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Chris Gill to Carter Smith
Chris Gill to Carter Smith
Chris Gill to Carter Smith
Chris Gill to Carter Smith
Chris Gill to Carter Smith
Chris Gill to Carter Smith
Chris Gill to Carter Smith
Chris Gill to Carter Smith
Chris Gill to Carter Smith
Chris Gill to Carter Smith
Chris Gill to Carter Smith
Chris Gill to Carter Smith
Chris Gill to Carter Smith
Chris Gill to Carter Smith
Chris Gill to Carter Smith
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Chris Gill to Carter Smith

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  • 1. February 4, 2010Mr. Carter Smith Via email and US MailExecutive DirectorTexas Parks & Wildlife4200 Smith School Rd.Austin, TX 78744Dear Carter:Thank you for your letter of December 8, 2009. The purpose of this response is todiscuss the Department’s elk policy with the request it be changed from extirpation tomanagement, as with our other indigenous species. I apologize in advance for askingyou to read a long letter but in my opinion the subject of Texas elk is complex andworthy of a complete discussion. I realize that you are recently arrived at theDepartment and not present when these policies were established. In expressingdisagreement I tried to be respectful to those who were. I hope you will accept thatintent as context for what follows.When I received and read the Management Plan for the Sierra Diablo WMA (the Plan),I was dismayed to read the following statements: “[The exotic species, elk] will belethally removed when encountered . . . populations will be controlled at thelowest numbers possible, with a goal of total elimination.”So I asked our field biologist, Misty Sumner, about it. We enjoy a close workingrelationship on many things including helping to fund her multi-year mule deer study.Misty says that on all properties in West Texas owned or managed by TPWD includingSierra Diablo WMA, Elephant Mountain WMA, Black Gap WMA, and Big Bend Ranch,one elk policy applies. Misty said I could quote her. It should not be construed that sheagrees with this letter. Mr. Mitch Lockwood, Big Game Program Director, basicallyconfirmed her comments in our conversation of January 29, 2010. He added, as if inmitigation, that the Department lacks funds to fully implement this policy: “Elk are shotwhenever ‘opportunistically’ encountered including from helicopters.”Texas Parks & Wildlife’s Mission is: “To manage and conserve the natural and culturalresources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunitiesfor the use of present and future generations. . . . In fulfilling our mission we will rely onsound science to guide conservation decisions . . .”Anti-elk and anti-sheep attitudes within the Department: For many years and until about1986, Mr. Charlie Winkler was the Big Game Director at the Department. Mr. Winklerstated over many years that it was proven that neither elk nor sheep could survive inWest Texas, both being creatures of the mountains. In 2001 I was advised by theDepartment’s elk expert in Austin against adding water for elk or sheep. In 2006, DavidHoldermann, the Wildlife Diversity Biologist based in Alpine, told me elk could not
  • 2. 2survive in our West Texas mountains, were barely hanging on and that the effort “is notworth the trouble.” He stated there had been no elk in the Sierra Diablos for at least10,000 years. Today, as the Plan states, sheep and elk have proven themselves tothrive in our habitats.As a result, justification for the anti-elk conclusion now rests on redefining “indigenous.”So many species have some group intent on their removal. Some Panhandle farmerswould eliminate pronghorn. Washington County dog hunters objected to whitetailreintroductions. A former owner of Circle shot all javelina. Someone in the SierraDiablos killed the last bighorn. Previous owners of Circle Ranch killed the last wolf inthe range. Some ranchers would remove elk, and bighorn, under the theory that theyconsume grass better used by cattle. Of course, many wildlife and environmentalactivists would take all cattle and domestics off our grasslands: see the Plan on this.Let’s not forget cougar, coyotes “varmints,” prairie dogs, hawks, eagles, venomoussnakes, etc. ad nauseam. Truly, there would be hardly anything left alive in our desertsif all these folks acted on their collective removal impulses. It is fair to say that for theDepartment, elk have for years been such a target.It is incorrect