A phalanx of uniformed Division of Wildlife Resources officials lined the walls of the conference room at the agency's headquarters on North Temple this week, with Director Tim Provan standing at the podium to denounce a proposal by the Utah Wilderness Association that would create two wildlife preserves.
The point of the association's "Utah Wildlife Manifesto" was to allow the Uinta Mountain and City Creek Canyon to return to a more natural condition, without hunting and possibly without fishing.Establishing a preserve would "adversely affect the wildlife it is designed to protect," Provan said.
How so? asked one reporter. The director responded that a "no-management concept" takes away the opportunity of managing the wildlife.
He said, in effect, that humans affect wildlife, and that if you can't manage the wildlife, you can't resolve the impacts.
Provan pointed out that in the High Uintas, 70 lakes have been stocked with game fish for the past four decades. If they weren't planted, "they would return to a barren state," he said.
The statement is undoubtedly true. But man does not help nature by creating an artificial environment that is not self-sustaining.
Trout planted in high mountain lakes, which may freeze solid and are flooded every spring by impulses of icy snowmelt, must die out annually.
Where man interferes in the cycles of creation, by definition he disrupts natural systems. You don't help nature by dumping fish where they will die.
I have seen seafood restaurants in Japan where they lend you a fishing rod and let you catch your dinner from ponds on the premises. The ponds are densely packed with live fish.
That's not nature, that's an exploitation aquarium, and wildlife has no connection to it.
Provan conceded that society has changed, and he said the division wants to be attuned to it.
"We are actually working with some of the organizations - the non-consumptive organizations - in collecting biological data," he said.
I asked whether the division would admit that anti-hunting groups have any validity in their contention that some animal species should not be hunted.
He said he doesn't come from a point of view that "you have to either hunt or view wildlife . . . You can do both."
Provan added, "Let's not think of hunting or non-hunting. Let's think of wildlife as a resource in many ways."
In other words, no substantial concessions from the agency. No recognition of the legitimacy of a ban on hunting any wildlife species.
I don't view wildlife as a consumable resource. I think of animal species as independent life forms, and I respect life. Their integrity of purpose, their drives, innocence and beauty are things to cherish.
I am pro-life in the large sense. But I'm not offended that domestic animals must be slaughtered for food - nothing is more ordinary than that we consume flesh. We are omnivorous animals ourselves; our canine teeth prove it; our bodies require the nourishment of meat proteins. It's dangerous to go against the programming of our physical makeup.
Part of human nature, I suspect, is a hunting instinct. Some people have it more strongly than others. I have it only dimly, but I sense it is there.
Even our fat house cat, Fur Fur, who has never lived by her wits, will gnash her teeth and jerk her tail, standing on the rim of the kitchen sink and glaring out the window at visiting sparrows.
So it would be foolish to ban hunting altogether, for the psychological well-being of hunters if for no other purpose. Let 'em hunt ungulates through most of the state, if they must blast away at wild animals. Sadly, there are too many deer because there aren't enough predators left.
What the Wilderness Association proposed is that two places should win state protection as regions where animals can live without man's harassment.
Provan made the point that natural predators are lacking in both proposed preserves. Certainly, a canyon that extends to the Capitol Building is inappropriate for a healthy mountain lion population.
But if there aren't enough lions to keep the deer in check in the Uintas, it's because hunting has decimated our magnificent mountain cats. Let them alone and the lions will come back.
On June 5, California voters approved Proposition 117, which bans the hunting of mountain lions in that state. Such an initiative is overdue for Utah. At a minimum, lions, bears, bobcats and cranes should be covered.
It is time for the non-hunters to act.