Essay – Speaking Out

When a problem arises regarding the environment or wildlife, many people think someone else will say something. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. I grew up trying to avoid conflict; I’m a people pleaser. However, over the past few years there have been several stories that have moved to a point where I realized it was my responsibility to speak out. Most often this has to do with wildlife because they don’t have a voice and they can’t speak for themselves.

My first letter to the editor was to a magazine, where I challenged an article in which they referred to a Bighorn Sheep as a killer because it charged a man, thinking the man was a threat. The sheep gored the man in the thigh, leaving the man to bleed to death. A ranger was dispatched to shoot and kill the sheep, but the ranger was not referred to as a killer. We place so much importance on human life that we forget that when we enter the wilderness we are entering the homes of animals like bears, cougars and wolves. To me, it’s amazing how few attacks there have been considering people have been leaving food and other trash in the backcountry for years. These animals have a right to defend their cubs and their territory. As hikers we need to respect that this is not our home, that our presence affects wildlife and we need to be prepared for encounters and do everything possible to prevent them. Leave No Trace ethics are widespread because someone saw a problem and said something. Animals are not killers and murderers in the way humans are. They do not kill for sport, or for mental gratification, they kill because they believe their survival on one level or another depends on it.

The town I live in is proposing a bike park on the edge of a city park bordering a river. This area is a critical habitat for a number of wildlife from elk to moose to fox, birds, sandhill cranes and more. No environmental impact study has been done and in years where the snow doesn’t melt up high until June or July those animals need spaces where they can access water and vegetation to live. These animals have been coming here for thousands of years and now we want to disrupt that for a temporary bike park that will be ripped down in three years and moved somewhere else. I wrote a letter to the editor of our local paper.

For me, there are certain stories that need a voice and if an animal or the land can’t speak out, then it’s my responsibility to do that, whether I blog about it, write a letter, speak before the city council, take and post pictures of what’s being done or simply engage in conversation with friends and other people so the situation is talked about and people know what is happening.

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