We watched Oregon Field Guide on OPB this evening and they devoted the entire half hour to a program that puts middle school students from the Portland area on ranches in the John Day Valley. The program was started in response to the students' speaking out in favor of wolf re-introduction into Eastern Oregon. It seems that the ranchers in Eastern Oregon felt that the kids had been brainwashed by environmentalists and they wanted a chance to let the kids see their side of things. It was an interesting program, the kids spend a week living with a ranching family doing all the things done on a ranch in February. The kids worked right alongside the rancher, helping with feeding, calving, vaccinating, and all then 101 other things that go on at a working cattle ranch. The kids seemed to enjoy it and gain a better understanding of where their food comes from. The kids were pretty wise, pointing out that there was little or no recycling in the area, something one girl called, "a slap in mother nature's face". I'm sure that they could teach the folks in the John Day Valley a thing or two. After all, we're all in this thing together.
The one thing that I didn't see was any explanation of the ranchers' hatred of wolves. Wolf predation is an economic blow to the livestock grower, but The Department of Fish and Wildlife reimburses ranchers for losses to wolf predation. In Yellowstone Park the wolf population has helped make a stronger big game population mainly by reducing the number of sick and weak animals and forcing them to move around the area more. Biologists are finally beginning to see that a diverse wildlife population is necessary for a healthy ecology.
I did see my friend Dennis on the show. He spoke very intelligently (unlike some others on the show) about the need for understanding and working together. That always works better than screaming epithets at people who differ with you.