there were no elk in the Sierra Diablos until released by Circle Ranch.When our neighbor, Nelson Puett, put cow elk in a fenced enclosure, at least one free-ranging bull came to those cows.The elk shoot-on-sight policy will extirpate an indigenous animal from an area in which itoccurred naturally, based on a scientific conclusion that is wrong as matters of fact,science, scholarship, and logic. The Department will deny the public the opportunity tosee and hunt the iconic game animal of North America. This directly violates themission of TPWD and the philosophy guidelines to which it is pledged, quoted above.1. Fact: Texas Parks & Wildlife’s own literature says that these are native animals.The Department states that “elk once inhabited the plains region of the Western UnitedStates . . . and . . . because of human land use practices they have been forced intoyearlong habitation in mountains. Distribution: In Texas elk were once present only inthe Guadalupe Mountains.” And, as if for emphasis: “OTHER The only native elk inTexas were (1) in the southern part of the Guadalupe Mountains and (2) belonged tothe species Cervus Merriam’s, which has been extinct since the early 1900’s. (TPWD 6-2-2009, 3:55 pm)”I believe the website incorrectly identifies Merriam’s as a species instead of subspecies.Moreover, it is my understanding there is no proof of genetic distinction, let aloneconfirmed observation-based classification of the Merriam’s subspecies because thereare so few specimens.Leaving the above comment aside, the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) disagreeswith the representation. “Historically elk occurred in portions of West Texas but theextent and abundance in which they ranged is unknown.” (Dr. Louis Harveson DesertTracks fall/winter 2009.)
  • 3. 3Forensic paleo-biology is not my field nor am I trained as a researcher. But, my briefscan of the internet revealed the following: • Above is a cave painting of an elk “The Red Elk” in the lower Pecos. • Above is a cave painting of an elk at Meyers Springs, in Terrell County.
  • 4. 4 • Above is a cave painting of a “Monster Elk” in the Big Bend region of Texas. • Other cave paintings of elk are found in the Trans Pecos. • Early Spaniards and later Americans reported these animals to the south, the north, the east and the west. • Above is a painting by George Catlin, an early painter of the West. It is called, Elk and Buffalo Making Acquaintance, Texas, painted in around 1846 on the upper Brazos. The Brazos River is entirely within Texas. This painting is on display at the Smithsonian.
  • 5. 5 • Above is another painting by George Catlin, called Elk and Buffalo Grazing Among Prairie Flowers, Texas, 1848 in the Brazos River Valley. This painting is on display at the Smithsonian. • Catlin lived among the Wichita and Comanches on the Texas Panhandle Canadian, and reported “The women of the Camanchees (sic) . . . are always decently and comfortably clad, being covered generally with a gown or slip, that reaches from the chin quite down to the ancles (sic), made of deer or elk skins; often garnished very prettily, and ornamented with long fringes of elk’s teeth, which are fastened on them in rolls and more valued than any other ornament they can put upon them.” • Discussing the native Texans of the plains: the website on Native American groups in Texas under the section, “Native Texans of the plains,” states, “After the Native Texans obtained horses, they were able to hunt and kill the buffalo more efficiently. Some groups on the Texas plains also hunted elk, deer, antelope or rabbits. • The camp hunter for the Park’s Survey Expedition, in about 1851, reported shooting at a “stag,“ (elk) between Delaware Springs and Ft. Davis. • Dr. John Cunningham moved to Fannin County in 1867 and reported that “the elk and buffalo moved westward as man approached . . . and the blood thirsty savage . . . receded.” (Early Pioneer Days in Texas Chapter 10) • The University of Texas’ website on Waco Lake states that “historic records document the presence of elk (and) bison . . . “at the Bosque River sites below present-day Waco Lake. • The Long family and the Means family have found elk teeth in their yards near Van Horn.As shown by this superficial examination of the record, for hundreds, perhapsthousands of years, elk have been depicted, observed, hunted and their physicalremains found across Texas as well as the area of the Sierra Diablos.
