By Jim Welsh, Political Advocate

Sometimes it is difficult to understand where your friends are coming from on a particular issue, especially when you have vowed to work together on an issue of common interest and have been successful.  We don’t always agree with our friends on everything and if we don’t agree the first reaction is to accuse them of not understanding our point of view.  However, it is very possible we don’t understand their point of view.  The, over-aged, differences between the private landowner and hunters will once again be tested when the ODF&W begins the Five Year Review of the Land Owner Preference (LOP) Program sometime in October.

During the last five years, since the previous LOP Five Year Review, the Cattlemen and Cattlewomen and the Oregon Hunters Association have uncharacteristically worked together on an issue of common interest:  The Canadian Gray Wolf.  The OHA has supported the OCA wolf legislation and stayed in contact with the OCA Wolf Committee Chairman, Rod Childers.  OHA and OCA have also worked together on the Oregon Wildlife Damage Management Committee since March of 2011.

It has been fairly common knowledge that many of the local OHA Chapter members are private property owners, and even large property owners, which allows them to better understand the rancher and farmer predicament today when it comes to wildlife damage.  With this bit of information, confirmed by those who have attended the local Chapter meetings and discussed landowner issues, it is interesting to note that there still seems to be a fear or distrust within the hunter organization when it comes to a program like the LOP.

Hunters have benefited along with landowners and it has been more cost effective for the taxpayer.  In many cases involving deer, elk and antelope damage the ODF&W have benefited by managing the Preference Tags to overcome overpopulated ungulate and elk without having to compensate the landowner, and without having to resort to emergency measures to reduce the herd.

Hunters certainly dislike the emergency measures to reduce herd numbers for ranchers and farmers who are irrigating and raising crops and feed stock. And, ranchers and farmers don’t enjoy asking for emergency removal of overpopulated game wildlife, but they don’t have any other option especially during non-hunting periods. The irrigated land attraction for wildlife has put them in harm’s way when their population increases to the level that can’t be tolerated.

The best option still remains, whether from an outsider’s or insider’s viewpoint, to take advantage of the opportunity to hunt and take a deer, elk or antelope on your property, or allowing someone else to.  Yes, there are problems with allowing strangers on your property, but the changes in 2007 allow the property owner to have more choice in the matter by allowing a family member to partake in the program.

A hunter’s first choice in Oregon is to hunt on public land without having to pay for the privilege but there is great hunting for the asking on private property, albeit, for a fee sometimes.  If the hunters work hard to foster positive relationships with landowners, and give a little more on the LOP program, there will possibly be more opportunities to hunt on private property.

OCA has been prepared to propose legislation to provide the opportunity for the landowner to have even more choice as to who the LOP tags go to and to allow the tag holder to hunt in the landowner associated unit.  This would work fairly well in Oregon with all the adjacent and intermingled public land. Ungulates, elk and antelope move back and forth from public to private land all the time.  This option would in many cases provide more hunting opportunity for the non-family hunter and accomplish the end goal of reducing the damage on private land.

During the 2007 Five Year LOP Review there were some changes that resulted from the multi-meeting effort and there is hope there will be some positive changes this time around.  One thing is for sure, this is the opportunity for ranchers and farmers to come to terms with the hunters and sportsman’s perspective and visa-versa.