WDFW takes anti-grazing stance

Approach shifts as feds delist wolves

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has taken a number of actions that are emphasizing the removal of cows and grazing to solve wolf problems at the same time the federal government has decided the predator no longer needs to be protected.

In an effort to avoid having to deal with the ongoing conflicts caused by an explosive wolf population, WDFW is looking for a way to remove cows from the landscape instead of managing wolves, according to the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association.

“There are a number of actions that show the agency favors the politically convenient option of removing cows when wolves start eating them instead of realizing wolf removal is necessary in many cases and is our current reality,” said SCCA President Scott Nielsen. “The federal government has recognized that wolves have fully recovered and no longer need special protections. The state should do likewise.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed endangered species protections for the Grey Wolf on Oct. 29.

Despite this development, WDFW continues to take actions that do not recognize that wolf populations now need to be controlled, not encouraged.

Two developments that have riled SCCA members include placing signs on the Colville National Forest asking the public to report cows they see after Nov. 1. November is typically the deadline to have cows that seasonally graze the forest removed until the following season.

“WDFW has no business interfering in the public lands management of another agency,” Nielsen said. “Asking people to report cow sightings is like asking them to report a fire, illegal campers or other undesirable activities. Cattle provided a needed service on the CNF by keeping vegetation and fuel for wildfires low. They are a desirable feature on the landscape and save taxpayers money.”

Nielsen said SCCA is also concerned about a policy proposal that would plan to grazing cattle from WDFW lands if wolves started attacking them. WDFW currently grazes some of the 1 million acres of land they own in the state.

“In our history with the agency, we know they are more inclined to take the livestock off the landscape if that looks expedient,” Nielsen said. “While we appreciate that they have removed some wolves, they often take out too few and wait until the situation is critical.”

Taking a more realistic approach to wolf management is needed, Nielsen said.

“We can see from the evidence in other states that wolf populations only continue to grow, they do not flatline,” Nielsen said. “We need a state management plan that recognizes this and aims to limit wolf numbers on an annual basis. We need a targeted plan to limit pack sizes before they get out of control.”

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Cattlemen push back against radio eartags

SCCA, CPoW submit comments against proposal

In an effort to ensure their industry isn’t burdened with a costly mandate that could negatively impact family ranches, the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association and the Cattle Producers of Washington have submitted comments against Radio Frequency Identification tags.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is planning to approve Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) as the official eartag for use in interstate movement of cattle that are required to be identified by the traceability regulations.

An official eartag is defined as an identification tag approved by APHIS that bears an official identification number for individual animals.  Regulations allow APHIS to approve tags that can be used as official identification. Both metal and RFID tags are current options.

APHIS claims that RFID tags would support APHIS’ ongoing efforts to increase animal disease traceability by more accurately and rapidly allowing animal health officials to know where affected and at-risk animals are located.

However, cattlemen argue mandating RFID tags is unnecessary and problematic.

“This mandate would force additional cost upon our members, be less accurate in regards of long-term retention, and would also require that producers register their premises with the USDA, of which regulation we are also opposed to,” both groups noted in their comments. “The proposal will force us to incur costs that the current cattle market cannot absorb; and furthermore, we feel that it invades our rights to privacy.”

The groups note that cattlemen should have a choice regarding what form of identification they choose to use for their animals.

SCCA member and area cattleman George Wishon said along with the RFID tags being prohibitively expensive, as much as $2-$3 per tag, they are not suited to range cattle operations.

“Right now even metal ear clips that are used still have 10 to 15 percent of cattle losing the metal clip,” Wishon noted. “The retention rate for RFID tags is only 15 to 20 percent, meaning nearly 80 percent of all cattle with RFID tags will lose them.”

In addition to the impracticality, Wishon said cattlemen are concerned about the regulation that a premise ID, or an identification number for each property cattle graze on, would also be required.

“We will have cattlemen losing their leases because the landowners will not want to deal with that reporting requirement,” he said. The comment period for the regulation closed Oct. 5. APHIS is expected to determine in the coming weeks if RFID tags will become the official eartag for the interstate movement of cattle

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SCCA comments on WDFW plan to choose wolves over grazing

A map showing the WDFW owned lands in Washington State.

 

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is considering a proposal to remove any livestock grazing from their lands if wolves are present. The policy would affect over 1 million acres of land in Washington State.

In response, SCCA recently submitted these comments:

The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association is submitting comment in opposition to the adoption of a guidance document change that would prioritize wolf habitat above livestock grazing on WDFW lands.

