Wolves can help county endure future droughts

The authors of a recent letter praised a man for shooting a wolf (Baker City Herald, Dec. 4). They then stated that the only thing wrong was that he didn’t shoot the other two. I am sorry to see this attitude. It is hurtful, unkind, selfish, and short-sighted. It dismisses all who want abundant wolves and appreciate their contributions as having no value — it says that only cattle, elk, and deer matter — who cares if the rest of Creation withers and dies. It ignores the new insights that could allow shifts in one’s emotional response to wolves from feelings of fear and anger to feelings that are more relaxed, more appreciative.

As to the authors’ question “Why do we need wolves?” the reasons are many — water being a big one. Baker County has experienced drought 9 times since 2000. The frequency and severity of drought is expected to increase as climate continues to change with ever greater economic, social and ecological hardships. The West is drying out and our stream systems are badly damaged and barely functioning. Wolves, it turns out, play a vital role in restoring stream health and water abundance by altering elk and deer movements and making ranchers on public lands more attentive to where their cattle are. The result is that aspen, cottonwoods and willows (valuable habitat for cattle, elk, deer and other wildlife) have a chance to expand as the ungulate browse pressure on these species decreases. Beavers then have food and material to build dams that store water in ponds and in the ground for later release. Stream systems begin to heal, water-rich habitats expand, and water abundance and quality increase even during droughts.

In addition to the gifts of water and improved ecological health, we need lots of wolves with intact social structures to keep elk and deer and other wildlife healthy, to teach us about co-existing with other species, and because they belong here. Wolves help maintain balance and abundance. Living with wolves takes adjustments, but the gifts they bring will benefit our communities into the future — for who among us can survive without water?

Suzanne Fouty

Baker City