As I have mentioned before, the buy in of ranchers, farmers and other large land owners is key to the success of this endeavor. But they also stand to enjoy many of the benefits.
The Quiet Life
Its true though that a fair number of the ranchers and land owners of RAW will prefer quiet private lives on their ranches and remote cabins far from the crowds at the gateway communities, visitor centers, and lodges. There will be lots of wilderness out there. Many of us will just be happy with our income from the grazing lease payments and we will chose to not become much more involved.
Hunting and Gathering
As our land is restored to a wild ecosystem for the wild herds many of us will probably take more time for hunting and gathering. Mule Deer, Elk, pronghorn and ground bird numbers will increase dramatically, as will wild edibles. It will be income with no effort supporting our wild, private, remote lifestyles with our families. We will live out there in a wilderness of titans. What a trip it will be to watch them wandering by.
Home and Family on the Ranch
I think most families will chose to live in extended family ranches and compounds. There will be plenty of income opportunities on the ranch or in town so there will be work and livelihoods available for all members of the extended family. These ranches will, to some extent, need to be secured. Some effort will need to be made to keep the largest predators from getting to our horses and the largest herbivores, like mammoths, from wandering through our front yards and eating our trees.
Patrolling and Monitoring
Of course there will be some need for our lands to be patrolled and monitored, to keep track of the wildlife, their numbers, the level of predation, the quality of the forage, and to protect the animals from poachers, and to keep them on RAW lands. Land owners could leave that to the RAW to take care of on their land or they could earn extra income by patrolling and monitoring their own land themselves. It would be best if the land owner would do it themselves, of course, since they know their land better than anyone. Of course, you would need to go out armed and RAW would provide training, protective gear, and monitoring equipment. Depending on your land, your level of fitness, your technological ability or preference, you could patrol by foot, horseback, ATV, jeep, drone, or monitoring cameras. You and your family, and/or your ranch hands could be out on your wild land all the time, enjoying the wild life, and you would be paid to do it.
A lot of the land owned by land owners would need to be ecologically restored in order to prepare it to be perfect forage for the wild herds. Land owners could leave the restoration of their land to RAW to take care of. RAW would provide the funding, the expertise, the labor, and the seed, etc. However, if RAW provides all this then it would continue to provide only basic grazing lease payments to the land owners. This means leases payments based on the assumption that the land owner is only providing low quality forage. RAW would develop guidelines on what the habitats need to look like, and how they will be rated from poor, good and excellent habitat. The grazing lease payments that land owners receive from RAW will be dependent on this rating. And if it is RAW’s effort and financing that improves this forage from one level to the next then the land owner will not see an increase in the grazing lease payments.
However, it would be preferable for the land owners to do their own ecological restoration, after all it is their land and it would be important for land owners to know something about what constitutes quality wild forage, whether they decide to do the formal monitoring on their land or not. So land owners may want to invest in upgrading their habitat to high quality so that they can earn top grazing lease payments. This would be a good use for part of the income ranchers and farmers receive from selling their cattle and their ranching and farming infrastructure and equipment.
Besides being close to the land, the wild land, is an important part of the wild lifestyle. Many ranchers and land owners will find the highly diverse prairie and other habitats of the Wild West, wonderfully complex and fascinating, much more than the simple universe of pasture grasses and domestic animal breeds. And the process of restoring this habitat will take years and keep the rancher or land owner out on his land, under the big sky, stretching his or her mind down deep into this land, coming to learn how soil is formed, the fundamentals of soil biology, the efficiency of converting solar energy into grasses and forbs, the importance of pollinators and the intricate web of life, a profitable one, that will come back to his land through his efforts. For anyone who finds this vision more appealing than industrial farming and ranching than Thunder Wilds is for you.
Breeding and Reintroduction Programs
Many ranchers like breeding and raising animals and for many many years RAW will be in the intensive animal breeding business. Now RAW could do this work itself from some central breeding ranch but it would be better for ranchers to do a lot of this work themselves, on their own land, with RAW’s technical assistance. After all many ranchers are already animal breeding experts, and they would be paid for their efforts.
