Friday, October 9, 2015

Aversion Training for Wolves or Sensitivity Training for Ranchers?

By Bob Ferris

I have been pretty ensconced of late in politics because it is the “moving train” of the moment and because of the importance of this next election cycle.   But then this headline shared on Facebook by friend and Wolfer author Carter Niemeyer caught my eye:  ‘Wolf-friendly beef’ Idea Patronizing to Ranchers.  Hmm...

Now I am really sorry that ranchers feel that the idea of “wolf-friendly beef” is so patronizing as I hate to unnecessarily hurt the feelings of any group.  But I wonder in this context if food stamp recipients like the term “food stamps” or do they find that patronizing or demeaning?  And I wonder if ranchers are as annoyed about “wolf-friendly beef” as the rest of us are about the idea of subsidized, public lands grazing in the West or the fact that taxpayers absorb something on the order of a $123 million a year in direct costs for that program?  And when you include other direct and indirect costs such as predator control and environmental consequences including decreased water quality and compromised wildlife habitat the societal cost of ranching become much higher.    

I have worked for many, many years in the area of economic incentives for wildlife conservation on public and private lands.  Part of that process has always been empathy and a well-developed sensitivity to the issues faced by others sitting across the table from you.  Concepts like “wolf-friendly beef” are born out of the process.  Those activities work best when all parties come to the table with self-awareness and a willingness to look for solutions and fail when one side feels entitled or oppressed without acknowledging their true part of the total equation.  Perhaps we should invest some in sensitivity training for ranchers or make it a precondition for grazing on public lands?  Yeah, that’s the ticket.

1 comment:

  1. Well Bob, another well-written blog, but I must point out that subsidizing the cattle industry and letting it externalize costs is so much a part of the American west, that your statement, "Perhaps we should invest some in sensitivity training for ranchers," illustrates the ingrained (if not subconscious) notion that "we" should invest to improve things for "them."

    Washington State invested in a "third-party neutral" for the Wolf Advisory Group, who worked on trust-building exercises, so the representative from a small cattlemen's group dropped from the WAG--probably frightened that there would be progress on coexistence rather than confrontation with Canis lupus. In Washington we're already paying for sensitivity training, but participants must have some sense for things to work.