Words cannot express the feeling that came over me when it was my turn to speak at this momentous event. It was at 11:55am on Sunday June 29, 2014. The sun was shining and the entire park was full of many friends that I had met in Washington, DC last year and many new friends I had met the previous two days here at Yellowstone. I was standing right in front of the famous Arch Park where the first wolves were brought into Yellowstone back in 1995. I was simply awe struck.
I had arrived at the west entrance to the Park about 10:00pm the previous Thursday night. I had to take a short-cut through the northeast corner of the park to get to the north entrance where the event was to happen. Driving through Yellowstone at night is harrowing in that any kind of wildlife could simply come out of the woods right in front of you. That happened to me that night. I was sitting stopped behind a car in front of me and I looked out my driver's door window and standing there within 24″ of me was a huge bison. He was looking right at me. All I could see was his huge face. Yellowstone National Park BisonI could have reached out and touched him. "WOW" I said to myself, "Welcome to Yellowstone."
I stayed in my truck that night in the parking lot of the event. The next morning (Friday) I got up and drove around the park and the town of Gardiner and talked to quite a few people. I did not find anyone who did not simply love wolves. There were many businesses that had Bear Aware warning signs and sold bear repellent. We were in the 2Bit Saloon(yes that is its real name) and the girl behind the bar saw that we were there for the big wolf event. She brings over her phone and shows a picture she took of a rare white wolf that was within 5′ of her. She seemed proud that she got to take this picture and said she had no fear of wolves and sees them regularly.
Friday night there was a showing of Bob Landis' latest film She Wolf – the story of a famous female wolf that because of her strength and determination and the loss of her male became the leader of a famous pack. Unfortunately she was lured out of Yellowstone where was shot by a hunter. Bob Landis (the films' cinematographer) was there and during its showing narrated the film and told of his many experiences when shooting the footage from which this movie was made. Bob and I had quite conservation afterwards about the many joyous and horrific things he experienced when making the film.
Then Saturday morning came and the big event began. It was a beautiful day except for a short time during Louisa Willcox's speech when it became overcast and there were several loud claps of thunder and some far-away lightning. Below is a link to the list of the speakers and the organizations they're affiliated with. We all talked about the many complicated issues concerning wolves and their recovery in the wild and other related wildlife topics.
I have since become a member of the Jane Goodall Institute and am also a Group Leader Member of the "Roots and Shoots Network." This is the youth education portion of the JGI that educates the youth all around the world on the things they can do to make things better on earth for all humans, animals, and the environment. With this newfound endeavor, I plan to join the forces of the U.S. Wolf Refuge and the Jane Goodall Institute in an alliance that will create a movement that will reach all walks of life and will give them the tools and the inspiration to make the world better for humans, all animals, and our environment.
This is the link to the Speak for Wolves (the name of the event) website: Speak for Wolves Website
Saturday night was the showing of a Project Coyote movie called Coexisting With Wildlife and the movie Exposed-USDA's Secret War on Wildlife. Afterwards there was a panel discussion of the issues covered in these movies. The panelists and their credentials are given on the Speak For Wolves website (the link given above). It was very informative and it gave much of the audience the chance to learn more about these complex political, biological and ecological issues.
Sunday morning finally came and what it day it was. It was simply a beautiful day. The sun was shining and not a cloud in the sky. It was warm but very comfortable. The feeling in the Park was exciting. Everyone was so thankful that Brett Haverstick (the event's promoter and my new good friend) had put forth the energy, time and expense to put on this wondrous event. Thanks Brett!
It got to be about 11:30am and I was getting anxious about my turn to speak. Just before I spoke I went and sat under the speaker's canopy that was next to the stage. Brett came up and sat next to me. We had a very comfortable conversation. He had been anxious about how the event would go, and we both commented about how smooth everything had gone.
Then 11:55 came and Brett got up to introduce me. I walked up onto the stage. Brett and I hugged and I took the podium. I looked up at the Arch that was directly behind me and I thought about the wolves that were brought through that same Arch 19 years ago. WOW I thought. This is so surreal. I couldn't believe that I was actually there and the reason for me being there. My presentation was unique in that it was intended to do several things. I wanted it to entertain, educate and motivate. I started my speech by telling some lighthearted personal stories of experiences I have had with my wolves. I then read a prepared statement from my dear friend Dr. Jane Goodall. From there I covered an array of related subjects that included the science that was used to bring forth the wolf delisting proposal and the flaws and errors of that science. I talked about the need to change our wildlife management policies and procedures and the horrific practices of USDA's Wildlife Services and how to stop them. I even made several comments related to the Mexican wolf controversy – something far away and very different from the wolf issues of the northern Rockies region. (Read the entire text of my Yellowstone speech).
The next speaker was George Wuerthner – a renown author who had been on the discussion panel the night before. During that discussion I found him very interesting and quite knowledgeable. I was keenly interested in hearing his presentation. So immediately after leaving the stage I sat down in the audience to listen what he had to say. I was not disappointed.
At various points during the event Brett's cousin – Neil Haverstick – a very talented guitar player entertained the crowd with some fantastic music and interesting conversation. GoodSheild Aguilar a Native American musician added an additional musical interlude near the end of the event that for me was quite inspirational.
I spent Sunday afternoon with Brett's team and helped dismantle all the equipment for the event. Kelly McGee – a friend I met in Washington, DC last year – and I went to a local pizza joint afterwards and just unwound from a week-end of emotion and excitement. We then spent the next 2½ days traveling all over the park looking for wolves. We did see plenty of bison, elk, grizzly bear and antelope, but no wolves.
I needed to get back to my pack here at the Refuge so with a heavy heart and a soul full of memories I began the 14 hour drive home. Upon my arrival I was greeted by 19 wonderful canines that were very happy that their "dad" was home again.