This morning at dawn, a piece of paper popped out of my old desk drawer and fell to the floor. It was something that I forgot I had even written, and for sure I had not remembered that it had been published in the Arizona Daily Star around a decade ago. It was called “Respect for Native Knowledge Can Help Preserve the West.”
Here are a couple excerpts that might suggest its message needs more consideration today than it… did in 1997:
“We’ve all heard of the nightmare meetings & public hearings held in Western towns where conservation scientists butt heads with local people, be they ranchers, loggers, miners, fishermen or farmers…Recently, however, another mode of interaction has emerged, one in which conservation biologists have recognized those who harbor valid local knowledge about wildlife and rare plants. In doing so, it has opened the way for broader coalitions intent on protected the uniqueness of [& may I add now, the livelihoods essential to] the arid West.”
“Last year, I had the honor of presenting an award to ranchers Wendy and Warner Glenn of the Malpasis Borderlands Group on behalf of the Society for Conservation Biology. Hundreds of scientists and activists applauded the Glenns & their neighbors who have done so much to preserve open space from subdivision and habitat fragmentation in the desert grasslands of Southern Arizona and adjacent Mexico.”
“In 1996, Warner Glenn also provided the first undeniable evidence of the return of jaguars to the arid Southwest & has been working ever since to further document this endangered species’ presence in the Mexican borderlands.”
“The West remains a heterogeneous region, one inhabited by many cultures, harboring many different land use traditions. Each has its own insights regarding the value of the land & its wildlife. Perhaps the only way the region’s biodiversity [& land-based livelihoods] will survive over the long haul is if all resident cultures are recognized as stakeholders with knowledge that can positively… help safeguard… our common heritage.”
Wendy Glenn (who has now passed on) and her husband Warner (still holding strong) exemplify the kind of citizens we all need to be more than anyone I have ever known in our sometimes sorry state. To the extent we can, let us shape our own behaviors to follow on the path they have already blazed.