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Miners sue Oregon over dredging ban

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — Miners are asking the federal government to intervene and prevent Oregon from shutting down certain types of mining in wild salmon rivers like the Rogue.

The Mail Tribune reports that a consortium of mining interests filed a lawsuit Monday challenging the state’s five-year ban on most suction dredging. The group says federal mining laws trump state restrictions on federal lands.

The legislature passed a bill in 2013 that placed restrictions on dredging. It was designed to end at the end of 2015, giving lawmakers time to devise permanent rules. They never did.

If a lawmaker introduces legislation that would keep dredging restrictions on the table, it may be allowed to continue without a problem.

The suction dredging ban is set to begin in January. In-stream work usually begins in mid-June.

Oregon woman faces livestock theft charges

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

A Wasco County, Oregon, woman has a Nov. 2 court appearance set on charges she allegedly stole four cows.

Elizabeth Ann Turner is charged with four counts of first-degree theft involving cows belonging to Aaron Turner.

The Wasco County Sheriff’s Office describes the case as a civil dispute that degenerated into a criminal allegation. Other news accounts indicated a family dispute is at the heart of the charges. The county indictment does not spell out the relationship between Elizabeth Turner and Aaron Turner.

The alleged thefts happened on or about Oct. 5, according to the indictment.

Elizabeth Turner was in the news in September after wildfires scorched pasture and rangeland in much of Eastern Oregon and livestock owners ranchers were looking for feed or grazing land. According to a Capital Press account, Turner offered temporary grazing on 1,200 acres of dry pasture for displaced livestock, saying it could hold 50 to 100 cow-calf pairs for two months.

Ranchers oppose Malheur County monument designation

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

ONTARIO, Ore. — An effort by conservation groups to have a large chunk of Malheur County set aside as a national monument or wilderness area has riled up ranchers and farmers in the area.

They have joined forces with a group of concerned citizens and elected officials who are fighting the Owyhee Canyonlands Conservation Proposal, which would encompass 2.5 million acres.

Malheur County Cattlemen’s Association President Chris Christensen said locking up that much area would eliminate a large amount of grazing land and devastate Oregon’s No. 1 cattle producing county.

“If this thing comes to pass, it would have a devastating effect on the ranching community and agriculture in Malheur County,” he said. “Anybody involved in agriculture in Malheur County isn’t going to be in favor of this thing.”

Christensen said a large chunk of that 2.5 million acres is grazed.

According to Sergio Arispe, a livestock and rangeland agent at Oregon State University’s Malheur County Extension office, locking up that much land would eliminate about 33 percent of the county’s total grazing land.

A monument designation “would destroy the community and the business of agriculture as it’s being done in this area right now,” Christensen said.

Oregon Natural Desert Association, which is leading the monument effort, says it would protect 2.5 million acres of wild lands and hundreds of miles of wild and scenic rivers. According to the group’s web site, the proposal would “allow working farms and ranches to continue to operate.”

But Jordan Valley rancher Bob Skinner, former president of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, said area residents believe the opposite would happen.

The majority of that 2.5 million acres is grazed, he said.

“There are cattle everywhere out there,” Skinner said. “If you take cattle out of (this) economy, you have decimated the economy. It would change our way of life. Not only farmers and ranchers, but everybody around here is up in arms about it.”

Malheur County Soil and Water Conservation District Manager Linda Rowe, who opposes the monument proposal, said that 2.5 million acres would equal 43 percent of the county.

If the county’s economically vital cattle industry was devastated by it, a lot of hay, corn and other grains wouldn’t be grown here, she said.

“It would impact agriculture in Malheur County as a whole,” Rowe said.

Local elected officials and members of Oregon’s congressional delegation are holding a town hall meeting on the issue from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Oct. 29 in the Adrian High School gymnasium.

ONDA and other regional and national conservation groups and businesses are gathering signatures to back their effort. According to ONDA’s web site, “a variety of legislative and administrative options (are) being considered to permanently protect this place.”

