Linn Soil & Water Hosts Goose Predation Meeting

Tanner Sheahan
CPS Tangent

Last week I attended a meeting Tuesday evening hosted by the Linn County Soil and Water Conservation District concerning goose depredation on crops here in the Valley.  There were several people from the government agencies responsible for monitoring and maintaining the goose population present at the meeting.  The time was set aside to give growers a chance to voice concerns about goose damage to their crops.

Goose damage to winter wheat. Picture taken 23 Mar 2010.
There is no doubt that goose pressure on our crops is becoming a greater concern here.  With government mandates through the International Migratory Bird Treaty to increase the total goose population by nearly 100,000 birds and the increasing acres that are going into the Wetland Reserve Program it is likely to get much worse.  One issue that was brought up is that the amount of food plot acreage on WRP ground is restricted by law to 5%.  This would mean that a 300 acre wetland would only be allowed to provide 15 acres of feed.

There were not a lot of helpful answers regarding crop losses to growers.  There is however an ODFW Goose Control Task Force that was formed to give growers and landowners an official, political voice on this matter.  It was mentioned several times by the government officials present at the meeting that they "had no political clout" when it came to voicing grower's concerns but that "we" as growers and landowners and private citizens do. 

Crop depredation by geese in the Willamette Valley will only increase as a greater percentage of the migratory population makes this Valley their winter home and not just a pit stop.  So how do we as an industry and local economy deal with a problem that, by definition, could be viewed by growers as an invasive species?  The geese have not historically congregated here in such numbers and certainly cause significant economic damage.  With so many wetlands being developed all over the Valley there are new local flyways being created that are bringing larger populations of geese into new areas resulting in crop damage to fields that have not historically had a problem.

At this point I think it is important for growers to begin gathering some evidence of goose damage on your fields.  Take some pictures of damaged crops or total stand loss and put some actual dollar costs to it.    Contact the Goose Control Task Force and voice your concerns about crop damage and the costs of protecting your crop.  Regulations almost always trend towards more restrictions and it is much easier to affect regulations before they are set in stone but it will take a loud concerted effort by growers to get our concerns heard.

For your convenience I'm listing the government officials that attended the meeting with their contact information.  These folks should be able to answer your questions and hear your concerns.   

Steven Smith & Molly Monroe:
     US Fish and Wildlife - Willamette Refuge Complex - Finley
     (541) 757-7236
Jim Young:
     ODFW - Access & Habitat Program - Adair Village
     (541) 757-4186 ext. 237
     james.a.young@state.or.us
Brandon Reishus:
     ODFW - Salem - Game Bird Program
     (503) 947-6324
     brandon.s.reishus@state.or.us
Gary Briggs:
     NRCS - Wetland Reserve Program - Tangent Office
     (541) 967-5925
     gary.briggs@or.usda.gov