Kudos for some hunters

  Dear HCN,

Lynne Bama's "Bringing Back the Bighorn" (HCN, 2/3/97) raises important questions about the wildlife management that private money (hunters' money) can buy - and threaten - on public lands.

However, I'd like to add a positive comment. The Oregon Hunters Association, with 4,500 members, has been a leader in protecting habitat for Rocky Mountain bighorn in Hells Canyon. The group was a plaintiff in the 1996 litigation challenging the Forest Service's continued permitting of domestic sheep in Hells Canyon. It has been working with the Hells Canyon Preservation Council, other environmental organizations, and the Nez Perce Tribe to oppose proposed roads and developments in Hells Canyon.

As Bama points out, Rocky Mountain bighorn need space and unroaded habitat free of domestic sheep. While it is laudable that the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, a single-species focus organization, is pledging money for bighorn reintroductions, it is the Oregon Hunters Association that has been bringing together diverse interests who know and love Hells Canyon, in order to restore not only wild sheep but a wild Hells Canyon.

Therefore, it isn't really accurate to say, as Bama does, that hunters and environmentalists aren't yet working together "toward the common goal of bringing the area's wild sheep back." The Oregon Hunters Association has been doing so, for years. In the process, these hunters have consistently elevated wildlife habitat and conservation over trophy hunting or privilege in Hells Canyon.

Mary O'Brien

Eugene, Oregon

The writer is ecosystem policy analyst for the Hells Canyon Preservation Council.

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