Last night my friend Bill Campbell’s documentary, Wolves In Paradise: Ranchers and Wolves in the New West had its premiere at the Bozeman Bioneers conference. It’s a terrific production — keep an eye out for it on your local PBS stations (or better yet, call and ask for it).
Bill followed two different ranches who are dealing with the burden of ranching in wolf country. The margins for any of our small farmers or ranchers are so small that the losses caused by wolves killing or harrassing one’s cattle are substantial. Ranchers live or die by the amount of weight they can get on their stock over the summer, and wolves running your cattle doesn’t help them keep weight on. Bill chose to focus on the Davis family, three generations ranching in the Paradise Valley just south of Livingston, and on the Sun Ranch over south of Ennis which is run by Roger Lang, who made his fortune in Silicon Valley. Both ranchers are trying to keep ranching alive, are trying to preserve open space from development, and are trying to preserve a way of life that is slipping away. It’s been ten years since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone, and while they’re here to stay, the question is how to manage wild predators in close proximity to domestic livestock. There are no final answers, but the documentary shows lots of people asking interesting questions, and doing their best to work things out.
The documentary is also beautifully shot — Bill has a gorgeous eye and a marvelous talent for making even the most mundane aspects of ranch life visually fascinating. Keep an eye out for it, and push your local stations to carry it.