We Want Something Different!

Thunder Wilds is my Pleistocene Rewilding vision to bring back the American Wild West and restore a people bred for a life of raw, rugged independence. I want to revitalize small western towns to allow the kids and grandkids, who had to move away so that they could make a living, to move back home where their parents and grandparents grew up living the wilderness lifestyle. I want to bring back the wilderness itself, especially the awesome beasts, vast prairies, lush wetlands, and tall forests in their incredible abundance and diversity that was the foundation of this amazing place and people.

I want to see rural lifestyles on the Great Plains, in the Rockies, and on the Rocky Mountain Front, transformed back into something that we, who have a zest for courageous living, wild country, and outdoor adventures, crave. We want to win our living from the untamed richness of the fierce frontier as opposed to a tamer lifestyle. We want to win our living using our strength, courage and intelligence. We want to win our living through the strength of family bonds and small town community forged from true inter-reliance, shared lives, and values. We don’t want the sedentary lifestyle of the urban or suburban world.

Or, for those of us who still ranch, do we really need to make our living by trying to domesticate the land that we would rather have wild?  Would we rather go through all the work to raise cattle or wheat on an industrial scale when we could hunt elk, pronghorn, or mule deer, fish for trout, or gather wild edibles in the wilderness?

Is there any way that we can win our living, a better living, by letting the western wilderness return to the amazing, and awesome place that it once was; the place that attracted our ancestors in the first place; a place for untamed, unregimented, and courageous people, strong families, and close communities?

What do I know? I may be only 17 but I know what I want.

It is a fact that 81% of the American population lives in the urbanized world, surrounded by strangers. The overwhelming majority of them are out of touch with any form of nature. After the Northridge earthquake knocked out power in Los Angeles in 1994, many residents called 911 in alarm to report the “strange, silvery cloud overhead”. It was the Milky Way. Millions of people sit in traffic jams, eat animals grown in feedlots and confined factories and industrially grown produce, while their kids go to mega-schools, with their problems of drugs and gangs.

I don’t want that.  We don’t want that.  We want something totally different.

Something Totally Different

What does a 17 year old know, right?  Well, know I don’t want a tame life.  I want something different.  I want to win my living from the wilderness frontier.

But I also know that there are a lot of people like me.  We would rather live a wild life than a tame one.  Even in rural western life, many of us would rather win our living from the wild than make our living from cattle operations or farming operations, especially if the wilderness living paid as good or better.


Finally, I also know that the current tame ranching and farming lifestyle doesn’t seem to be working. Most small western towns are shrinking. Many kids and grandkids can’t stay where they grew up in a small town or on the ranch and still make a living. The farm or ranch operation just doesn’t make enough. The margin is just too small, the work is too hard. Families are breaking up because young people need to leave their parents and grandparents behind on the farm or ranch. Their parents and grandparents are left to live the very last vestige of a dying lifestyle, a lifestyle that was once wild.

The intrepid pioneers headed to the wilderness they yearned for and they and their descendants ended up taming the very wilderness that attracted them. Is there a way to turn all this around? Is there a way to win our living by bringing back the wilderness rather than from just continuing the taming, that doesn’t pay enough anyway?

Well, I for one have an idea and I’m going to push for it. We know that before man came on the scene vast herds of animals roamed the Wild West. Many of them were massive beasts and the land supported a huge level of biomass.  Now, I mean really before man, before any humans came on the scene at all.  Yes, during the Pleistocene Era.

So, if we had vast wild herds of large animals wouldn’t that be just as good as our current herds of cattle, only better? After all, we wouldn’t need to do all the work and spend all the money necessary to raise cattle. We would just go hunting instead. And hunting some wild, massive beast is a lot more fun than raising cattle.

But instead of just herding cattle from one end of my ranch to the other I would want to help guide this wild and diverse herd to fresh pasture all the way up and down the middle of the United States. We would follow the rain and we would be on a drive lasting months a couple of times a year. In fact, the drive would never end and we would need to take turns. Okay, so if I could chose between this life in the wilderness or my X-box, it wouldn’t even be close. Give me my horse and six-shooter and the X-box goes in the trash.

Actually, it would really be an amazing adventure. We wouldn’t just be herding and hunting cattle here.  Nope, it would be bison, elk, pronghorn, and mustangs and who knows what.  There were even mammoths and giant camels on the Great Plains back then.  We don’t have this kind of mega fauna now but we could use proxies, you know, other species of elephants and camels that would fill the same ecological niche, like the mustangs would fill in for the species of ancient horses that used to roam here. And scientists are now saying that it won’t be long before we can bring back the mammoths and mastodons. Its a wilderness dream come true, for the true wild at heart who hunger for courageous living like me.

And if that is not exciting enough, wait, what else is following these huge herds?  It’s not just us human predators?  Oh yeah, what about all those awesome, ancient predators that helped keep the herds strong? Yes! I get to follow the herds, the predator that I am, with these other predators, too. We would be like a brotherhood of the wolf!

Imagine winning your living by being part of a savage wilderness where you compete with the wolf, the mountain lion, and black bears. Not exciting enough? Nope. We would have grizzly bears serving as proxies for short faced bears, African Lions and cheetahs serving as proxies for the American equivalents that used to be here. And yes, scientists think that they can someday bring back the saber-toothed tigers, and maybe even giant ground sloths.

“What!  Bring back the predators our ancestors tried so hard to eliminate?” the typical rancher might cry.

Yes, I say.  Bring back the wilderness.  Get rid of the cattle and other livestock that we are trying so hard to figure out how to grow for the fewest dollars possible.  I say bring back the wild herds, and bring back their predators. Hey, if you don’t have any cattle what do you care if the lions are hunting something wild, something that evolved more millions of years to out fight or outrun them most of the time anyway? Sure we are the apex predator now, but it’s more fun with some competition and some company. Come on, most of the game today is too small to be exciting. Bring back the Pleistocene and we could occasionally even hunt some of the formidable predators, in addition to the magnificent herbivores. Of course, they might hunt us too.  But that is the way it should be and it would be Awesome to hunt in the Wild West of the Pleistocene era!5099016_orig

  1. Jennifer Spikner

    Way to go, Leif! Sounds like a great idea to me…I would just a little guidance on how to deal with the predators!

  2. Matthew Kragon

    What a fascinating solution to a big part of the controversy around Pleistocene Rewilding. Typical advocates for environmental restoration argue that using funds to pursue Pleistocene Rewilding would be an expensive uncertain experiment that would take these scare funds from other typical, certain, and urgent habitat restoration projects designed to prevent extinctions of today’s threatened and endangered species. They also argue that any attempts to create such an ecosystem would raise a storm of opposition from ranchers who don’t want predators anywhere near their cattle, and from everyone on the right who is opposed to government land acquisitions, and the new taxation that is usually required to pay for ambitious projects like this one.

    But here we see that this young man’s ideas are right down the middle where everybody wins. Leif’s vision puts the ranchers in the driver’s seat, solves the cattle/predator problem, keeps all lands in the rancher’s hands, and only comes to fruition if ranchers decide that they want to lead the charge in a situation where they would be the biggest financial beneficiaries. Not only that but government is left almost completely out of the project, no new taxation. Moreover, it brings the ranchers’ investment to pay for Pleistocene Ecosystem restoration, not other scare habitat restoration dollars. Finally, these huge restored Pleistocene habitats would also be exactly what today’s threatened and endangered species need. Wow, even the hunters and the environmentalists would be happy with this much environmental restoration and this much new hunting! Everybody else in the region would win too with the enormous positive economic impact Thunder Wilds would have.

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