By Pat Caldwell
VALE – Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe is working on a plan to hire a deputy to patrol the backcountry.
He said last week the position would be funded by the Bureau of Land Management.
The position was among the issues discussed at the first session of a new community advisory board established by the sheriff’s office this summer. Wolfe said he was pleased with the first meeting, held last week.
“I thought it went well,” Wolfe said, noting he thinks the 24-member committee will be an asset for the department.
“It is still in the beginning phase,” he said. “To me, it is a sounding board. You get a good feel of what your constituents want.”
Among the discussion topics was the new backcountry deputy position.
Wolfe said BLM funding of $100,000 a year would pay for the post for five years. That funding package would cover wages, benefits, vehicle and equipment costs and training. The deputy, Wolfe said, would probably be paid in the $40,000 range per year.
“The BLM has one ranger but the focus would be different. The ranger is not deputized in Malheur County,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe emphasized the deputy’s role would not be to enforce BLM rules and regulations but to offer the residents of the county a law enforcement presence in secluded areas.
“We have no desire to enforce their (BLM) mandates. It is putting someone in the backcountry all the time,” he said.
Wolfe said there is a need for a law enforcement presence in isolated areas. The backcountry deputy, Wolfe said, could work on lingering issues including cattle rustling.
“Every year we have missing livestock and we believe some of them are being stolen,” he said.
Other duties also would include preventing poaching, theft and damage to property.
“It is not uncommon to have reports of theft from private cabins,” Wolfe said.
Another issue the deputy would deal with is when backcountry users open gates are leave the open, allowing cattle escape.
“Cattle get into places they are not supposed to be, and the livestock producer gets in trouble,” he said.
Wolfe said the position has County Court approval.
The BLM manages 70 percent of the public land in the county, Wolfe said, and his office must ensure it has a presence in remote areas.
“We need to be out there protecting people,” Wolfe said.