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This phrase isn't just a phase

`Watchable wildlife' was coined by Mace

CENTRAL POINT ­ Non-game. Such a tough little monikerto wear for the robins, raccoon and other little critters categorized notfor what they are, but for what they aren't.

Bob Mace of Central Point certainly thought so back in 1979.

I got tired of the term, non-game, Mace recalls. It'sso negative.

So Mace, then the deputy director of the Oregon Department Fish and Wildlife,set out to define animals that aren't deer, elk or other hunted gamespecies by something softer, more positive.

He turned ­ where else? ­ to the thesaurus and started thumbingaround for just the right word.

I got to the W's and got to `watchable,' he says. Watchablewildlife. That's what it's all about. My secretary said, `That's the word.'

Watchable wildlife is now an almost universal term given to programsthat promote and manage animals consumed by people's eyes, ears and cameralenses but not pursued with guns or rods.

It's used by virtually all state and federal agencies that manage non-huntedanimals, who owe the now-retired Mace for their new social standing.

It's about like Kleenex now; no one knows where the term came from,says Mace, who now lives along the Rogue River near the home where he wasraised. But that's fine.

Fine enough for Oregon State University's Department of Fisheries andWildlife to add Mace this month to its Registry of Distinguished Graduates.

He chuckles when friends still send him clippings from National Geographicor commercial posters playing up the watchable wildlife phrase for whichMace sought only exposure, but never cash.

Ninety to 95 percent of the people in Oregon are interested inlooking at wildlife, so it has a lot of appeal, he says.

Watchable wildlife, however, came at the end of a long career in Oregonwildlife management dating back to 1946, when he joined the Oregon GameCommission.

Mace rose quickly through the agency, which at the time was funded andhad marching orders strictly for managing species meant for sportsmen, suchas deer, elk, waterfowl and antelope.

In the early '50s, he spearheaded the re-introduction of California bighornsheep in Oregon, devising the massive traps and arranging a deal with BritishColumbia that allowed Oregon to trap 26 bighorns there in 1954.

Twenty survived their trip to Hart Mountain and formed the heart of Oregon'sbighorn sheep herd. That herd is strong enough to support 63 hunting tagsthis year.

He also instigated re-introduction of mountain goats to Northeast Oregonand worked on several other game species through the '60s.

During the '60s and early '70s, Mace found the spare time to write information/education(I&E) pamphlets on various big-game species, which are still distributedto Oregonians at ODFW district offices.

He did everything way back when, and he was the first true I&Eperson we had, says John Thiebes, an ODFW district biologist in CentralPoint. All those pamphlets that we still have, they have R.U. Macein them.

For Mace, who always had an interest in writing, doing the pamphletsseemed almost a necessity to form informational bridges between biologistsand the public.

One of the problems with biologists, Mace says, isthey can't write and they have trouble speaking.

the '70s, Mace had risen to deputy director of the newly merged ODFW.In 1973, the Oregon Legislature gave the department management responsibilityover non-game species.

After coining the watchable wildlife term in 1979, the ODFW began usingit for its non-game programs. In 1981, Mace took a box of buttons sportinga raccoon and the phrase Watchable Wildlife to a wildlife agencyconvention in New York City and began passing them out.

The various biologists took the buttons back, and the phrase was absorbedinto wildlife-management culture.

He retired in 1981 after 35 years in the ODFW but still represents theagency on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which oversees oceanfisheries off Alaska.

He is still an avid fishermen and waterfowl and elk hunter. But moreoften, he practices watchable wildlife from his riverside deck, viewinga large great blue heron rookery and other birds of the river.

Oregon has become a population of city people, Mace says.Fewer and fewer of them have any background in wildlife or nature.They're interested in it, and they like watching it.

Bob Mace of Central Point, who coined the phrase 'watchable wildlife,' relaxes by driving his jetboat on the Rogue River. - Photo by Mark Freeman</P