Gov. Brown at odds with ranchers

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By Oregon Cattlemen Association

Jim Bittle, a recent appointee to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, is clearly a valid and bona-fide stakeholder in Oregon wildlife management. A boat builder who advocates for fish and sportfishing, I am sure he would carefully consider his positions as a member of the commission. His commitment to get kids outdoors is one of my issues as well.

I will not take pleasure in going to the Oregon Senate and vigorously opposing his appointment. But I will oppose it.

Sport fisheries are one of the agency’s stakeholder groups, as are the landowners who I represent. Like ham and eggs for breakfast, both the pig and the hen are involved, but I think we could all agree that the pig’s involvement runs a little deeper. Landowners lose hundreds of thousands of dollars of their crops annually to elk, deer, geese, and other species. Cougars and wolves prey on their livestock. Tangentially, when other agencies such as the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management or the Department of Forestry produce plans or do rulemaking, the agency provides input that can create burdensome regulatory measures for landowners.

Landowners provide a lot for wildlife. At least 70 percent of the forage consumed by wildlife is grown on private land. During the last drought, $100,000 worth of waterhole maintenance kept water available to wildlife on 52,000 acres of desert range land on just my ranch. This effort was duplicated by other landowners all across Oregon. Weed control and fire fighting that benefit everyone are all done in the course of day-to-day ranching in rural Oregon. Landowners should be the first stakeholder group to be recognized — not a group to be left out while other stakeholders are over-represented.

Geographically, 80 percent of Oregon lies east of the Interstate 5 corridor, but just one of the seven commissioners come from east of the Interstate-5 corridor. Less than two percent of Oregon’s Second Congressional District lies within the Interstate-5 corridor, yet the commission’s representative from that district lives within the corridor. Bittle’s proposed appointment will not help Oregon move past the urban-rural divide that continuously adds to the controversy and misunderstandings of natural resources issues.

One of the Governors recent successes in the natural resource field was the Sage Grouse Conserviation Partnership, started by former Gov. John Kitzhaber and seamlessly brought forward by Gov. Kate Brown. Cited as significant in the decision not to list sage-grouse as endangered, the partnership also is an example of the right way to tackle complex wildlife management issues. Landowners’ involvement as fundamental, key stakeholders was central to the sage-grouse¬†effort. Now, this important message in wildlife management seems to have already been forgotten.

Earlier this year, a group of outsiders came to Oregon with the message that rancher’s needs could be better met by going outside the current legal framework. The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association was prompt and clear with its response. Even though we had many concerns with how the government was handling the natural resource issues that greatly affect our lives and livelihoods, we felt it was extremely important as we moved forward to address our concerns within the laws and the system in place.

I still firmly believe that, right down to my socks, but the governor is making it difficult for me to make that case to my fellow ranchers by ignoring landowners on one of her most critical natural resource commissions.