Three years ago, Douglas County ranchers Dan Dawson and Ron Hjort decided to create a predator control district to help the county pay for services to protect livestock from cougars, bears, coyotes and other predators.
Those who choose to join the district will pay a per-acre fee to receive these services, which are currently provided by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services through county funding.
The county will continue to fund the program for the three local wildlife specialists to respond to public safety and natural resource concerns, while the landowners in the district will be able to help cover responses to livestock killings and other related damage.
“If we can’t control the predators that are causing us damage, we’d have to barn every animal we have and we’d become confinement operations, not grass operations to utilize our grass and pastures,” said Dawson, who chairs the Douglas County Livestock Association’s predator control committee. “We know the county’s running out of money and we want to pay for our fair portion.”
Hjort added that the district is a way to raise revenue so the county can meet its agreement to pay for wildlife specialists.
The two wrote House Bill 3188, which passed through the legislature and allows for private landowners to form a district. They sent out surveys to landowners across the county and received positive responses from about 600 individuals, corporations and multi-generational ranches, representing approximately 195,000 acres.
Petition letters were sent out to those interested in joining the district. The property owners must return the petitions by March 10 to Douglas County Livestock Association, P.O. Box 1489, Roseburg, OR 97470 in order to be included in the district. People can sign up later, but they will have to pay three times as much in fees.
These are the official registration forms that will be presented to the county commissioners to petition for forming the district. Participants must identify all parcels they want serviced in the district, and they are not permitted to enroll part of a parcel.
“There’s nothing like this in the state of Oregon, we’ve broken new ground here and it’s been interesting, but very well received,” Hjort said, adding that the Douglas County commissioners are on board with the district.
The petition process includes people who own land in Douglas County but live elsewhere.
Once they receive the petition letters, Dawson and Hjort plan to work with the Douglas Forest Protective Association to map out the district before meeting with the Douglas County clerk and county assessor.
The fee per acre is not to exceed $1, and is currently less than that for landowners with 10 or more acres. Those with less than 10 acres can pay a flat fee of $25 to join the district.
The charges will be placed on the property owners’ tax statements, and all funds generated through the district will stay in the county specifically for predator control purposes.
Wildlife Services is able to send one of its three specialists covering Douglas County to respond to predator-related damage in a timely fashion, according to Dawson. The specialists can investigate livestock killings, verify what kind of predator was responsible, address the problem and have the federal government reimburse the livestock owner for the damage.
“These folks are empowered to do what’s necessary to alleviate the problem,” Hjort said.
He and Dawson recognized the district is a work in progress and there may be glitches while they’re setting it up, as it’s the first of its kind in Oregon.
“It should be something that’s here in the future for generations to come,” Dawson said. “Without this program, we can’t use this land, and it’s mentally draining and physically draining to go out there and see our animals dead every day.”
After receiving the letters by March 10, Dawson and Hjort plan to present the petition to the commissioners by April 1 and establish the district on the tax role by July 1.
For more information, or to receive a petition letter to join the district, call Dan Dawson at 541-953-3892 or Ron Hjort at 541-459-0778.