PUT EMPHASIS ON PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

March 31, 2002 11:00 pm

Four deaths have occurred at South Falls in Silver Falls State Park over the past four years. Two were believed to be suicides, two others accidental. The latest victim at the park 25 miles east of Salem was a 7-year-old boy who with his father was tossing sticks into Silver Creek near the top of the 177-foot falls in early March. The boy reportedly stumbled, fell in and was swept over the falls.

SO SHOULD we shut down the park to keep the public safe from such dangers? Make dangerous areas totally off limits? The answer is no. Thousands of people enjoy Silver Falls and other Oregon parks each year. The parks are places to refresh the spirit, to inspire awe, to marvel at the beauty. But let the public beware: Many of these parks celebrate the great diversity of landscape that makes Oregon special. That means cliffs, waterfalls, rushing rivers, caves, whirlpools, waves, falling tree branches, low-swooping owls and more.

WE CANNOT put signs and fences everywhere humans might stumble into danger. Whats more, intensive signage is a quick fix, not a long-term solution, and wont keep all people from stepping into trouble. And even the most intense signage program wont prevent vandals from removing signs. As parks spokesman Tom Towslee said, No fence is going to be a replacement for personal responsibility.

People will make mistakes; none of us is immune. And it is tragic when people lose loved ones in incidents like the accident at Silver Falls. The common sense solution is to erect signs and fences in the most dangerous locations. Trying to put them everywhere would not only block out the scenery but be silly, and not be financially responsible.

NUMBERS MAKE CASE

Ranchers who have been sounding a warning about the potential of wolves migrating across the Snake River into Eastern Oregon and destroying their livestock have some new ammunition to bolster their argument.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported last week that wolf packs in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, where the federal government has been trying to re-establish the predator, killed more than 180 head of livestock last year.

THE REPORT SAID wolves in the three states killed 40 cattle and 138 sheep in 2001. That was up from 32 cattle and 80 sheep the previous year. Four llamas and six dogs were also confirmed killed by wolves.

The issue will not go away. Wolf managers believe problems will increase as the wolf population grows and more of the animals prowl private agriculture land.

The problem is serious. The answer is to realize that the governments program of reintroducing the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies has been successful. Focus must turn now toward controlling that population so that ranchers have a reasonable chance of keeping their livestock out of the clutches of these predators.