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Meet Craig Herman: District Six Vice President

Craig Herman is the newly elected District Six Vice President for OCA. The District consists of the southern coastal counties of Coos, Curry, Douglas, and Linn. While Craig’s position on OCA’s Board is new, he is no stranger to the association.

“I believe I became a member when Curtis Martin was president,” he said, “would have been around 2012.”

When I asked what brought Craig to membership, his answer was simple, “I was tired of getting abused as the little guy, I wanted a bigger voice.”

Craig is ranching on the same land as his grandfather, near the small coastal town of Bandon, population 3,100. As a responsible landowner, Craig has long been jumping through the regulatory permit hurdles and when he joined OCA it was because he knew being a part of a collective voice would hold more merit with governmental agencies.

“I was tired of being ignored; a voice of just one is easy to ignore,” he said, “that’s why it’s important to be part of a larger voice.”

Craig is very familiar with the difficulty of regulatory requirements for landowners. During Ray Sessler’s presidency he began his position as private lands committee chair until President Sharp requested his service at the Board level during the 2020 virtual annual convention. The issues he dealt with as the private lands chair have not disappeared. Issues like fish passages, tide gates and ditch management.

“It’s not only the guys on the coast who have to deal with regulations like fish passage,” he said, “any land with a river or a stream has to face regulatory restrictions and it can be very hard on a rancher financially when they are just trying to do the right thing.”

Regulations from agencies can be seen at the state and federal level and sometime waiver back and forth between both, which can lead to years of time invested and a hole in your pocket to get the necessary permits. For instance, Craig gave an example of Coho Salmon, which is listed as a “threatened” species not endangered, but still because it is listed, regulations on habitat areas increase.

“It’s like threading a needle to actually get something accomplished,” he said, “the money to hire an attorney to represent you can be very expensive, meanwhile you are the one providing the habitat for these species, and it is becoming more and more difficult to even do that.”

Ranching on the coast

I asked Craig, what are some differences people may not know about ranching on the coastline, he said, the main difference is farmers and ranchers are primarily running cattle on private parcels of land instead of having access to public lands. Additionally, the never-ending blight of predator control – or lack thereof. As the heavily wooded areas of southwest Oregon have proven difficult to get an accurate count of the wolf population. Craig mentioned some sheep farmers in his area were forced to sell the rest of their livestock because of such frequent wolf attacks.

Craig has an additional concern for landowners, not only on the coast, but across the state. The acquisition of private lands by government agencies. “They can pay to buy up large parcels of land, generational ranches, whereas the new young rancher trying to plant his roots cannot,” he said, “once they own the land, our chance of having access to it is bleak.”

OCA’s Future

When I asked Craig what he would like to see more of from the association, his answer was clear – a more aggressive approach to regulations. Craig would like to see a more unified and tactical approach to changing regulations. He points out some environmental agencies who are able to get out a big message and spread the word of an action they claim to be doing, such as “saving the rivers,” when in reality, that message is misleading or false. This is a frustrating issue for everyone involved at OCA.

Craig looks forward to working with the association to construct positive and factual information on big issues by focusing on one issue at a time, creating factual messaging and spreading the word about the environmental work farmers and ranchers really do. His hope is for legislative change to put things on a fair playing field, especially for the “little guy.”

“We are not the bad guys,” Craig said, “at the end of the day, we are the people caring for the land and the habitat where wildlife lives and the last thing we need is for that to be more difficult than necessary.”