Wildlife Commission ignored science

The Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners met in November, in part, to consider a ban on wildlife killing contests (RN&R, Nov. 7). Rather than do the sensible, popular, and humane thing by ending these wanton thrill-killing events, the majority of the commissioners put on a breathtaking display of self-pity and argumentative fallacies. In the end, they did a disservice to Nevada’s wildlife and the Nevadans whom they purport to represent by condoning these massacres and allowing them to continue.

I have witnessed all manner of environmental policy debates and value-based arguments, but I have never before seen a group of decision-makers complain so much about having to spend time and energy on an issue. Let’s remember that the Wildlife Commissioners are privileged appointees who have accepted the honor to serve Nevadans and wildlife. But, at this meeting, they all acted as though they wished they could be anywhere but the stage where their duty took them.

From the outset of the debate on ending wildlife killing contests, the commissioners ducked the real issue, offered false misleading statements, and complained about even having to discuss the topic.

Commissioner Pierini provided an incoherent monologue claiming to “not know what’s going on with coyotes” and stating that “we don’t even really know how many numbers there is in Nevada.” Of course, given his position of power, Commissioner Pierini could easily request that data or direct the Nevada Department of Wildlife to acquire it. He did neither.

Commissioner Rogers said that he doesn’t “think there’s a single Nevada based NGO that supports this ban” on killing contests. And that, according to his research, there’s “not a lot of support out there for this.” All of the commissioners had been sent a letter from Nevada-based groups along with regional and national groups opposing a ban. The letter includes polling that demonstrates wildlife killing contests are opposed by the majority of Nevadans.

Commissioner Barnes expressed being “upset” by having to spend time on an issue that so many Nevadans care about, saying “I wish we spent this much time talking about mule deer.” For his part, Commissioner Caviglia whined that activists were prepared to take this issue to the legislature if the Wildlife Commission did not resolve it. Perhaps someone should remind Mr. Caviglia about our system of checks and balances that is so threatening to him.

The irony is that the five commissioners who voted to condone wildlife killing contests could have saved themselves from all this “difficult thinking” and “challenging discussion” if they had simply come clean with their values instead of trying to mask them: all five think that it’s okay to kill native wildlife en masse for money and prizes.

This decision, other archaic policies towards native carnivores, and the very tenor of the debate lay bare the fundamental problem with Nevada’s Wildlife Commission. Quite simply, this Commission is deeply out of touch with the Nevadans it should represent and intentionally ignorant of the plethora of science that shows wildlife killing contests have no positive impact on ungulate populations or livestock-wildlife conflict.

To its immense credit, the Nevada Department of Wildlife made clear both of these points to the Commissioners as they took up this topic. Director Wasley gave a frank and clear opening statement indicating that these contests are unpopular, unscientific, and gives the Commission and ethical hunters a bad reputation.

The Commission did not heed Director Wasley’s words. Five commissioners ignored the science. They ignored the Nevadans imploring them to adopt humane and coexistence-based policies. And in the process, they demonstrated once again why a fundamental, systemic change is needed for Nevada’s wildlife.

Cheyanne Neuffer, Reno

Coyote-calling contests conserve wildlife

The people clamoring to end the long tradition of coyote-calling contests in Nevada don’t know much about the damage the critters cause ranchers’ stock and game animals such as deer and elk in the state’s rural counties. Coyotes have no natural predators and are overpopulated in Nevada and across the West.  The coyote-calling contests not only help keep the coyote population under control, they also provide a long-standing social function for people in the rural areas.

If the contests ended, coyotes would still need to be harvested to keep populations in check, but we’d be spending tax dollars for state employees to do what the contest participants now are doing for free. Coyotes are not cute and cuddly dogs.  They prey on cattle, sheep and pets. Their numbers must be held in check. The Wildlife Commission did the right thing by allowing the contests to continue.

Alex Samaras, Elko

Sex education is biology

Most sex education programs in schools are incredibly outdated, and the topics they teach need to be normalized. Most kids I know are oblivious to the physical and mental changes they will experience during puberty. One of the main reasons for this is the taboo around the sex education curriculum.

 While some people think these topics are controversial and inappropriate for children to be learning, it’s just biology, and it happens to everyone. If people viewed these topics as the science of growth and development, the topics would be less stigmatized and people would know how to better take care of themselves and others.

One of the biggest examples of the stigma around sex education is that boys and girls go to the sex education classes separately and don’t learn about the opposite gender. I believe that everyone should have an understanding of everyone else no matter who they are, because it allows people to be more connected with each other. If females understood development in males and vice versa, it would allow for people to have stronger relationships with others.

If learning about and understanding the topics in sex education were normalized, people would be more comfortable with their bodies, be less self-conscious, and altogether be happier.

Naomi Thompson, Reno

Support Oil and Gas Reform

(In November) the U.S. Interior Department released a report outlining potential reforms to the system governing oil and gas drilling on public lands. The report was developed in response to President Biden’s executive order that paused new oil and gas leasing while directing the Secretary of the Interior to review opportunities for reform, including whether to increase royalties for oil, gas, and coal extracted from public lands to account for climate costs.

The Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Executive Director Jennifer Rokala:

“For more than a century, oil and gas companies have taken advantage of a system that prioritizes profits over communities, taxpayers, and our climate. This report provides a critical roadmap to ensure drilling decisions on public lands take into account impacts on our land, water, and wildlife, while ensuring a fair return for taxpayers. Make no mistake, this is not a pie-in-the-sky wish list, it’s a detailed action plan that will yield real benefits for taxpayers and communities.

“It is now up to Congress and the Biden administration to put this plan into action and move toward a day in which our public lands continue to strengthen local communities while being part of the climate solution, not part of the climate problem.”

For more information, visit westernpriorities.org.

Center for Western Priorities, Denver

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