Is this government gone crazy, or what?
(I wish I could write government gone wild, but unfortunately the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife isn't really all that big on "wildness," as I'll describe below.)
In the past few months Oregon's wolf population has shrunk from 23 to 17. That's a 26% decrease in the number of an endangered species which used to be, and in the future should be, a integral part of our state's natural ecosystem.
Two of the wolves were killed by wildlife officials to protect livestock. That's insane -- to kill off about 10% of an endangered species population when wolves are responsible for only a miniscule percentage of livestock losses.
In Idaho, which has hugely more wolves than Oregon does, all non-human predators (coyotes, dogs, wolves, unknown) accounted for 1% of cattle losses. So wolves are essentially a non-factor for ranchers in the big scheme of things here in Oregon.
Yet the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has authorized twenty-four landowner kill permits -- essentially permission to shoot wolves on sight, given the animosity, fear, and ignorance of many Eastern Oregon ranchers when it comes to these marvelous wild animals.
These welfare ranchers, who get massive subsidies from us taxpayers for grazing rights on public lands, nonetheless believe that they have a right to do whatever they want with wolves -- even though they're happy to feed their livestock at the public trough.
Disturbingly, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is tilting its wolf management plan way toward the self-centered interests of a few ranchers instead of managing wildlife for the broader public interest -- an unbalanced approach that ODFW also uses with cougars and coyotes.
Today I was pleased to see that eleven conservation groups are calling on ODFW Director Roy Elicker to do what's right, rather than what the Oregon Cattlemen's Association tells his agency to do.
Their letter to Elicker lays out facts that made me furious when I read them. Something needs to change at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
My wife and I have dealt with them on coyote and cougar management issues. Too often, science and common sense take a back seat to simplistic "shoot 'em" attitudes, not what Oregon needs. This is 2011, not 1811.
Here's some excerpts from the letter:
Director Elicker, until our concerns are adequately addressed and thorough documentation is provided to substantiate public claims and legal obligations of your agency, we demand that ODFW immediately halt the issuance of any new permits to kill endangered Oregon wolves, and withdraw the 24 kill permits that have already been given away.
In taking the significant and severe action to kill two wolves and authorize the potential killing of many more, ODFW should have the justifying documentation at their fingertips when those decisions are made. We expect future decisions of this nature will be accompanied by more timely and detailed information.
Your agency’s actions in recent weeks regarding wolf management raise a number of deeply troubling questions. Conservation-minded Oregonians supported a compromised Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan with the understanding that wolf recovery would be the motivating factor guiding agency actions and that the desires of the livestock industry would not outweigh the general public good.
As you know, time and time again Oregonians have overwhelmingly supported wolf recovery in our state. Should ODFW continue to veer away from wolf conservation efforts, public support for the plan and your agency could be seriously undermined.