There are many conflicting viewpoints about how public lands and resources should be managed. As with every controversy, there are differing opinions among land owners, government agencies entrusted with protecting the public’s interest, and conservation groups that represent a wide spectrum of citizens. The following issues are currently being debated in the Great Plains states:
Creating A Buffalo Commons
Across the arid plains, ghost towns have appeared as poor ranchers and farmers leave their boarded-up storefronts and empty farmhouses behind. One innovative proposal for bolstering the failing economies of plains communities is to turn thousands of square miles of damaged and marginal land into a vast nature preserve called the Buffalo Commons. Tourists could experience an American Safari where grazing animals like the bison and pronghorn, and predators like wolves could roam freely.
Create a Private Land Cooperative
Another proposal for eastern Montana is called “The Big Open.” To stimulate jobs and revenue from tourism, ranchers in the region would collaborate in restoring native populations of game animals. Tourists and sport hunters would pay fees to use the wild areas for recreation. Hunters would also pay the landowners fees to hunt on private lands. The proposed natural area would support 75,000 buffalo, 150,000 deer, 40,000 elk and 40,000 pronghorn.
Reintroduce Wolves to Western Parks
and other Public Lands
Scientists and conservationists have taken steps to restore wolves to Yellowstone, The Grand Tetons, and New Mexico. They point out that populations of bison, elk, and deer have increased with protection and are adversely affecting the health of the native vegetation. Restoring wolves to the parks would have the added benefit of improving the genetic health of the herds by allowing a natural predator to eat the weak animals. Some land owners oppose the reintroduction of the predators because they believe the wolves will also attack their livestock.
Choose a biodiversity issue of interest to you and your community. Research both sides of the issue. Write a letter to the editor of your newspaper recommending a course of action.