By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- A House committee has approved a bill advancing a recently reached settlement for wolf management in Oregon.
Among other provisions, House Bill 3452 provides Oregon ranchers the first "permit-less take" since wolves gained protections under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1973.
And it frees up the state to carry out a lethal take order on two problem wolves from the Imnaha pack in northeast Oregon.
The state has been barred from killing the wolves since October 2011, when the Oregon Court of Appeals issued a stay on the order.
Both provisions kick in only after certain conditions have been met.
The House Rules Committee moved the bill to the floor with a do-pass recommendation with only one "no" vote.
Previously, on May 29, a panel involved in the negotiations explained the workings of the settlement to the Rules Committee and shared background on how the agreement came together.
Brett Brownscombe, natural resources policy adviser for Gov. John Kitzhaber, characterized the agreement as a "landmark historic moment where a lot of parties who typically have not been able to come to agreement on this issue, did."
The agreement was reached May 23 after more than a year of meetings between the Oregon Cattlemen's Association, state agency personnel, the governor's office and two environmental groups.
The agreement needs approval from lawmakers and from the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.
The commission is scheduled to take up the agreement at its July meeting, said Ron Anglin, wildlife division administrator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The agreement allows "permit-less take" of wolves in cases for ranchers in areas of chronic depredation. The provision kicks in only after ranchers have taken nonlethal steps to prevent wolf attacks, and only if catching wolves biting, wounding and, in some cases, chasing livestock.
The "chasing" provision "goes beyond what the (state) wolf plan allows," Brownscombe said.
But, he said: "I think what is different now, compared to 2005 when the wolf plan was adopted, is that we've had a number of years of not just hypothetically living with wolves, but really living with wolves."
Currently, the only area where the permit-less take provision would apply is the area inhabited by the Imnaha pack.
Under HB3452, the provision will kick in after the pack is involved in one more depredation.
"This is not something that is going to set back wolf populations," Brownscombe said. "It is something that gives landowners more assurances and certainty that they can protect their property when it is being challenged."
HB3452 now goes to the House floor.