According to a news release from Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, it is anticipated the groups are planning to ask President Barack Obama to use his power under the Antiquities Act to designate the land as a national monument, wilderness area or national conservation area.

Black bear roaming yards near Portland euthanized

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

ZIGZAG, Ore. (AP) — A black bear roaming people’s yards and going through garbage cans has been trapped and euthanized.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says the bear was killed Tuesday.

KPTV-TV reports state officials took action in part because some residents had come face-to-face with the animal in the town of Zigzag, about 45 miles southeast of Portland.

BLM tracks down online impersonator

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has tracked down an agency employee who impersonated a retired BLM heavy equipment operator online, but will not identify the person.

Greg Allum, an Eastern Oregon resident once employed by BLM, recently informed Capital Press that his name was used to post comments on an article about the arson convictions of two Oregon ranchers.

Allum denied making the comments about Dwight and Steven Hammond, a father and son who were recently sentenced to five years in prison for setting fires on BLM property near Diamond, Ore.

The comments referred to the Hammonds as “clowns” and defended the actions of BLM in pursuing criminal charges against them.

After checking the Internet Protocol address used to make the comments, Capital Press found that they were posted from a computer that belongs to the BLM.

The agency has identified the BLM employee who made the comments but cannot divulge any information about the person’s name, location, position or possible disciplinary actions, said Michael Campbell, a public information officer for BLM.

The employee’s actions violated the BLM’s “robust social media policy,” under which only authorized officials can represent the agency on social media sites, Campbell said.

If a BLM makes comments using a personal account, they must provide a disclaimer stating that their views don’t reflect the positions of the agency, he said.

When asked if the BLM employee or another agency official apologized to Allum, Campbell said the agency would have no record of any personal contact between an agency employee and the retired worker.

Greg Allum said he has no comment on the BLM’s response to inquiries from Capital Press.

Malheur County farmers say they would love to be part of Idaho

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

ONTARIO, Ore. — A recent effort to create a forum where people can discuss the idea of eastern Oregon and Washington counties joining Idaho was welcomed by farmers in Oregon’s Malheur County.

If any county in the two states is a good fit for Idaho, it’s Malheur County, farmers and agribusiness owners in that county told Capital Press.

“I guarantee you we’d be all for it,” said Kay Riley, manager of Snake River Produce, an onion shipping-packing facility in Nyssa, Ore., a few hundred yards from Idaho. “We don’t have anything in common with the western part of Oregon.”

Farmers in this area grow the same crops, are in the same time zone and many of the Oregon farmers have Idaho cell phone numbers.

Malheur County farmers and ranchers are more conservative and identify more politically with their Idaho counterparts, said Shay Myers, general manager of Owyhee Produce, an onion shipper-packer in Nyssa.

“Everything about Malheur County is more identified with Idaho,” he said. “I wish I knew how to actually make this happen. I wouldn’t mind trying to help.”

The major crops grown in this area — onions, sugar beets, mint, seed — are grown by farmers on both sides of the border and the industries are closely linked.

An onion processing facility in Parma, Idaho, for example, uses onions from farmers in both states and sugar beets grown in Malheur County end up at a processing facility in Nampa, Idaho.

“With the kind of agricultural industry they have over there, we’d take them in a heart beat,” said Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder.

If Idaho annexed Malheur County, it would make life easier for Oregon farmers who have to deal with tougher state regulations than Idaho growers do, said Paul Skeen, president of Malheur County Onion Growers Association.

“We would love to be in Idaho,” he said. “Idaho is an agriculture-friendly state and Idaho has a governor that is looking to help agriculture in any way possible.”

Oregon State University researcher Bill Buhrig, who has farmed in Malheur County all his life, said growers here have talked about joining Idaho for as long as he can remember.

While it’s a nice idea, the logistics of accomplishing that are formidable and incredibly complex, he said.

“There is absolutely no way that would ever happen, but it’s fun to talk about,” he said.

Idaho elected officials and representatives of the state’s congressional delegation said the effort has to originate on the Oregon side but they would be willing to help once it got going.

