SALEM, Ore.—The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission today unanimously voted to deny three petitions to change elk ranching rules, delaying the process of rule-making until issues could be further explored by ODFW staff and other stakeholders.
“We are fortunate in Oregon to have clean wild and farmed populations as far as elk are concerned,” said Zane Smith, ODFW commissioner. “There are a number of issues that I feel need more consideration before we trigger rule-making.”
The commission directed staff to return to the February commission meeting with recommendations about the scope of issues rulemaking will consider, the stakeholders to participate in the process, and a time frame for staff to return to the commission with recommended rules.
Before making the decision to deny the petitions, the commission heard testimony from several Oregonians representing diverse positions on the issue, from elk ranchers to members of the MAD-Elk Coalition which includes Oregon Hunters Association, Humane Society U.S., and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
The testimony raised many issues regarding elk ranching ranging from escape, disease transmission, genetics, costs to ranchers, ODFW program costs, surveillance and testing measures, and commercial uses for domestically-raised elk.
Two of the petitions denied by the commission today were presented by the MAD-Elk Coalition and would have phased out elk ranching. The third petition denied, received by the commission yesterday, was from a coalition of elk ranchers.
Commenting on the role of the stakeholder group that will eventually be formed to recommend rules, commission Chair Marla Rae noted, “Our long-standing goal during these processes is to help representatives from diverse positions find common ground, with the ultimate objective of protecting fish and wildlife and their habitats for use and enjoyment by present and future generations.”
The commission began today’s session by approving the Access and Habitat (A&H) Board’s recommendation to provide $73,593 in funding to four A&H projects that will improve wildlife habitat and provide public hunting access. It also voted to create a permanent emergency fire seeding program to quickly review and approve grant requests.
“Having a permanent program will give the A&H board an invaluable tool to quickly respond to critical habitat destruction caused by wildland fires,” said Nick Myatt, ODFW Access and Habitat Program Coordinator.
The commission also approved an additional mark for domestically raised upland game birds on licensed private hunting preserves. The rule affects 74 licensed facilities.
The commission is the policy-making body for fish and wildlife issues in the state. The seven-member panel meets monthly. Agenda item exhibits may be requested by calling the ODFW Director’s Office at 800-720-6339 or 503-947-6044.
The mission of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is to protect and enhance Oregon's fish and wildlife and their habitats for use and enjoyment by present and future generations. The agency consists of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, a commission-appointed director and a statewide staff of approximately 950 permanent employees. Headquartered in Salem, ODFW has regional offices in Clackamas, Roseburg, Bend, and La Grande with ten district offices located throughout the state. For additional information, please visit www.dfw.state.or.us.