Capital Chatter: Kill wolves, or help them thrive?
All sides tore apart the revised wolf plan that was presented to the Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission last week. Environmentalists said it too quickly endorsed killing wolves that prey on livestock. Ranchers said every wolf is a threat to livestock. People criticized the report's internal inconsistencies and the use of euphemisms for "hunting." And on it went …
At the urging of commission chair Michael Finley of Medford — former superintendent of Yosemite, Yellowstone and other national parks — the commission took the wolf plan off the agenda for the commission's January 2018 meeting, where it was scheduled for approval. Who knows when the revised-revised plan will reappear?
I left the meeting wondering how Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife staff could possibly reconcile the competing suggestions from commissioners, let alone the contradictory requests of environmentalists and the agricultural/hunting communities. I did not hear commissioners trying to reach consensus on what changes they would like to see, if any, in proposed policies.
If wording were the main concern, a month should have been time to fix it. I wondered whether ODFW regularly uses non-involved staff members or laypeople to read drafts. Those fresh eyes can prevent bureaucratic heartburn by finding redundancies, inconsistencies and obtuse wording before a draft became public.
Wolves epitomize the urban-rural divide in Oregon. They symbolize The Old West. Oregonians were captivated by the wolf known as OR-7 that traveled from northeastern to southwestern Oregon. Yet ranchers say the mere presence of wolves causes fear in livestock, which shows up in their anxious behavior, their reduced weight gain and their refusal to approach certain traditional grazing areas.
If a wolf is preying on livestock, killing that one wolf usually is less effective than killing the entire wolf pack to stop the depredation, according to testimony given to the commission.
How do we balance the rights of wolves and the rights of livestock?
• A beloved, well-used fly rod: A nifty exhibit at ODFW displays a bamboo fly rod used by the late Gov. Vic Atiyeh, who loved fishing the Deschutes River and other waterways. The two-sided exhibit is built into an interior wall, so it can be viewed by people in the commission's meeting room and by people walking in the adjacent hallway.
Atiyeh was known for chatting with the wildlife enforcement officers who checked on his fishing, according to Lindsey Ball, a former ODFW director and Oregon State Police fish and wildlife officer.
"He was always wanting to know, 'How are things going? What's the resource like? What's the population levels? When do we see another run of salmon — or steelhead? What's the counts upriver on the Deschutes?' The gentleman was involved in his work," Ball said.
Atiyeh's son, Tom, told the commission that his father would be proud of the exhibit.
• Say good-bye to Department of Motor Vehicles: The Secretary of State's recent audit of the Oregon Health Authority suggests using the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles database to verify addresses.
That might be a good idea. However, Oregon lost its "Department of Motor Vehicles" years ago, when the agency was folded into the Oregon Department of Transportation. Since ODOT was a department, it could not have a separate department within itself. But the state wanted to keep the well-known acronym; so in Oregon, "DMV" now stands for Driver & Motor Vehicle Services.
However, Oregon "Department of" Motor Vehicles remains a common error. State Rep. David Gomberg, D-Otis, wrote it in his latest newsletter.
• Have I got a deal for you! Gomberg also has a cool idea. In his newsletter, he said: "Perplexed about what to get your favorite Coastal Oregonian for the holidays? Have I got a deal for you!
"As many of you know, I've been working for several years to secure approval of a new, Oregon Coast license plate. There are already plates for Crater Lake, the Wine Country, and the Pacific Wonderland. There are plates for veterans, universities, bicycles, and salmon. But there is nothing for our very special part of Oregon — until now."
The state has approved the design for a "Coastal Playground" license plate. For $40, Oregonians can buy vouchers entitling them to reserve the new plate. Three thousand vouchers must be sold before the DMV will begin manufacturing the plates.
Proceeds will benefit the Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute. Vouchers are available through the institute at www.whaleplate.com. More than 2,000 vouchers have been sold so far.
• A rapid rise at ODVA: Last week's Capital Chatter included a tidbit that Sheronne Blasi recently had been hired as assistant director of Statewide Veterans Services at the Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs. She is a Navy veteran and was a performance audits manager for the Secretary of State's Audits Division.
This week, Gov. Kate Brown appointed Blasi as ODVA director, effective Dec. 21. Current director Cameron Smith will move to heading the state Department of Consumer and Business Services.
• The political beat goes on: The Democratic Party of Oregon is slamming Republican gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler for supposedly staying silent regarding the Republican tax plans in Congress.
Meanwhile, Rep. Buehler is calling on Democratic Gov. Brown to back the Jordan Cove project, a proposed Coos Bay export facility for liquefied natural gas. The project is supported by some Democrats, such as Coos Bay Rep. Caddy McKeown, who previously was a commissioner for the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay.
• Another legislator calls it quit: State Rep. Phil Barnhart, D-Eugene, the longtime chair of the House Revenue Committee, announced this week that he won't seek reelection next year. The loquacious Barnhart, who is among the most liberal lawmakers on tax and environmental issues, joined the Legislature in 2001.
Dick Hughes, who writes the weekly Capital Chatter column, has been covering the Oregon political scene since 1976. Contact him at TheHughesisms@Gmail.com, Hughesisms.com/Facebook, YouTube.com/c/DickHughes or @DickHughes on Twitter.