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The realities of ranching and wolves

By Kerry Tienhaara

For the Capital Press

A rancher writes about the facts about wolves.

The letter in the Jan. 24 Readers’ Views reads the same as nearly every other revered Canadian Gray Wolf vs. Evil Rancher letter written by a supporter of wolves over mankind.

These supporters’ talking points rarely stray from the list, though they don’t adhere to any particular order. So long as the repeating of the half-truth is accomplished, it has a chance to be believed, especially by those who have no working knowledge of the topic.

Yes, disease, domestic dogs and coyotes do cause loss in cattle and sheep. So do wolf attacks. The difference is there are no state laws against treating livestock for disease or actually trying to prevent disease. If coyotes or domestic dogs are guilty of harassing or killing livestock, there are no laws trumping the livestock owners’ right to protect their personal and private property against such losses. However, where the non-native wolves in Oregon are concerned, the state protects wolves over the rights of people.

The use of the words “hysteria and denial of facts” against ranchers is a not-so-subtle attempt to belittle their legitimate concern over losses to wolves. This favored ploy attempts to shift the blame from livestock killing wolves to the very ones who suffer the losses, the ranchers.

Quoting from ranchers who do not have a wolf population to deal with is the same as comparing apples to oranges. Those with critical thinking skills would understand this.

Yet the wolf supporters see it as a “one-size-fits-all” argument-ender.

Then we come to the most favored mis-used factoid of them all — the inference that all ranchers enjoy free grazing for their livestock at taxpayers’ great expense.

First off, let me make it very clear, public grazing rights are not free. Holders of public grazing rights are not taking anything from anyone. A fee is charged. Often there is a list of improvements required to be performed on the public grazing allotment at the rancher’s expense. The grazing livestock turn a renewable resource, grass, growing on public land, into usable items for humans such as meat, leather and wool.

The anti-grazers paint the picture for those who don’t know any differently that every grazing animal they see is somehow picking taxpayers’ pockets, somehow causing them harm while the evil ranchers profit.

The truth is, of the 125 wolf-livestock depredation investigations performed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife from 2009 to the present, 15 were on public grazing permit property and the other 110 were on private property. My husband and I are the sole taxpayers for our private property our cattle graze on. We lease private property from our neighbor. He too pays his own share of taxes on his private property. Most of my friends and neighbors’ livestock graze entirely on private property. They are also taxpayers.

Despite the fact the state of Oregon was not included in the Canadian gray wolf recovery plan because Oregon lacks the large blocks of contiguous public land habitat needed for wolves — see page 29 of the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan — wolves are allowed to occupy private property no matter the cost to the private property owner.

Finally, there’s the plea for open-mindedness, responsibility and the incompetent ranchers to come over to their way of thinking — or else. The myopic disregard displayed by wolf supporters for those who do not agree with their bent never fails to astonish me. Their assumption of somehow possessing superior knowledge giving them the right to insert themselves into the everyday working lives of ranchers with all their “energy available” is the height of arrogance and ignorance at the same time.

I would certainly welcome a letter displaying open-minded, responsible, competent use of the truth from the lock-step wolf supporters.

They might begin with one topic never openly opined on by wolf supporters — the question of personal and private property rights. Where do they think they begin and end with wolves “on the landscape?”

Kerry Tienhaara raises hay and cattle in Wallowa County, Ore. She is a member of Oregon Wolf Education, wolfed.org



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