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Wolf, elk populations a concern

DORRIS, Calif. Butte Valley rancher Bert Holzhauser said he believes state and federal wildlife agencies have been involved in a multi-year plan to build up elk herds in anticipation of expanding wolf populations.

He said he's counted up to 300 elk, a favored food for wolves, on his property. Holzhauser said the elk have destroyed fences, crops and other property at his ranch and predicted, "It won't be long before they're all over the valley."

As wolf populations increase, which he and others believe is inevitable under present policies, Holzhauser predicted they will kill elk and deer and "then they're going to start working on our livestock."

Holzhauser was among several Butte Valley people urged to form a citizens group that can require local, state and national government agencies to work with them when developing plans affecting their lands and livelihoods during a meeting last week at Dorris City Hall. Dorris is about 5 miles south of the Oregon border on Highway 97, between Klamath Falls and Weed, Calif.

The meeting was organized because of concerns aired by ranchers and farmers about damage caused by increasing numbers of elk and fears about the long-range impacts of wolves. Before and after the informal meeting, several Butte Valley ranchers said they have seen OR-7, a wolf that left a pack in northeastern Oregon, and other wolves in Klamath, Modoc and Siskiyou counties.

At the meeting, Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey and Liz Bowen and Mark Baird, president and vice president of the Scott Valley-based Protect Our Waters, urged Butte Valley residents to work together to challenge and, if necessary, oppose regulatory agencies.

"We're standing up and defending them because our way of life is being threatened," Lopey told a group of about 50 people. "I'm one of those sheriffs who believes there's still a Constitution."

Holzhauser and Roger Porterfield, another Butte Valley rancher, said they and family members have seen wolves, confirmed wolf tracks on their property and found dead deer they believe were killed by wolves. Members of the Porterfield family have reported seeing at least one pair of wolves.

Fish and game agencies have not reported the presence of any wolves other than OR-7 in Southern Oregon or far Northern California.

Several at the meeting, including rancher Chuck Woodson, agreed with Holzhauser and Porterfield.

Erin Ryan, a district representative for state Sen. Doug LaMalfa, whose district includes Siskiyou County, suggested individuals or a future Butte Valley group file freedom of information requests through LaMalfa's office.

"The idea is to get started and pull together in the community," Ryan said in supporting formation of a legal group that can request information and consultations with regulatory agencies.

Mark Baird, a leader of Protect Our Waters, offered help in forming a Butte Valley organization.

"If you're not united you will lose," Baird warned. "You have to be credible. We try not to say things unless we can prove it."

Three people, including Holzhauser, Woodson, Joe Sammis and Brandon Criss, who will take office in January 2013 as county supervisor for a region that includes Butte Valley and Tulelake, agreed to help form the recommended committee.

"The fact that this many working people would take the time to gather and organize in order to counteract government bureaucratic intrusions is a clear sign that people are fed up and one can only applaud their efforts," Criss said of the meeting.

"We're working on it," Holzhauser said. "It will come around."

Lee Juillerat, regional editor for the Klamath Falls Herald & News, can be reached at lee@heraldandnews.com.




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