Oregon Passes Landmark Wolf Coexistence Bill
New state program prioritizes nonlethal management tools to reduce livestock conflicts
On June 24, 2011 the Oregon Senate unanimously approved a bill that establishes a county-based livestock compensation and wolf coexistence program to reduce conflicts between livestock and wolves. Under the program, ranchers who proactively use nonlethal deterrents and best management practices to protect their livestock will be eligible to receive compensation payments for subsequent losses to wolves.
Defenders helped craft the bill based on our extensive experience providing compensation to ranchers through our successful Wolf Compensation Trust. Through a collaborative effort with the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, Wallowa County ranchers, the Oregon Farm Bureau, the Governor’s office and Hells Canyon Preservation Council, we were able to gain unanimous support in both chambers of the state legislature and, ultimately, the governor’s approval, for what has become the most forward-thinking program of its kind.
Defenders members and supporters in the region provided critical backing for the legislation by attending and testifying at the hearings, writing letters to the editors of local papers, and contacting their state government representatives.
“By empowering local communities to address wolf management issues in a responsible and transparent manner, this program may well become one of the best in the country,” said Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “Conflicts over wolf and livestock concerns are best addressedby those who are focused on fairly and rationally resolving the conflicts instead of just fighting over them.”
Return of wolves to Oregon warrants updated approach to raising livestock
After being exterminated in the 1940s, wolves finally started making their way back to Oregon from central Idaho in 1999. A decade later, Oregon had as many as two dozen wolves in three different packs. But those numbers continue to fluctuate as wolves disperse to neighboring states, die of natural causes, are removed for chronic depredations or are killed illegally. The fourth wolf pack, named the Snake River pack, was documented in the fall of 2011.
Though wolves in general continue to pose very little risk to livestock, losses do occur in certain high-conflict areas. That’s why Defenders has been working with state wildlife biologists, local conservationists and ranchers proactively to help implement nonlethal management practices to safeguard livestock before problems arise. Prior to the passage of this bill, Defenders had also compensated ranchers for confirmed livestock losses to wolves.
Now the state of Oregon will administer its own compensation program and provide additional funding for range riders, guard dogs and fladry—the kind of tools that promote the coexistence of wolves and livestock.
Living with wolves in Oregon over the long run
With its new livestock compensation and wolf coexistence program in place, Oregon ranchers living in wolf country have new resources to reduce conflict between their animals and wolves. Defenders will continue to support the efforts of state wildlife managers and open-minded ranchers to develop more effective nonlethal tools and techniques to safeguard livestock and protect wolves. Your support ensures that Oregon’s nascent wolf population will have a bright future.
Background: Defenders Wolf Coexistence Partnership
Oregonian Op-Ed: Wolf recovery: Reducing conflict and conserving Oregon wildlife