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Tucked in committee, wolf bill still has legs

Tam Moore
Oregon Staff Writer 6/28/05

MILWAUKIE, Ore. ? The gray wolf still prowls Oregon?s Legislature, despite a shuffle that sent a trio of bills to a committee shut down in the drive toward adjournment.

The Oregon Cattlemen?s Association spent nearly an hour of its mid-year meeting on June 17 discussing strategy based on the presumption that bills enabling the 2005 Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission wolf management plan won?t get out of the House.

That evening, Rep. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, arrived late for a dinner with the association, announcing, ?The wolf isn?t dead yet, but we are making progress.?

Boquist said while the cattlemen were in this Portland suburb, supporters of the management plan worked to get the wolf bills reassigned.

?I?ve heard from several places the bill is dead, but until sine die (adjournment), we can?t be sure of that,? said Sharon Beck of Cove, co-chairwoman of the OCA?s Wolf Task Force and a dissenting member of the ODFW committee that drafted the controversial plan. The plan says wolves would be monitored and populations allowed to increase under an Oregon endangered species listing.

A key part of implementing that plan is HB 3478, which makes the gray wolf ?a special status mammal? within the legal game mammal category of Oregon law. Exterminated by predator hunters by 1972 and perhaps earlier, the creature doesn?t exist in Oregon. Wandering gray wolves from stock that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service imported to Idaho have at least three times in recent years entered Oregon, touching off the drive to have a management plan in place for the next itinerant wolf setting up shop in the state.

The cattlemen earlier were part of a legal battle over possible federal removal of gray wolves from the Endangered Species List. Elizabeth Howard, the lawyer who represented the OCA, said she thinks the USFWS will rewrite its wolf rule rather than appeal the court ruling.

What?s critical, said Glen Stonebrink, the outgoing OCA executive director, is that livestock operators are able to protect their animals from marauding wolves. He doesn?t like a compromise version of the wolf bills that ? among other things ? limits a livestock owner?s right to shoot a wolf to one ?caught in the act of attacking.?

During this spring?s legislative battle, the OCA found its representatives excluded from a ?stakeholders group? that drafted the compromise amendments. Stonebrink said both Oregon Farm Bureau Federation and the Oregon Hunters Association agreed to the changes, while the OCA opposed them.

Beck said if the bills stay dead ? still an uncertainty as lawmakers face perhaps weeks of dealing to get budget bills passed ? she hopes the Wildlife Commission will rework its plan to deal with ?a federal wolf when it comes to Oregon.?

Tam Moore is based in Medford, Ore. His e-mail address is tmoore@capitalpress.com.





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