Dear Commissioners:

Oregon Cattlemen’s Association Wolf Task Force Committee has reviewed the Wolf Conservation and Management revisions. We appreciate having the opportunity to submit statements about the livestock industry and provide information based on our experiences in dealing with the wolf/livestock conflicts in Baker County and Wallowa County.

There are 6 parts to these comments:  the plan, delisting, private property, the economics, suitable habitat, and the proposed rules.

The Plan

In a January 31, 2003, Memorandum to the Commission, Assistant Attorney General William Cook (Mr. Cook) addressed conservation of gray wolves in Oregon.  He stated that the Commission had the authority to develop a plan for wolves in Oregon within the context of the “conservation mandate” of the Oregon ESA.  See January 31, 2003, Memorandum, from William J. Cook, page 2.  Mr. Cook also stated that “[t]he law provides an array of management options from which the Commission may choose when determining how to conserve the species.”

The Oregon ESA authorized the Commission to consult with land-owning agencies who are working to determine what role, if any, they can play in the conservation of species.  ORS 496.172(3), 496.182(8).  However, the determination as to what conservation actions are taken is left to the state agency, not the Commission.  ORS 496.182(8)(B) (“the state land owning or managing agency, in consultation with the State Department of Fish and Wildlife, shall determine the role its state land shall serve in the conservation of the endangered species”).  The only conservation activities the Commission controls are those on the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) land.

We note that the Oregon Wolf Conservation Plan will not be implemented as long as the gray wolf is listed under the federal ESA.  The Oregon plan revisions are in regards to the time when the authority to make decisions about the management of the wolves is no longer a federal responsibility.

The focus of the revised plan should not be to “delist” but to conserve the wolf.  The livestock industry remains committed to the conservation of the wolf and fully intend to work to remain compliant with the Federal and State endangered species laws.

  • Livestock producers need excellent tools and the latitude to mitigate livestock-wolf conflicts in order to conserve the wolf.
  • ODFW’s role to the fullest extent possible, must be to effectively remove problem wolves in a timely manner to eliminate future conflicts with a wolf (wolves) on more than one occasion.  Removal to suitable habitat is dependent on where that area is located, how far it is from the conflict, and whether the suitable habitat will actually resolve the problem.  A quick response to resolving conflicts by moving wolves into suitable habitat with the highest amount of protection will meet the conservation goals.

As set forth above, the Oregon ESA prohibits the Commission from requiring private landowners to protect species and from restricting the use of private land as a result of Commission actions under the statute.  ORS 496.192(1). When the legislature was writing the endangered species laws it did not intend to regulate private lands or including them in the “conservation” processes since it specifically limited the ESA provisions to state owned land, prohibited the Commission from imposing requirements on private landowners to take affirmative action to protect species, and restricted the Commission from imposing restrictions on the use of private land through authority delegated to it by the Oregon ESA.

It will not be economically feasible to conserve wolves when they enter “low or unsuitable habitat”.  The costs will be too high both for private landowners conducting business or for the state.  Conflicts with problem wolves need to be quick, decisive, and immediate in order to avoid contentious situations that diminish the tolerance level for wolves and for the livestock producers.

The Conservation chapter of the Wolf Plan established objectives:  to permit the establishment of a naturally reproducing wolf population in suitable habitat.  A second objective is:  Promote social tolerance for wolves by effectively and responsibly addressing conflict with competing human values.  Other objectives speak to the numbers and distribution of wolves throughout the state required for delisting the Canadian gray wolf from Oregon’s endangered species list.

The plan includes: “Suitable habitat” (e.g., high, medium, low suitability) is defined by factors including availability of natural prey, level of human occupation, level of livestock activity, and density of open roads. As habitat generalists, wolves are able to survive in many places.  Therefore, unsuitable habitat likely will be defined by human tolerance.  Without specific data or experience with wolves on the Oregon landscape, defining the range of habitat suitability must be necessarily vague at this point in time.