Although WDFW admits in their guidance document that grazing has multiple benefits including managing vegetation and habitat; enhancing recreational opportunity; improving habitat conservation and preserving open space, it is quick to dismiss these benefits if wolves are present.

As an association whose members have absorbed the brunt of wolf attacks since 2009, we know that adopting a policy that abandons wolf management, essentially saying all other activities must stop in the presence of wolves, is unacceptable.

Simply removing livestock grazing from WDFW lands will not stop livestock depredations, as wolves will bleed out from those areas to the private property surrounding WDFW lands.  In addition, the lost benefits of grazing will create environmental challenges that are not easy to overcome. Allowing vegetation to grow unchecked will create a tinderbox for devastating wildfires. Failing to use seasonal grazing to enhance recreational opportunities will result in more costly maintenance of those areas. Open space will quickly be closed in by vegetation overgrowth, doghair stands of timber and other ecological changes that create negative impacts for wildlife.

What this policy change would do is set a dangerous precedent for state and federal abandoning predator management if it becomes inconvenient.

Wolf management in this state is slow to come to the reality that wolf pack sizes MUST be managed and allowing the population to grow unchecked is a disaster. Washington is a densely populated state with 103 people per square mile. Unmanaged predator issues on public land quickly become private property problems.

In addition, the taxpayers of Washington should not be funding an agency that intends to acquire land simply to turn it into predator havens or wildlife preserves.

We are completely opposed to this change. Seasonal livestock grazing is a highly beneficial tool for managing state land and should not be trashed due to lack of management of a highly invasive predator.

***

More information on the WDFW proposal can be found here: https://wdfw.wa.gov/news/wdfw-invites-public-input-grazing-department-lands

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Fat stock sale rewards local youth

Over $140,000 raised at cattlemen’s event

The 2020 Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association (SCCA) Fat Stock Sale was a tremendous success this year due to all the hard work from volunteers and participants, according to SCCA.

Despite challenges created by Covid-19 restrictions, SCCA opted to host the fat stock sale as a stand-alone event. The sale is usually incorporated into the Northeast Washington Fair, which was cancelled this year due to Covid concerns.  However, the decision to cancel the fair was well into the animal production season for most youth hoping to sell an animal at the fair. To ensure young people in Stevens County didn’t end up having their hard work go to waste, SCCA President Scott Nielsen said the organization made a commitment to make the show happen.

“We knew it would be challenging and not everyone supported our decision to host the sale, but for the kids who were able to participate they walked away with a check that rewarded them for their hard work,” Nielsen related. “It was a very positive experience for everyone involved.”

The 2020 SCCA Fat Stock Sale tallied in at $142,095 where 18 beef,4 sheep, 47 hogs and 4 goats were sold. There were over 50 buyers at the event.

“We really want to thank the buyers who showed up and generously supported the kids by buying their animals. It shows how much our community cares about our young people and that we want them to succeed,” Nielsen said.

 

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Cattleman’s Classic Show Aug. 15, Fat Stock Sale Aug. 22

The Northeast Washington Fair, and many other fairs around the state/nation, have been canceled this year due to the Covid – 19 pandemic. As a result we have decided to host a one-day “Cattleman’s COVID Classic Invitational Livestock Show” for the beef kids who were planning on showing/selling at the 2020 N.E.W. Fair. We wanted to try and do something for these kids to give them some type of “normalcy” and show them as a community WE CARE about them and their future. This will be an OPEN show not affiliated in anyway with the 4-H or FFA programs. The show will be held on Saturday, August 15, 2020 at the Arden Old Timer’s Arena.

These kids have put SO much time, effort and money into their projects this year –  partly because that’s just what they do, but more importantly this year because their social interaction with their peers were cut short by schools being closed since mid-April. These kids have turned to spending most of their “free time” (which they have a lot of these days) with their animals! We feel they deserve at least one day of showing and presenting their hard work with their peers (in an outdoor safe distanced environment).

