Voters Defeat Anti-ranching Initiative

Voters Defeat Anti-ranching Initiative

A sweet song of success

By: Staff  Date: 01/14/2012 Category: | Wildlife Journal |

The fat lady has sung, and a sweet song it was. The final vote on Measure 38 - the so-called clean stream initiative - was 64 percent against and 36 percent in favor.

You can more fully appreciate those numbers if you realize that at the outset of the campaign in late September, the vote would have been almost the opposite.

We began with low voter awareness, a misleading ballot title ("Prohibits livestock in Polluted Waters and Adjacent Lands), and no money. The initiative was brought by extreme environmental groups and included a provision for enforcement through citizen lawsuits against individual farmers, ranchers, and livestock owners.

The first thing we did was select a steering committee that included the Oregon Cattleman's Association, Water for Life, Oregonians for Food and Shelter, Oregon Farm Bureau, and Oregon Lands Coalition. The group grew from there to build an alliance that included all commodity organizations in the state to some degree and many, many other groups and individuals.

A representative steering group worked with Pacific/West Communications, a consulting firm we had selected several months before. Pacific/West did a survey to get a better understanding of how we should approach the voting public so they would grasp the issue. The steering committee coordinated the resource organizations at the county level by keeping each group knowledgeable about what others were doing and how it was working and about fundraising success. In the end, more than 4000 people from Oregon and out of state, in the livestock industry and from many other trades and interests, gave more than $600,000 in donations from $5 to $25,000. Direct mail to target groups and radio spots were the major thrust of the campaign. Any effort outside the population centers was done by the agriculture and timber people using their own resources. We afforded no television!

People simply did not wait for someone to ask them to do something. They took the initiative and did things themselves. Everyone was a local spokesman, a writer of letters to the editor, a radio interviewee. The cattlewomen, grange women and dairy women wrote 30,000 letters to their urban counterparts who were a target group of voters. There has probably never been a better example of grass roots effort than this campaign. Our people spoke to Lions clubs, Rotary clubs, or any group of one or more who would listen. And they gave money they couldn't afford.

We spoke the truth about how the measure would affect us, and we spoke from the heart. We held a rally at the State Capitol after a parade on horseback and on foot through a rainstorm, many of us the sons and daughters of the people who settled this state. Most of us had never done anything like this before.

We felt sure people would vote against the measure if they learned how extreme it was. And they did.

The arrogance of the extreme environmentalists who brought this measure and those who supported it became apparent when the lead petitioner, a medical doctor, was arrested for killing 11 of his neighbor's cattle. The animals kept annoying him, he said, by coming through his own broken fences. He also admitted killing three of the animals the year before.

In retrospect, we are warmed by the knowledge that honesty still counts, that the masses can question rhetoric and separate it from reality, and that they do understand that if they take rights and opportunities away from us, they too will lose.

Our task now is to keep the message alive because we know this is not the end to the "War on the West," but is only a skirmish. We cannot even take the time to celebrate. We must continue to build on the trust of the American people that land owners and managers are good stewards of our natural resources, that we have sustained the use of water and land and resources over time, and that our goal is to continue that task in perpetuity.

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All Authors Of This Article: | Sharon Beck |
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