Oregon Cattlemen's Association adopts Baker County ranchers' wolf protest
By MIKE FERGUSON
Of the Baker City Herald
A move to close private agricultural lands to such uses as hunting and fishing has moved from a Baker County stage to one that's statewide.
Mike Colton of Baker City, president of the Baker County Livestock Association, is one of seven ranchers who this spring decided not to allow recreational access to their land as they had in the past to anglers and hunters who asked permission.
The local ranchers' land closure was a response to the . Ranchers don't like the management plan because it forbids them from shooting wolves suspected of preying on livestock unless they catch the predator in the act.
Cattlemen also note the Oregon Legislature failed to authorize compensation for them should they lose cattle to wolves.
The intent of the statewide resolution, passed earlier this month at Colton's urging during the annual convention,is to protest "an agency that is not following its own policies, mission and goals" and to protect "the wolf's wild prey base in anticipation of (the wolf's) arrival in Oregon," Colton wrote in the resolution, which passed with only one "no" vote.
Colton has been appointed to head up a statewide committee of livestock producers to implement the resolution if, as expected, the ODFW commission approves the revised wolf management plan during its Dec. 1 meeting.
Colton said he's encouraging Baker County residents to comment on the plan revision. The deadline for comment is Tuesday, Nov. 29.
The revised plan "leaves livestock producers with no legal, reasonable, short-term options save one to close our land to any public entry," Colton's resolution states.
"We've been strong-armed and ignored by the commission. We're left to do the one thing we can do," he said. "I think (hunters and anglers) understand what we're trying to do. The hunters we've talked to have been very receptive to us. The Oregon Hunters Association hated to see (the closure) happen, but they supported us anyway.
"If I were a member of the wildlife commission, I'd be worried this will catch on."
OCA executive director Kay Tiesel said that the strength of Colton's proposal is that it makes a statement in support of livestock producers but carries no price tag for her organization.
"It would cost a lot to go another route," she said. "It's the best way we can find to level the playing field."
The OCA also approved a resolution proposed by Cove rancher Sharon Beck in support of Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne's proposal to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the Canadian gray wolf.
Beck, a member of the wolf management plan advisory team, wrote a minority report opposing the department's management plan.
The governors' proposal offers five possibilities for delisting wolves. One, which the governors prefer, would include a full review of wolf populations across the country. In states where wolves have met population goals and states have management plans, wolves would be taken off the endangered species list.
The proposal would change the boundary of the Rocky Mountain distinct population to include a small portion of Eastern Oregon. OCA has asked Kempthorne and Schweitzer to alter their proposal to include Oregon east of the Cascades.
Kevin Westfall, director of governmental affairs for the OCA, said the governors' proposal would "allow us some flexibility in control of wolves. The plan is a step in the right direction for us."
He said he had "no idea" how the proposal would be received by Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who's in charge of USFWS.
Beck said she's also concerned about , a parasite that can be carried by wolves and other canines that causes abortions in bovines.
One Montana study she cited indicated 70 percent of wolves who roam livestock ground there are carriers.
"We're talking to the Oregon Department of Agriculture about it," she said. "It's a very serious issue in our industry, potentially devastating. We'd like the commission to hold off on the wolf plan until we get this very serious issue pinned down."
A third locally generated resolution, this one by North Powder rancher Curt Martin, was tabled at the OCA convention because it may conflict with one the association passed earlier.
Martin's proposal said the OCA "will not support mandatory national animal identification until mandatory country of origin labeling is implemented and funded."
"We had a pretty good discussion about it. We're concerned about this national identification push," Martin told the BCLA membership. "But it got tabled because it might conflict with a past resolution."
Martin said OCA had yet to provide a copy of that past resolution.
"We're going to research it and, if it doesn't (conflict), propose it again."