by Mickey Bellman
Resource management is all about choice and balance. We can protect sea lions and watch as they dine on ocean-fresh salmon. We can protect endangered salmon while a fleet of fishing boats grows barnacles tied to the dock. We can watch cougars and wolves feast on deer, elk and domestic livestock while hunters and ranchers fume with frustration. We can have wilderness areas and then stand by helplessly while wildfires and insects reduce the trees to lifeless snags. We can protect spotted owls only to have barred owls kill or displace them. We can have wild mustangs and burros overgraze our rangelands and ban ranchers from grazing their own livestock.
We live in a world of cause and effect. Responsible resource management ought to protect some values and utilize others. We lost the passenger pigeon due to overharvest and nearly lost the American bison and gray wolf. However, in recent years the pendulum of protection has swung to the extreme as we try to protect everything and utilize nothing.
The Alaska Pipeline once was considered to be the armageddon of wildlife. Today, caribou graze quietly beneath the pipe and seek its protection during storms. Careful planning and management allow us to have oil and abundant wildlife on the North Slope.
Gray wolves once again are so prolific that Oregon has crafted a wolf-management plan. Mountain lions are so abundant that 60 of them must be killed to control the population; every year, there are more cougar-people confrontations, too.
The housing market is insatiable in its demand for lumber while a vocal and emotional minority despises every chain saw and lumber mill. Rather than harvest dead and dying trees just a few miles from our mills, we import logs from Canada and New Zealand.
The federal government lured farmers to the Klamath Basin with the promise of irrigation water. The government has reneged on that promise because suckerfish and salmon have become more important than farmers and families. Ranchers were granted grazing allotments if they would improve the range with wells, fences, water troughs and seeding. Today, ranchers are forced off those historic allotments so that wild horses and burros can overgraze the improved rangeland.
We are not so rich or arrogant that we can protect everything, nor should we ignore the problems we have created with our choices. Wise use and managed balance are what we really need. That is the true definition of conservation.
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