Landowner Preference (LOP) Review

By Jim Welsh, Oregon Beef Producer Magazine
Oregon Cattlemen Association,

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife held their first Landowner Preference (LOP) Review meeting in Salem on December 19, 2007, led by ODF&W’s Craig Ely.  The official members of the review committee were representing Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, Oregon Hunters Association, Oregon Guides and Packers Association, Archery and one independent land owner.

The LOP Program was statutorily birthed in the legislative session of 1981 and since then has experienced periodic growing pains with revisions that have expanded the program incrementally.  The present review has once again culminated in several expansion proposals.  The revisions, depending on their legal authority, can be made by Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) or by Oregon Revised Statute (ORS).  The 2008 review committee has proposed changes that require approval in both sectors of legal authority.  Most of the time any revisions approved by the legislature will require corresponding OAR development to implement the statutory revisions within the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODF&W).  The OAR revisions, independent of legislative process, will be approved by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The review process has always included representatives from the livestock industry, production agriculture, guides and packers and hunters and the 2008 review is no different.  The hunters originally opposed the LOP program due to the decreasing number of general season tags available for unlimited bull elk and buck deer back in the early 80’s when the program was developed and even today there is a general reluctance, by hunters, to the program.  Furthermore, the hunters have always considered the wildlife of Oregon belonging to the citizens of Oregon and no one should be given special treatment or compensation for providing the wildlife of the state habitat or forage.  This attitude towards the landowner and livestock industry has changed considerably since the inception of the program.  In a special effort, by the Legislature of 1991, there was the commissioning of the Landowner Preference Task Force, consisting of legislators, commissioners, landowners, and sports leaders.  The LOP Task Force proposed numerous changes to the program that were adopted by the 1993 Legislature.

The original purpose of the LOP program was to:
1. Provide landowners with the opportunity to obtain tag(s) for those species (deer and elk) that occur on their property.
2. Provide a form of non-monetary compensation for providing wildlife habitat.
3. Additionally, about 10 years after its inception, the legislature expanded the purpose of LOP to include assisting landowners with addressing wildlife damage.

In the beginning the program allowed up to two individuals, whose names were on the property deed, to qualify for LOP tags and today all antlerless tags and close to 1/3 of the antlered tags can be transferred to anyone.  Furthermore, at the beginning of the program landowners were allowed two tags and today, on larger parcels of land, they can qualify for up to 10 tags for each controlled hunt, and each unused tag can be converted into two antlerless tags to address deer and elk damage to landowners.

Has the LOP program been effective?  Just considering the program has survived for 25 years says a lot, and that once again a special review committee consisting of the major stakeholders has convened and made significant proposals indicates the program is still viable and effective.  As the program has evolved over the years more and more landowners have become involved and registered for the program.  There were 563 LOP tags issued in 1986 and over 10,000 tags issued to more than 6000 landowners in 2006.

Furthermore, in a special effort to decrease elk depredation on private lands in the counties of Jackson, Josephine, Coos, Curry and Douglas, the 2003 Legislature authorized the Southwest Oregon LOP Pilot Project.  This project is designed to provide information on the ODF&W commitment to solving damage by:

1. Allowing the landowner to personally select damage hunt participants
2. Increasing public access to elk through LOP tags and redistribution of animals
3. Reducing or eliminating some damage hunts
4. Less time consuming for landowners to participate

The project was established by the 2003 Legislature to occur from July 1, 2004 through June 30, 2008 and the 2007 Legislature extended the program through June 20, 2014.  The project rules established by ODF&W provide a landowner preference tag to landowners where there is present elk damage, where there is a history of elk damage and efforts to mitigate it, or where elk are located in a “elk de-emphasis zone.”  The 2007 Legislature, counties and private landowners all agreed there needed to be more time for accumulation of information data before any concrete conclusions could be made.

The LOP Review committee concluded their meetings in March of this year, and prepared some action items that will be presented to the Fish and Wildlife Commission in May.  The recommendations and considerations in the three areas of authority (Internal Action, Commission Action, and Legislative Action) are as follows as provided in a written report form Craig Ely, ODF&W:

Internal Action
– Create an informational pamphlet that explains the LOP process, eligibility, frequently asked questions and acreage requirements.
– Modify the LOP forms to include a “no change from the previous year check off box,” phone numbers for assistance, an affidavit statement and a form to request tax lot information and acreage.
– Develop an internal agency LOP training module.  Also develop an external LOP training program for landowners.
– Include additional information on an LOP tag that lists the landowners name and LOP registration number.
There are increasing cost to the LOP program for ODF&W internally and the four Internal Action items were discussed and approved hopefully to  help reduce the time staff would need to spend addressing problems and reduce time the Oregon State Police needed to research information prior to taking actions on enforcement issues.

Commission Action (By Administrative Rule)
– The LOP Review Committee recommended developing a new tag allocation table for acreages larger than 20,000 acres, in recognition of the contribution large landowners make to the health of Oregon’s fish and wildlife resources.  Currently, landowners with 20, 000 acres get seven tags; 40,000 acres eight tags and 160,000 acres or more get 10 tags.  Any increase in tag number for landowners with 20,000 or more acres could be done after the 2009 Legislature meets and makes any changes to the LOP statutes.
– The LOP Review Committee recommended to the Fish and Wildlife Commission they adopt an Administrative Rule allowing the Commission to suspend a landowner from participation in the LOP program for violations.
– The Committee recommended changing the minimum acreage requirements tor landowners in eastern Oregon.  The table lists the recommended changes:

1. Easter Oregon buck and either sex tags – From current 160 acreage minimum to 640 acreage
2. Controlled elk hunts with bag limit of one elk or one bull – from current 160 acres to 640 acres.
3. The minimum acreage for all antlerless deer and elk tags in Eastern Oregon – no change to current 40 acres minimum.
4. Western Oregon acreage requirements for all tags – no change to current 40 acres minimum.

Legislative Action

There were six legislative concepts discussed and not all were agreed on by the participants and the organizations they were representing.

1.Amend ORS 496.146 (4) which reads
“ORS 496.146 (4) ….A landowner who is qualified to receive landowner preference tags from the Commission may request two additional tags for providing public access and two additional tags for wildlife habitat programs.  This request shall be made to the Access and Habitat Board with supporting evidence that the access is significant and the habitat programs benefit wildlife. The board may recommend that the Commission grant the request….”  to include the following:
a) Allow additional A&H tags to be transferred to non-family members
b) Allow the landowner to qualify for additional LOP tags to nonfamily members for providing access for mentored youth hunting or youth hunts to terminally ill children. Also consider an additional LOP tag to a landowner who would open access to a large parcel of public land, otherwise landlocked.
c) The landowner must provide “significant” access or habitat.  Request the A&H Board describe the parameters of what is “significant.”
d) Request in the legislation to run a pilot program for a minimum of five years with a report back requirement.
e) The new program should take into consideration a process to streamline the requirements to qualify for additional tags.
f) Access for hunters (i.e. youth, terminally ill) would be for the same species and bag limit the LOP tag was awarded for.

2. Amend 496.146, Sec. 2, (4) “Landowner preference tags for the hunting of antelope are not transferable and may not be used for the taking of buck antelope.”
a) Remove the word “not” from the statute.
b) The landowners must own 5000 acres or more of contiguous land in the big game management unit the tag is authorized for.
c) Limit LOP antelope buck tags not to exceed 10% or no less than one tag approved for each hunt area.

The parameters listed under “b and c” could be handled by Administrative Rule once the statute was approved.

3.Add to the definition of “immediate family” in the ORS 496.146 (4) the word “spouse.”  Currently “immediate family” is described as “…..husband, wife, father, mother, brother, sister, sons. Daughters, stepchildren and grandchildren.”  If “spouse” was added to the definition, then all spouses of the “immediate family” would be eligible for LOP tags.

4.A consensus of the LOP Review Committee recommended to drop the definition of “immediate family” in ORS 496.146 (4).  By doing so the landowner could assign LOP tags to anyone and would not be constrained to family members.  The recommended change in number three (above) would not be necessary if this concept is approved by the Legislature.

5.The LOP Review Committee recommended to extend the sunset of 496.146 Sec. 2 to the year 2025. By extending the sunset, future reviews of the program will be possible.

6.A consensus of the LOP Review Committee supported charging landowner registration fee for participating in the program.  Currently being considered in ODF&W’s budget proposal is a $30 annual landowner registration fee.  The LOP Review Committee discussed other options for charging a fee, including:

a)No charge for LOP registration prior to application deadline, May 15.
b)Any changes to LOP forms after May 15 a fee would be assessed.

One issue discussed in the LOP Review Committee meetings was the concept of allowing LOP tag holders to hunt anywhere in the controlled hunt area.  No consensus was reached on this issue, however, Craig Ely of ODF&W will include the concept in his presentation to the Fish and Wildlife Commission on May 9, 8:00 AM, in La Grande at the National Guard Armory.

One of the OCA policies on the LOP program states “that the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association recommends that land owner preference tags be extended to antelope under the same allocation rules as deer and elk.  The other policy states “that the OCA request that the Oregon Legislature enact legislation giving landowners authority to distribute landowner preference tags to licensed hunters at the landowner’s discretion.

The LOP Review Committee has recommended changes to the antelope program that move the antelope LOP program closer to the OCA recommended policy and the Committee recommendations allow the landowner to extend LOP tags to those of the landowners discretion which meets the OCA recommended policy.  The results of the hard work extended by the volunteers of the LOP Review Committee will be reviewed by the Fish and Wildlife Commission and we hope they will approve, especially, the OCA policy items as well as the other positive proposals.

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