The proposed narrative in the plan (Page 12) denotes that wolves, in the five years since adoption of the plan, have become permanent residents of Oregon, yet it is silent on what ODFW has learned about them and where they have elected to inhabit….which has certainly NOT been in suitable habitat nor meeting any degree of social tolerance.  Clearly if the very first established wolves in Oregon wreak the kind of economic, social and psychological havoc that these have, the review needs to address that fact and discuss the set of objectives as to numbers and distribution of wolves in Oregon. (Attached is a revised paper from the minority report written in 2004 Zoning Concept).

The plan review has not adequately addressed the tolerance issue as they should by emphasizing ORS 496.192 (1).  Nothing in ORS 496.004 (wildlife laws), ORS 496-171-496.182 (threatened and endangered wildlife species) or 498.026 (hunting, angling and wildlife regulations) is intended, by itself, to require an owner of any private land to take action to protect a threatened species or an endangered species, or to impose additional requirements or restrictions on the use of private land.”

The management of wildlife, except for fish and other marine life has been delegated to the Wildlife Division of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and included in the definition in the wildlife laws the use of the word “management” means “control”.  The law recognizes that it is the duty of ODFW to control the wolves of Oregon in such a way as to NOT impose additional requirements or restrictions on the use of private land and yet the opposite has been the norm for the last 2 years in areas that wolves occupy.

Delisting rules

We think there should be a change in the definition of where four breeding pairs must exist.  To require four breeding pairs in eastern Oregon then have an additional amount of breeding pairs in western Oregon complicates the issue.  Oregon is currently dealing with wolves in northeastern Oregon.  There are many reports of sign and sightings in the central and southern Cascades.  If there are wolves in western Oregon, then those breeding pairs should be added together to meet the criteria to begin delisting in Oregon.  The plan requires that if minimum numbers are used to fulfill the requirements for delisting (a “conserved” number) an accompanying maximum number needs to be adopted beyond which wolves will not be able to grow.

The strategies for Phase I, II, and III should be deleted.  There is nothing gained by using the phased approach and in fact confuses the issue of conserving wolves.  The objectives can be achieved without the phases.

Private property and human life

Protection of your private property near your home, working facilities, barn, corral, etc.  should include: Your Homestead (where people live);  Your working area such as barns, corrals, calving facilities; A given area surrounding this such as 40 acres or 500 feet out from home etc.   There is no reason why people have to tolerate wolves or any other predator within close proximity to their home and property while standing by and doing nothing.  The plan should state emphatically that humans can protect themselves outside of their homes within a given distance where people are working/playing.

With a 5-year review of the plan we assume a concomitant required review of the status of the listed wolf to determine whether verifiable scientific information exists to justify its reclassification or removal from the list.  We believe the only impediment to a stable population of wolves in Oregon is ODFW’s reluctance to manage individual wolves who kill and injure livestock and/or who habituate areas that are not suitable habitat. We believe the department’s phased approach to population objectives is overly burdensome and unnecessarily complicated and that conservation does not equate to a number.

The chapter on Wolf-Livestock Conflicts (p. 51) needs to be addressed with more seriousness. The narrative contains paragraphs expounding on predation in other states and nations, describes newborns in remote pastures are most vulnerable, and then it only suggests the removal of “these circumstances are likely to be repeated in Oregon”.  Obviously because that was not the case in Oregon the narrative is not straight-forward and we feel it is imperative to accurately describe the Oregon experience in the last 2 years. We believe it is imperative that you report the whole truth, which includes the verified livestock killed by wolves as well as the probable and suspected predation.  This information is important because they were all on private land, close to ranch headquarters, houses, roads and in some cases the wolves were caught testing the herds before returning to kill. The future cooperation of the livestock industry and the public’s understanding will depend on accurate reporting of wolf conflicts.

The strategies (Pg 53) appear to be proactive to managing conflict between wolves and livestock up to the 3rd paragraph on page 54 where you say stockmen will be “encouraged to employ management techniques to discourage wolf depredation and agencies will advise and assist in implementing such techniques”; however your suggested amendments immediately become confrontational by stating that if stockmen don’t do as you suggest you may not control the wolves. You even suggest that stockmen may intentionally attract wolves to their property, which is beyond absurd given your matrix and dialog of totally unreasonable Wolf Conflict Management Options. (through page 64)

Apparently we need to remind you that this is supposed to be a wolf management plan, not a rancher management plan as you seem determined to make it.  Our job is to raise livestock for profit and your job to control wolves so that they do not get into our livestock or on our property.  If we can cooperate to make each of our jobs more effective or efficient, fine, but you must not set up a plan where we are expected to do your job through a convoluted process of acquiring permits after confirming a number of kills or wounds or testing and stalking  and documenting activities to prevent wolf conflict with our property.  If you cannot control wolves with the resources you have and want rancher’s assistance then authorize them outright, by stating it in the plan and administrative rule, to control the wolf themselves to protect their property.

