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Deschutes commissioners will invite ODFW to provide info on mule deer habitat update before any further action

Deschutes County commissioners Phil Chang, Tony DeBone and Patti Adair offered their thoughts on what to do next on the issue of mule deer habitat
Deschutes County
Deschutes County commissioners Phil Chang, Tony DeBone and Patti Adair offered their thoughts on what to do next on the issue of mule deer habitat

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Deschutes County commissioners returned to the divided topic of a mule deer habitat update on Wednesday, not moving to create a stakeholder committee on the various issues but instead to invite Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials to a meeting to discuss their ongoing efforts.

Commissioners recently voted 2-1 to shelve an ongoing project to update the county’s mule deer winter inventory. The discussion of what to do next arose in the context of a review of the Planning Division work plan, focused on long-range planning.

Planning Manager Will Groves noted that the Community Development Department and the county overall doesn’t have authority or oversight on some of the much-discussed issues related to the various impacts on deer populations.

Commissioner Patti Adair said she favored creating a local steering committee, saying many people have told her they feel one is needed to review the related issues, ranging from deer killed by vehicles to poaching, cougar and wolf populations and the spread of juniper trees crowding out the bitterbrush deer depend on for nourishment.

“I know out where we are, we have a lot of elk now, and deer and elk don’t get along well,” Adair said.

Commissioner Phil Chang asked if the mule deer management plan ODFW is working on addresses habitat fragmentation and was assured it does.

CDD Director Peter Gutowsky said of his staff, “We don’t have the expertise to weigh in and provide any kind of judgment or interpretation” on the deer-related issues that go beyond land use or development. He also noted that at public open houses and hearings, opinions were “divergent,” and discussions often became emotional.

Chang added that unlike issues related to cannabis and wolf depredation, there’s no state law or directive that counties weigh in.

“I think this steering committee concept is – it’s pretty fuzzy and vague, in terms of its purpose. … I don’t think it’s an appropriate use of county resources,” Chang said.

Adair stressed at one point – “I love our deer. I want to keep them healthy.”

Commissioner Tony DeBone, who sided with Adair on shelving the ongoing process, said his position hasn’t changed since the vote, and instead suggested bringing in ODFW experts to provide details of where their deer habitat update process stands and what issues they are focusing on -- and what they have learned so far..

Chang said he’d want at any such meeting ODFW to address habitat loss and fragmentation.

When DeBone asked Adair how she felt about making the ODFW invitation, Adair said, “You have your two votes already.”

Article Topic Follows: Deschutes County

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Barney Lerten

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