Counties form committees to evaluate claims

By MITCH LIES

Capital Press

Oregon's wolf compensation fund is off-limits to ranchers under a recent order by Gov. John Kitzhaber to freeze some general funds. But the Oregon Department of Agriculture is asking counties to establish advisory committees and start assessing wolf compensation requests.

Oregon State Veterinarian Don Hansen said he hopes the governor, who is coping with a revenue shortfall that has strapped the state budget, lifts the freeze by Feb. 15, the date the department would like to receive all requests for the newly established fund.

"We're going to keep moving forward and think positively," Hansen said.

Under the fund, Oregon ranchers are eligible for compensation for wolf depredation suffered after Aug. 2, which is when the fund was enacted.

Also under the fund, the department will help ranchers pay for nonlethal measures to prevent wolf attacks.

Oregon lawmakers put $100,000 in the fund for the 2011-13 biennium.

In the case the state receives requests for more money than is available, Hansen said, officials will "distribute the funds as evenly and as fairly as we can."

Wolves from one pack in Eastern Oregon, the Imnaha Pack, have killed 20 cows since the spring of 2010 and six since Oct. 5, when a court order halted ODFW's plans to kill two wolves from the pack.

Compensation requests are to be submitted to the state by county advisory committees.

County advisory committees are being asked to assess whether claims are valid and to put a dollar amount on claims.

Oregon Department of Agriculture officials ultimately will award or reject claims.

To be considered for compensation, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife agents must determine that wolves are the probable cause for livestock losses, according to the law regulating the fund.

Ranchers also can seek compensation for missing livestock, Hansen said.

In states that award losses for missing livestock, compensation awards typically are less than for confirmed livestock kills.

Under the law regulating the fund, county advisory committees must be comprised of one county commissioner, two members who own or manage livestock, two members who support wolf conservation and two county business representatives.

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