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Ranchers have no relief if wolves attack livestock
Wildlife - The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission has tabled any changes until 2007
 December 02, 2005 The Oregonian, BRAD CAIN

SALEM -- Despite strong objections from ranchers, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted final amendments Thursday to a management plan for protected gray wolves expected to migrate into Oregon from Idaho.

Currently, the management plan prohibits ranchers from killing wolves that attack livestock and doesn't include compensation for losses from wolf attacks.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission had included compensation and authority for killing wolves in the plan that was adopted in February, pending approval by the Legislature of provisions needed to change state law.

But lawmakers failed to agree on those provisions and bills to make the changes went nowhere during the 2005 legislative session that ended in August.

So the Fish and Wildlife Commission, wanting to have a wolf management plan in place, voted Thursday to "park" those provisions in an appendix of the plan until they can be brought up for discussion again in the 2007 Legislature.

The action drew criticism from the Oregon Cattlemen's Association, which recently approved a resolution urging ranchers around the state to close their land to hunters and anglers to protest the state's new plan for managing wolves.

Mike Colton of Baker City, president of the Baker County Livestock Association, said the management plan violates ranchers' property rights because it offers "no reasonable management of wolves."

Defenders of Wildlife, an environmental group that backs Oregon's wolf reintroduction plan, said it has paid $500,000 to ranchers in other Western states for lost livestock and is offering to do the same in Oregon when wolves arrive in this state.

It's a small price to pay to have wolves back in Oregon, said Amaroq Weiss, the group's spokeswoman who appeared Thursday before the fish and wildlife panel.

"Wolves are part of our wildlife heritage," Weiss said. "We should be rejoicing that they are coming back for future generations to enjoy."

The state's new wolf management plan sets a goal of seven breeding pairs in Eastern Oregon.

There have been no confirmed sightings of gray wolves in Oregon. Between 1999 and 2000, at least three wolves made their way from Idaho into Oregon. One was hit by a car, one was shot and one was captured and returned to Idaho.

Experts say it is just a matter of time before a pack takes up residence in Oregon.




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