Wallowa County wolf compensation panel appointments rile a dozen conservation groups

Oregon governor is told county failed to include at least two pro-wolf voices as required by state law-

This year the Oregon legislature passed a law authorizing each county to set up a committee to handle livestock interest claims for wolf damage. The claims will be paid by Oregon taxpayers. The idea behind the law is to reduce tension and bickering over wolf damage claims. Each county committee is supposed to include at least two wolf advocates on its committee.

Wallowa County, however, which as been a hot spot for contention over the wolf issue. It created a committee even before the Oregon Department of Agriculture had completed its rule making process governing such committees. According to the conservation groups no wolf advocates were on the committee.

Susan Roberts, a Wallowa County commissioner slated to serve on the county committee, was reported by Oregon Live to have said “We’re doing our best to find people who say they could co-exist with wolves and they support their return.”  There has recently been contention in the county when a family business said to be wolf supporters applied for a conditional use permit for a bed n’ breakfast wolf opponents said would attract wolves and the wrong kind of people.

The groups calling on the governor to make sure the law is followed on the county compensation committees are Big Wildlife, Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, KS Wild, NE Oregon Ecosystems, Oregon Chapter Sierra Club, Oregon Wild, Predator Defense, Wolf Education & Research Center, and the Wolf Recovery Foundation.  All three of the groups that negotiated the terms of the law in the legislature with livestock interests signed the letter to Governor Kitzhaber.



  1. Brian Ertz Avatar

    Compensation efforts like these draw a lot of time and energy. While there is no doubt that it is outrageous the process by which they are establishing these committees – the underlying premise, the suggestion that compensation programs are effective, itself is outrageous.

    It doesn’t matter whether there are pro-wolfers on the committee or not – the program is a tax-payer subsidy, a slush-fund for ranchers who will collect whether there is a token advocate or not.

    Better not to be party to legitimizing this irresponsible approach to wolf advocacy.

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      I agree with that Brian.

  2. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    This is how the livestock industry in the west operates.
    Cry all the way to the welfare line

  3. Daniel Berg Avatar
    Daniel Berg

    I don’t believe public lands ranchers should be entitled to compensation programs, period. It’s public land, and if the general public supports a previously extirpated predator back on the landscape that causes additional hardship for ranchers, then those ranchers have to make a financial decision about whether they want to continue to use that public land. There are many other industries in which the business environment is constantly changing, and you either have to adapt or step aside. If I wanted compensation for any major change in the business environment that negatively affected the small business I am involved with, I would be laughed out of the room.

    1. WM Avatar


      If you look at a map of Eastern OR, the land ownership, like many Western states, is kind of complex. Federal lands, often occupy the higher elevations (NF and NP mostly), with some lower lands in BLM stewardship. But, there seems to be alot of land in private ownership (where there are quite a few livestock), which is also intertwined with FWS reserves and tribal lands. Then you have those pesky grazing leases on BLM and NF lands that complicate things even further.

      Wolves, of course, will go wherever the easy meals are.


      Then if you go all out and pee on the livestock owners as you seem to suggest, wherever they are, wolves will be shot. I guarantee it.

      I thought you were a little more middle of the road, than some of your more recent posts seem to suggest.

      1. Daniel Berg Avatar
        Daniel Berg


        I didn’t address the issue of depredations on private property. I’m generally supportive of compensation programs for private property depredations (at least for multiple decades after reintroduction/recolonization), but I can’t quite wrap my head around the support for depredations on public lands. I’ve only supported reimbursement in the past because of the potential buy-in that it could achieve, not because I agreed with it in principle.

        The only difference between joe taxpayer (me), and a rancher as stakeholders of public land is that the rancher has a business which is financially dependent on those public lands. Even though in theory we should still have an equal say in the overall management of those lands, do you believe the rancher should be able to leverage his position as a business owner using public lands to have a louder voice in their administration? In principle, do you believe he/she has a right to be compensated for a change in the environment that is supported by a majority of the general public?