  • 6. 62. Science: With utmost respect to the scientific staff at the Department, the idea asstated in the Plan that elk pose a “competition” threat to native species and the eco-systems of which they are part reflects a misunderstanding of the species, of naturalhistory, and, failure to consider that plants need animals as much as animals needplants. The Plan says repeatedly that reestablishment of biodiversity is a majorobjective. My understanding of the physiology, with which I recognize others maydisagree, is that restoring a diverse community of native plants will require the diversenative animal community that was present until recent human impact. Only this canproperly function with and promote diverse plants, soil life, as well as efficient water,mineral and sunlight cycles. Pronghorn, elk, bighorn, deer and bison are the five nativeWest Texas animals. Sheep, mule deer, and pronghorn all have similar dietary habits interms of being highly selective, concentrate feeders. Generally speaking, they are notbulk consumers of grass. This leaves a huge unfilled niche in the form of this grassresource. Bison and elk are bulk consumers of grass. Grass plants require animalimpact. While grass plants in our deserts will die if improperly grazed, they will also dieif never grazed. Cattle are a substitute for bison of which they are close cousins.Exterminating elk and eliminating the bison substitute is neither natural, nor beneficial toplants, since plants and animals coevolved, and consequently need one another.This is not an argument against elk hunting: The mere presence of these animals doesnot insure that they will interact with the habitat in a desirable way. Hunting of allspecies is a necessity to control numbers and affect animal behavior. But this shouldbe done as part of an effort to manage populations across large areas, as withpronghorn and bighorn. “Lethal removal . . . with a goal of total elimination” is notspecies management: it is extermination. And all hunting on the WMA should be doneby the public, under Rules of Fair Chase.Another “proof” I have been given that elk are not indigenous is that they require freewater and that such permanent water did not exist prehistorically. This reflects a “set-stocking” perspective: this is a common misconception. Yes, elk require free water justlike bison, mule deer, desert bighorn sheep, and pronghorn. Water requirements for allthese overlap. Then as now, all moved around according to seasonal feed and water.Where and when water existed for one, it existed for all. Historically, free water wasmore abundant: we had flowing springs at Circle Ranch. As one can see from thehand-dug well at one, the water table today is 30 feet lower than in 1880. Europeanshad not yet settled at every spring. It is likely that many of these springs flowedseasonally: this would have forced the animals to move according to seasonal feed andwater. As on the High Plains, or the Serengeti, animals on what today is the WMA, andeverywhere else, would always have moved back and forth to such water.The Plan says water shortage is a reason to extirpate elk. In so doing, the Departmentis choosing one indigenous species over another. It could just as easily rationalizekilling all deer or pronghorn. Moreover, for years now, and predating the Plan, CircleRanch has offered to help extend permanent water to the WMA, and proposed ways tofund the effort (July 18, 2007, and June 4, 2008 letters attached). There has neverbeen even a discussion about doing this. The indirect response has been that the WMAhas “no interest” in water supplementation, as WMA water is “adequate.” I have neverbeen able to understand this. Water expansion along with planned grazing underpins
  • 7. 7our wildlife success at Circle. This would also work at the WMA. Like at Circle, therewould be no shortage of water for any species.In this day and age single species management is generally accepted as beingcounterproductive. We have come to understand that plants, animals and soil life areinterdependent. Animals and plants interact as communities, not as individual speciesco-existing with certain plants. Bighorn will best thrive as their habitat improves. Thishappens best as animal diversity is restored, with animal behavior and herbivory thatmimics nature.Exotics also targeted for elimination fill niches that once had native species whichbecame extinct as a result of human impact long ago. That is not an argument forAoudad: it is just a fact of our natural history that because of humans we are missing avast animal community including some creature like it. So often, this complexity ofnatural systems is not considered as these dangerously simplistic eradication schemesare pursued. Many times these have turned out to harm the animals they were meantto help, sometimes disastrously.Circle Ranch has the largest elk herd in the range, large and growing numbers of sheepand other species, and improving habitat. We manage species and plants asinterdependent communities. We have multiple the number of sheep as before elk,and, before we began our program of intensive, short-duration, low-frequency-long-recovery