The previous critique of the plan in the minority report is, for the most part, still applicable.  The plan is biased to wolf preservation and short on management. It claims to allow adaptive management but does not, it is fraught with subjectivity and provides no certainty to anyone trying to implement it. Your suggested amendments in the draft document do nothing to simplify it.

Economics of wolves

Plan proposed statement: Issue:

Table XI-2. Estimated annual losses of numbers and value of cattle in Oregon based on different regional depredation levels, wolf populations and numbers of livestock. Northeast Oregon includes Baker, Umatilla, Union and Wallowa counties. The eastern region includes the northeast, and counties in the Blue Mountains and adjacent areas.

Comment: The economics of wolves is not something that is appropriate to lump together and do the cost benefit analysis as indicated in the plan.  The livestock producer is on the front line of the wolf conflict and his losses are real dollars that are taken out of his pocket at the end of the year.  The other benefits such as “wildlife watching value” and “existence value” cannot be compared to a rancher standing in his calving pen with his newborn calf dead and mostly eaten.  That is not only an emotional toll but a real cash loss to his bank account.

The economics of livestock loss needs to be broken down into a per-cow cost then you can show those losses on a regional or state level.

Economic costs. *(Details following)

Depredation calf kills

  • $25.65  per head

Reduced weaning weights

  • $31.92 per head

Cow body condition loss

  • $32.85 per head

Increased management costs

  • $92.50 per head

Total Cost to producer for presence of wolves

  • $182.92 per head

These costs are estimates.  We will have much more accurate numbers from our ongoing wolf/cattle research being conducted by Oregon State University, University of Idaho and the Agricultural Research Service titled:  “Evaluation of Wolf Impacts on Cattle Productivity and Behavior”.  This information should be available within two years.  We request that we be able to include these findings at that time.

If you aggregate the cost to the cattle industry as you have done the cost to:

Baker, Umatilla, Union and Wallowa counties (228,271 cattle)

  • $41,755,331 per year

Eastern Oregon (589,573 cattle)

  • $107,789,451 per year

Oregon Statewide (1,389,189 cattle)

  • $254,110,451 per year

Economic explanation

Assumptions were that a producer ran 400 head there for each cost is spread over all those cattle.

Assumed a price of $1.14

Assumed a sale weight of 600 lbs

Depredation calf kills                                   

15 head lost (Actual number from Wallowa County producer last year)

600lbs X $1.14 = $684 per head

15 X $684  =  $10260 / 400 head =  $25.65  per head

Reduced weaning weights

35 lbs estimated loss  (Research paper quotes 60 lbs, local estimate is more cautious)

35 X $1.14 = $39.90 per head

With reduced conception rate and death loss a weaning percentage of 80% used)

$39.90 X .80 = 31.92 per cow

Cow body condition loss

Loss of one body condition score from 5 to 4 (per Casey Anderson’s statements)

Cows should be 5 at calving

Cost of feeding cow adequately to gain the 90 to 95 lbs in the dead of winter is $32.85 per head

(Barley and increased hay value.)

Increased management costs

Time spent by manager 1/2 day  for 4 months

Assume $5000 per month

$5000 X .5 = $2500 per month

$2500 X 4 months = $10,000

Also

9 months hired help

$150 per day (what paying current range rider to attempt to mitigate wolf loss)

20 days a month

20 X $150 = $3000 per month

9 months X $3,000 = $27,000

Total labor costs = $27,000 + $10,000 = $37,000

$37,000 / 400 head =  $92.50 per head

Total Cost to produce for presence of wolves

  • $182.92 per head

Suitable Habitat for Wolf Management in Oregon

Wolves need to managed in way that will be cost effective, provide areas where conflicts between predator and prey can be minimized, and give people effective tools to protect their private property.

