouri Press book The Wild Mammals of Missouri which was and is the definitive guidebook to the state’s wild mammals. They followed this with a huge book on North American big game animals for the Wildlife Management Institute, as well as other publications, including children’s books.
A copy of their survey report on the game birds of Hawaii for which they spent a year essentially camping out and living off the land, today lists for $1,500 on Amazon. “We got awfully tired of eating pheasants,” Charlie said. As a sidelight they arranged for some Hawaiian nene geese, an endangered species, to be sent to Sir Peter Scott, founder of a series of waterfowl refuges in England where they now thrive. Charlie thought Peter Scott was the greatest waterfowl artist ever, but Charlie’s own countless wildlife illustrations and paintings were famed for their attention to detail and their zoological accuracy. The University of Missouri awarded both honorary doctorates.
My name is on the script for the movie Design for Conservation, which Charlie filmed and which was instrumental in presenting a plan that resulted in Missouri’s landmark one-eighth cent sales tax dedicated to fish, wildlife and forestry conservation, but Libby’s keen editorial eye shaped every word, as it did in all their movies and publications. Libby was the writer/editor of the Schwartz team and the leavening agent to Charlie’s imaginative ferment. She wrote a series of children’s books on wildlife babies, as well as the scientific copy for the mammal guides.
Charlie began working for the Department in 1940. Libby, being a woman, albeit one with a doctorate, and this still in the Dark Ages of gender equality, was an unpaid assistant. Charlie was of the first generation of wildlife biologists, hired after the passage of the constitutional amendment in 1936 that created Missouri’s unique conservation department with funding insulated from political tampering. Each newcomer literally was learning on the job and it was done by arduous field observation without any of today’s sophisticated tools. “It was a time,” said one observer, “when they got poop on their boots.” Libby had been Charlie’s instructor at the University of Missouri while she worked toward a doctorate in Zoology (one of two doctorate degrees she earned). Talk about a bargain for the Department!
“There were 3-4 biologists who were taken in at that time,” Libby said. “Each of them was given a different assignment. One of them would work on white-tailed deer, somebody else worked on raccoons and we were given prairie chickens—or I should say Charlie was given prairie chickens but I helped him.” It would be years before Libby was hired and more years before she or any other woman was considered a full-fledged professional.
So, they began work on prairie chickens, a pioneer study that paralleled a Wisconsin project by another husband and wife team Fran and Frederick Hammerstrom who worked under the legendary conservation educator/philosopher Aldo Leopold. The two couples would become lifelong friends and Charlie would illustrate Leopold’s conservation “bible” A Sand County Almanac.
Their study methods were primitive boots-on-the-ground in that dawn era of wildlife management. Libby said, “We found a big haystack near where there were supposed to be prairie chickens and we dug out a hole in this haystack for ourselves. The prairie chickens would come to a booming ground right at the edge of the haystack. We’d get there at 3 or 4 a.m. and scoot back into the haystack. First one chicken would come in and then another . At daylight there were more chickens—actually there were about 100 chickens in this one area.” Today the state population of prairie chickens is estimated at less than 100—affirmation of what their study found, that the population of the once numerous prairie grouse was rapidly declining, despite a hunting ban since the early 1900s.
The Schwartz life was one lived outdoors, often canoe floating the Ozark rivers (they would produce a beautiful movie on floating, Downstream). “I changed many a diaper on a gravel bar,” Libby once told me.” Always there was music when the kids grew up enough to take up an instrument. Barbara became an accomplished artist like her father, while Bruce and John both are orthopedic surgeons (Charlie’s father was an eye surgeon and had hoped Charlie would follow him into medicine).
When retirement came there was no question that they would not retire together. Charlie took detailed photos of their Jefferson City home and had it recreated on land they shared with Barbara and her family near Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. For those of us from Jefferson City fortunate enough to visit, it was as if we (or they) had never left home.
In 2004 when she was 92 she wrote me, “I’m as well as ever. No complaints. Only I feel my age and try to respect it—i.e. I don’t drive at night or in deep snow.” She had been to Alaska earlier in the year “to see the glaciers melting.” Typically, she was curious. “I’ve been doing a lot of reading about glaciers for information on the earth.” Charlie died in 1991, but Libby soldiered on.
She neared 100 years old and even then in her final years was driving her pickup truck and of course still trying to learn new things. I got an email from Bruce saying, “well, she made it!” At 100 Libby still was Libby and few days went by that I didn’t think of her and Charlie. They were role models for Marty and me and we can only hope that we have lived our lives even half as fully as they lived theirs
Ultimately Libby moved to The Dalles, Oregon. As a dramatic conclusion to a dramatic life she died on her 101st birthday, surrounded by family. “She was aware of all her kids, grandkids, and great grandkids right up until the end, so she had plenty of love and good wishes for whatever comes next,” Bruce said.
Once we had dinner with Charlie and Lib and as we were leaving Lib said, “Thank you so much for coming.” I was bemused. The world owes thanks for having had the chance to experience Charlie

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