To the Editor:
Your April 9 article in the Blue Mountain Eagle describing the decline of mule deer populations in Grant County only scratched the surface of the management problem associated with achieving the big game management objectives established by the Oregon Department of the Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).
Over a period of months in 2005, and at the request of ODFW, a group of landowners, sportsmen, ranchers, conservation interests, hunter organization representatives, biologists, and agency staff sat together to draft recommendations for big game management objectives in Beulah, Murderers Creek, Northside, and Desolation Units.
Night after night, this group delved into the biology, politics, and policy of big game production and hunter opportunity management. We spent hours assessing aspects of collapsing deer populations, increasing archery hunter numbers, compromised habitat conditions, the complexities of predator management, elk distribution, and nearly every other condition of wildlife management.
By the time we were done, our group had recommended not only a full set of professionally derived population objectives but also a complete suite of management options to reach those objectives.
To my recollection, every single one of those objectives was agreed to through the unanimous consent of every member of the committee and was decided after long hours of negotiation and compromise. Many of our recommendations were targeted toward turning mule deer production around and avoiding dramatic reductions in tag numbers that we knew were coming later with additional declines in mule deer production.
Unfortunately, when everything was said and done, ODFW staff from the regional and headquarters offices had undone every one of our substantive recommendations and the ODFW Commission failed to approve any of our most meaningful objectives or management activities. More insulting to the committee's efforts were the phony justifications and reasoning that the ODFW staff used to dispute the local committee's conclusions.
Today, the bill for this failure is coming due and sportsmen and landowners will have to deal with the negligence of the ODFW to implement measures designed to turn around mule deer production in Grant County as well as address distribution issues in elk populations and archery hunters.
ODFW's revenue-generating, quantity-over-quality approach to big game management leaves us little opportunity to influence decision making when locally derived solutions are arbitrarily and capriciously overturned or conveniently ignored by staff and policy makers in Pendleton, La Grande, or Salem.
It is time for Grant County - its officials, landowners, and sportsmen - to demand an accounting from the ODFW with regards to wildlife management. An accounting of how the Department's management goals, objectives, and actions seem to them to be so better than those developed locally and why their Salem-solutions are so much more effective than those derived by people with daily exposure to our natural resources.
They owe this accounting to everyone that gave up valuable time away from their jobs and families to study and develop recommendations simply to have them completely ignored by the very people who requested them in the first place. They owe this accounting to the citizens who entrusted the local committee to develop management recommendations on their behalf and they owe the accounting to the local ODFW staff that went above and beyond their normal duty to gather data, and to facilitate understanding and cooperation in our local effort.
But mostly, they owe an accounting to the future generations that are entrusting us to caretake and steward their wildlife inheritance and to ensure that our current opportunities are not squandered for the sake of immediate gain.
They owe all of us this accounting and the time for it is now.
Shaun W. Robertson