Since testifying at Salem before the Natural Resources Committee and listening to others testifying, plus reading articles too numerous to quantify, I have come to some conclusions about the difference between those who like seeing the wolf here (and elsewhere), and those who have been adversely affected by the wolf. For those who don’t get out to actually listen to the rhetoric, this might be interesting to read.

There are three issues I have with those who testified against the proposed bills, which would adjust the Oregon Wolf Plan to be more workable to real ranchers: vindictive language, outright lies,  and plain ignorance!

When I was in Salem during the testimony, the land owners I listened to who had suffered losses to the wolves already, stated their facts, gave their monetary losses, their future losses of breeding stock, and their loss of valuable working hours. They didn’t attack the Defenders of Wildlife or other groups who have heralded the wolf’s return. They wanted the committee to hear their concerns. Yet I heard things such as “ranchers would kill without compunction, the wolf would restore much of what has been degraded on public lands, ranchers can’t support change, the bills are only supported by special interest groups (ranchers?), ranchers are welfare-ranching on BLM lands,” and “ranchers should practice good husbandry before getting compensation.” 

Ranchers obviously are thought of as rapists of the land! Is this the kind of demeaning rhetoric that is supposed to foster cooperation or ruin it?

So here is lie #1: A wolf proponent said, “I don’t doubt for one second that these kill bills will lead to the extinction of the Oregon wolf.” The kill bills referred to are to protect one’s life if attacked by a wolf, and to be able to shoot a wolf if it comes within 500 feet of a person’s residence. There will obviously be wolves that never come that close to a residence, wolves that will come in the night and never be seen, and wolves that upon hearing gunshots will be sure they get smarter the next time they hunt for breakfast. Extinct?

Lie #2: “I own two small ranches in the county and wolves can be financially advantageous to the community.” First of all, what constitutes a “ranch?” According to the dictionary, a ranch is an establishment for rearing or grazing cattle, sheep, horses, etc., in large herds. This person neither has the land (42 acres on the slope and 16 east of Joseph!) or the animals to qualify as a ranch. Perhaps a “hobby farm,” but not a financially sustaining ranch. At this time, I am told she doesn’t own one cow. And yes, some people would pay for the hopes of seeing or hearing a wolf, but that would graciously benefit the B&B, and not the community, over the millions of dollars that ranching contributes. Yet the intent was to impress the committee in Salem with the idea that eastern Oregon “ranchers” were in favor of the wolf’s return.  

Lastly, in the front page article on wolves in the June 9 Chieftain, Wally Sykes says four times, “I think.”  Does he think? He is merely a member of Defenders of Wildlife. Does that make him the expert on ranching affairs? Ignorance! If you really want to know what the ranchers here are thinking, why don’t you ask them? Although ranchers account for around 2 percent of the population of Oregon, they control the largest amount of land in the state. That should count for something! Ignorance is rampant among urbans when it comes to wolf ecology.

Connie Dunham and her husband, Richard, have a ranch in rural Enterprise.

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