Wolf re-introduction for CA/OR is met with opposition

spectr17

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November 23, 2001

California-Oregon wolf habitat under debate.

By ALEX BREITLER, Redding (Calif.) Record Searchligh

 
REDDING, Calif. - It's been nearly 80 years since gray wolves roamed Northern California and Southern Oregon.

But as the rare, grizzled predators grow in number deep in the mountains of Idaho, so grows the chance they could someday return to the area, experts say, much to the dismay of ranchers who fear for their livestock.

It's not likely anytime soon.

But a national conservation group earlier this year opened the door by asking federal officials to designate more than 13,000 square miles in Northern California and Southern Oregon as potential wolf habitat.

The mere idea disturbs many in California's livestock-loaded Siskiyou County, where cows outnumber people 2-to-1 and recent clashes over water rights have drawn national attention.

Experts say federally endangered gray wolves may well find their way here on their own, like it or not.

But last week, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a largely symbolic resolution condemning the arrival of new predators.

They say the county's economy is already struggling as the logging industry wanes and a fight over endangered fish threatens irrigators' water supplies.

"We don't need this sort of aggravation laid on what we already have," said Bill Hoy, a Weed cattle rancher and Siskiyou County supervisor. "People are really up in arms about it."


Long road ahead

It will be decades before wolves return - if ever - but the potential is there, says the nonprofit conservation group Defenders of Wildlife. The group filed its petition in April with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The wildlife service, meanwhile, has not taken action on the petition. The decision, when it's made, could be followed by years of planning and opportunities for public comment, officials said.

Wolves could either be physically reintroduced here by humans, or allowed to spread as nature dictates, Weiss said.

"It's just complete speculation as to where and how that might proceed," said Phil Detrich, project leader at the wildlife service's Yreka office. "Certainly, it's not going to be done overnight."


Farmers' fears

Some ranchers in Siskiyou County have already spoken out against the idea.

"It's just another burden on people who are trying to produce food and fiber," said Marcia Armstrong, head of the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau.

Mountain lions already prey on cattle, she said.

Figures presented by Defenders of Wildlife indicating wolves are responsible for less than 1 percent of cattle losses in Idaho aren't reassuring.

"That's 1 percent our small ranchers can't afford," said Siskiyou County supervisor Bill Overman.

"I think it's overwhelming, the people in this county that would be against it (wolf recovery)."

Defenders of Wildlife offers a compensation program for ranchers whose cattle are killed by wolves.

Confirmed wolf kills yield 100 percent of the animal's value; a probable wolf kill yields 50 percent, said Weiss.

The organization says it has paid out $155,000 since 1987.

Problem is, wolves may be more likely to kill young cattle or sheep that would have appreciated in value had they not died, Hoy said. Ranchers say they are left with $100 to pay for an animal that might have been worth $500 later in life.

"It's peanuts," Hoy said. "This is a joke."


Fears overblown?

Supporters say the recovery of gray wolves in Northern California could help balance the ecosystem here. Wolves prey on weak or vulnerable animals, preventing overgrazing and promoting biodiversity, Defenders of Wildlife says.

Further, they're culturally significant to American Indians, and officials theorize wolves could boost tourism.

Defenders of Wildlife members went before the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors earlier this month to share their hopes.

Part of the challenge, they say, is overcoming myths and mystique surrounding wolves.

"We're supporting the idea that we can coexist with the wolves," said Jim McCarthy, a conservation specialist with the Klamath Forest Alliance.

"It won't adversely impact ranching. It's not going to be some slaughter of livestock."
 

ranchwife

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I can't believe this!  I posted the first information regarding wolf introduction and hadn't heard anything about the meeting until now.  I wonder why it wasn't posted in the local paper from Klamath Falls.  

Are these people complete morons?  First of all they said that reintroducing wolves would balance the ecosystem.  According to what standards?  The ecosystem is having enough  problems supporting the mountain lion and coyote populations on dwendling deer, antelope, and rodent populations.  It was then implied that these three organisms cause overgrazing?  First of all, these organisms don't "Graze," they browse.  Food from an area is not eliminated because of these animals.  Adding more predators would probably nearly eliminate the deer and the antelope.  Why would some people want to do this?

The other reason why these people aren't playing with a full deck is the fact that they say that they compensate ranchers for any cattle that is killed - but only if they can prove it.  What method are they going to use to determine amount paid back?  Ranchers sell their cattle by the pound.  The price/pound is determined when the cattle are auctioned and the amoumt paid is determined when the cattle are shipped to the new owners based on the shipping weight.  Are they going to pay us that amount or some other amount?  Are we going to be paid for the weight of the dead animal or based on the average weight of the animal when it would have been shipped?  And, how exactly do they determine cause of death?

It was also stated that reintroducing wolves to our area has the potential to boost tourism - WHAT?  First of all, what tourism?  Second of all, how exactly would a wolf boost tourism?  Now, maybe if they were kept in a zoo I could see a potential for tourism, but out in the wild?  Do these people realize just how big this area is and what type of vehicle they would need to be able to get into these areas?  I just can't see Mr. and Mrs. Average American, traveling through the area, taking their Honda Accord or Toyota Camry across a lava flat, through a creek, and over sage brush, just to maybe see a wolf.  The idea that tourism would increase is bogus.

Those of us that live in Northern California and Southern Oregon have enough problems that we are dealing with and that have the potential to seriously ruin our weak economy, without adding another problem.  Our plates are so full of the water situation, the salmon issues, the sucker issues, the logging issues, the environmental policies, and the red tape that I don't know how much we can handle before we all break.  Something has to be done to stop the radical environmentalists before they eliminate us - just to save an overgrown dog with a bad attitude.
 

spectr17

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ranchwife,

many of these meetings are held without any publicity for a reason, they don't like citizens showing up to give their input. I know it sounds crazy but I have seen the same thing down here in SoCal.

Some of the local government agencies tell me that they are just required to publicize the meetings. This can mean a little piece of paper on the hallway door of city hall. If you don't happen to walk that hall you don't see the notice.

They meet the letter of the law but not the intent. Find a source in the local government who will give you a call.
 

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