Are wolves good for business?


030615-wolf-thumbBY JEFF DELKIN | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

As a local business owner, I believe it’s important to build our economy on a platform of conservation values.  

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BY JEFF DELKIN | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

030615-wolf

Economic progress and environmental protection should go hand in hand. Many Oregonians, including myself, have built businesses founded on the idea that we do best when we balance growth with sustainability. This value is one that both State and Federal regulators need to more forcefully embrace as they make major decisions about wolves and the future of the west.

Oregon’s gray wolf population has been slowly making a comeback, but legislative and administrative actions at both the state and federal level threaten that progress. While the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) decides what 77 confirmed wolves means for recovery, and if that progress initiates removing them from the state Endangered Species Act, members of Congress debate permanently delisting wolves across the nation.  It is another uphill battle for the gray wolf at a time when this keystone species requires more efforts to help it reach full, sustainable recovery.

The proposed state and federal de-listing actions would abandon the idea that we can prosper and preserve our natural treasures at the same time. This is why it is critical for all Oregonians, especially businesses who thrive on a well-protected environment, to stand up and show they support defending this vital species and all predator species that add to the biological diversity of our state. 

Recently, I followed the tragedy surrounding the shooting death of Echo, the first northern gray wolf spotted in the Grand Canyon since the 1940’s and it really struck a chord with me.  This wolf was shot because a local hunter said he mistook Echo to be a coyote.  I believe it demonstrates that public education, law enforcement, and solid science are needed now more than ever to help recover endangered wolves.    

Despite the legislative and in-the-field battles that are happening, the gray wolf’s journey is truly inspiring.  It was not that long ago that wolves were brought back from the brink of extinction.  Only recently have wolves made such huge strides toward recovery.  As a nation, we have invested heavily in their recovery, which is why it is so important to safeguard that progress from the possibility of de-stabilizing a fragile population.  And when it comes to wolf management decisions, I wholeheartedly believe it should be based on the best available science, not politics.  

These wolf recovery milestones should be celebrated, but it does not mean that the work is over.  To achieve full, sustainable recovery for the wolf, ODFW must continue to use science-based management to track the wolf’s progress.  Delisting too soon can cause more damage to the species and reverse years of progress.  It would be a shame to pull back on efforts to protect this endangered species before the final goal is achieved.      

As a local business owner, I believe it’s important to build our economy on a platform of conservation values.  Here in Oregon, it is possible to do it all: protect wildlife and those places we cherish, and grow our economy responsibly.  For us at Bambu, we have proudly placed environmental sustainability and conservation at the epicenter of our business model.  It is not just about replacing what we remove from the Earth, but a philosophy on how we conduct business and sharing those values with our customers and the world around us.   And the result has not only been profitable, but rewarding. 

The long-term health of most businesses relies on a well-preserved environment.  For example, outdoor recreation provides approximately $646 billion in annual revenues for the United States and employs 6.1 million people directly. That’s a powerful argument for conserving wildlife habitat and protecting all species, endangered or not.

Wildlife viewing in particular generates the following: $33 billion in consumer spending on gear and trip-related costs, $2 billion in business (serving wildlife watchers), and $6 billion in economic ripple effects annually.   Protecting the gray wolf has clear positive economic benefits. The gray wolf’s reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 boosted revenues in local communities by $10 million annually.  Furthermore, a study by University of Montana economists revealed that more than 150,000 people visited Yellowstone specifically because of wolves, people who account for an estimated $35 million in revenue for the Greater Yellowstone area.

Wolves have proven to be an enormous economic asset to the country, but they’re also critical for the state’s natural habitat.   And it’s not just me who thinks so.  Wolf recovery is overwhelmingly supported by Oregonians, which is why it is imperative for our elected officials to represent our values at the state house, throughout ODFW, and in Washington, D.C.    

For those of us who appreciate them, wolves are a symbol of wild places.

We owe it to our children and grandchildren to set an example of responsible stewardship for our precious wildlife by protecting the gray wolf here in Oregon and across the entire United States. 

Jeff Delkin is a native Oregonian, owner and co-founder of Bambu, an eco-friendly brand of home goods and an avid outdoor enthusiast. 

READ ON: Our July/August 2013 article on wolf tourism in Eastern Oregon.

 




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