Profanity: It Could Happen Here.
Whether you’re lucky enough to live near the big wild places of the West or you’re stuck in traffic on the Jersey turnpike, wildlife and public lands belong to all Americans.
Wherever you are, if you pay attention to wildlife issues, you’ve no doubt heard about the ongoing tragedy related to Washington’s Profanity Peak Wolf Pack. The single family of wolves represents over 10% of the state’s entire recovering population of American Gray Wolves.
When Oregon killed the Imnaha Pack in response to conflict with the livestock industry, we said no one should be celebrating the death of cows or wolves. The same can be said in this case.
As our name implies, Oregon Wild’s mission is to protect and restore Oregon’s wildlands, wildlife, and waters as an enduring legacy for future generations. However, given the volume of questions we have received and its ramifications for Oregon, it has become nearly impossible to stay silent on the matter.
The mission of Oregon’s wildlife agency (ODFW) is “to protect and enhance Oregon’s fish and wildlife and their habitats for use and enjoyment by present and future generations.” Decisions on how best to carry out that mission should be based on science, broadly held public values, and the law.
Common or rare, all wildlife matter. However, wolves get disproportionate attention – especially when they are at the center of human-caused conflict.
In our view, the goal of wolf conservation and management should be to better understand wolves and their role on the landscape, educate the public, minimize conflict between livestock and wildlife, reduce unnecessary social conflict, and reduce the need to kill wolves so the native hunter can once again play out its rightful role on the landscape.
When wolves are killed by any state, it’s a demonstration that we’ve collectively failed to meet those goals. At minimum it should lead to some serious reflection.
Many details of the situation in Washington remain unclear. Not having a shared set of facts makes it difficult to resolve conflict. What we do know is that the Profanity Peak Pack is the second in 4 years to be killed on behalf of the same livestock operator. We can’t comment on the validity of emerging arguments regarding the specifics of operations of the Diamond M Ranch. However, in both cases, at taxpayer expense, a pack of wolves is being killed by helicopter on public lands.
After the Wedge Pack was killed in 2012, a WDFW spokesperson state “Our director has said that he never wants to do this again… The social acceptance is just not there.” Many of us watching from afar breathed sighs of relief.
Recent science and experience has shown that killing wolves increases conflict and reduces social tolerance in communities hostile to wolf recovery. If wolf recovery with minimal acrimony is the goal, such actions cannot become normalized and they must not spill over into Oregon.
Sadly, Oregon cannot be too self-righteous on this matter. Though less dramatic, we’ve seen similar situations play out here. Under Oregon’s weak wolf plan, Profanity could happen here.
From 2012-2015, under terms agreed to by the livestock industry, conservationists, and the state, Oregon’s wolf population grew. Cattle depredations decreased. And there was no litigation. To all but the most intransigent voices, the plan was a success.
In 2015, key provisions of the plan expired.
Since then, Oregon stripped wolves of endangered species protections. Litigation has been filed. Governor Brown declared a state of emergency. Poaching increased. Oregon killed wolves by helicopter gunning. Livestock depredations have increased.
Oregon’s wolf plan is currently under review.
We support non-lethal measures to prevent conflict as well as working with the state and other stakeholders to find common ground and solutions. However those efforts are means to ends – less livestock loss through better husbandry, less killing of wildlife, and less conflict. We’ve seen time and again, killing wolves achieves none of these.
Rather than repeat past mistakes, Oregon Wild and other public interest organizations support carrying forward the parts of the plan that worked and fixing (rather than discarding) those that fell short. In particular, that means providing clear, defensible, and enforceable standards for non-lethal conflict prevention measures that will ensure killing wolves is truly an option of last resort.
Meanwhile, the livestock industry, some hunting groups, and even some Commissioners are arguing for allowing trophy hunting of wolves in Oregon as soon as next year. While meetings between the state, stakeholders, and the public have been positive in tone, the agency has not yet tackled difficult issues and seems to be headed toward a plan that will ensure a state of constant conflict.
We are aware of extreme language on both sides of the wolf debate and while we understand the public is justifiably upset, we would also be remiss not to remind all citizens of their responsibility to treat one another – even those with whom we strongly disagree – with respect and civility. Threats of violence going in either direction are especially unacceptable.
To many observers, Washington seems to be following in the footsteps of Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Oregon may not be far behind. We cannot allow that to happen. The killing of rare wildlife on public lands to appease special interests must not be normalized in our state. Oregonians deserve better.
We urge Oregonians who value wolves and native wildlife to:
- Tell ODFW what they think about the wolf plan
- Contact Governor Brown: (503) 378-458. Politely remind her you care about native wildlife and expect her wildlife agency to represent your values. Tell her not to emulate Washington or Idaho.
- Stay involved, keep up to date, and support organizations that represent your values.