Ken Parsons, a retired farmer from La Grande, Ore., recently made news for creating a Yahoo forum where people can seriously discuss the idea of counties in eastern Oregon and Washington joining Idaho.

“I don’t have any of those answers but there are people out there with that knowledge,” Parsons said about the logistical hurdles. “I’m trying to get people sitting around this big internet table and start building a consensus on how to do it.”

Specialty crop grants will aid diverse Oregon producers

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

In Forest Grove, Ore., Pete Mulligan is betting the rising popularity of hard cider isn’t a foodie fad. He’s growing 100 varieties of apples, including old English and French cider varieties, to keep his own business juiced and to provide nursery trees for other cider makers.

Mulligan, founder of Bull Run Cider, said the industry needs to be taken seriously by others in Oregon agriculture.

So far, the reception has been cautious. When making a pitch to experienced orchardists to grow cider varieties, “Right away they want to know how much money am I going to make,” Mulligan said.

That’s understandable. “We know partnerships are not developed overnight,” he said. But Mulligan and others believe the cider infrastructure needs to grow quickly to take advantage of the market. Many cider makers buy juice or use conventional dessert apples due to a scarcity of the tart or bittersweet cider varieties, he said.

He said a $54,000 specialty crop grant from USDA may help the industry develop the foundation it needs. The grant, part of $2 million in funding administered by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, is one of 24 projects statewide intended to assist growers and processors of fruit, vegetables, nuts, nursery plants and other specialty crops.

In the case of the cider grant, the money will go to the Northwest Cider Association to connect cider manufacturers with orchardists and nurseries to ensure a steady supply of cider apples and “perry” pears. Perry is an alcoholic drink made from pears.

Sherrye Wyatt, executive director of the cider association, said the grant comes at a crucial time for the industry as cider makers plan expansion and need an assured supply of fruit.

“It’s critical that we’re not spinning our wheels, because the clock is turning,” she said. “People are having to plan out ahead.”

Wyatt said the cider industry benefits from the same atmosphere — starting with high-quality agricultural products — that led to the rapid expansion of craft beer manufacturing in the Pacific Northwest.

“The cradle of that is Portland,” she said. “Combine that with fruit, an innovative spirit and local, slow food.”

The cider association’s membership has grown from 17 to 70 in just the past couple years, Wyatt said.

Some of the other specialty crop projects to receive funding include:

• $66,800 to the Oregon Hops Commission, which will coordinate and update a study of how much seasonal farm labor specialty crop producers need.

• $61,239 to the Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission for a campaign to get elders to eat more berries. Nutrition experts tout berries as healthy food that can help the body stave off various ailments.

• $79,186 to the Oregon Strawberry Commission for growth trials and taste tests of up to 10 new fresh market strawberry varieties. They will be grown at Unger Farms outside Portland, which is experienced in using the plasticulture production system,

• $100,000 to Oregon State University Extension to expand OSU’s Beginning Urban Farmer Apprenticeship program. The grant will be used to improve the production and marketing skills of new and beginning specialty crop farmers and will include a series of four classes offered at Portland Community College’s Rock Creek Campus.

Aviation company stops spraying, faces fines

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

An Oregon agricultural aviation company has agreed to stop spraying pesticides for the next month while it turns over application records to farm regulations.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture sought an injunction against Applebee Aviation of Banks, Ore., because the company allegedly continued to spray pesticides despite a suspension of its applicator’s license.

Applebee Aviation also faces a $40,000 fine and a yearlong revocation of its license for these alleged actions.

Rob Ireland, the company’s attorney, said he could not yet speak about the allegations but said Applebee Aviation agreed to a stipulated injunction on Oct. 19 not to spray pesticides for 30 days.

The company is cooperating with ODA and is still performing non-pesticide services, such as Christmas tree harvesting and fertilizer applications, he said.

“The other agricultural support activities are still going on,” said Ireland.

