Wildlife is a barometer of the health our environment. Meager diversity of wildlife, or relatively smaller wildlife populations in any geographical region, is usually an indication of something seriously wrong in the environment. In the United States and Canada, early settlers indulged in unrestricted hunting for food and sport. As these territories were settled, the game species gradually dwindled.
The westward movement of people took its toll in terms of loss of habitat for diverse animal species. In the latter half of the twentieth century, it began to be widely realized how important it was to manage, preserve and conserve wildlife prudently.
Over the decades, more and more conscious efforts have been directed towards wildlife conservation, though they do not seem to be adequate yet. Today, almost every national government across the globe has laws to maintain wildlife. North American governments, especially, perceive the urgency of the need of intense efforts to conserve and protect game and non-game species.
Federal agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and their counterparts in Canada share in the management of wildlife. In almost every state and county of the U.S. and Canada there are wildlife agencies responsible for the protection of fish and animal species.
Oregon’s varied geology, soil, and climate support a vast collection of species and habitats, which also influence the state’s culture and economy. In 2001, for example, wildlife-related activities such as fishing, hunting, and wildlife watching generated a revenue of $2.1 billion for the state’s economy.
However, the expanding impact of human development has left much of Oregon’s wildlife at different levels of risk. Nearly all native grasslands and prairies have been lost since European settlement. Ninety-six percent of the original coastal temperate rainforests have been logged. Oregon has 32 federally listed threatened and endangered species.
Oregonians still feel much closer to nature than people in most other parts of the United States. They deeply appreciate and are proud of Oregon’s rich natural and wildlife heritage, the state’s strong ties to fish, birds and animals. However, it is common knowledge that the wildlife scenario is not so upbeat within the state’s territory. Oregon’s state bird, the western meadowlark, for example, has become a rare sight in Willamette Valley, though it is not yet placed in the endangered species list yet.
The meadowlark needs some conservation attention, as do dozens of other bird and animal species in this land of nature’s bounty. Habitat conditions have to be improved significantly to let Oregon’s wildlife assert its natural resilience and thrive in abundant numbers.
There are major challenges in maintaining Oregon’s many fragmented or degraded wildlife habitats. The construction of towns and roads, alteration of river systems, or intensive land management practices have all contributed, in the natural course of things, to the loss of habitat. Land conversion often results in diminution or total disappearance of habitats. At the very least, it impacts the quality of habitats and adversely affects the ecosystems.
However, in the more recent decades, environmental awareness has led to improvements in land management practices. Better concerted efforts by Oregonians to sustain the state’s fish and wildlife are showing promising results.