After the Great Debacle
After the “Great Debacle,” the “Settlement That Ate Mammoth,” whatever you want to call it, both George Shirk, editor of the Mammoth Times and Jack Lunch, publisher of The Sheet, wrote articles about that settlement. George, a thoughtful individual and nice guy, opined that now the litigation was settled, we should put it behind us, and move on. An end to the finger-pointing is a good thing, he said, the blame game and negative thinking, it’s counterproductive and won’t get us anywhere! Jack Lunch, on the other hand, suggested that perhaps a little “oops” on the part of the Council might have been helpful; after all, he wrote, 13 people are going to lose their jobs, the Whitmore Park and Pool will be closed, etc.
Well, notwithstanding that George is an intelligent and well-intentioned individual, I think I have to give Lunch the nod on this one, except maybe he didn’t go far enough. Is finger-pointing and blame gaming helpful? Maybe not. But, on the other hand, Mammoth Lakes has just suffered a stunning cataclysm that will not be resolved for decades. A child born today will have graduated from college, and will have time to get married and have his/her own children before this $2 million per year debt is paid off. It is entirely likely that many more than 13 people will lose their jobs, but even if it is no more than that, these 13 people are not perpetrators of this disaster, they are the innocent bystanders who had nothing to do with it. “Why don’t the people responsible lose their jobs instead of us”, they ask? Not an unreasonable question. Well, part of the answer is that we don’t know for sure who is responsible; as Lunch pointed out, no civic servant has come forward and said, “Mea culpa, I was in charge, I made the decision, it was my fault, I really am sorry.” Nor has any civic organization or group been empanelled to affix blame or determine responsibility.
Giving credit where credit is due, at least Rick Wood had the fortitude to allow that the question was, in fact, on the table. But why is it important to ask the question? Well, the first, and perhaps most significant answer is because if we don’t affix blame, we almost guarantee that it will happen again. Those who don’t learn the lessons of history, the saying goes, are sure to repeat it. In Mammoth’s case, this is not unfamiliar ground. Previously, the Town went to war with Andrea Lawrence over Redevelopment. The outcome: Andrea won, the Town paid its own attorneys $5 million or so for their losing effort, and the Court required the Town to pay a similar sum to Andrea’s lawyers. $10 million down the drain with no civic benefit, and no responsibility for this disaster was ever fixed. To no one’s surprise, here we are again; history, sadly, repeats itself. Perhaps this time we should look closer. After all, one more of these terrific settlements and there won’t be any town left to point fingers over.
Get off that high horse
Regarding the Mammoth Lakes Bear Cubs who lost their mother and Andy Geisel’s cover story in last week’s (Sept. 29) issue:
Warden Will Witzel of the California Dept. of Fish & Game works in the Law Enforcement Division.
Which means he enforces the law, it does not mean he is an authority on the biology, and behavioral assessment of the Black Bear. He is a game warden. He certainly can make assumptions about how old the cubs of the dead sow are and how much they weigh but his assumptions are not any more valid than Steve Searles, who has been working with the Mammoth Bears for more than 20 years, has studied these bears on a daily basis when they are not in hibernation, knows how many bears call the area around Mammoth Lakes home, knows where they hibernate and has become an expert in his own right by his observations, independent study and love of this species much like Diane Fossey became an expert and a protector of the Mountain Gorilla in Uganda. We need to remember that expertise is garnered by experiential knowledge and observation as well as by study in the academic institutions; that there is usually more than one way to achieve expertise as evidenced by such people as John Muir and James Audubon, neither of which were lettered and weighed down by titles.
My point is this: Mr. Witzel should get off his rather high horse and come back to earth and work with the man who has done so much for the bears of Mammoth Lakes and has been hired as our “bear specialist.” Yes, Mr. Witzel you work for the hallowed halls of California Department of Fish & Game but you are not the end all of knowledge having to do with the Black Bear. Evidently, the F & G was worried that Mr. Witzel’s assessment might be wrong since they sent a F&G biologist two-days later to make another assessment on the cubs. Why does it not amaze me that this F&G employee also sided with Mr. Witzel?
Next I have to wonder at the dislike California Dept. of F & G seem to have toward state-licensed wildlife rehabilitation facilities as shown by the quote of Andrew Hughan, a Sacramento-based DFG information officer who is quoted as saying: “there is no reason to put the cubs in rehab, their chances of survival is “very good,” and putting an animal in rehab is a “bad thing.” Is Mr. Hughan speaking from personal experience, and how does he know the bears’ chances of survival are “very good?” and why is wildlife rehab a “bad thing?”
I would like to cite a February, 2011 article http://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/dfg-biologists-return-rehabbed-bear-cub-to-lassen-national-forest/ from the California Dept. of Fish & Game, stating that an orphaned “yearling” black bear cub was safely returned to its’ remote northern California home after it was found near death. The “yearling” cub spent 5 months at the same Lake Tahoe rehabilitation center, called Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, that Mr. Witzel and our Dept. of F&G seem to indicate as unnecessary and an inappropriate course of action and a “bad thing.”
By the way, the cub cited in the February 10, 2011 DFG article weighed 18 lbs. wghen he got to the Tahoe rehab center and left weighing 90 lbs.
Mr. Witzel made a bad decision, doesn’t want to work with Steve Searles and now is too arrogant to admit he is not an authority on the survival rate of yearling orphaned Black Bear cubs and that his own agency has a criteria on rehab for Black Bear cubs.
This criteria states that the cub must be clearly orphaned and in distress, as well as younger than 1 (one) year of age. These cubs are in distress, they just lost their best chance of survival their mother, they are younger than a year old, they are clearly orphaned and clearly distressed.
To say that these rehabilitation agencies are a “bad thing” is a cruel blow to the good work they have done in saving wildlife and returning it to the wild to live out the fulness of their lives. Many, many birds, mammals and reptiles have been treated, cared for and returned to their homes. The people who become wildlife rehabilitators take classes and depending on how in-depth they want to go with wildlife rehab, devote long hours to the care and feeding of their charges. We would not have the Whooping Crane if it were not for volunteers at the ICF (International Crane Foundation) caring, raising and showing how and where to migrate, for those young cranes.
To think that because animals have what we call “instinct” that they just have a blueprint for how to live is not true. Animals learn from their mother first of all and the young need to be shown. Young cranes learn the migration route from their parents and the “flock” and regarding hibernation, these young cubs would have learned from their mother the best location and the timing, where to find foods that would see them through the winter months. The mother was actively teaching them even as she died. Sure, there is a slim chance one of them might survive, but I doubt it. And why leave it to chance? I’m satisfied with Steve Searles’ assessment. He knows the Mammoth bears better than anyone else. He spends all his time studying these bears and has done so for more than 20 years, as opposed to Mr. Witzel or an F & G biologist, who comes from some other region or place and doesn’t spend 7 days a week working with these particular bears.
The rehab organization said they would take the cubs and care for them without any human imprinting and when the time came DFG could release them back into our forest where they belong. So tell me, DFG, what is the cost to you for allowing this? I say it is nothing, except someone’s ego is now involved.
Donna M. Willey