Lobos of the Southwest

News Archive

Recent Pupdates




What You Can Do

Tribute in Memory of a Lobo Friend:

Conservationist Author and Rancher Gene Simon Died May 8, 2012

none

Gene Simon was a remarkable man with a strong conservation ethic.  In another life, before we met him, he was an award-winning newspaper publisher back East.  In his second career as a Gila rancher with public-land leases, he had enough perspicuity to realize how unsuitable much of the Gila is for ranching.  Instead of trying to force the land to do better – and waging war on predators – he had the integrity to contract his operation from hundreds to, in his later years, only a handful of cattle.

As a weekly newspaper columnist for the Silver City Sun-News and other local papers, he not only weighed in on worldly events but on more than one occasion cited his own experiences of tolerating coyotes and suffering no losses to underline his support for Mexican wolf recovery – which earned him black-sheep status in the local ranching community.

He is quoted, and plays an important role, near the end of this 2008 Arizona Republic essay on Mexican wolves by Linda Valdez.  Gene’s 2003 column, “Rational About Wolves,” placed wolf recovery within an ethical framework, showing how wolves are not just beneficial but even downright practical, and ended on a punchy and appropriately righteous note.

Our condolences go to Gene's wife, Libby. We’ll miss Gene Simon and we celebrate his life.


Gene Simon in the AZ Republic editorial:

“Rancher and wolf advocate Gene Simon explains it this way: ‘When man messes around with nature, he really messes it up good.’

Simon's Rancho del Rio is the third and smallest ranch he has run in his 34 years in the Mimbres Valley near Silver City. At age 90-something, he has downsized from the 675 to 700 head of cattle he used to run to fewer than 100. But his attitude hasn't changed. He never allowed anyone on his ranches to kill predators, and he never had a problem with predators taking his cattle. His ranch isn't within the wolf-recovery area, but it is close and he says he'd welcome wolves. Simon is skeptical when ranchers claim huge losses to wolves.

‘The losses could be managed if they ran their operation in compatible country," says Simon, whose ranches have all relied on large tracts of public land. "A lot of public land is not viable for ranching. Ranching will never be economically profitable on some of that land.’”

*****************************************************************************

From Gene’s column, “Rational About Wolves

“Wolves! Yes, wolves, an animal and subject that sparks an array of emotions and reactions ranging across the spectrum from uninformed ridiculous crackpot to scientifically sound reality…”

“Perhaps a ground-floor basic is the reminder that the Endangered Species Act … mandated government to protect and nurture plants and animals facing extinction. It’s a tribute to the American people’s commitment to wildlife conservation that a strong majority have consistently supported this sorely needed legislation that has benefited all Americans, regardless of their awareness.

This, in turn, underlines the fundamental truth that in Nature all things are connected, with everything having a purpose and connection to something else that it affects. It’s similar to links in a chain. How many links can be eliminated without the entire chain being weakened to where greater unintended harms are being done … to the point of even destruction?”

“Thinking about this column tapped the memory bank of a ranch tour to Alberta …. The 3rd generation rancher told us that ‘wolves don’t bother us’…. So a wolf-country rancher said that wolves are improving the quality of the elk herd, he’s making fewer fence repairs, and there’s more grass now for his cattle. Perhaps unwittingly, this rancher documented that restoring predators is the easiest solution to many problems and is the best way of achieving ecological integrity.”

“Another revealing exposure was hearing what a Montana rancher said to a sheep and cattle rancher in Colorado when he was complaining about coyotes getting so many of his sheep. The Montanan said ‘You know what your problem is? You’ve got those sheep in the wrong place.’

And that’s the basis for many of the ills of wolf recovery with cattle being in remote areas causing conflicts making no sense. Wolves should be where they are meant to be and cattle shouldn’t be there. I operated an 808-cow permit ranch in the Gila Primitive Area for seven years and that country was never meant to be economically productive cattle country.” …

*****************************************************************************

The Silver City Daily Press ran this obituary on May 10, 2012
Gene Simon of Faywood, a well known rancher and author, died Tuesday, a week before his 96th birthday.
He and his wife, Elisabeth (“Libby’), had lived on their ranch along the Mimbres River, near City of Rocks State Park, since 1979. Simon previously was a newspaper publisher in Pennsylvania.

He also wrote a column, “Think About It,' that appeared in several southern New Mexico newspapers; and published a collection of his work in the book “Cows and Columns.'

Last fall, Simon granted a conservation easement on the ranch to The New Mexico Land Conservancy, giving permanent protection to a three- mile section of the river. Previously, he donated 550 acres to enable City of Rocks State Park to nearly double in size.

Simon had fruit trees, and raised chickens and turkeys. He was a cattle rancher for more than 30 years.

Simon created controversy with his strong opinions about politics. He believed environmentalists and ranchers should work together on common concerns rather than dwell on their differences. He was an avid opponent of imperialism, writing extensively against the U. S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. Simon grew up in Burlington, Iowa, and his family moved to Ohio while he was a child. He worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps and, later, joined the U.S. Navy and spent more than three years aboard an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean.

He traveled the world as a journalist, interviewing Fidel Castro, the Shah of Iran, President Nasser of Egypt, Prime Minister Nehru of India and others. He also visited Moscow as part of a group of writers.

Simon’s newspaper won the Pulitzer Prize for the famous photograph of a woman kneeling beside the body of a student shot by the National Guard at Kent State University in 1970. 

***********************************************************************
You can read more about Gene in this column by Deming Headlight editor Billy Armendariz.

Top photo of Gene and Elisabeth Simon courtesy of Linda Valdez, AZ Republic Editorial writer/columnist
Bottom photo of Gene signing his book, Cows and Columns, courtesy of Peter Ossorio