We have spent the past month or so trying to come up with something that can help fill the void of not having a fair this year, since there is no 4-H or FFA gatherings allowed due to Washington State restrictions on size of gatherings because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

So, we cordially invite your showman to the Cattleman’s COVID Classic Invitational Livestock Show, Where Becoming a Champion is Contagious! This is an OPEN show – meaning there is NO correlation or connection to 4-H or FFA

Registration Forms for the Livestock show need to be filled out COMPLETELY, signed and returned to Jenna Barker by July 17th, 2020. The Fat sale will be the following weekend at the: N.E.W. Fairgrounds

o   When: Saturday August 22, 2020

  • Check-in / Weigh-in from 7am-9am am
  • Sale Starts at 1 pm (show attire and animal cleanliness are HIGHLY encouraged!)

o   Where: N.E.W. Fairgrounds between the Swine barn and Beef Barn (normal area)

o   Who: ANYONE who was planning on selling at the 2020 N.E.W Fair – Beef, Sheep, Swine, Goats, etc.

o   More information: Please contact the SCCA President Scott Nielsen for further information 509-675-2608

If you are a kid who was planning on showing/selling at the 2020 N.E.W. Fair and have a market animal you would like to sell in this year’s sale, please let your Barn Superintendent know or Register with the Stevens County Cattlemen. Info can be found @ Stevenscountycattlemen.com

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Cattlemen to host fat stock sale Aug. 22

 

Sale will go on despite NEWA Fair cancellation

The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association (SCCA) recently announced that they will continue to host the SCCA Fat Stock Sale this summer for youth, despite the fact the NorthEast Washington (NEWA) Fair has been canceled due to Covid-19 uncertainties. The SCCA Fat Stock Sale is set for Sat., Aug. 22.

SCCA has coordinated the fat stock sale for decades, ensuring the details of the sale from the auctioneer to the bookkeeping are arranged. SCCA President Scott Nielsen said this year will be no different.

“We want parents to be assured that this sale will go on and the efforts of their kids to raise a quality animal will be recognized at a live sale,” Nielsen said. “We are looking forward to the same strong community support we see every year at the SCCA Fat Stock Sale.”

Nielsen emphasized the sale will be a live sale, not a virtual sale, and SCCA will work to meet state guidelines on the event. The location details are still being determined, but Nielsen said it is important to let the community know the sale will go on.

“We will be releasing more information as we work out the details, but we will have a fat stock sale this year and look forward to seeing the market ready animals raised by our community’s youth,” he said.

Youth interested in participating in the SCCA Fat Stock Sale need to complete an entry form available on the SCCA website: www.stevenscountycattlemen.com Questions regarding the event can be sent to stevenscountycattlemen@gmail.com

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Where is your beef from?

Do you know where your beef is from? Unfortunately, even beef that is labeled “Product of the US” may not actually be from the United States, according to the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association (SCCA).

SCCA recently launched an informational campaign on its website and social media outlets to let consumers know that during a time when beef prices at the grocery store are reaching record highs, it can be impossible for consumers to know where their beef was raised. In some cases, beef labeling is deliberately deceiving consumers.

“SCCA has always been for letting consumers know where their beef was born, raised and processed. For several years, consumers could easily find this information under the Country of Origin Labeling passed by Congress in 2013. Since that labeling was repealed in 2015, consumers can no longer tell if their steak is from the US or Brazil,” said SCCA President Scott Nielsen. “There are also many cases where beef is being labeled ‘Product of the US’ when it is in fact from another country.”

The deceptive “Product of the US” labels on beef are being allowed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture due to a loophole regulation that says if beef is processed or repackaged in the US, regardless of its country of origin, a “Product of the US” label can be applied. That means a chuck roast or beef tri-tip from Australia that was repackaged at a US plant can bear the “Product of the US” label.

“At a time when grocery stores are having a hard time keeping their meat cases stocked and beef prices are climbing every week, we feel consumers deserve to have all the information they need to make an informed choice when they spend their money,” Nielsen said. “Allowing companies to deliberately deceive consumers with false labels is wrong and we don’t want people to be taken advantage of.”

The new SCCA campaign includes a downloadable brochure that clarifies what the current labels on beef mean, including pictures of misleading labels.

“Right now if you want to be certain where your beef comes from, you should buy from a local producer,” said Nielsen. “Our affiliate, R-CALF USA, has recently started a website, usabeef.org,  where you can find suppliers in your area.”

To search local beef producers, visit www.usabeef.org. Click here to download the PDFs of our informational brochure:

SCCA beef info brochure side 1

SCCA beef info brochure side 2

 

 

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County wildlife specialist busy during winter months

Predator complaints still high in NE Washington

Although many would assume winter is a time when challenges with predators like cougars and wolves would decrease, Stevens County Wildlife Specialist Jeff Flood said he has been very active during this time.

