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Earth

Oct 16, 2018

Sworn Wildlife Protector Murders a Family of Baboons: The Full Story

Trophy hunting Idaho Game Commissioner, Blake Fischer, loses his job over unsportsmanlike kills.

WRITTEN BY

Davey Braun

Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner Blake Fischer has lost his job over an email. In it, he messaged over 100 people the details of his recent hunting trip to Namibia, in which he and his wife shot at least 14 animals. The email included photos of Fischer smiling while posing with dead animal carcasses including a giraffe, leopard, impala, sable antelope, waterbuck, kudu, warthog, gemsbok (oryx) and eland. But perhaps the most disturbing photo was of Fischer’s smirk as he held up the lifeless bodies of a bloodied family of baboons, including a baby that he says he shot with a crossbow.


Over the past few years, trophy hunters like the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park have received media backlash. But what sets this instance apart is that the demands for Fischer to resign are coming from within the hunting community, from former Idaho Game Commissioners, not vegan soccer moms.

Fred Trevey, commissioner from 2007 to 2015, told Fischer in an email: “I’m sure what you did was legal, however legal does not make it right.” Another former commissioner Keith Stonebraker added: “They killed a whole family, including small baboons, and I think that’s revolting. It just puts a bad light on us.” The final blow came when Idaho Governor C.L. ‘Butch’ Otter asked for Fischer’s resignation on Monday, according to a news release.

His rationale is a murderous facade.

The Commission’s core goal is to preserve, protect, perpetuate, and manage wildlife in Idaho, which it deems to be property of the state. Citing this, Fischer at first attempted to defend his actions amidst the media firestorm. “I didn’t do anything illegal. I didn’t do anything unethical. I didn’t do anything immoral. Idaho’s Fish and Game statute says we’re supposed to manage all animals for Idaho, and any surplus of animals we have we manage through hunting, fishing and trapping. Africa does the same thing.”

Hunting organizations commonly advocate for hunting as a necessary method of population control that carries environmental benefits. Hunting, they argue, keeps balance in the ecosystem, and if populations go unchecked, animal disease and starvation will result. In Africa, culling has been used as a species management tool for elephants, lions, kangaroos, and deer, among others. However, many iconic African species targeted by trophy hunters are in steep decline.

Fischer’s logic doesn’t add up. His rationale is a murderous facade. Claiming that you hunt in order to cull species that are deemed overpopulated and then pose over the animal carcass with a shit-eating grin is a twisted way of acting out one’s care for the environment. The local people may need to hunt for survival. But trophy hunting is rooted in cruel perversion.

A petition was set up on the petition website change.org, and announced victory having acquired over 6000 signatures demanding Blake Fischer loses his job.


Fischer declined to comment when contacted by TOJ, but since resigning, he has publicly admitted his culpability, as reported in the Washington Post. “I recently made some poor judgments that resulted in sharing photos of a hunt in which I did not display an appropriate level of sportsmanship and respect for the animals I harvested,” Fischer wrote. “While these actions were out of character for me, I fully accept responsibility and feel it is best for the citizens of Idaho and sportsmen and women that I resign my post.”

 

Read next: Human Lives Are Not More Important Than Animal Lives

Captain Paul Watson, environmental activist and founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society explains interdependence of species and why a biocentric approach is what the world needs.

 

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Mountain

Nov 12, 2018

Crag Caucus: Veterans and Politicians Rock Climb Together with American Alpine Club

The “Hill to Crag” event series connects veterans and legislators on rock climbing excursions to advocate for public lands. AAC Chairman and active-duty US Army Major Byron Harvison serves the beta.

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WRITTEN BY

Kela Fetters

Since its creation in 1902, climbing advocacy non-profit the American Alpine Club (AAC) has championed protection for the public lands that serve as unrivaled outdoor venues for climbers and other recreators. Their latest outreach program, the “Hill to Crag” initiative, offers lawmakers and their staff a chance to experience these public lands at iconic climbing spots across the nation. The excursions provision local elected officials with a fun day in a harness, a few sore muscles, and a heightened appreciation for public lands to parlay into protective legislature.