Pesticide regulators at ODA spoke with Applebee Aviation about its safety concerns over the spring and summer but suspended the company’s applicator license on Sept. 25 after learning “these pesticide-related worker safety deficiencies were continuing,” according to an agency document.

Workers did not wear all the protective gear required to apply several herbicides and weren’t properly trained, among other problems, according to ODA.

Despite this suspension, the company sprayed pesticides four times on timber tracts in Clatsop County and on 800 acres of U.S. Bureau of Land Management property near Christmas Valley, Ore., with each violation warranting a $10,000 penalty, according to ODA.

“Applebee Aviation demonstrated that it will ignore or fail to comply with any or all pesticide application requirements if compliance will cost it money,” the agency said in a civil penalty order.

The ODA claims that the company’s owner, Michael Applebee, asked the agency for an exception to the license suspension because the BLM contract was worth $3 million but was told such exceptions aren’t possible.

By disregarding the suspension order, Applebee Aviation has undermined the “level playing field” for pesticide applicators who follow the rules, which justifies “immediate and severe consequences,” ODA said in a court filing.

“Defendants’ actions threaten to cause irreparable harm by sending a message to the pesticide industry that pesticide operators may continue to operate even when they intentionally and blatantly violate the law,” the filing said.

Funnel cloud spotted in Willamette Valley

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — People living in a small city north of Eugene saw a funnel cloud.

National Weather Service meteorologists in Portland posted video and photos of the funnel cloud on Facebook. The images were provided by Harrisburg residents who spotted it late Monday afternoon.

The difference between a funnel cloud and a tornado is a tornado touches the ground and typically causes damage. Meteorologist Colby Neuman tells The Register-Guard there were no reports of the Harrisburg funnel cloud touching the ground.

Neuman says funnel clouds in the Willamette Valley generally happen in the late afternoon, usually in the spring or fall, after a front of rain passes through and is followed by showers. Another predictor is a change in wind patterns.

Man reports shooting Oregon wolf while hunting coyotes on private property

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

A Grant County resident in Eastern Oregon reported to Oregon State Police Oct. 6 that he shot a wolf while hunting coyotes on private property south of Prairie City.

Wolves are protected throughout Oregon under the state endangered species law and under federal regulation in the western two-thirds of the state. Killing them is not allowed except in defense of human life and, for authorized livestock owners, when wolves are caught in act of attacking livestock or herd dogs.

State police investigated, recovered the wolf’s carcass and submitted a report to the Grant County district attorney’s office for review, according to an OSP news release.

However, the Grant County DA’s office said the case has been transferred to Harney County prosecutor’s office. District Attorney Tim Colahan said his cohort in Grant County has a conflict of interest because he knows the hunter’s family, and asked Colahan to handle the review as a courtesy. Colahan said he is just now receiving case information from OSP and has not made a charging decision.

District attorneys in Oregon can present cases to a grand jury for possible indictment, bring charges themselves or decide the facts don’t warrant prosecution. The man who shot the wolf was not identified.

The wolf, designated OR-22 by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, is at least the third to die in Oregon since late August, when the Sled Springs pair in Wallowa County were found dead of an unknown cause. State police suspended their investigation in that case, saying they didn’t have probable cause to say the deaths were due to human action and that the cause of death couldn’t be determined because the carcasses had deteriorated.

State police said the wolf shot in Grant County was a male that dispersed from the Umatilla Pack. Young or sub-dominant wolves often leave their home packs to establish their own territory and find mates.

According to ODFW, OR-22 has worn a GPS tracking collar since October 2013 and dispersed from the Umatilla Pack in February 2015. He was in Malheur County for awhile, then traveled into Grant County. He did not have a mate or pups, according to ODFW.


ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehey said information about distinguishing wolves from coyotes is available at


Oregon wolf that hadn’t been seen in four years turns up in Klamath County

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

A radio-collared wolf that dispersed from Northeast Oregon and hadn’t been heard from for four years has turned up the Cascade Mountains in northern Klamath County.

OR-3, as the wolf is designated, was identified from a photograph taken this summer by a trail camera set up by a private individual.