One of the key things that many Pleistocene animals exhibited was increased size. One important reason for this was probably to better resist predation by large predators, or to be better able to prey on large herbivores. Many of these animals exist today as smaller versions of these previously large but now extinct subspecies. So, breeding larger animals would be key part of RAW and its member ranchers.
RAW would need to breed larger bison, beaver, wolves, camels, lions, and cheetahs, that were basically just larger versions of the present day species which would serve as proxies for the extinct species. RAW would also probably breed brown bears to make a breed of bears that looks like and acts like the big extinct short faced bears. It might do the same with the giant stag elks. RAW would even bring in and breed African Elephants initially to serve as proxies for the Colombian Mammoths. All of these animals could then serve as surrogate mothers for breeding the actual original extinct animals, once deextinction technology reaches that point.
RAW ranchers could be on the forefront for breeding and reintroducing all these wonderful animals and many others. A wonderful outdoor animal husbandry based lifestyle and livelihood that so many ranchers love, and which would be much more interesting than just raising generation after generation of cattle.
Using the new tools that technology provides will be an important part of RAWs success. Much of this technology will be used and manipulated at RAW Headquarters or regional RAW offices by trained experts. However, Thunder Wilds will be a very big place and ranchers and other large land owners could be paid to help with the effort on their land by gathering and ground-truthing GIS information, installing, monitoring and maintaining remote sensors, and by piloting small wildlife monitoring drones from their ranch offices, and by regularly uploading monitoring information, among many other important data points.
The growing wild herds will need to move or be moved to follow the rains, the forage, and to migrate north to south or up or down elevations as the season change. To start with, and maybe for a number of generations, the new animals will need to be driven until they start to learn the land and weather for themselves. Besides the moving herds of very expensive and rare animals will need to be monitored on migration, predation will have to be managed on site, and they will need to be protected from poachers. Moreover, the herds, not knowing as much as we do about where the forage is best, will benefit immeasurably from our bird’s eye view of the landscape. Basically, for much of the year, the vast herds will be on the move and RAW ranchers would be the first and best labor force to look to provide these services, when that herds cross their lands and they will be paid for it. These aren’t cattle drives of course so I’m calling them titan drives. But there is no reason by the titan drivers need to only drive the titans on their land. Thunder Wilds will be vast and many land owners will have no interest in following the herds for hundreds of miles and weeks or months at a time. Those that do have an interest will have ample opportunities. It will be life in the saddle, life on the prairie, life on the move, all over again.
This brings up a good point. Although land owners of RAW would be initially focused on their own land, those that show themselves to be good at and interested in any of the above would certainly not need to only focus on their own land. There will be plenty of RAW landowners that have no interest in, or talent for, any of the above, leaving plenty of room for RAW to contact the land owners who do work well beyond the borders of their own land to patrol, monitor, restore, breed, reintroduce and use technology across the wider landscape. This will minimize the number of staff that RAW will have to hire and employ.
Towns and businesses, small and large, in the rural wild west will of course benefit from supporting all this operational work on behave of RAW and its landowners.
This will be the area where towns and businesses large and small within or near Thunder Wilds will benefit the most. There will be the needs and recreational interests of millions of tourists to see to, both in town and out in the park. Some land owners will also be interested in transforming their ranches into resorts, tourist attractions or hunting lodges.
Land owners and business men and women, if they choose, could develop all kinds of tourism related businesses from outfitters, hotels, Bed and Breakfasts, restaurants, shops, art galleries, etc. People would come all over the world to experience the park through safaris, photo safaris, hiking, backpacking, wilderness adventures, areal tours, big game hunting, and sports fishing.
The rivers once restored and cleared of dams would allow migration of big game fish and other important aquatic wildlife into the Park, for the benefit of big game fishermen and mega fauna predators.