Eugene Weekly : Views : 12.02.04

Welcome Back
Wild wolves are returning to Oregon.

Back in October, when America was still up for grabs in the presidential race, Bush and Co. ran political ads using wolves to symbolize terrorists. That was not the first time wolves had been used for political gain. Believe it or not, dead wolves played a large part in establishing Oregon’s government. In 1913, the Oregon State and Game Commission began offering a $20 wolf bounty in addition to the regular $5 paid by the state, and early civil government organizers were able to draw significant numbers of settlers to town hall meetings by advertising them as wolf eradication meetings. The last wild wolf in Oregon was killed for bounty in 1963, as government officials praised the success of the wolf removal strategy.

Wolves managed to hang on in the wilds of Canada and have recently been given room to live in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana under a federal re-introduction program. The wolf population in Idaho has been successful, so much so that a few wolves have recently made the trip across the Snake River into Eastern Oregon. The first wolf, a female affectionately named B-45, was tracked by her radio collar and quickly deported back to Idaho in 1999. Since her return, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) has been creating a plan to recover this critter as outlined by the state and federal Endangered Species Act. The draft Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan is currently out for public commentThe plan is the brainchild of 14 different stakeholders representing a wide range of interests, from conservation groups to the cattle industry. It took more than a year and half of monthly board meetings to reach a final draft, and many of those meetings were focused on compromise, neither side getting exactly what they wanted. The plan includes a compensation program to help ranchers recoup losses from predation, and also encourages wolf distribution throughout the state by managing for healthy populations both east and west of the Cascades.The simple truth is wolves are coming, regardless of our management plans, and we can either embrace them or repeat our past mistakes. There is strong scientific evidence that illustrates the benefits of a healthy predatory population, both economically and environmentally. Wolves reduce rampant coyote populations, which may be the real threat to livestock, increase the overall health of prey populations through natural selection and can even promote healthy riparian vegetation by lessening elk herd “loitering” near streams.One of the most important benefits of wolves may be their “existence value,” just knowing wolves are alive and well in Oregon. Wolves may soon be howling in our forests, a sound few of us have heard in the wild and a legacy we can leave for future generations. Oregonians have the chance to be pioneers once again since other states will undoubtedly be looking at our plan, both its successes and failures, as wolves begin to reclaim their historic territory throughout the West.We have the unusual opportunity to reconcile our past and prove that co-existence rather than extinction can define our relationship with the wolf. The ODFW will decide to adopt, re-write or reject the Wolf Conservation Plan on Feb. 6. I encourage everyone to write a letter to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission immediately (3406 Cherry Ave., Salem 97303, fax: (503) 947-6009, e-mail: and let them know how important wolves are to all Oregonians and ask the commission to not allow legal “lethal takes” of wolves or to weaken the plan in any way.Farley Mowat, author of Never Cry Wolf, sums up our history with the wolf when he says: “We have doomed the wolf not for what it is but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be: the mythologized epitome of a savage, ruthless killer — which is, in reality, not more than the reflected image of ourselves.” Second chances are extremely rare, make your voice heard and help us welcome the return of the gray wolf.Jeff Long is the outreach coordinator for the Cascadia Wildlands Project, a Eugene-based non-profit organization dedicated to protecting Oregon’s natural ecosystems. For more information on wolf recovery or conservation work in general, contact CWP at 434-1463, or visit

Vulnerable Beings
Going from abstract to real requires a closer look.
BY MARY O’BRIENThree weeks ago on a northern California beach I was watching three white and gray-brown, egg-round birds with needle-thin legs scurrying around a hillock of sand. Their small, rapid-fire steps made them look like shoppers in a 15-minute clearance sale.“Snowy plovers,” my bird-watcher friend announced.Ah, snowy plovers. For years I had read newspaper accounts of controversies surrounding seasonal closure of a few beaches to off-road vehicles for protection of these threatened birds. Now I was surprised to meet the small subjects of these controversies in person. At that moment, the Endangered Species Act came down to this: A law for three particular little birds on one sandy patch of Earth.I remember the same shock years ago, when I first saw a spotted owl sitting stock still on an old branch in an older Cascades forest. And again last May, when I saw Fender’s blue butterflies in West Eugene’s wetlands. The pale blue and brown, endangered butterflies were busy. Each had less than a week to eat, find a mate, and, in the case of females, lay individual, tiny white eggs on the underside of Kincaid’s lupine leaves. .Having actually met a spotted owl, three snowy plovers, and a small cloud of Fender’s blue butterflies, I was doomed to know how our forests, beaches, and wetlands would be poorer without their presence. In print, these creatures can seem to be just another owl, another shore bird, or another small butterfly. But once you meet them in person, on their turf, they are apt to reach into your heart with their existence as a special being.We humans are perhaps unique in both the vast destruction we can wreak on our fellow humans and other beings following abstract policies or ideas; and the intense sympathy we can feel for the same folk when we meet them close-up.One evening in a Eugene laundromat, my husband O’B and I were speaking with an older Iranian man who has been living in Eugene for a number of years. We had talked with him in that laundromat several times before, but this evening he quietly told us how Iran’s only democratically elected premier, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, had been overthrown in 1953 by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency under President Eisenhower on the British suggestion that the democracy might lead to communism. (The British were upset that Mossadegh was proposing to nationalize the British-Iranian Oil Company, which was bringing vast profits to Britain, but not Iran. The British, having failed in their coup attempt, figured the word “communism” would get the U.S. fired up.) We subsequently learned the account of our laundromat friend was accurate.* Our first awareness of this U.S.-led “regime change” that was linked to the U.S. reinstatement of Mohammed Shah; the radical Islamic overthrow of the dictatorial Shah 25 years later; and the subsequent rise of Islamic religious take-overs and terrorism in the Middle East had been brought to us by one sad Iranian remembering how democracy had been crushed in his homeland.Each of us tends to see so little of the reality behind our votes and policies, whether they involve same-sex parents, working poor, rare plovers, Malawi farmers destroyed by free trade rules, or prisoners. Only a handful of members of the International Committee of the Red Cross had visited Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib to actually check for all of us how America’s war on terrorism was playing out in prisons. What they had seen in person had led them to plead with the Bush administration for a year to end the abuse. Then we were all allowed to visit Abu Ghraib through the photos of dogs; naked terror; and a hooded Iraqi man standing on a box, arms outstretched and fingers hooked to U.S.-placed wires. On Nov. 17, we once again encountered a reality of our “war on terror” as Daniel Zwerdling of National Public Radio revealed how immigrant detainees awaiting deportation in New Jersey’s Passaic County Jail are similarly being terrorized by dogs.We all know so many similar stories that by now we should have taught ourselves to always be skeptical of supporting righteous-sounding policies that dismiss, deny help for, or threaten the existence of vulnerable beings whom we have never personally met. We are capable of unleashing much harm from inside our mental caves; but we are equally capable of much humanity when we venture out to see the world first hand.*See All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror by New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2003). Mary O’Brien of Eugene has worked as a public interest scientist since 1981. She can be reached at