Letters to the Editor for Feb. 24, 2012

Written by Baker City Herald readers February 24, 2012 08:34 am

Wolves do good work — for free

To the editor:

It was painful to read Jim Ward refer to the scientific studies of Ph.Ds and devoted ecologists as mere “talk” and then read that he reached similar conclusions about the value of wolves from some casual trips to Yellowstone.

Mr. Ward, having dismissed science as “talk,” then tells us that hunters “are keeping the game herds in check” and that wolf management costs too much.  He bemoans that livestock will be lost and “species will all suffer . . . funding sacrifices for a couple dozen canines."

What about the cost to the health of America’s ecosystems when the wolves were eradicated to protect stockmen?

Just canines? Can coyotes or chihuahuas restore our ecosystems? Hunters and coyotes can’t keep ungulates from mowing down our biologically productive riparian ecosystems — wolves can. Wolves will freely work for taxpayers by helping to restore the riparian and aquatic habitat needed by migratory songbirds, fish and a “myriad of other species” dependent on those habitats. Ranchers can take financial responsibility for protecting their livestock.

He also complains that wolves are taking money needed for controlling the “weed problem . . . on our range and timber lands,” while neglecting to mention that domestic livestock and their managers have contributed mightily to that very problem by over-grazing the upland and riparian areas.

As to the probability of seeing an Oregon wolf, some of us already have, and the majority of Oregonians would like to think they might have the same opportunity. They are also willing to spend tourist dollars here rather than Yellowstone, if only counties like Wallowa would welcome them instead of denying them bed and breakfasts to stay in.

So when we fairly “crunch the numbers” we need to fully account for the valuable ecological and economic assets that wolf restoration can provide.

Wolf advocates and “wolf lovers” don’t stand in the way of wolf reintroduction just because of the wolf’s inconvenience to special interests, or because some will be killed by greedy or thoughtless people — they welcome the wolves’ return and the help they will provide in restoring what is left of our wild places.

Christopher Christie

Baker City

Why deprive Oregon of wolves?

By WALLY SYKES

Jim Ward's op-ed on wolves is on the facetious side. He loves wolves but can only tolerate them in a theme-park setting like Yellowstone NP. He loves their howls but says Oregonians can only hear them if they make the Yellowstone tour. He knows wolves have restored much of the damaged Yellowstone's eco-system but denies Oregon the same recovery, and feels our 35 million acres of public land, half the state, isn't enough for wolves. By comparison, Minnesota has about 3,000 wolves (a stable population for the last decade) on 22 million acres in a much more populous area.

Admitting that wolves and their ungulate prey keep each other healthy, Mr. Ward says hunters can now do that. But they don't.

Hunters take the healthiest and biggest by choice. Who's going to fill their tag with an emaciated sick elk? 

Wolves on the other hand take the weak – it's the easiest and least risky choice. Wolves cull the barren and geriatric cows and does, the non-performing bulls and bucks. Wolves will move ungulates around so they don't overgraze places like the Zumwalt Prairie, where the ODFW pays hazers to move them, something that goes on throughout Oregon.

Non-game species will prosper, not diminish, around wolves because of the riparian and aspen recovery they encourage (something that is now poorly attempted by fence exclosures at taxpayer expense) and by providing food to the many scavenging birds and beasts.

The 2009-11 ODFW budget was $262,400,000. The ODFW wolf budget for the same period was 0.3 percent of that, $871,000. A healthy wolf population can save money by increasing biodiversity without the need for expensive fences and constant riparian repair, and decrease the need for hazing. Wolf management funds in future could be augmented from targeted sources such as tax check-offs and wolf license plates.

Wolves are not being “forced” on us as Mr. Ward says. They are welcomed by the majority of Oregonians. Some Oregon livestock operators, comprising less than 1 percent of Oregon's people, are trying to force on us the removal of wolves yet again, as they wrongly and brutally did in the last century.

Mr. Ward wonders if wolves will ever be “happy” here. Well, they'll be as happy as any wild animal – they all have to dodge bullets, traps, poisons, wildlife biologists and vehicles. And they are hardly “skulking beasts.” They live in at least four healthy packs, and if Mr. Ward has seen them, as I have, he knows they are wary but confident as all wolves are.

Ranching in wolf country means change, but it doesn't mean anybody's going out of business, as even the president of the Wallowa County Stockgrowers Association has said. Nobody's daughter, grandson, husband or aunt will have to “get out of the way” for wolves.

Most Oregonians welcome the wolf and are glad to see a wrong righted, a vanished spirit returned to us.

Wally Sykes of Joseph is director of Northeast Oregon Ecosystems and a member of Wallowa County's Wolf Depredation Compensation Committee.