Golden, CO. Photo: Chad Vaughn

After the inaugural event in spring 2018, AAC’s Salt Lake Chapter Chair Byron Harvison saw the potential for veterans to contribute. Harvison, an Army Major and experienced climber, felt that veteran involvement could engender open dialogue. Conversations regarding public lands management can be polarizing; Harvison thinks politicians will respond positively to the testimonial of veterans. “Elected officials may be more inclined to hear what veterans have to say,” he says. Likewise, “discharged veterans oftentimes have a desire to continue to serve and this is a great opportunity.”

Golden, CO. Photo: Chad Vaughn

Harvison explains the Hill to Crag stratagem. “First, we talk about outdoor recreation as a way to deal with veteran-specific issues like PTSD, addiction, and depression following deployment,” he extolls. These dialogues are personal and poignant. Harvison focused on rock climbing after an intense deployment in Afghanistan, and he isn’t the only veteran to credit outdoor recreation with healing. “A lot of guys can say ‘Hey, getting outside saved my life’, and they are able to share those raw stories with these legislators,” he adds.

Harvison knows politicians are beholden to monetary interests and thus explicates the value of outdoor recreation on the local and national economy: “Nationally, outdoor recreation has surpassed the oil and gas industry in economic terms.” A recent government report estimates that outdoor recreation contributes $412 billion annually to the US GDP, and Harvison recognizes the potential for the industry to throw its weight around. “We are finding our voice and coming to realize how loud that voice can be,” he explains.

The crux of Harvison’s discourse is the indispensability of public lands protection. “All of these things—the mental health benefits and thriving outdoor economy—hinge on the availability of public lands to recreate on,” he summarizes.

Photo by Byron Harvison from the Golden, CO Hill to Crag event on October 12, 2018.

Chalk it up to smart strategy, productive dialogue, or a bit of crag magic, but the Hill to Crag events have already made an impact. The inaugural excursion in May of 2018 was testimony to the power of storytelling as pedagogy. Members of the AAC and climbing advocacy group the Access Fund brought Utah Congressman John Curtis to rock climbing mecca Joe’s Valley Boulders in Emery County, UT. Harvison explained to the lawmaker that “each climber contributes around $58 per night to the local economy of nearby Castle Dale.” Castle Dale, a tiny town of 3,500, hosts 19,000-25,000 climbers annually from around the world who are drawn to the area’s intricate sandstone boulders. Emery County faces the economic stagnation typical of a declining coal-mining community, but recreational tourism has considerable potential. “Climbing is a sustainable resource,” Harvison enthuses. “We were able to show Curtis the national and international appeal of our public lands.” In July of this year, Curtis proposed the Emery County Public Land Management Act, which would create a National Conservation Area out of the San Rafael Swell, designating over a half-million acres of the redrock desert parcel federally protected wilderness. The proposal juxtaposes nearly every piece of land-grab legislation to emerge from Utah in the past year and wagers on the economic potential of recreational tourism. Curtis’s proposition, on the heels of a Hill to Crag event, is radical in its embrace of public access instead of for-profit enterprise.

Photo by Dillon Parker from the Vedauwoo Recreation Area, WY Hill to Crag event on October 19, 2018.

Perhaps the AAC recognized the aptitude of rock climbing as a metaphor for public lands access when they launched the Hill to Crag program. Central to both climbing and public lands advocacy is an ethos of respect for natural resources and the responsible placing of protections, be them nuts and crams or legislature. The AAC will hold their final adventure of 2018 on November 16 in Chimney Rock State Park, North Carolina (pictured in cover photo). Harvison says that the program will launch spring events in Oregon and Montana and has plans for a route bolting clinic in Wyoming after a successful Hill to Crag climb in the state’s Vedauwoo Recreation Area last month. In concert with the Hill to Crag series, the American Alpine Club is also expanding veteran and active-duty military outreach with new discounted club membership options and targeted events.

Special thanks to US Army Major Byron Harvison, who was interviewed for this piece.

Cover photo by dconvertini via Flickr,

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