Observer staff

HALFWAY — Pine Valley has typically been a very tranquil place to live. There is a lot of ranching there, and with ranching comes challenges. In April 2017, local ranches came face-to-face with one of those challenges. Wolves have returned to the valley and the surrounding area, and with wolves have come depredations. Calves and cows have been wounded and some have died.

Local ranchers Shella and Barry DelCurto were in the middle of this depredation. They didn’t know how to protect themselves, their livestock and ultimately their livelihood against this challenging predator. They struggled and stumbled along and got through the spring by trial and error. The DelCurtos knew they needed to find a way to better prepare themselves for the coming spring.

In September, Shella and Barry were offered that opportunity.

The organization Defenders of Wildlife was willing to send both of them to Tom Minor Basin near Gardner, Montana, where they attended the four-day Range Rider workshop, looking for answers. What they found was hope for the future, in the form of Hilary and Andrew Anderson, workshop leaders and co-founders of the Tom Miner Basin Range Rider Project.

The Andersons are third-generation cattle producers successfully ranching on the outskirts of Yellowstone National Park. The western boundary of their ranch is West Yellowstone Park, but wolves and grizzly bears know no boundaries. The family has been dealing with wolves for many years and has had significant success in reducing depredation.

During the four-day seminar, the DelCurtos learned about ranch/range management, low-stress cattle handling, wolf behavior and hunting habits, profitability, how to better utilize range riders, and proactive non-lethal tools and techniques.

Shella and Barry came away with a different outlook on the situation in which they and their fellow ranchers find themselves. As Shella put it, they “had hope for the future.” The DelCurtos decided if the Andersons and their ranching neighbors could implement a plan and make it work, maybe the same could be done in Pine Valley.

“If the Andersons can survive among one of the largest populations of grizzly bears, and where wolves abound, then we can survive here in the panhandle of Baker County,” Shella said. “We wanted to share the knowledge we found with our fellow ranchers (because) wolves are going to be an everyday way of life.”

Plans were then set in motion to bring the Andersons to Oregon to teach local ranchers and interested parties.

In early November 2017, Shella approached United Community Partners. a Halfway-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation dedicated to community development.

“Shella presented the UCP board of directors with a detailed plan for bringing this seminar to the panhandle,” UCP’s secretary, Deanna Pennock, said. “Shella wanted to start fundraising right away, so the cost for workshop attendees could be kept very minimal. The only thing standing in her way was the fiscal sponsorship of an organization with
tax-exempt status, which could provide needed guidance and receive donations on behalf of the project. UCP has experience in that area, and the project is in keeping with our mission to assist citizen-led initiatives that benefit Pine Valley and the greater panhandle.”

Shella believes this is a chance for ranchers to become proactive rather than reactive.

“As Hilary Anderson says, ‘We do not own what we do not create.’ To that end, we are bringing Hilary and Andrew to Halfway so that we can learn from their experiences,” Shella said. “Not everything the Andersons share will work in every situation, but certain tools and techniques may make a big difference in some situations.”

The Andersons will share their knowledge about the costs and benefits of each non-lethal or husbandry method when dealing with wolves. Business profitability and sustainability is a theme that may be most appreciated by livestock managers, owners and those who ride for them.

The Andersons’ two-day seminar, “Strategies for Ranching on a Landscape with Wolves,” will be held Jan. 10-11 at the Halfway Lions Club, 235 Lion St. Cost is $50, which includes the two-day seminar, two lunches and Thursday dinner. Registration is required by Jan. 5 and may be completed at www.unitedcommunitypartners.org/strategic-ranching or by contacting Shella DelCurto at mightyadashin@gmail.com or 541-519-5563.

Special lodging rates are offered by Pine Valley Lodge for reservations made by Jan. 5. Call 541-742-2027 or go to www.pvlodge.com and mention the Strategic Ranching workshop to get these rates.

For information on scholarships and assistance to cover lodging costs, contact Roblyn Brown at roblyn.brown@state.or.us or 541-962-1850.

Donations to support this event will be accepted. Make checks payable to UCP and note “Strategic Ranching Workshop” in the memo line. Mail to: United Community Partners, P.O. Box 545, Halfway 97834. Donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

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