Cattlemen praise privacy protection bill

By Oregon Cattlemen’s Association

The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) commends Oregon’s legislature in passing through HB 4093 which will grant land owners information privacy when entering into Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAA) through county Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) related to greater sage-grouse protection in Oregon. There has been concern within the ranching community, that signing onto a CCAA could make submitted information public and available to fall into the wrong hands. However, the Governor’s signing of HB 4093 would protect ranchers and landowners from such.

Oregon House Representative, Cliff Bentz, brought the bill forward with the support of Rep. Whitsett, Senator Whitsett, the Governor’s Office, the OCA, the Oregon Association of Conservation Districts and Oregon chapters of the Audubon Society, and the Defenders of Wildlife. It passed the House unanimously in mid-February, and strongly in the Senate later in the month. With the House agreeing to the Senate’s amendments, it is now being prepared for the Governor’s signing.

While some concerns have arisen urging to keep public information public, there have been many other exemptions made for private landowners pertaining to land management plans required for voluntary stewardship agreements entered into under ORS 541.423. In fact, the forestry stewardship agreement bill (HB 2114) provided similar privacies in relation to the spotted owl prior to its listing.

Tom Sharp heads the Harney County Sage-Grouse CCAA Steering Committee, which developed the Harney County CCAA, and is also the Chair of OCA’s Endangered Species Committee. “This could provide our ranchers the reassurance needed to move forward with Harney County CCAA agreements. Likewise, other Oregon counties potentially impacted by a sage-grouse listing decision can now develop similarly CCAA agreements under their county’s SWCD with privacy protection afforded by HB 4093. Time is short and landowners must act quickly to ensure these agreements are put in place prior to the September 2015 listing decision. Within Harney County there are already over 20 ranchers interested in enrolling in a CCAA and we encourage many more to do the same.” Organizations in Harney County have pioneered this county wide agreement for which the Harney County Soil and Water Conservation District will act as permit holder.

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