planned cattle grazing.Department staff informed me legislation declaring elk exotic “proves” they are notindigenous. It is perplexing that biologists and scientists of what is without questionAmerica’s foremost state wildlife department might justify the elimination of elk underthis rationale. Our legislature voted this animal “exotic” status to accommodate thewishes of a few West Texas ranchers for its extirpation, and elk ranchers, for freedomfrom regulation. In my opinion, that legislation, passed for two special interest groups,is meaningless as to the scientific question of whether elk are, or are not, an indigenousanimal. Neither does the vote compel their extirpation: that is an internally-adoptedDepartment policy which logically should conform to the Mission and Guidelines quotedon page 1. In fact, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation continues building support for policyand legislation that once again would identify elk as a species under TPWDmanagement and remove the term “exotic.” A growing number of landowners of theTrans Pecos see elk as a potentially important component of hunting opportunity andlandowner income (5. Economic Damage, page 8)3. Scholarship: Any curious student of this question, in a few hours spent on theinternet could find every citation contained in pages 2 - 5. Moreover, unlike myself, theDepartment has hundreds of employees trained in research techniques, budgets ofhundreds of millions and access to the vast and often restricted data bases and searchengines of academia.4. Logic: The Southwest Guadalupes are less than 20 miles from the Northeast SierraDiablos. The ranges are similar in many ways. We know from current research and
  • 8. 8observation that elk regularly move across larger distances. We know that they thrive indeserts and dry environments.The Department‘s elk website correctly observes that native elk herds were in constantmotion, choosing ranges seasonally. When Europeans arrived on this continent, elkwere the most widely distributed hoofed animal in North America. They wereeverywhere including the mountains. Lewis and Clark recorded over 500 entries onthese animals as the Corps of Discovery crossed mountains, deserts and plains. Elkwere often reported across Texas and, logically, these would not have been justMerriam’s, as the Department website says.Let us ignore the prehistoric and historic records of elk and ask ourselves the following:Why would there have been elk in the New Mexico Rio Grande, but not just downriver inTexas? Why would elk have been on the north bank of the Red River but not the southbank? Why would the Canadian River drainage have held elk in New Mexico, lost themacross the Texas Panhandle, only to recover elk in Oklahoma? Why would elk havebeen in the mountain ranges south of the Rio Grande but not north, across the river?Why would they have been in the American south, but not have crossed the Sabine?And why would elk have been in the southern Guadalupes but never, ever the northernDiablos 20 miles away?Like sheep, deer, cattle, bison and pronghorn, elk have proven that they thrive in ourmountains. The Plan says this. As the Department states, they do great, statewide,today. It is illogical to say they would not have thrived in the better habitat of long ago,in all the same places they do now, even if we ignore the extensive historic andprehistoric record that confirms this common sense conclusion.The logical explanation for low elk numbers in 1881 is human hunting. Elk, like bison,deer and pronghorn, are extremely vulnerable to firearms. The Eastern subspecies,originally the most numerous, was hunted to extinction by the early 1800’s. It took arelative handful of hunters only 25 years to virtually exterminate the vast bison herds, aswell as elk. The ancestors of Apaches and Comanches, on foot and with stoneweapons hunted the mammoths and 80% of the mega-faunal genera (Lord knows howmany species) to extinction in a short time. And for 200 years before 1881, Indians infar-West Texas and statewide had guns, horses and steel weapons. Because thiswould have reduced elk numbers in far-West Texas, 1881 snapshots used to reachconclusions about which species were indigenous are unreliable to the extent this fact isignored.Here is a final comment on logic: the Department finds a way to protect squirrels,gafftops and even exotic pheasant from China, while exterminating elk in a range 20miles from where it says they were indigenous.5. Economic damage: Elk are nomadic animals that move constantly through ourmountain ranges. According to the latest research by BRI, a typical bull covers 85,000acres. This confirms what we know from studies on the Jack Morrow Hills herd, thelargest desert elk herd in America: these animals are constantly moving, in ellipticalorbits perhaps three miles wide and 25 to 50 miles long. Sooner or later all the elk in
