SALEM - Oregon lawmakers are being asked to extend a program aimed at reducing elk damage on private property under a bill introduced in the Oregon Senate.
Senate Bill 240 extends the sunset from 2008 to 2014 of the Southwest Oregon Landowner Preference Pilot Program. The extension will give Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials adequate time to analyze the program, according to testimony Jan. 23 before the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
Under the program lawmakers adopted in 2003, eligible Southwest Oregon landowners are provided an additional tool to minimize elk damage. The program, which was initiated in 2004, has not been in existence long enough to allow officials the opportunity to see if it works, ODFW Southwest Region Manager Steve Denney testified.
"The first two years, it looks like it did," Denney said, "but you can't draw a trend from two years. We want to make sure we are getting the data necessary to make sure it does reduce elk damage."
The program, which is similar to the Statewide Landowner Preference Program, is available to landowners in the counties of Jackson, Josephine, Coos, Curry and Douglas who can show significant property damage from elk. Participating landowners provide the ODFW a list of hunters allowed to hunt on their land and ODFW issues hunting tags from this list for anterless elk based in part on the amount of damage occurring on a particular piece of property.
"The key to minimizing damage is to keep these elk moving," said David Messerle, who owns timber and rangeland outside of Coos Bay and Coquille - some of it bordering on federal forestland.
"If you don't put pressure on them, they'll live in a clear cut. And in pastures, they'll just graze ahead of cattle," he said. "The Department of Fish and Wildlife recognizes we're raising these animals and providing habitat."
The program is available to landowners from Aug. 1 to March 30.
About 200 landowners are enrolled in the program, Denney said.
The Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources unanimously supported the bill.