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Commentary Submitted by Ricardo Small on Finley Refuge

Last Modified: 05/05/14
First Published: 05/05/14
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Comments: 0 Views: 329
 Submitted by Ricardo Small
As you may already know, I am adamantly opposed to hunting elk on the Finley Refuge. There is no biological reason to do so. The only reason I've heard for the hunt is political, as the article points out.

Sadly, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service often caves in to political pressure that results in actions detrimental to wildlife. The proposed elk hunt would be detrimental to elk, because there is no apparent overuse of habitat by the present numbers of elk on Finley.

It really should be up to the neighboring agricultural interests, who are pressuring the Service to kill elk, to take care of their own problem on their land, NOT on the Finley Refuge. There are numerous solutions applicable to the farm lands that will have more effect than shooting elk on Finley. For example, better fencing, hazing the elk off farmland and allowing elk hunters on the farms would keep the elk on the Refuge. Hunting elk on the Refuge will drive the elk off the Refuge and onto farm land and is likely to aggravate the farmers' problem with elk. 

I hope Damian Miller, the USFWS station chief, will decline the elk hunt on Finley and give wildlife priority over politics.

Finley’s successes are not always cheered by its neighbors.

The numbers of migratory waterfowl that winter in the Willamette Valley have grown considerably since the refuge opened in 1964. The counts soared in the 1990s, when the vast flocks of cackling geese shifted their wintering grounds north from California’s Central Valley.

Finley and its sister refuges can only support a limited number of the birds, so tens of thousands of geese fan out across the valley to forage for food on private agricultural land. The hungry birds can devastate grass seed fields, especially in the spring when the young shoots are just beginning to grow.

But there are strict limits on hunting both duskies and cacklers, leaving many farmers angry and frustrated.

And then there are the elk.

Rarely seen in the Willamette Valley 50 years ago, the Roosevelt elk has come back strong, with 600 or more roaming the region today, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, including a herd of 200-plus that makes its home at Finley.

The majestic creatures are a big attraction for the refuge’s 100,000 annual visitors. But they also make regular forays beyond the refuge boundaries onto the surrounding farms, where they knock down fences and eat or trample crops.

Under pressure from agricultural and hunting interests, Finley managers are considering a plan to allow limited elk hunting on the refuge.

The proposal drew a sharply divided response during a recent public comment period, said Damien Miller, the project leader for the Willamette Valley complex.

“Some folks think wildlife refuges should be a safe haven for wildlife and there should be no hunting allowed,” he said.

“(Others) say refuges were established by money that came from hunting — duck hunting stamps and things like that — so we should not only be hunting elk but we should allow other hunting on refuges as well.”

Miller said he expects to issue a final decision on the plan within a month.

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