(By Brandon Nobles/ Brandon is a graduate of the University of Washington with a degree in English and Humanities. He is a current online teacher and is the Research Coordinator for the 7th LD Democratic Central Committee.)
Well, it happened again. A couple weeks back, Fish and Wildlife confirmed that a calf was killed and partially eaten by the Sherman Wolf Pack. It did not take long for Facebook to go abuzz and local politicians taking advantage of the situation to stir up their constituents. Seventh Legislative District Republican Representative Joel Kretz declared it was going to “get western.” Par for the course, many locals joined in this Gaston-esque mob rallying over a creature that affects only a tiny fraction of a percentage of the 7th LD’s population. The wolf since the creation of the Wolf Recovery Program has been transformed into a political football to toss about amongst local politicians to secure a limited and distracting political discourse that covers and masks the fact that this region continues to sink economically with a heroin-fueled socially pathological residue as a replacement. Only when our local politicians seek out to serve all of their constituents and abandon these little political sideshows (or be replaced with those who are more apt to serve their district) will NE Washington ever be able to put on the brakes before going off the cliff that this region is heading.
The wolf issue as a political football and bread-and-circuses distraction is evidenced by none other than the fact that livestock that die from natural causes, or are killed by various other predators are never graced with such focus and attention from our local lawmakers. Distraction in terms of fear and hatred has always been an effective GOP tool, be it nationally (Muslims, Mexicans, etc.) or at our local level with wolves or evil Seattle-ite commie coastals. The narrative goes that the elitist denizens of the Puget Sound are hell-bent (through the Wolf Recovery Plan and apparently with politically active coastal transplants like myself) to destroy the frontier ranching and logging way of life in the region, and in turn create a over-taxed gentrified wildlife refuge with a Starbucks on every corner (better than taco trucks I suppose…). Various other forms of Eastern Washington political GOP discourses follow this reasoning with the political fear-factor variable of the wolf being switched out for some other dastardly foe, be it the demolition of the salmon destroying and antiquated Snake River Dams in Southeast Washington, or the seeming scourge of illegal migrant laborers in Central Washington (where paradoxically the ones complaining about these people are the same ranchers and farmers who hire them…).
This leads to the subject we must consider and acknowledge to ourselves no matter how unpopular, that NE Washington still considers itself culturally to be a local economy based on ranching, logging and mining when nothing could be further from the truth. Depending on which labor statistics one uses, the extraction and agricultural industries combined make up about 3-4% of the labor market. In contrast, government employees (consisting of the National Forest Service, Homeland Security, BLM, teachers, police officers, local governments, firefighters, etc.) make up over half of the same market. This is no way trying to disparage ranchers, loggers, and the like, but it does seem disconcerting that talk of wolves, wetland easements, and other exclusive issues that affect only a small fraction of our population and economy are primarily the only issues that are focused on in this region’s political arena.
This inherent exclusivity is effectively leading to the destruction of one of the most beautiful places of Washington by systematically ignoring critical problems that affect the population as a whole, not just a small group of specific interests: a heroin and opioid pain pill epidemic, crumbling infrastructure, summer wildfires that are only going to get worse in the age of climate change, underfunded law enforcement agencies, heavy property crime, draconian local farming regulations, demographic collapse with youth routinely leaving the area, massive unemployment, etc. And no, an improbable and unlikely dream of a revamped extraction industry will not cure unemployment or any of the ills mentioned above. What could cure them is the diligent work of our legislators and local politicians, who have so far in their actions in addressing the real problems of this region have been trials in mediocrity if not outright sticking-one’s-head-in-the-sand on these issues. The wolves (whether we like it or not) are here to stay, and our politicians need to understand that hiding behind wolf-kills to secure election after election will no longer be tolerated. We must voice our demands that they need to represent ALL of their constituents and focus on issues that affect the lives of ALL of their constituents on a daily basis. If they refuse to do this, then we need to do some cleaning out of the house for politicians who will do the job that they were elected to do.