Suitable habitat High 1.  The wolf safe zone.  These areas are remote areas where lethal and non lethal methods of wolf control are minimal.  Wolves that den or hunt in safe zones can receive the most protection.

Suitable habitat Medium 2.  Wolf harassment zones.  In some areas of the state, many acres of public land exist outside the private land boundaries where wolves can be harassed, chased, trapped, etc.  Wolves that den in these areas can be managed to the fullest extent if they become problem wolves.

Suitable habitat Low 3.  Private lands, city and towns.  No tolerance zone.  Wolves can be fully controlled by whatever means necessary to protect property and life.

In the past Commissioners have asked where in Oregon wolves might be tolerated and requested identification of the areas.

In an Attorney General’s memorandum to the Fish and Wildlife Commission, council advised:  “Depending upon the tools selected, among the planning strategies available to the commission are those that would…zone the state and aim to manage wolves to minimize wolf presence in certain zones and maximize presence in other zones…include a menu of wolf management prescriptions…”

Now that wolves are in Oregon and predation has taken place, the revised plan clearly acknowledges that there are suitable habitat places in Oregon where wolves will not be tolerated due to conflicts with humans and human activities.

Land ownerships and land uses have unique challenges and must now have prescriptions for treatment of problem situations when they occur.  Zoning as described in David Mech’s paper, The Challenge and Opportunity of Recovering Wolf Populations should be reviewed and during this plan review, zones or sutiable habitat areas should be identified and used to manage the wolf and the conflicts that occur.

A careful analysis of known facts applied to the map of Oregon and areas should be identified as suitable areas or boundaries within which wolves would be protected and outside of which they would not.

We know:

  1. This plan is applicable only to state land and the roles of state agencies.
  2. The Oregon ESA cannot impose additional requirements or restrictions on the use of private land.
  3. This is a wolf conservation management plan not a land or people management plan.
  4. Post delisting the management of wolves will be the responsibility of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Therefore it seems reasonable that for purposes of this plan, only state owned or leased lands may be “protected zones”.  An exception may be the case where there is agreement with other land owners/managers (i.e. Federal, tribal). Again overlaying the map of state lands with areas of potential conflicts we can extrapolate what lands would be appropriate for wolf habitat. For example grazing allotments on fee lands, wildlife units that have a combination of high cougar/bear populations and a declining trend of ungulate numbers would be areas of high conflict and thus inappropriate for wolf habitat.

All other land areas left on the map that have an adequate prey base might be identified as a potential “protected zone”.

Oregon Revised Statute 496.172 sets forth the powers of the Commission under the Oregon ESA with regards to native endangered/threatened species.  According to the statute, the Commission shall:

(1) Conduct investigations to determine if a native wildlife species is threatened or endangered;.

(2) Establish, publish, and revise the state’s threatened and endangered species list, and protect species as required by ORS 496.182 (survival guidelines and consultation on state agencies’ endangered species management plans);

(3) Work cooperatively w/state agencies that have land management authority or regulatory authority to determine their roles, within their statutory obligations, in the conservation of endangered species as described in ORS 496.182(8);

(4) Establish a take permit system for threatened and endangered species NOT federally listed as endangered or threatened species;

(5) Cooperate with the Oregon Department of Agriculture to protect native plants (carry out provisions of ORS 564.105); and

(6)  Adopt administrative rules to carry out the provisions of ORS 496.171-.182 (Oregon ESA) and ORS 496.026 (take prohibitions).

These powers are to be exercised in such as a way so that private landowners are not required to protect threatened/endangered species on their land, and so that uses of private land are not further restricted within the state.  ORS 496.192(1).  The Oregon ESA  does not support a state-wide plan that requires actions on private lands.  The scope of the Commission’s authority to manage the gray wolf as is set forth in ORS 496.172, 496.182, 496.192.  Missing from this statute is the authority to write a plan for any land except that owned by the agency itself, and missing is the authority to conserve the species on any land but it’s own.

