Sea Lion Bus Demo Report Back
What a great day for standing up for the sea lions! With the sun shining on us, animal advocates packed the bus called Cool and headed down to Salem today. We came from all over Cascadia -- from Portland, from Eugene, from St Helens, from Colton, from Beavercreek, and from other communities across Oregon. As there was only supposed to be room for 25 on the bus, we had to squeeze together close to fit 30 on board, and others had to make their own way there in separate cars. We went down to the capital to make our voices heard on behalf of some of the most oppressed residents in all of Cascadia. We went to speak up for the sea lions of the Columbia.
We began with an hour-long demonstration at ODFW headquarters. The ODFW is the Oregon state agency responsible for killing the sea lions. They're spending more than a million Oregon taxpayer dollars on this mis-guided program, at the same time that services are being cut to senior citizens, people with disabilities, and children. (Washington State residents are spending an additional $1 million plus on their half of the killing.) They've admitted that the best they can hope for from this program is that it might, perhaps, be "marginally" helpful. More likely, it will not be effective at all. Because, as we all know, it is not the sea lions who are driving the salmon into extinction. It is us.
In any event, when we arrived, a small delegation went inside to inquire whether there might be anyone willing to talk with us about our concerns. We were politely told that there was no one there, at the ODFW headquarters, in a decision-making position. They were all elsewhere for the day. This was especially interesting, because the ODFW had known for weeks that we were planning to visit them on this day. Can they really be so afraid of the truth?
While inside the hallowed, and taxpayer-funded halls of the ODFW, we had quite an eye opening experience: This agency, whose mission statement claims it's all about "protecting" wildlife, has a lobby that would make any trophy hunter proud. You're seriously not going to believe this. The lobby was jammed with dead, stuffed, animal trophies. There were two giant, dead, elk heads above the door on either side. There was an entire, stuffed, dead, bear crouched along one wall. On the other side of a glass wall, there was a big, stuffed, dead, mountain goat. In a plexi-glass case on the floor in one corner, there was a dead turkey. And most alarming and ironic of all, right in front of the entrance way, we found a great, dead, eagle. Of all things! The ODFW has a dead bald eagle in their doorway! It was shockingly inappropriate and strangely fitting all at the same time.
After shooting some photographs of this bizarre display, we walked back outside to find most of our party engaged in spirited cheering. One person, though, was standing off to the side talking to a man who had come out of the ODFW building shortly before we did. I later found out that the man was actually very supportive of our cause. He held a very dim view of the policies of the ODFW, and did not believe they should be killing sea lions any more than we did.
Since the entrance way was secluded from the public, we elected to march out to the street in front of the building instead. We lined the streets at the intersection leading into the agency's property. The purpose of this part of our itinerary was to raise public awareness that the ODFW is unnecessarily murdering the animals they are supposed to be "protecting." We spent a raucous hour cheering, chanting, and holding signs. The people in hundreds of passing cars honked, waived, and shouted their support. Out of all the people we encountered, the response was overwhelmingly positive.
After an hour of that, we marched back to the front of the ODFW building for a family photo, and then we all loaded back onto the bus and went to the capitol. We'd heard that the No-LNG folks were also going to be there today, so it was a thrill to see the LNG hearing packed, wall to wall, with people fighting the LNG plant and pipeline proposed to run along the Columbia. (This issue is intimately related to our own struggle: Anyone who really cares about saving salmon should be fighting tooth and nail against the wanton destruction of salmon habitat that would result from the proposed LNG plant. This is a much more effective way to save salmon than killing natural predators.)
At the capitol building, some of us went inside to talk to legislators, while others rallied outside. We handed out fliers and educated the public about the sea lions and the salmon, and how Oregon tax dollars are being wasted. Most people we encountered were outraged, both at the killing of native sea lions, and at the tremendous waste of tax money.
They should be outraged. And they should be especially outraged to learn, as we did, that Governor Kulongoski himself initially supported the killing of sea lions, and that he signed off on the program himself. In other words, C578 and C579, beloved friends, were put to death because he signed on the dotted line. I wonder if he will continue to support this, now that the budget is being slashed, and a million dollars is being blatantly flushed down the ODFW loo. Taxpayers may reasonably wonder why the governor would ever support such an extravagant waste of resources at a time when so many important public services are being cut.
A small delegation met with the governor's Natural Resources Policy Advisor to discuss this matter. A key point in that discussion: If we're going to foot the bill for a million dollar salmon recovery plan, at the very least, we ask that this money be spent on something that will actually work to restore salmon. We cannot be trying to wipe out natural predators when we know that this has never worked, ever, in the history of wildlife management. Why not, instead, address the real problems behind the salmon crisis? Why not, for example, STOP the FISHING? (In the first four days of this month, fishermen killed more than four thousand salmon. That's more than a thousand fish per day. Coincidentally, the sea lions stand accused of eating roughly four thousand fish at Bonneville dam, in an entire year. So sea lions are being put on a death list for the crime of collectively killing four thousand salmon per year, while human fishermen get away with killing that many fish in only four days. And the ODFW claims that they're "managing" everything else, so now they simply "must" manage the sea lions? Why not just cut the fishing season by a few days, to make up for whatever the sea lions are eating at the dam? Wouldn't that make more sense? Wouldn't that be more fiscally responsible? Indeed it would.
After meeting with my own legislators, I went outside to find our number growing. People who had not come down with us were picking up some of our signs and sitting with us on the steps of the capitol. I spoke with one man who said that he has gone out to Astoria on many occasions to see the sea lions, and that he was horrified to learn that the government is scapegoating and killing them for no reason. He noted that sea lions are so intelligent that the US Navy employs them in war games, and mentioned that he thought it was a sin to hurt animals who are that smart. I talked with another person who had come down for the LNG hearing. She said that she could not believe anyone would think killing sea lions is an appropriate way to respond to the salmon decline.
So this was our day in Salem, from my perspective. (Others who were there, feel free to add your own thoughts.) After everyone came back from meeting with legislators, we boarded the bus and headed for home. Once back at the IDA haus, we shared a vegan barbecue and a keg of fabulous home-brewed ale. Thanks to all the people who came to speak up for the sea lions today! Thanks to the radical cheerleaders, and to the person who donated the vegan dogs (you know who you are), thanks to Steve for driving the bus, and thanks to Matt Rossell for staying up night after night for the sea lions.
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