By Kim Beeler
I was raised in small-town, rural Oregon, and my grandparents were farmers. I spent a lot of time working and appreciating life on the farm. I understand the value of a hard day’s work and trying to make a humble living in a fragile industry. So many different obstacles can negatively impact the crucial bottom line — everything from natural occurrences to man-made influences. My experience on the farm and being raised in the country around animals — wild and domestic — also nurtured a great respect for nature.
After much research and conversation with people on both sides of the gray wolf debate, I believe the aggressive mission to delist the gray wolf from Endangered Species Act protection is beyond premature. It is absurd.
The recovery of the wolf is still in its infancy. In fact, there is recent evidence of the first wolf on Mount Hood since 1947.
The bottom line of this debate has much to do with an industry’s bottom line: cattlemen and ranchers. It is about good old-fashioned greed. The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association has put pressure on state legislators and groups like the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. They are a well-organized group that has “hired guns” such as lobbyists, whose sole mission is to destroy these creatures.
I sat at a Tigard Starbucks table directly across from the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association president and its lobbyist. It was an experience that was welcome and unexpected after I wrote a letter to the president, pleading for him to consider nonlethal ways to deter wolves from preying on cattle and other rural livestock.
During our conversation, the lobbyist spouted off his true feelings when he blurted out, “There is no good wolf.”
Let’s be realistic. We are talking about a wild animal trying to survive in nature despite human interference with not only its natural habitat, but its food source. As U.S. settlers moved westward in the 1800s, they came into direct contact with this animal that preyed on their livestock — as agriculture flourished and the wolves’ prey base diminished. Since that time the wolf has been one of the most persecuted animals by man; we nearly succeeded in destroying this majestic wild animal. We shouldn’t turn back to old ways and abandon this species in recovery.
When I met with the president of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association two years ago, he said there were about 1.5 million head of cattle in the state. This compares to a known 64 wolves statewide at the end of 2013, according to the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife.
I don’t see the balance here. Do you?
Today, we are watching the slaughter and celebration of wolf killing in states that delisted the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act. In Idaho, federal funds recently were used to gun down 23 wolves from a helicopter. Also in Idaho, a photo went viral on social media after another federal worker snapped a picture as he smiled with a rifle at his side as a bloody, trapped wolf waited in pain for its ultimate fate. This man then shot and killed the suffering wolf.
What a trophy. It’s an honest reflection of the hateful nature of man — the real problem for this most persecuted animal.
We all have our natural place on this planet, and it is a delicate ecological balance. There is scientific evidence to show that one move in the wrong direction; i.e. killing wolves, sets a course of action that can be devastating to the ecosystem as a whole. There shouldn’t be a specific species targeted and ruled out as unnecessary or unworthy of life because of another life was lost that crossed its path.
There are many nonlethal ways to divert wolves from targeting livestock — from guard dog programs to cattlemen not being granted use of public lands for grazing.
These cattle ranchers certainly shouldn’t be given subsidies for their losses. I’ve read the average financial loss to a rancher for a calf equals $1,000. Does the average worker who loses money due to a variety of “hungry economic wolves” receive a subsidy for their loss? The obvious answer is simply, no. There is no lobbyist or special interest group for that person left to his or her own devices to make a living or to survive if their income source is lost or negatively impacted.
My call on behalf of the wild is to not move backward. Let’s not fall prey to the fear tactics of these aggressive and self-serving special interest associations and their lobbyists.
Let’s move forward with a species — the gray wolf and all of its subspecies — and help it continue to thrive naturally. The gray wolf is not a crazed killer, killing for sport, as its critics say. It is a wild and hungry beast that builds a strong bond within its pack. It experiences love and pain, fear and anger, life and loss. They are not so different from the human species.
This is why it is important to continue Endangered Species Act protection in Oregon and nationally for the endangered gray wolf. Without protection, the wolf will be lost.
Kim Beeler lives in Lake Oswego and is owner of Beeler Marketing.