Ranchers fined for burning dozens of dead cattle, sheep


SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A northwest Oregon ranching couple has been fined $17,869 for creating an illegal burn pile that included at least 40 dead animals.

The Statesman Journal reports on May 13 the Lebanon Fire Department responded to a large, unattended burn on property owned by Mark and Bethany Wahl.

The pile contained at least 35 dead cattle and five dead sheep, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality said in its penalty order, made public last week.

The pile also contained decomposable garbage, plastics, asphaltic materials, furniture and petroleum products. Open burning of all those materials is prohibited at all times everywhere in the state, the agency said.

Mark Wahl told the newspaper that the couple is appealing the fine and declined to comment further.

The Wahls operated a beef cattle and sheep ranching facility several miles away in Albany. They held a permit from the Oregon Department of Agriculture allowing them to operate a confined animal feeding operation with up to 1,092 animals.

Among the permit’s requirements was proper disposal of dead animals. Animal carcasses cannot be burned in the open.

The Agriculture Department didn’t cite or fine the Wahls because the animals were not burned on the ranch property, agency spokeswoman Andrea Cantu-Schomus said. The Agriculture Department had cited the couple four other times since 2013 for permit violations.

The permit was canceled earlier this month at Mark Wahl’s request, Cantu-Schomus said.

DEQ also cited the couple for leaving an open burn unattended.