It seems a weekly routine, reading about new depredations on livestock in the Capital Press, hearing neighbors talk about sightings over breakfast at the local café and finding ourselves in heated conversations about the “wolf problem.” Ranchers are restless without answers on this habitual issue, a terror in many rural communities. When I share an article about wolf attacks on OCA’s Facebook page, the comment “What is the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association doing to fix this problem?” becomes ever more prevalent.

The Oregon Wolf Plan revision was due in 2015, but stakeholders including OCA, ODFW, Defenders of Wildlife, Oregon Wild, OFB, Oregon Hunter’s Association and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have failed to find middle ground on this plan, and here we are, 2019, with no answers for the hardworking citizens of this state.

The Cattlemen’s Association continues to put ranchers first and refuses to ignore these shattering attacks on cattle producers by compromising on a plan that brushes concerns under the table. Roger Huffman, OCA’s Wolf Task Force Committee chair from Union, calls the current situation “chronic depredation” because multiple attacks are occurring with no response or resolution from ODFW, and so the problem continues to amplify.

Many of you may have read the Capital Press article about Ted Birdseye in Jackson County, who awoke on New Year’s Day to find an injured, 5-month old calf with 2 feet of intestines hanging out of its backside. This has become “just another day at the office” for Birdseye as he has suffered at least five calf kills and one guard dog kill in 2018. If Birdseye’s situation is not “chronic depredation,” then what is?

Birdseye is not permitted to take lethal action against the wolves who are scarfing down his property for supper. The wolves are still federally protected under the Endangered Species Act west of highways 395, 78 and 95. This is the story for ranchers across the state, some of whom may face $20,000 or more in losses from wolves in a given year. So, the question returns to stakeholders, what are you doing to protect the ranchers of Oregon?

The Governor’s Office has failed to answer that question, and the monthly stakeholder meetings have only been a means to delay the response further. On Jan. 8, a stakeholder meeting was planned in Portland, a draft of the revamped Wolf Plan from ODFW was sent out before Christmas, and there was much to discuss in the new year. However, in true fashion, the day before the stakeholder meeting, an article on OregonLive detailed that The Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands would be pulling out of the stakeholder process due to the lack of their recommendations being accepted.

Mark Bennett, a stakeholder representative for the Oregon Farm Bureau and Baker County commissioner, says there is a 33 percent average growth rate per year in the wolf population, but even with this growth, the management strategies remain stagnant. The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and other like-minded groups such as Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Hunter’s and Rocky Mountain Elk refuse to ignore the need for a new system to handle the rapidly growing population of wolves.

Todd Nash, OCA treasurer, has been a vocal representative for OCA throughout this stakeholder process, and he says there are three points cattlemen will not compromise on in this negotiation: 1) all wolves should be collared or tracked; 2) clear management zones should be created; 3) local biologists should have control of lethal take circumstances. Likewise, OCA is pushing for all non-lethal measurements to be paid for by the government because farmers and ranchers should not be responsible for those exorbitant costs on top of their suffered losses. Where is the accountability for farmers and ranchers? Where is the governmental protection for state citizens? It has been made clear, through the years, those rights and protections are not valued when it comes to wolves.

With environmental groups refusing to come to the table, it’s unclear how ODFW will proceed with stakeholder recommendations. On Jan. 8, the stakeholder meeting went on as planned, and the groups that participated gave their final opinions on ODFW’s proposal, which may be adopted in March. The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association is now focusing on bringing this conversation to Washington, D.C., with the help of members from across the state.

If you have suffered property loss or distress as a result of wolves, please write a letter to Oregon Cattlemen’s or email me at robyn.smith@orcattle.com. Personal statements are encouraged because those who have power over the fate of the Wolf Plan need to hear directly from the people with the most at stake.

Robyn H. Smith is the communications director for the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association.

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