The Oregon ESA authorized the Commission to consult with land-owning agencies who are working to determine what role, if any, they can play in the conservation of species.  ORS 496.172(3), 496.182(8).  However, the determination as to what conservation actions are taken is left to the state agency, not the Commission.  ORS 496.182(8)(B) (“the state land owning or managing agency, in consultation with the State Department of Fish and Wildlife, shall determine the role its state land shall serve in the conservation of the endangered species”).  The only conservation activities the Commission controls are those on the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) land.

As set forth above, the Oregon ESA also prohibits the Commission from requiring private landowners to protect species and from restricting the use of private land as a result of Commission actions under the statute.  ORS 496.192(1).

The legislature directed the Commission to review and revise the list of threatened/endangered species every five years and remove those that do not meet the definition of endangered or threatened as set forth in Oregon law.  ORS 496.176(8).  This is something the Commission has very blatantly failed to do.  If it would have acted as required by law, the Commission would have removed the wolf from the endangered species/threatened species list long ago because the gray wolf does not qualify as an endangered or threatened species under the Oregon ESA.

ORS 498.012(1) (“Nothing in the wildlife laws is intended to prevent. . .taking any wildlife that is damaging. . .land…livestock. . . .”); see also OCA Letter to Commission dated May 14, 2004 (attached).  Plus, any action concerning damage take permits of this sort must be consistent with the 2003 Oregon legislature’s strong emphasis on an approach to wildlife management that ensures appropriate measures are taken to assist farmers, ranchers and others in resolving wildlife damage problems.  ORS 610.055(1) (2003).

Administrative rules

635-110-0010

Page 3.  (4) Relocation Use the term throughout these rules “previously identified suitable habitat”.

Pg4 (c) lethal permit (H). Take it out.  With all the other requirements we can’t be expected to keep proving we do non lethal actions before taking out a problem wolf.

Pg 4 (A) through (H). Remove this entire section and replace it with rules compatible with our comments.  It is unreasonable to sustain two livestock kills before a wolf is removed. It is utterly ridiculous to identify 3 attempted depredations AFTER a kill.  Experience and expertise tells us that wolves test areas first!  Once a kill takes place, they will be back.  Livestock owners should not have to sacrifice property to help ODFW manage wolves.

Pg 5 “Identified circumstance” needs to be identified/defined.  Otherwise ODFW will “determine” (meaning their opinion) what attracts wolves and fosters conflict between wolves and livestock that the owner fails to remedy. Scientific evidence should be used to establish these kinds of circumstances being referred to in the rules.  Guesswork is not acceptable and will not foster good relationships between the private landowners and the state.

635-110-0020

(1) This rule describes the types of harassment and take of wolves allowed by persons outside ODFW (or ODFW or Wildlife Services acting as their agent) during Phase II — (Management: 5-7 breeding pairs) as called for in chapter III of the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. Other chapters of the Plan authorize ODFW to take wolves for other specified wildlife management purposes.

We very much disagree that ODFW has any authority to dictate to private landowners how or what they do as “non-lethal harassment”.  ODFW is the designated agency in charge of managing wolves and that does not include managing private landowners who have property and property rights that they constitutionally can protect.

It is unacceptable to suggest that a number of livestock have to be killed by a wolf before ODFW takes action to manage the problem wolf.

Page 5

NOTE: the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan calls for allowing lethal take of wolves in this situation without a permit on private or public land. However, the Plan recognizes that because current statute requires a permit, implementing this portion of the Plan depends upon amendment of the statute by the [2005] legislature. Should the legislature make that statutory change, the Commission will amend this rule to allow for take without permit.

(6) Lethal take of wolves

We would like a fir commitment from ODFW to actively seek this legislative action.

Page 5

(3)(a) There must be no [unreasonable] identified circumstance[s] that attracts wolf-livestock conflict, and the harassment must be reported to ODFW within 48 hours.

It is assumed by ODFW that the management of wolves includes the management of people on private property.  It is wrong to assume that the wolves in the area, property and lives to protect,  that responsible people will not do what is necessary to prevent wolves from loitering near their homesteads.  ODFW should be identified as having to apply non-injurious techniques within the previously identified suitable habitats.  It is not the duty of private property owners to do their job.