  • 9. 9the Sierra Diablos will be on the WMA, just as substantially all the sheep on the rangewill sometimes be found on Circle Ranch. Any indisputably-native elk moving from theGuadalupe herd into the Sierra Diablos and the WMA will be shot on sight. Because acircle with a radius of only 30 miles contains 1.8 million acres, it takes only one neighborin hundreds of thousands of acres with the Department’s mindset to extirpate thespecies from the entire range, especially if helicopters are used. In conjunction with thesame practices at Elephant Mountain, Black Gap, and Big Bend Ranch, elk numberswill be harmed across several millions of acres, not just land specifically held ormanaged by TPWD.The Department’s elk eradication policy assaults the economics and the land values ofthe ranches in the range and region, in addition to nullifying stated Departmentobjectives regarding protection of indigenous species, the restoration of their habitat,expansion of public hunting opportunities and making all decisions based on science.This fall we sold our first bull elk hunt for $10,000. That is the equivalent of 20 beefcalves. We have continued releases of small numbers of bred cows descended fromand bred back to B&C 550+ bulls. Free-ranging elk of this size, on the Apachereservations can go for over $150,000 per bull: twice a Desert Bighorn permit! We havethe opportunity to establish a free-ranging herd of the largest B&C scoring elk in theUnited States. Imagine the economic potential to our ranchers and the recreationalresource for the public. Imagine the resources to encourage and support progressivewildlife practices on private land.Circle Ranch, through in-kind auction gifts and specific solicitations has raised over$400,000 for organizations like Borderlands Research Institute, Texas Parks andWildlife Department Operation Game Thief, Quail Unlimited, Texas Bighorn Society,Texas Wildlife Association, Safari Club International, Coastal Conservation Association.All of these organizations use their funds in close cooperation with TPWD. Circle hasput in water improvements which, if done as on the WMA would have cost over $1million. We have spent $50,000 on elk reintroductions. Contemporaneously theDepartment has cost us no less than $50,000 in lost elk hunt sales, and our neighborsmultiples of that, using public money and funds raised in part by ourselves forhelicopters to achieve this “goal of total elimination” of that which was recognized as agame animal only a short time ago.Through a combination of misinformation and bad example, neighbors are told that elkare not indigenous, and, are harmful to pronghorn, mule deer and sheep. Landownersare advised that elk are an invader and pest. The Department advises by word andexample that these be removed, and, that in doing this anything goes. Those whomight disagree understandably conclude that the cow, calf or immature bull they mightspare will be shot anyway by the Department, or a neighbor following its advice andexample.While the economic consequences of blocking elk restoration affects every landownerto some degree, it falls mostly upon that far larger group of landowners who will neverget a sheep permit but could have elk hunting almost immediately.
  • 10. 106. Health: I am not sure from your letter if you realize that there has never been aCWD danger associated with the Circle elk release. Drawing an inference that such adanger justifies killing out elk is not supported by fact. At the time that we bought andreleased elk at Circle Ranch there were no importation health requirements.Nevertheless, we were extremely careful regarding health issues. We tested theanimals for tuberculosis, brucellosis and other diseases. We sourced them from aCWD-free herd. We established that the herd from which that herd had descended wasalso CWD-free. All this was explained to the Department, which had no rules of its own.The procedures we followed then are more stringent than the procedures that were putin place following our importation.It is appropriate to mention that CWD is a disease likely created and later spread bypolicies, or non-policies, of the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The cautionary lesson isthat wildlife agencies have sometimes done great harm to wildlife.7. Public Relations: While some people do not like elk, multiples more like themenormously. The shoot-on-sight policy of North America’s emblematic and mostcherished big-game animal, when understood by the public poses a serious imminentproblem for the Department. Relations with ranch owners, conservation groups,donors, the state legislature and the huge elk constituency within, and outside of Texaswill be harmed with consequences that are hard to predict.Alternatively, the Department could lead in the restoration of this magnificent nativeanimal. Elk hunting would provide new revenues to the Department, career opportunityto staff, badly-needed economic activity to West Texas communities, and increase landvalues. By setting a stewardship standard all could admire and follow, by leading,teaching and inspiring by example, the Department would demonstrate to a publicdeeply skeptical of government agencies that Texas is blessed with wildlife leadershipworthy of the public’s support, committed to the welfare of native animals, their habitat,and the expansion of hunting