What's Good for the Goose

Trey Smith

On KGW News at 6, one of the stories concerned the damage done to farms on Suave Island by migrating geese. Environmental Reporter Vince Patton stated that area farmers want more state and federal assistance to control the goose population, including allowing increased hunting to pare down numbers.

Well, that WAS their position before they met up with representatives from several native communities in Alaska. Their Alaskan counterparts stated that the geese are an important part of the diet for some of the most impoverished communities in the nation. Cutting back on goose populations in Oregon would have a negative effect on such communities.

Two things struck me about this report. First, by bringing together people at both ends of the geographic (or philosophical) spectrum, it allowed both sides the opportunity to see the situation from the other's point of view. This is an exercise we should try to replicate in more situations.

It's far easier to demonize or trivialize someone else or their viewpoint IF they remain the faceless other. When we merely guess or theorize about a position different from our own, we tend to impute motivations that often are inaccurate. In time, these manufactured inaccuracies become part of the truth for us. Even when it is later shown that certain facets of our beliefs about the situation are wrong, we nevertheless find it difficult to let go of the picture we've conjured up in our own minds.

By meeting face-to-face and being genuinely open to try to understand things from a different point of view, we build bridges in place of walls. We all should know that a bridge can span a divide, while a wall cannot.

The second aspect of this report that immediately sprung to mind was the farmer's initial idea of a "battle plan" to combat the geese. Why is that we humans are always quick to want to minimize other populations except our own?

Instead of seeking funding to limit goose populations, why not seek funds to mitigate the damage caused by the geese? If a farmer plants his crop and the migrating flocks settle in the farmer's field, why not recompense the farmer for the crops damaged?

By addressing the issue from this perspective, the farmer is paid for lost revenue, the geese are fed and the native communities in Alaska will have plenty of geese to hunt during the summer to provide needed sustenance. As some would say, this would be a win-win situation all the way around.

  • "Mr. Suave" (unverified)

    Is "Suave island" where all the dashing young men go? Ha ha ha...

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    Good for you Trey - rural people are people too!

    I don't know what they were growing on Sauvie's Island that attracted the geese, I've seen a lot of corn out there, but that might not have been it. Helping the farmer with the problem (netting over some crops might work), or compensating them for losses is the right thing to do.

    When an individual pays a price to the community for the good of the community, and takes a loss paying that price to the detriment of that individuals well being; then the community should help out.

    It is a simple justice that rural people often find missing. We are often told that there is no justice, that this is a price we have to pay for the privelege to use our land. Too often this becomes construed by those that twist things around as a Democratic insensitivity to rural people.

    It is so refreshing to see a pro-rural, pro-justice essay here. Again - good job Trey!

  • Anthony (unverified)

    It's my understanding that large Canada goose populations have ceased to migrate long distances and now circulate in areas where there is abundant food. Could it be that this is the case with the geese troubling Sauvie Island?

    My experience of this is from the Northeast, where these geese had become a serious problem. Resistance to controlling or culling them in that part of the country was driven by concerns about cruelty to animals rather than depriving human populations of food. Clearly these geese had become local to the area (New Jersey in this case) and could be found year round circulating among large grassy areas.

  • BassBird (unverified)

    Why can't they just eat more goose in Alaska?

  • Rob Kremer (unverified)

    I've got a better idea. Why not just let the Alaskan Natives come to Sauvie Island, capture as many of the critters as they need to eat, and take 'em back up to Alaska and chow down?

    That way both goals are met, and it doesn't cost anyone anything!

    And, Trey.... there are plenty of humans trying to limit the population of humans. Ever heard of ZPG, or the Chinese government restrictions of reproducing?

  • BassBird (unverified)

    Rob, Transporting Alaskans here would be quite expensive.

    If, for some reason, they can't kill more up there (I don't see why they could not) then maybe if we kill the geese here, make jerky, and ship that to Alaska.

  • Trey (unverified)

    To Steve: Having lived in a large metropolitan area (Kansas City), a mid-sized city (Salem), large towns (Hot Springs, AR and Newton, KS) and small towns (Green Forest, Osage and Monticello, AR -- Pendleton, OR), I have a good understanding of how people in different geographic areas view issues.

    To Anthony: My understanding is that goose problem in Oregon is seasonal.

    To Rob: Bassbird made the point I was going to make about the expense of bringing Alaska natives here. And, of course, you are correct about the Chinese and ZPG. I was speaking more in terms of general mainstream thought, but should have made that point clear.

    To All: Yes, I now realize I left the "i" out of Suavie.

  • Becky (unverified)

    Steve wrote: "When an individual pays a price to the community for the good of the community, and takes a loss paying that price to the detriment of that individuals well being; then the community should help out."

    This is precisely the reasoning behind Measure 37.

    Anyway, it's good to see a post about the need to get people together to talk about issues so they can find ways to address their divergent needs. Thank you, Trey, for pointing this out. We need a lot more of that!

  • Trey (unverified)

    Becky, While I'm a strong supporter of bringing people together to resolve complex issues, I loathe Measure 37. I think it goes way too far. I think there is a chasm of difference between geese eating crops and someone wishing to build a condo or a casino in the middle of prime farmland.

    In the first instance, I strongly believe the farmer should be compensated for his loss of revenue because we humans can't control and shouldn't try to control where wild geese decide to land and eat. However, in the latter example, we DO control use of land through community-created land use regulations.

    For me, it's a comparison of apples and oranges.

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