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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Oregon wolf legislation remains in limbo

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Oregon wolf legislation remains in limbo

by Katy Nesbitt/The Observer

A bill in Oregon’s House of Representatives, if made into law, would make it easier for livestock producers and state officials to kill problem wolves. 

House Bill 3452 passed through the Natural Resources Committee two weeks ago, but remains in the Rules Committee, while settlement talks continue on a lawsuit filed in 2011 that stopped the state’s ability to kill wolves involved in repeated livestock loss.

Brett Brownscombe, policy adviser to Gov. John Kitzhaber, said the bill is in the rules committee while the parties involved in litigation settlements decide whether to change it.

“They are not on a deadline to move it out of the rules committee,” he said, “and are working with the various interests on whether there is going to be additional, amended language.”

The current iteration would allow livestock producers to kill wolves caught in the act of attacking livestock or working dogs without a permit during the first phase of wolves’ recovery. Currently, ranchers must have a permit. More than 60 permits have been issued in Wallowa County, though no one has taken a wolf under those provisions.

An amended version, HB 3452-1, has amended language to the original. Language in another amendment, HB 3452-2, has not been adopted yet, said Brownscombe. Brownscombe said the legislation, as its written right now, would essentially undercut the lawsuit and render it moot. 

“It is intentionally designed to clarify that the state has the authority, but there are some legislators who would rather see the court play this thing out,” Brownscombe said.

So far, he said he’s heard of no environmentalist support for the bill.

“People are waiting to see if any language gets modified before settlement discussions continue,” he said. “There are some legislators who support the bill and others who don’t. We are not hearing support from conservation constituents.” 

A similar bill, introduced by Kitzhaber at the beginning of the legislative session, died in the Senate Natural Resources Committee last month because consensus wasn’t found between environmentalists and ranchers.

“The governor wants to see the state have the authority to implement its wolf plan and right now it does not,” Brownscombe said. “We are looking at 3452 as the only vehicle left in this session. It is the vehicle to try and do something to get the state back into its management plan.”

Rob Klavens of Oregon Wild, one of the plaintiffs in the case filed to stop the state from killing members of the Imnaha Wolf Pack involved in dozens of livestock deaths since 2009, said his group would like to get past unnecessary conflict over the state’s wolf management plan, but does not support the bill.

“As its currently written, 3452 is an effort to bypass the legal process,” Klavens said.

He said provisions allowed in Oregon’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan allow killing wolves as a last resort. He claims the state bent to pressure and were not holding people accountable for using nonlethal deterrents for wolf/livestock interaction.

In May 2011, the state killed two members of the Imnaha Pack after several livestock producers lost cattle to wolves. In September 2011 biologists attempted to kill two more, but an injunction filed in the state court of appeals stopped them.

“The state was far too quick on the trigger,” Klavens said.

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