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Wolf plan hits rough patch
Wolf supporters and opponents are both critical of a House bill that attempts put the state's strategy for dealing with wolves into law.
A wolf plan was crafted last year by a citizens panel and approved in February by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. But the Legislature must change state laws for it to work.
The plan approved in February calls for allowing ranchers to shoot wolves attacking livestock, but Oregon's state Endangered Species Act does not permit that. The blueprint also includes a program to compensate people who lose livestock to wolves. Lawmakers would need to establish the fund and provide money for it.
The proposed bill includes those changes, but it has other flaws, the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources was told this week.
Ranchers said the bill puts too many limits on compensation and tries to force them to change their practices to prevent problems with wolves.
"Why must ranchers change their grazing programs to accommodate wolves?" asked Glen Stonebrink of the Oregon Cattlemen's Association.
Environmental activists contend the bill makes it too easy to kill wolves.
Rep. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, said the divisiveness over the bill caught him off guard, given the long process to develop a state plan.
He said creating a compensation plan would be a major step for the Legislature, because it could lead to requests for compensation for damage by other wildlife.
Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, who chairs the committee, said she would poll other lawmakers on the panel to determine if they want to move the bill forward.
Wolves are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, which remains in force even if the bill passes. A state strategy, however, could help Oregon convince the federal government that the state is prepared to handle wolves on its own, said Lindsay Ball, director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM Pacific
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