opportunities for the public; making all its decisions basedon sound science. Such a choice would be in the best interest of the Department, ofwildlife including Desert Bighorn sheep, and of current and future generations.For decades my family and I have been active supporters of the Department in itsefforts for fisheries, animals, habitat and the public. When I said to you that “If you cutme I bleed Parks and Wildlife green,” I was not exaggerating. And therefore I want toprotect Texas elk in a way that does not harm the Department. That is why I havewritten you this letter. I can’t believe this ill-advised policy will survive thoughtful review.Again Carter, I appreciate very much your forwarding the Plan. This conversation is latein coming: as you can see from the enclosed letter, I originally requested this on June4, 2008. About eight months later, I asked the assistant WMA manager why it had notbeen sent and was told no written plan existed. The Plan states that the WMA will“schedule contact with Sierra Diablo landowners for review of management activities.”Now that I have learned of the Department’s elk eradication policy and so that I canunderstand how this plan fits with the other Department areas, may I please receive theManagement Plan for Elephant Mountain, Black Gap, and Big Bend Ranch? How many
  • 11. 11elk have been shot on these other areas? How many have been killed fromhelicopters? Is this also happening at Big Bend National Park and how many havebeen killed there?In drafting this letter I have tried to disagree without being disagreeable. I have tried toexpress my thinking in terms of logic, fact and science and above all in a manner that iscourteous towards you personally and the Department as an institution. If I have failedto do so then I hope you will forgive this inability to express myself as I would like: thefault of being unable to convey my thinking is mine not the reader’s. I apologize for anysuch deficiency and ask that you consider my thoughts anyway.I will be pleased to receive an answer of any length, at your convenience, but there isone question that is central: is the WMA “Lethal removal . . . with a goal of totalelimination . . . ” policy at Sierra Diablo and elsewhere the on-going policy? Could youplease give me an early answer to this first question?Your, and the Department’s friend, sincerely,Christopher GillCG:spEnclosures: Christopher Gill to Michael Pittman, July 18, 2007, pp. 12-13 Christopher Gill to Michael Pittman, June 4, 2008, pp. 14-15
  • 12. 12July 18, 2007Michael T. PittmanTrans-Pecos Wildlife Management Area ProjectSierra Diablo Wildlife Management Area109 South CockrellAlpine, Texas 79830Dear Mike:It was a pleasure visiting with you on July 16th regarding the possibility of collaborative effortsbetween ourselves and the WMA. We have previously offered SDWMA water extensions out ofour mountain area, into the south part of the WMA. We recently commissioned a water surveyfor Circle Ranch. To our surprise, we are said to be sitting on 21,000-acre feet of water, 7.5billion gallons. According to the report, about half of that is in the north part of the ranch andclose to the WMA. If our hydrologist is right, we can drill virtually as many 20-50 gallon-a-minute wells as we want up there, and do so along power lines. I am thinking that this couldallow us to create a well and pump station for the purpose of supplying the northern portions ofthe WMA.If confirmed by drilling, the development of these northern and southern water projects shouldmean that there is no longer any reason for to think in terms of permanent water shortages at theWMA. A water development program might allow planned grazing on part or all of the WMA.I understand planned grazing to have been very effective at Elephant Mountain. For us at Circle,especially, in our prime deer, sheep and elk habitat in the mountains in the southeast corner ofthe ranch, results from planned grazing are remarkable.With respect to funding of the water project, I have offered David Wetzel mule deer hunts to beauctioned at the TBS annual event. We just sold a mule deer hunt at the TWA auction for$11,500. This could be seed money: our part of cost sharing for wells and water, if we could getsuch people as the NRCS or US Fish & Wildlife or others interested. Water for bighorn sheepand their public-owned habitat would seem to be a no-brainer, given adequate forethought andsound planning, and the “co-sponsorship” of the Department.In summary, Circle Ranch would like to once again offer to help, and participate, in acollaborative effort in wildlife management and planned grazing of our respective properties. Ibelieve this would be an excellent thing for the WMA. Parks & Wildlife, by following its ownoften-proffered advice in favor of water development, planned grazing and cooperative effortsbetween landowners, would lead by example and thereby inspire other landowners to do thesame. Who knows: maybe we could get Jeff Bezos involved and have 500,000 or more acresunder a unified wildlife effort. This would offset some of the fragmentation in our area thatwe’re all so concerned about.
