There’s no substitute for seeing politics in action, but I wanted to share some highlights from yesterday’s wolf hearing (aside from the moment Rep. Schaufler took a stand on killing menacing endangered species, which probably takes the cake). Some other committee members had their moments, too. I’d say overall there was a bit more cross-examination and criticism of the wolf advocates than ranchers.
- But let’s start with Rep. Greg Smith’s introduction of the bills. He is sponsoring the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association efforts to roll back some of the wolf protections built into the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan to give ranchers a compensation program for livestock losses to wolves, to give people more freedom to kill wolves that are threatening livestock, pets or people, and to lower the total number of breeding pairs of wolves required to lift state endangered species protections. Here’s how he introduced the bills:
[audio href=”http://stream2.opb.org:9000/download/?f=news/2011/03/0331wolfhearing.mp3” title=”Rep. Greg Smith”]”The fact of the matter is wolves are the ultimate predator. They are the ultimate hunter. … The reality is wolves are in the state of Oregon and we need to figure out a way so that folks in rural eastern Oregon can manage the issue. To where they can protect their private property. To where they can ensure their livelihood is not being challenged. To where they’re not being asked to serve as the financial bank of the state of Oregon to pick up the financial losses caused by an animal that’s been introduced by the state of Oregon.”[/audio]
- Ivan Maluski of the Sierra Club nicknamed bill HR3562 the “Little Red Riding Hood Bill” and HR3563 the “Three Little Pigs Bill.” His point? Current laws allow people to kill an endangered species in self-defense, so his group sees no need for a state law underscoring that right. And the second bill, which would allow people to shoot wolves within 500 feet of their home or wolves that were chasing or harassing livestock. That bill would make it too hard to tell the difference between poaching and a legitimate defensive wolf kill, he said.
- Rep. Sherrie Sprenger asked three cattlemen if she was understanding correctly that the state has a law that allows ranchers to shoot a domestic dog if it is harassing livestock but not a wolf. “It’s legal to shoot a dog but not a wolf?” All three nodded their heads vehemently. Yup. Domestic dogs aren’t protected species.
- Rep. Mark Johnson asked Rob Klavins of Oregon Wild if he was aware of the urban/rural divide in Oregon and how “folks over there are tired of the Willamette Valley telling them how to run their lives.” Klavins’ response got a noticeably chilly reception from Johnson.
- Veteran rancher Karl Patton shared the tales of life on Oregon’s “Wolf Highway” in Wallowa County. He’s the rancher who lost one calf to wolves last may and then this year lost two pregnant cows and their three calf fetuses. Here’s his tale:
- “Early one morning, last March, I woke to my stock dogs barking and cattle bellowing by our house. I investigated, and 100 yards from our house I encountered at least six wolves in my cow-calf pasture coming towards me. When they were 30-40 yards away, I fired warning shots, and I was fortunate enough to haze the wolves away without death loss. Since that time, we have confirmed the loss of a two-month-old calf in May, and in February two pregnant cows, one carrying twins. An incident where wolves took the lives of five animals. Evidence points to the loss of yet another animal, and I am experiencing noticeable changes in the behavior of my cattle.”