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Brown chooses lethal special interests over wildlife

Gov. Kate Brown’s latest appointment of a trophy hunter who proudly poses with dead exotic animals to the state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission shows that the very industries the decision-making body is meant to regulate are positioned to dictate policies that favor their own business and personal interests over Oregon’s fish and wildlife.

Our governor promised conservation groups that she would nominate “diverse, science-oriented” candidates to the commission. When she selected James Nash last week, whose family is deeply entrenched in the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and has been vociferously opposed to wolf recovery in the state, she made a powerful statement against Oregon’s wildlife.

By appointing Nash, the governor shows Oregonians that she values money and political favors from cattle ranchers more than she values the long-term viability of Oregon’s wolves, black bears and Pacific fishers. Nash’s enthusiasm for killing predators, trophy hunting and his family interest in livestock production are in direct conflict with the current science recognizing the importance of predators in our ecosystems.

An abundance of current science irrefutably demonstrates that native predators like wolves play a critical role in ecological restoration that cannot be replicated by wildlife managers. Additionally, scientific studies have shown that lethal control of predators like wolves can increase cattle predation due to the breakup of the social structure of the pack.

Most Oregonians know the stark difference between hunting for food and trophy hunting. Subsistence hunting gave primitive humans a way to flourish in the wild, and many modern hunters utilize wild meat as part of their families’ caloric requirements. The hunting of animals for sport is a whole different endeavor, however, one in which wildlife is sacrificed for the sheer joy of the chase and kill.

Appointee Nash’s now-infamous Instagram posts show him posing with his trophies — a hippopotamus, a crocodile, a zebra and an armful of coyotes, among others. Nash’s position on hunting predator species is clear from his Instagram statement: “If you consume prey species, you have an obligation to hunt the predators.” If confirmed by the Oregon Senate, this is the man who will vote on the update to the Wolf Plan next month. The conflict of interest couldn’t be more obvious, but Brown appears blind to it.

Brown is likely aware that our planet is facing a drastic extinction crisis, propelled by habitat loss and by gun violence against at-risk wildlife. Gray wolves and black bears and grizzly bears are continually shot, poisoned and trapped by cattle ranchers who view wild predators as a threat to their livelihood.

Oregon’s wildlife agency is now embroiled in a controversial battle to manage our state’s meager population of 137 gray wolves, with livestock ranchers pushing for increased options for killing wolves in the impending Wolf Plan update, and conservationists advocating proven methods to coexist with the imperiled wild canine. Brown’s appointment of Nash shows her clear favor of special interests over Oregon wildlife.

There’s still time to challenge this action. Contact your state senator, who will vote on this nomination on May 8, and call Gov. Kate Brown, 503-378-4582 and tell her to withdraw her outlandish pick to the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Tamara Drake is an environmentalist and longtime Ashland resident. She works as director of research and regulatory policy for the Center for Responsible Science.