  • 13. 13July 18, 2007Page TwoRoad Seminar: We are putting on a road seminar September 20-22. I hope you and otherdepartment members will attend this. We have the well-known teacher in erosion control, BillZeedyk (who is also a mountain turkey expert), coming out to demonstrate ways that we canmodify our substandard roads to harvest water back onto, and reestablish sheet flows across, thepastures through which these roads pass. Zeedyk is to desert erosion control what Allan Savoryis to planned grazing: the most recognized individual in the field. Our draft letters on this subjectare included along with the water report.Please save those September 20-22 dates, and maybe just before those you and I could visit theWMA and strategize water and grazing projects. We might get Bill Zeedyk to go up there withus and give us his thoughts.Sincerely,Christopher GillCG:spcc: Ruben Cantu David WetzelEnclosures: Road Seminar letters Road Seminar Flyer Water Report
  • 14. 14June 4, 2008Michael T. PittmanTrans-Pecos Wildlife Management Area ProjectSierra Diablo Wildlife Management Area109 South CockrellAlpine, Texas 79830Dear Mike:Wayne Zachary forwarded to me your email and comments on water shortages, aoudad, elk,lamas, etc. When I read those, I recalled that you had asked me for a copy of our Circle RanchStrategic Plan. It is enclosed herewith; please forgive my forgetfulness. The Plan sets forth ourobjectives, practices, and thinking. As we have demonstrated these are working very well. Iassume there is a management plan in place for the Sierra Diablo Wildlife Management Area.May I have a copy of this? I am interested to see what steps you are taking to restore habitat atthe WMA, and its ability to support larger numbers of animals, and, the rationales that underliethese practices.If there is one thing that desert range scientists have proven over the last 75 years it is thatdestocking does not restore perennial desert grasslands. An excellent example is Big Bend Park.The most important insight of holistic planned grazing, which explains why this is so, concernsthe damage caused by over-rest. Total and partial rest are the very best means of restoringhabitat in relatively moist environments, but are lethal to perennial desert grasslands. Under-standing why this is so, and fashioning practices to avoid over-rest while also eliminating over-grazing, is the most important single step that practitioners must embrace and is at the heart ofcutting-edge range science worldwide. Practices which seem intuitively obvious when viewedthrough the prism of over-grazing alone, like depopulating animal communities, are revealed asobviously wrong when we seek to eliminate over-rest while avoiding over-grazing.Parks & Wildlife routinely recommends to West Texas landowners that we act collaboratively inour grazing and our wildlife management practices to counteract fragmentation. As theDepartment so often observes, our wild species cannot be managed over 30,000 acres, to saynothing of only 10,000. Circle Ranch wishes to take the Department’s advice, and to actcollaboratively with the Sierra Diablo Wildlife Management Area. We have offered tocollaborate with the WMA on water extensions and planned grazing. That offer stands. If wecan collaborate on our habitat and wildlife practices in ways that address over-grazing and over-resting, then over time, and leading by example, we can persuade others to join the effort.I have no doubt that some of our practices are mistaken. A wise man observed that it is not whatyou don’t know that gets you in trouble, but rather, what you know that is wrong. Holisticmanagers assume they are wrong and constantly reassess their practices to identify and address
  • 15. 15June 4, 2008Page Twotheir mistakes. We are open to changing our range and wildlife practices provided changes reston the best range science: (1) A complete natural history. (2) Holistic principles includingrecognition of the symbiotic nature of plant, animal, and micro-organic communities; and theinterconnections between these and water, mineral and sunlight cycles. (3) A commitment tofollow the best science even when doing so conflicts with deeply-held beliefs and dogma. If weare willing to approach our differences within this framework there is no question we cansynthesize better practices than either of us are following now. This would be of immense valueto the community, and is absolutely necessary if we are to achieve our shared objective to protectwildlife and restore its habitats.I look forward to getting your plan, and response.Sincerely,Christopher GillCG:spEnclosure: Circle Ranch Strategic Plancc: Ruben Cantu Wayne Zachary (Circle Ranch Strategic Plan) Louis Harveson

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