Like OR-7, Oregon’s famous wandering wolf, OR-3 dispersed from the Imnaha Pack, leaving that group in May 2011. He appears to have cut a diagonal south by southwest across the state to the Cascades, also like OR-7 did.

OR-3’s radio signal was picked up in the Fossil wildlife management unit in the summer of 2011 and near Prineville in September that year. He hadn’t been located since.

Some Oregon wolves wear GPS collars that emit location information at set periods and are picked up computer. OR-3 wore a VHF radio collar, which requires wildlife biologists to locate it in the field with telemetry equipment, according to ODFW. The wolf’s radio collar probably isn’t working at this point, the department said in a news release.

The department had no other information about OR-3. The unidentified person whose trail camera took the photo asked ODFW not to share it with the public. It’s not yet known whether OR-3 is part of a pack. OR-7, which wandered into Northern California before returning to Southwest Oregon’s Cascades, is paired with a female and has produced pups.

Locating OR-3 bolsters the department’s findings that Oregon’s wolf population is increasing in number and range distribution. Wolves migrated into Oregon from Idaho, where they were released as part of a national wolf recovery program, and biologists have long expected they would spread from Northeastern Oregon to the Cascades.

The first Oregon pack was detected and designated in 2008, and the state now has a minimum of 83 wolves. The minimum total stood at 85 until the Sled Springs pair were found dead of an unknown cause the week of Aug. 24. Russ Morgan, ODFW wolf program coordinator, has estimated Oregon has 90 to 100 wolves; the minimum population is based on confirmed counts.

ODFW biologists will attempt to gather more information about OR-3.



Marijuana growers face irrigation complexities

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

As Oregon’s marijuana industry emerges from the legal shadows, growers are being confronted with regulatory hurdles regarding irrigation, experts say.

When cultivation of the psychoactive crop was criminal under state law, compliance with water rules was not the top-of-mind worry for growers.

Those who now want to participate in the legal marketplace for recreational marijuana, however, are finding that irrigation can pose an unexpected complication.

To qualify for commercial marijuana-growing licenses, growers will face the same issues with water rights as conventional farmers as well as problems that are unique to the crop, which remains illegal under federal law.

Earlier this year, aspiring hemp and marijuana producer Andrew Anderson of Bend, Ore., was notified by his local irrigation district that federal authorities refused to allow their facilities to be used to deliver water for cannabis production.

Anderson said he hopes the matter will be resolved over time, but in the mean time he’s drilling a agricultural well to ensure he can irrigate his crop.

“I don’t think we’ll ever get a chance to be part of an industry that goes from nothing to a giant conglomerate in a lifetime,” he said.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates some water projects in the West, has said it doesn’t intend to become an “enforcer” of federal cannabis prohibitions, but it remains to be seen how marijuana and hemp production is treated by the agency, said April Snell, executive director of the Oregon Water Resources Congress, which represents irrigation districts.

Each irrigation district in Oregon is likely to have a different perspective on cannabis production, particularly depending on how reliant they are on federal facilities, Snell said at a recent cannabis workshop in Salem, Ore.

“They are like snowflakes. From a distance they may look the same but up close they all have their own characteristics,” she said.

Cannabis growers can apply for their own water right to divert surface water for irrigation or use land with an existing water right — just like other farmers, they’re subject to shut offs due to water calls from senior water rights holders, said Doug Woodcock, administrator of the Oregon Water Resources Department’s field services division.

“Know your water rights,” Woodcock said, noting that the right is specific as to the place and type of use.

Drilling a well also requires a water rights permit for agriculture in Oregon, though exemptions apply for domestic, industrial and commercial uses.

However, those “exempt” uses do not apply to growing a crop, such as marijuana, for profit, Woodcock said. “Irrigation is not part of the commercial exemption.”

Medical marijuana growers often don’t face such restrictions on groundwater because they produce the crop for personal use or cultivate it for others without an intent to profit, he said.

