Consider a single sentence that appeared on several news blogs yesterday:
“Meat from 69 elk killed at Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Medora will be donated to Sportsmen Against Hunger through the North Dakota Community Action Partnership for distribution through food pantries.”
There are several issues worth dissecting in just that one sentence—all of which affect the politics surrounding everything from the fiscal cliff to the farm bill to animal rights to climate change to the national economy to concerns about hunger in America.
Is that enough for five minutes of musing?
Let’s get started.
First of all, consider the elk themselves. Quick story. Many years ago, I spent the winter working as a tree planter (now known as a “reforestation specialist”) on Siuslaw National Forest timberland in western Oregon. For those who’ve never visited that area of the West Coast, the forest is an incredible mix of dramatic ocean vistas, soaring old-growth Douglas fir and blue spruce—trees that supplied the materials for Howard Hughes’ famous Spruce Goose airplane, by the way—and the sandy hills of the Oregon Dunes that stretch for miles along the coastline.
But much of the Siuslaw consists of endless rainforest, with months of relentless precipitation each year that produces not only tall trees but impenetrable brush that required us lowly tree planters to literally hack our way through the units the way those great white explorers in the old Tarzan movies slashed through the (fake) jungle to escape the cannibals.
One morning, our crew stood huddled in the pre-dawn darkness at the bottom of a recently logged-off area, waiting to begin eight hours of battling waist-high brush so thick your feet rarely touched the ground. As people stood talking and laughing, we suddenly heard a snort right behind us.
We all turned around, and within seconds an entire herd of elk, maybe 30 or 40 animals, suddenly surged past us, so smoothly, effortlessly, noiselessly that if we hadn’t been standing close enough to touch one of them as they flew past, we’d wouldn’t have had a clue they were there.
Keep in mind these are 700-lb. animals standing six feet tall—not counting their antlers—yet they stood within a couple yards of 20 guys without a single one of us realizing it. Their adaptation to their environment, in this case, a steep coastal mountain range covered with dense undergrowth, is simply incredible.