Monday, May 14, 2018

Ranchers Sour On Trump Administration Over Proposal To Bring Back Grizzly Bears

Some ranchers in Washington state fear reintroducing grizzlies, like this one seen in Alaska, will bring a “catastrophic” threat to their livelihood. Rancher Craig Verasjka enthusiastically voted for Donald Trump and his support for the president’s interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, had been unwavering. Finally, he recalled thinking after the election, when making land management decisions the federal government might give a friendlier ear to rural Americans who rely on public lands to make a living. That honeymoon appeared to end abruptly this Spring, however, when Secretary Zinke paid a surprise visit to North Cascades National Park, announcing he was restarting a stalled Obama-era plan to reintroduce grizzly bears. “What the hell do we do? We thought we had somebody on our side and now Zinke pulls this on us,” Verasjka says, “We’re not happy.” “It’ll be catastrophic,” Verasjka says, who considers the predators a potential threat to his livelihood. They’ll kill his cows, he fears, or at the very least stress them, keeping them on the move and deterring them from breeding. “I mean the guy [Zinke] flies to the Northwest in a 48-hour period and makes a decision like that not consulting a person like myself who’s spent a lifetime here,” Verasjka says. There is anxiety over grizzlies in remote central Washington’s Okanogan County, a large river-carved plateau of sage brush country about 40 miles south of the Canadian border. Ranchers like Verasjka worry the bears will roam east of the mountains looking for food. The county is also home to some of Washington’s most productive and lucrative fruit orchards. And some locals will tell you privately they feel like they’re being scapegoated by the interior secretary, who needs an environmental “win,” they say, after presiding over a historic reduction in federal land protections at two national monuments in Utah...MORE

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