Message from my friend, the ever-tireless Mike Frome

Portogram, January 2007: The chief warden’s warning I herewith open my first 2007 Portogram with sentiment and feeling. Or as my friend Tom Kovalicky wrote to me lately from Idaho: “I wish we were closer for a visit. Memories are good, but hugs are better.” I miss the hugs, but cherish connections and good words from friends and family afar. My cousin, Bernard Engel, sent this message to June and me from Buffalo, New York: I can think of no two people more active than you who contribute their efforts to the betterment of the world. Perhaps it is best to remember that all things pass -- good things unfortunately, but insanity such as we are witness to as well. Keep 'screaming' for change, Michael. The pendulum will return to equilibrium, thanks to voices like yours. The truth is that I don’t mean to scream. It’s no fun. Yet there are those times when it certainly seems right to. In fact, I’ve had a distinct reason lately to look back and reflect on a scream of long ago. In 1974, when I was younger and going strong with columns, articles and speeches here and there, I published a book, Battle for the Wilderness, under the auspices of the Wilderness Society. In a chapter on “Wild Animals, Wild Plants,” I wrote: “The wolves are gone, and other elements of the life community with them.” However, in a later edition (1997) I was able to note that a lot had become possible within one or two decades: that wolves had come home to Yellowstone and hopefully they would to other places as well. That was to the good; nobody argued with it. But then, a few pages later, I came to a passage that certainly made a difference in my life: Much of sport hunting has scant relevancy to primitive instincts or old traditions. It does little to instill a conservation conscience. Blasting polar bears from airplanes, hunting the Arabian oryx -- or deer -- from automobiles, trail bikes, or snowmobiles, tracking a quarry with walkie-talkie radios, killing for the sake of killing annihilate the hunt’s essential character. There can’t be much thrill to “the chase” when there is little chase. I continue to consider that statement right and reasonable. But in 1974 I was conservation editor of Field & Stream magazine and the editor there, Jack Samson, found these few lines quoted in another book, Man Kind? by Cleveland Amory, a successful author and classy fellow. Amory had started the Fund for Animals and went around delivering speeches about the rights of wild critters and the wrongs of killing them that made him the hunter’s favorite enemy. Samson was upset and fired me, with a pronouncement, “No one who is anti-hunting will remain on the masthead of Field & Stream as long as I am editor.” I believe my statement actually was pro-hunting, suggesting a standard of ethics, a call to true sportsmen and sportswomen to clean out their ranks. I think it fair to question whether hunting is valid or an anachronism in modern America. Hunting and trapping, after all, grew up with rural traditions and family farming, mostly now gone. Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell, big-game gurus of the Nineteenth Century, believed hunting was a sport for he-men, sound of body, firm of mind, self-reliant and capable of self-help in a crunch. There aren’t too many of those left either. Much of modern sport hunting tends to focus on the kill, even if takes off-road vehicles, dogs and portable phones to track and kill the prey. On the other hand, the attitude that fosters and encourages protection of wild nature is founded on principles of respect for life. Here in Wisconsin, where I now live, hunting, especially deer hunting, is an immensely popular activity. And yet a few weeks ago I read a startling report from Randy Stark, the chief warden of the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), warning that baiting and feeding – that is, setting out salt, corn, grain, fruit and vegetable materials -- have eroded the state’s hunting tradition, as well as the ethics of many hunters. It took courage and principle for Stark to say that, but then he spelled it out: * Violations linked to baiting represent the largest category of violations. * Baiting and feeding concentrate deer on private property, thus privatizing a public resource and violating the premise that wildlife belongs to everybody. * Baiting and feeding alter the natural movement and feeding patterns of deer. They provide winter feed where it did not exist, with herds too large for the habitat. * Disease is likely to spread at feeding sites. Concentration of deer has the potential to undermine DNR efforts to control chronic wasting disease (CWD). * Baiting and feeding create vulnerability for poaching at night with lights at feeding stations. They reduce opportunities for those who do not bait. They frustrate ethical hunters and result in their baiting in “self-defense.” They spawn unethical conduct and emotional conflict between armed people. * An over-reliance on baiting as a hunting method results in a generation of hunters who know no other way to hunt deer than sitting over a bait pile. Or as Warden Mike McKenzie, of Vilas County, said: “We are not carrying on the tradition or heritage by baiting. Baiting allows hunters to harvest deer, not actually to hunt them.” To sum it up, over the years I have known and worked with true-blue hunter-conservationists. This is their time in Wisconsin, or wherever they may be, to crusade for restoring a healthy, wild deer herd on a healthy, wild landscape. Now a few words about my new book, Heal the Earth, Heal the Soul: Collected Essays on Wilderness, Politics and the Media. What the book is really about is spelled out in the preface, as follows: The greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our minds and makes of all political and social life a mass illness. Without this housecleaning we cannot begin to see. Unless we see we cannot think. The purification must begin with the mass media. How? Thomas Merton, Confessions of a Guilty Bystander, 1966 He could not and would not prettify the scene. But he dignified it, with a conscientiousness and with standards that were unyielding and with a boundless confidence that if only sound values and solid information could be located in the confusion of events, the citizen reader would distinguish the right from the wrong and uphold the public good. Editorial in the New York Times January 1, l977 on the retirement of John B. Oakes as editor of the editorial page. Here is the table of contents: 1. In an age of enlightenment wildlife comes first and not last 6 2. An Indian hears the whispering of his soul 8 3. Haig-Brown’s heart was with the working stiffs 11 4. Panthers wanted – alive, back East where they belong 14 5. Must our campgrounds be outdoor slums? 20 6. Replacing old illusions with new realities 23 7. Portrait of a conserver: Horace Albright 29 8. A man of the parks: Newton B. Drury 34 9. A kind of special breed: Conrad L. Wirth 38 10. Amazonia is worth more in its natural state 45 11. The clock strikes twelve for John P. Saylor 47 12. Only the individualist succeeds 52 13. Regreening the national parks 57 14. A wilderness original: Bob Marshall 62 15. “Earth man”: Harvey Broome 63 16. Bitterrooter: Stewart Brandborg 74 17. “In wildness is the preservation of the world” 78 18. Afoul of lumber barons and politicians: Charles H. Stoddard 89 19. Heal the earth, heal the soul 91 20. Writer with a cause: Richard Neuberger 97 21. He dignified the scene: an obit for John Oakes 101 22. Reaffirming the writer’s role 103 23. Illusions of objectivity 108 24. Sacred space, sacred power 111 Postscript: Continuum Friends Ted Williams wrote the foreword and Dan Small the afterword. I will tell more about the book in future Portograms and on my website (click on below). For now, you can order a copy from: Bartram Books/Big MPG 811 East Vienna Avenue Milwaukee, WI 53212 (Phone 414-332-2900; Fax 414-332-3919; email: Inquire@BigMPG.com). The price is $19.95, plus $3 shipping. Read and enjoy! All best, all year, MICHAEL FROME MICHAEL FROME, Ph.D. mfrome@aol.com http://members2.authorsguild.net/mfrome/ PEACE NOW…"Hurt not the earth, neither the sea nor the trees." -- Revelation 2:10