        WM, from what I can tell you are a pragmatic guy. Keep in mind when I ask you these questions, I realize that there is sometimes a stark difference between what appears to be make sense in principle and what is actually pragmatic.

        1. WM Avatar

          But, Daniel, this is an OR state/county funded program. They have the right to decide if wolf depredation compensation is funded on both private and public lands. Afterall the law says, “Be it Enacted by the People of the State of Oregon.” Unless you are an OR taxpayer you probably shouldn’t have a say in the matter, in my view.

          As for public lands grazing, Congress has made a decision (or omission) to just leave federal grazing fees at their heavily subsidized level. If a livestock owner running his stock/guard dogs pursuant to a leasehold interest (he’s paid the federal government for this privilege and the livestock are on the ground legally), why shouldn’t he/she receive compensation for losses due to a reintroduced predator, when this was not a risk faced without the reintroduction effort? And, more importantly, as I mentioned earlier, what are the likely consequences of not seeking some middle ground, whether permanant or temporary, to keep wolves bothering livestock from being summarily killed through a little self-help, or 3S.

          I think it is a good (pragmatic) solution for co-existence, though I do find it disturbing OR would spend money on a wolf depredation trust fund with all the other very good uses for state taxpayer dollars during these difficult, budget challenged times.

          1. Daniel Berg Avatar
            Daniel Berg


            Yes, it’s in Oregon and ultimately a decison of the Oregon taxpayers, but my statement and subsequent question to you was over the principle of it, not anything else.

            “If a livestock owner running his stock/guard dogs pursuant to a leasehold interest (he’s paid the federal government for this privilege and the livestock are on the ground legally), why shouldn’t he/she receive compensation for losses due to a reintroduced predator, when this was not a risk faced without the reintroduction effort?”

            Aside from the fact that the current grazing fees are a joke, and whether a $1.35/AUM entitles someone to sterilize their allotment, why should they receive compensation? Have you seen a grazing lease contract with wording that protects a rancher from the risk of an additional predator on the public landscape? I have no idea whether the contract price/AUM accounts for a listed group of potential predators. You are formally trained on legal issues, right? Is there a legal obligation for the federal government to protect a ranchers interests in this type of situation?

            “I think it is a good (pragmatic) solution for co-existence”

            Agreed. I support a pragmatic solution as long as I believe that approach will yeild the best results over the long-term for conservationists/preservationists/etc.

  4. WM Avatar

    Has anyone seen the text of the law (Ag. Dept. draft/final regulations) and the letter outlining the “conservation groups” concerns? If so, can it be posted here?

    I have not followed this, but do recall sometime back the legislative bill was initially sponsored by Eastern OR legislators, who felt there was a strong need for the overall framework for such a program, as wolves entered the state.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      I think the Oregon conservation groups were pretty happy about this law, although maybe not now.

      Oregon is different than Idaho in that the state does not have a much federal public land percentagewise as Idaho.

      The Wallowa County bunch has been as hostile as any I have seen, however.

  5. WM Avatar

    The Session law in its entirety may be found here:

    I do not see the words “wolf advocate” anywhere in the text, and the County gets to establish the advisory committee as well as choose its membership, apparently:

    (d) Establishes a county advisory committee
    to oversee the county program, consisting of
    one county commissioner, two members who
    own or manage livestock and two members who
    support wolf conservation or coexistence with
    wolves. The county advisory committee, once
    established by the county, shall agree upon two
    county business representatives to serve as additional
    county advisory committee members.


    I haven’t read the statute that carefully but it appears, based on what does not appear in the text, the governor nor his administrative department, the Agriculture Department, have any express oversight on who gets/does not get appointed to the local county committees. At least, I don’t think I missed anything like that in my Evelyn Wood reading style scan.

    The fact there does not seem to be oversight could be by intentional design. Appointees might likely also be residents of the county, and not somebody from elsewhere, say Portland or LA.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan