Oregon cattlemen Legislative Update — May 7

Oregon Cattlemen Association
Legislative Update 05-01-09

Wolf Informational Hearing Greatly Appreciated:
The House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Communities Committee held an informational meeting on April 30th in Salem.  This date was 13 days past the deadline to hold a hearing on any House bill in committee and about 20 days after the wolves in Baker County took 22 sheep and a calf.  The Wolf Informational Hearing was very positive starting with comments from Curt Jacobs and Tik Moore.  Curt provided numerous pictures in his own power-point presentation of the results of the attacks.  Tik Moore provided the Committee members written comments and full color examples of the results of the wolf attacks to his calf.  The Oregon Farm Bureau followed with their comments and then the Oregon Cattlemen’s Wolf Committee Chairman, Rod Childers provided comments.

The committee members asked questions and provided comments throughout the hearing and by the end were very vocal about how there needs to be a way within Oregon law and rule to allow the livestock owner to better protect their animals.  One of the best remarks came from Terry Beyer (D-Springfield) when she alluded to the fact that the present rule will not allow the livestock owner to immediately protect their animals and that there should be something done about it this session.

Great job by Jacobs, Moore and Childers!
Following the informational hearing there was a media conference planned by, Koopman/Ostbo the media professionals working with OCA.  The media conference went exceptionally well and was attended by four TV stations and numerous news publications.  We couldn’t have expected to have been better represented by livestock producers, and many thanks go to Curt Jacobs, Tik Moore and Rod Childers for taking their time to talk with the Legislators and the media.

Those of us in Salem dealing with this issue are very appreciative of your comments and efforts to convince the legislative leaders that we wanted a hearing, and also, the necessary changes for the Oregon Endangered Species Act and the Wolf Management Plan upon federal delisting (May 4th).  The OCA bill included this language that we are still asking for:  “to allow a livestock owner to take a wolf caught in the act of attacking, biting, chasing or harassing their livestock, pets, working dogs, or sporting dogs and, without mentioning, our family members.”

A special thank you to all who have sent comments to the Legislature or provided comments during the Ways and Means Committee Oregon tour, such as, Mike Colton who did a great job reminding them that an east-side issue, such as the wolf, needed addressing or the negative economic impact to producers, local communities and state general fund would be even greater in the future.

LOP Bill Passed out of Committee:
In an uneventful manner Chair Clem moved HB 2219 from committee to the House floor with amendments to move the sunset date to 2014.  This keeps the Landowner Preference Program intact as we know it today without the much publicized and discussed amendments for increased transferability for landowners and without LOP tags for buck antelope.  To say the least, there is disappointment with the outcome but it also reminds many of us that there is more education and relationship building needed with the Oregon Hunters Association, in the future.

Water Bill Moved from Committee:
The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee sent SB 740 to the Ways & Means Committee on April 28th without a committee recommendation.  SB 740 charges water rights holders and exempt domestic well users a $100 fee.  Municipalities, special districts, irrigation districts, and utilities will be required to pay $1200 annually for water. The fees collected will go to the Water Right Operating Fund.  This new tax on water is not popular and there is an organized coalition working to stop it.  The other water bill SB 788 (the peak and ecological flow legislation) is still in committee with the last work session on April 28th and we hope it stays there and doesn’t experience a gut and stuff procedure to include it in another bill later in the session.

Egregious Removal/Fill Legislation Voted out of Committee:
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB 877 out of committee with a do pass recommendation on April 27th.  This bill changes current law to allow the prevailing plaintiff in removal/fill litigation to recover attorney fees and costs and not the prevailing defendant.  Current law allows both to recover attorney fees and costs as determined by the judge.  This bill also allows citizen standing to initiate a suit to enjoin alleged fill and removal violations against a natural resource user and the citizen is not required to provide for a bond to cover their liability in case they lose the suit.

The present day safe-guards for resource providers and landowners are that the plaintiff is at risk of being held liable to pay the defendants attorney fees and costs.  Furthermore the plaintiff may be required by the court to provide a bond in order to enjoin the suit, required to locate a person who is affected to file suit, and to notify the Division of State Lands 60 days prior to initiating a court action.  Wouldn’t you know, this bill was introduced by Senator Jackie Dingfelder (D-Portland), and is being promoted by its environmental advocates as a “fairness to plaintiffs” act.

This bill is another example of mislead legislators and environmentalists conspiring against the natural resource community who work hard to abide by state and federal law.  Yes, there are those who foolishly counter state and federal law and those who make legitimate mistakes, but SB 877 removes the provisions and incentives to discourage citizens from taking action against landowners and the natural resources community whether the removal/fill action is determined by the court to be intentional or frivolous.

This bill goes beyond allowing the citizen the ability to be a private attorney general, and were many of the legislators being asked to vote on this legislation to place their foot in the landowner and natural resource producer’s shoes there would likely be greater understanding and continued justice as it presides in present law today.  The agriculture and natural resources community and lobby are countering this bill as it goes before the Senate for a vote on May 5th.

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