The Art of Cooperation.

by Matt


The New York Times ran an article yesterday (with great photos, one of which is hearkened to on the left) about how some conservationists are learning to cooperate with ranchers in the effort to preserve wolf populations. Endangered wolves have been re-introduced to the Northern Rockies, where they become a costly, deadly nuisance to ranchers. They eat calves, and the ranchers say they dramatically reduce the weight of the cattle, who spend a less time eating, and more time scanning the surroundings for wolves.

In response, a “handful” of conservationists are investing time and money to help ranchers keep the wolves away from the ranches without killing them.

It shows a rare kind of cooperation that I consider to be the acme of approaches to complicated modern problems: The conservationists recognize that the wolves could go extinct, and they’re passionate about preventing it. It seems reasonable. The ranchers meanwhile want to make as much money as they can for their hard work, and of course they want to prevent the loss of their cattle. This also seems reasonable.

So what’s really exciting is the way the two sides are listening to each other–sometimes, anyway. The “handful” of conservationists recognize that the ranchers’ interest in their livelihoods is valid, and they are taking responsibility for upholding that interests alongside the interests of the wolves. On the flip side, it seems like at least some of the ranchers understand that extinction is bad, and they are willing to cooperate with the conservationists so long as the conservationists take a share of the responsibility for making it work.

The article makes clear that the process is neither simple nor easy. It is neither being resolved with pat answers nor with a single meeting at the bargaining table. Instead, it looks like it’s will be resolved through an on-going, frequently-adjusted, and labor-intensive process. To wit: it is going to be hard. But I think the result is likely going to be better than would have been had if nobody had done anything.

Isn’t that just what we must accept, and expect from life? That we will have things to do that are hard, but that they are worth doing because the result will be something better?

I really like it. I wish Congress worked this way.