Commercial cannabis growers who want to cultivate the crop inside a warehouse or another property within a city can also buy water from the municipality, he said.

At this point, though, 29 cities and 10 counties in Oregon have decided not to allow marijuana production within their boundaries, while others remain undecided, said Rep. Ken Helm, D-Beaverton, who is a land use attorney.

People who want to grow marijuana in those undecided areas should become involved in the conversation with their local governments, he said. “The best place to start is the local planning department.”

In counties that do allow marijuana production, only “exclusive farm use” zones allow the crop to be grown outright, said Katherine Daniels, farm and forest lands specialist for the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development.

Whether the crop can be commercially grown without restriction in industrial, commercial and residential zones will likely vary county-by-county, she said.

Thousands of fish rescued along Deschutes River

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

BEND, Ore. (AP) — Thousands of fish were rescued in Oregon after a low-flowing river left them stranded in shrinking pools.

The Bend Bulletin reports that volunteers joined state and federal workers Wednesday to pull trout, sculpin and whitefish out of the pools alongside the Deschutes River upstream from Bend.

Fish biologist Erik Moberly of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says they collected 3,650 trout, hundreds of sculpin and a hundred whitefish.

Since last weekend, at least 500 trout died after becoming stranded.

It is the third consecutive autumn that fish had to be rescued along the stretch of the Deschutes near Lava Island Falls. The low flows in the Deschutes River are caused by trying to fill a nearby reservoir as much as possible for the next year’s irrigation season.

Federal agency issues plan for coastal coho salmon recovery

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A federal agency has released a road map for the recovery of threatened Oregon Coast coho salmon.

The draft plan from the National Marine Fisheries Service focuses on protecting and restoring freshwater and habitats that have a mixture of freshwater and saltwater, including streams, lakes and wetlands.

The plan also calls on the state to strengthen regulations on activities such as agriculture and logging to protect water quality and habitat.

The Oregon Coast coho was first listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1998. It was later taken off that list, but litigation forced the government to grant it federal protection again in 2008.

The listing was retained in 2011, and in 2015 a federal review found that while aspects of the species’ status have improved, the species still needs protection.

In July, two environmental groups sued the federal agency over its failure to write the recovery plan in a timely manner.

Between 1 million and 2 million coho salmon once returned annually to Oregon’s coast, but the number plummeted to about 20,000 in the 1990s because of over-fishing, the loss of habitat and the effects of hatchery fish, among other factors.

In recent years, improvements have led to increased coho numbers: annual returns now range from 100,000 to 350,000 fish.

But federal biologists say poor ocean conditions and climate change could pose a challenge to the coho. The main threats to overcoming that challenge, according to the plan, are degraded habitat and inadequate state rules.

The loss of stream habitat for the rearing of juvenile coho salmon is a big concern. This habitat, according to the plan, is critical to produce enough surviving juveniles to sustain the coho population, especially during poor ocean conditions. Stream habitat includes large wood, pools, connections to side channels and off-channel alcoves, wetlands and backwater areas.

A large part of the land with critical coho habitat lies on private land, including farmland and timber land. Because the plan is only a blueprint, its implementation will rely on the efforts of local jurisdictions, farmers, timber companies and other private citizens.

State agencies such as the Board of Forestry, which regulates logging buffers near streams, and the Department of Agriculture, which regulates pesticide spraying, will also play a large role, said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the two groups that sued this summer.

“We need bigger buffers around streams where chemicals aren’t sprayed. We need larger logging buffers,” Greenwald said.

Greenwald praised the plan for its focus on habitat restoration and strengthening laws to protect that habitat. The big concern, he said, is “whether the state of Oregon will step up and do what’s necessary to have healthy salmon.”

NOAA Fisheries estimates the cost of recovery at about $55 million over the next five years and about $110 million to achieve full recovery, depending on the effectiveness of improvements to the coho salmon’s habitat and the strength of laws protecting that habitat.

The draft plan is open to public comment for 60 days. The agency plans to issue a final recovery plan in 2016.


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