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News and Opinion

COMMUNITY EFFORT FOUNDATION FOR OREGON WOLF COMPENSATION PLAN

by KATY NESBITT, June 28, 2011 - The Observer
ENTERPRISE The Oregon Senate last week unanimously approved the Wolf Depredation Compensation Bill creating a compensation program that addresses wolf depredation of livestock.

Originally introduced by Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, the bill unanimously passed in the House earlier in the week. The compensation program was the brain child of Rod Childers, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association wolf committee chairman, and Wallowa County rancher Dennis Sheehy. Wallowa County ranchers first experienced confirmed wolf-caused livestock depredation in the spring of 2010. Unlike Idaho and Montana, there was no mechanism to receive state and federal funding to compensate for the losses.

“Dennis and I talked about it when we were calving and I said, ‘I’m not a writer, if you put something down, we’ll get it going,’” Childers said.

Childers and Sheehy presented their first draft to the Wallowa County commissioners in June 2010. The commissioners charged them with gaining the support of the Wallowa County Stockgrowers, a local organization of livestock producers. By the end of June, Sheehy and Childers were in conversation with Defenders of Wildlife, the organization that had been compensating ranchers for wolf-related livestock loss since 1987.

The program idea started at the community level and Sheehy said that was the emphasis from the start. The original plan started the local CALF program — community alliance livestock fund, and created the boilerplate for the state plan.

“Having the word ‘community’ in the plan is very important. The original idea now has two different venues,’’ Sheehy said. “We never expected to get state funding given the budget, but created a mechanism so if there ever is funding there would be a way to receive it.”

In the 2009 legislative session, the cattlemen and conservationists were unable to agree on language in a compensation bill that eventually died. By 2010, faced with growing numbers of confirmed losses, a collaborative effort supported by the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, Wallowa County ranchers, the Oregon Farm Bureau, the governor’s office, Hells Canyon Preservation Council and Defenders of Wildlife resulted in overwhelming support by both the House and the Senate.

Suzanne Stone of Defenders of Wildlife said Gov. Kitzhaber’s leadership was “instrumental in bringing together traditional opponents to develop an innovative livestock compensation and wolf co-existence program.

“By empowering local communities to address wolf management issues in a responsible and transparent manner, this program may well become one of the best in the country.”

Childers said he is pleased with the results, but there is still work to do after the governor signs the bill into law.

“I’m very pleased,” Childers said. “It’s something we can go forward with and it’s a very good start. It’s not all we asked for, but it’s a start in in the right direction.”

Under the agreement, HB 3560 will direct $100,000 in financial assistance to those who utilize livestock and non-lethal wolf management techniques.

READ THE ARTICLE IN THE LAGRANDE OBSERVER HERE

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