To the Editor
As the moderator and head of the local Democrats would not allow me to speak at the predator panel and forum this last Thursday, I am hoping that you will allow me to express my views on the opinion page.
The public lands are just that—public. They do not belong to ranchers, and other local interests, but to all the citizens of the United States. Those citizens have every right to expect that the State and Federal land management agencies will care for those lands and public ecosystems in a manner that nurtures and enhances them. This includes providing for the full range of species—yes, predators too--that maintain ecosystem health.
According to the GAO, grazing management on Federal lands costs $123 million more than it takes in from grazing fees. That’s $1.23 billion in subsidies to ranchers per decade and it doesn’t include all direct costs, or the ecological costs created by livestock damage to riparian systems and other areas. In good years, 9% of US beef production is exported to foreign nations. This raises the question of whether the taxpayer is subsidizing beef consumption in foreign lands which keeps prices higher here at home. Some ranchers would have other Americans go through life without ever hearing the howl of the wolf or ever seeing the ecosystem benefits the wolf can provide. That may be the rancher’s personal gain, but it is the average citizen’s personal loss—another cost not accounted for on the books. Some ranching interests would also have taxpayers foot the bill for compensation to ranchers when livestock are taken by wolves on public land. They would also have them pay for the sensible livestock protection practices that ranchers could and should use to defend against predators. Is there no limit to the lost opportunities citizens should sustain, and the taxes they should pay, so that ranchers can have their private way on public lands?
Additionally, in an apparent effort to boost hunting license revenues and income to the predator control bureaucracy, ODFW and other interests are creating near hysteria over the threats posed by allegedly ever increasing cougar populations. Keep in mind that one is about 33 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to be attacked by a cougar in the U.S. According to Brooks Fahy of Predator Defense, “not one fatal attack [by cougars] has been reported in Oregon.” The facts are that people are more likely to be killed by a collision with a deer, by a bee sting, or even by the neighbor’s dog, than they are by a cougar.
I encourage readers to engage the facts so as to avoid falling prey to anti-predator hysteria.