JOHN DAY - Chili was on the menu, but most of the 70 or so people gathered at the senior center were more interested in chewing on the state's proposed wolf plan.
The occasion was the 14th Annual Roadkill Chili Feed, held Jan. 27. It's an event held to bring old friends and new ones together to discuss issues affecting Grant County.
The focus this year was on the wolf, and the state's plan to conserve and manage the wolf populations expected to arrive here from Idaho.
It's a complex issue that began in the mid-1990s, when the federal government decided to re-establish wolf packs in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.
Naturally, wolves from Idaho started roaming, and in 1999, a wolf wandered into Oregon and the state's wildlife leaders decided the state needed a plan to manage the coming wolf packs.
The arrival sparked intense interest throughout the state. The Oregon Cattlemen's Association petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Commission to have the wolf delisted in 2002. That year, conservation groups filed a petition that the Fish and Wildlife Commission adopt certain specific conservation measures for the wolf.
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission appointed 14 members to a Wolf Advisory Committee and tasked them with developing a plan. The committee began working in November 2003 and completed an initial draft in October 2004.
Twelve of the 14 committee members approved the plan. The other two, Sharon Beck of the Oregon Cattlemen's Association, and Ben Boswell, Wallowa County commissioner, did not approve the plan and wrote minority reports.
In the senior center, there was a mounted wolf up on the stage that Ken Moore shot in Alaska, and on one wall were a couple of pelts, a large one from a wolf and a much smaller one from a coyote.
Dave Traylor, who started the event and organizes it every year, told the anti-wolf crowd that pro-wolf people had been invited to speak in the name of fairness, but "they declined."
Dennis Reynolds, the county's chief administrator, spoke about the county's wolf ordinance and commented on the size of wolves. He compared the skull of wolf to that of a bear.
"The skull of a wolf dwarfs a black bear's," he said.
The Grant County ordinance prevents the keeping of full-blooded wolves in the county. It doesn't address the issue of hybrids.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says the ordinance is no good, Reynolds said.
"But the county is going to enforce it," he said. "Canus lupis is an exotic animal, and the county is given the right to set keeping of exotic animals."
Reynolds drew loud applause when he defined "keeping."
"I define it by having a wolf in the cross-hairs and somebody tapping me on the shoulder and saying you can't do that. That person is the keeper," he said
The commission is scheduled to make a final decision on the plan Feb. 11.
A public hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 10 at the Sam Cox Annex, 1106 E. Columbia River Drive in Troutdale. A bus is leaving at 7 a.m. that day from Les Schwab's parking lot. The bus seats 47 people, and has a bathroom and video monitors. Ten people signed up for the trip at the chili feed. The cost is $20. Anyone going needs to bring a sack lunch for the trip there. The plan is to stop in Biggs on the way back to buy dinner. For more information about the trip, call Traylor, 932-4618 or David Snider, 932-4810.
Contributions from area merchants are helping to pay for the trip.
"There is merit in staring them in the eye," Reynolds said. "We want them to understand we are serious about the issue and wonder why they would endorse a plan that puts people in danger. The tendency is to get emotional about it, but we want to try to fight with facts. We can't say anything on the eleventh, but our presence is important."
Written comments may be submitted to: ODFW * Information and Education Division, 3406 Cherry Avenue NE Salem , OR 97303-4924; fax: (503) 947-6009; and e-mail: Odfw.Comments@state.or.us
Questions regarding the rule-making process or the draft plan may be directed to ODFW by calling Craig Ely at (541) 963-2138 or Anne Pressentin Young at (503) 657-2000, Ext. 285.