Deputy Flood is a special deputy with the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office. Flood’s position is funded by a grant from the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) to address complaints related to wildlife. Flood handles wildlife calls involving threats to livestock, pets and people. Flood often works with area cattlemen to address concerns related to the safety of their livestock from predators like cougars and wolves.

The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association (SCCA) said they are appreciative to have a deputy at the sheriff’s office available to handle wildlife complaints.

“Having Jeff available for the last three years has made a tremendous difference to us because we have someone who is vested in the safety of our community,” said SCCA President Scott Nielsen. “We appreciate having a local resource to address the increasing pressure from predators against our ranch families and livestock.”

Since winter closed in, Deputy Flood said he has been responding to calls about predators, as well as working with other agencies to collect better predator data.

“We still get lots of predator complaints in the winter. It’s harder for everybody to survive in the snow, so we have prey animals like deer coming down low and the predators are following them,”  Deputy Flood explained.

Deputy Flood said most of the predator complaints this winter have been related to cougars killing livestock, but wolves are still a particular concern.

“We are coming into breeding season for wolves and wolves can be very territorial,” Flood noted. “It’s important for people with pets, especially dogs, to be thinking about this. You don’t have to be out deep in the woods to see a wolf. Anymore, we can have a wolf anywhere.”

Deputy Flood has been working closely with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to get more wolves in the area collared for data collection. Deputy Flood has also been working with the Kalispel Tribe to collar cougars to determine their patterns of movement. He also has game cams out in various parts of the county to aid in data collection.

For those who may be concerned about predator activity in their area, Flood said being mindful of the behavior of pets and livestock is important.

“Pet and livestock owners should be mindful of their surroundings and any unusual behavior of their animals. Cattle that are getting pushed out of pens or are bunching up may be experiencing pressure from a predator, for example,” Flood explained.

No matter what the situation, Flood emphasized that citizens are legally able to defend themselves and their animals.

“If you feel threatened or your animals are threatened, you are within your rights to remove the animal,” Flood said. “You can also call the Stevens County Sheriff and we will respond. If I get a wildlife call, I will respond. I don’t care what day or time it is, call me.”

Flood can be reached by calling the Stevens County Dispatch at 684-2555.

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SCCA Annual Banquet this Sat., Feb 8!

Social hour at 5pm, prime rib dinner at 6pm. Held at the Colville Community College, 985 S. Elm. Tickets are $30.

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SCCA continues R-CALF affiliation

 

George Wishon is an SCCA member who also acts as the Region 1 Director for R-CALF.

The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association is starting 2020 by continuing their affiliation with the Ranchers and Cattlemen’s Action Legal Fund (R-CALF), a national grass roots cattlemen’s group fighting for ranch families.

R-CALF was founded in 1998 when three independent cattle producers launched an anti-dumping lawsuit against Canada and Mexico, accusing them of exporting their products below market prices and production costs in the US. The group successfully convinced the U.S. Dept. of Commerce to implement anti-dumping tariffs against Canada.

R-CALF represents U.S. cattle and sheep producers on domestic and international trade and marketing issues and has a membership of more than 5,000 cow-calf producers, cattle backgrounders, and feeders.

SCCA member George Wishon serves as the R-CALF Region 1 Director, representing members in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. SCCA and R-CALF began their formal affiliation in 2018.

SCCA President Scott Nielsen said the group has chosen to continue their affiliation with R-CALF based on the group’s strong advocacy for U.S. producers.

“Over the last year, R-CALF has continued to fight against unfair trade policies, market manipulation and government regulations. It’s a group working to bring government policies and agreements back on the side of U.S. cattle producers,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen noted R-CALF has continued to be a strong advocate for reinstating Country of Origin (COOL) labeling for meat products so consumers can make informed choices.

“Consumers have the right to know where their steak and hamburger is from and that can’t be done without clear, accurate labeling,” Nielsen said.

COOL was passed by Congress in 2002 and, for a time, products in the grocery store meat case were accurately labeled to show what country the meat came from. But due to trade agreement related lawsuits from Mexico and Canada, Congress repealed the labeling regulations for beef and pork in 2016.

Working with R-CALF to solve COOL and other issues helps SCCA join a nationwide effort to support and protect America’s ranch families.

“We are proud to be working with R-CALF and look forward to sharing more wins for cattle producers with them in the future,” Nielsen related. For more information about SCCA, visit www.stevenscountycattlemen.com

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