Weary neighbors ask Watchdogs to help with wolves

  • Rose Berger found this escaped wolf dog on her property, in her horse corral. She reported to Ventura County planning officials that she was told by LARC that the animal had scaled an 18 foot fence and escaped. It ran across the hills, going into neighbors' barns and corrals. Berger writes that LARC founders said it was reported in the Pine Mountain community at one point. It was, Berger writes, never recaptured, according to LARC founders.

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    Rose Berger found this escaped wolf dog on her property, in her horse corral. She reported to Ventura County planning officials that she was told by LARC that the animal had scaled an 18 foot fence and escaped. It ran across the hills, going into neighbors' barns and corrals. Berger writes that LARC founders said it was reported in the Pine Mountain community at one point. It was, Berger writes, never recaptured, according to LARC founders.

  • Eli Meigs and Stan McCuen are neighbors in Lockwood Valley Ranchos to the LARC facility. They are shown here debriefing after their meeting with TriCounty Watchdog members. They are seeking assistance in challenging the 'negative declaration

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    Eli Meigs and Stan McCuen are neighbors in Lockwood Valley Ranchos to the LARC facility. They are shown here debriefing after their meeting with TriCounty Watchdog members. They are seeking assistance in challenging the 'negative declaration" by Ventura County which would halt inquiry into environmental impact of holding 60 wolves and wolf dogs in the LARC compound, on about 10 acres.

  • This wolf dog was spotted in a neighbor's corral, about a mile from the LARC facility. According to a letter to Ventura County authorities, LARC founders said it had escaped by scaling an 18 foot fence. The animal was not captured, according to the letter and was spotted at one time in the Pine Mountain community. Capture attempts were unsuccessful, according to comments of LARC founders, as quoted by Berger.

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    This wolf dog was spotted in a neighbor's corral, about a mile from the LARC facility. According to a letter to Ventura County authorities, LARC founders said it had escaped by scaling an 18 foot fence. The animal was not captured, according to the letter and was spotted at one time in the Pine Mountain community. Capture attempts were unsuccessful, according to comments of LARC founders, as quoted by Berger.

  • Some of the neighbors meeting with TriCounty Watchdogs to explore options for challenging negative declaration by Ventura County, which Watchdogs say would stop the ability to secure more complete information and community dialogue about the proposed facility to house 60 wolves and wolf dogs. LARC's 'Howling Press' newsletter ridicules the neighbors and their concerns as being hysterical and exaggerated.

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    Some of the neighbors meeting with TriCounty Watchdogs to explore options for challenging negative declaration by Ventura County, which Watchdogs say would stop the ability to secure more complete information and community dialogue about the proposed facility to house 60 wolves and wolf dogs. LARC's 'Howling Press' newsletter ridicules the neighbors and their concerns as being hysterical and exaggerated.

By Patric Hedlund

Ellsworth ‘Eli’ Meigs is a veteran diagnosed with PTSD. He came to a meeting with the TriCounty Watchdogs last Sunday wearing a ‘Wolves and Warriors’ T-shirt. It shows a noble flag and a pack of noble wolves.

Meigs is an animal lover and a patriot, he says, then adds that his rights are being violated by Ventura County’s plans to allow a wolf rescue facility in his Lockwood Valley neighborhood, without enough study of environmental impacts and without adequate public review.

Meigs and his neighbors asked the Watchdogs for help. They believe residents of Piñon Pines (just over the hill from Lockwood Valley) and the rest of the Mountain Communities should be alerted too.

Ventura County failed to notify the Mountain Communities during the June-July public comment period. They published a notice in Ventura, 120 miles away, and sent out postcards to neighbors on Curtis and Adams Trails. County workers appear ready to give a “Neg Dec” to the facility, the Watchdogs say.

A “negative declaration” means the wolf facility could get a ‘free pass’ to skip over the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process, without state-mandated studies or public hearings to examine the environmental impacts of packing up to 60 wolves and wolf-dogs into pens on less than a 10-acre area next to about 60 family homes. Meanwhile, state law refers to these as “inherently dangerous animals.”

Stan McCuen gathered three petitions signed by most neighbors, which were sent to Ventura County’s roads department, planning department and county animal services, asking that a kennel license for wolves and wolf-dogs not be granted.

The public hearing before the Ventura County Planning Commission will take place next Thursday, Nov. 14 at 8:30 a.m. in Ventura. Neighbors are unhappy that they are being asked to drive 120 miles one-way to a hearing so early in the morning.

They point again to their petitions, saying conditions have not changed.

“We feel LARC will continue to fail to comply with county code and permitting requirements…continue to disrupt the peace by frequent day and night howling of the dogs currently kenneled at LARC,” they mention, adding concern about inadequate security, “loose wolf-dogs” and the excessive public use of privately owned and maintained [dirt] roads. “The increase in public use is causing extra personal and financial strain on the community while LARC has offered no support in maintaining the roads.”

Another neighbor who found a wolf-dog in her driveway is concerned that the animal was never found. “They confirmed that he was never re-captured,” she wrote, asking, “Was this reported to Fish and Game or the Department of Forestry?”

Neighbor Stan McCuen and others at the meeting with the Watchdogs said that LARC and its affiliated “Wolves and Warriors” program have a widespread national public relations campaign in progress to raise funds to fight the neighborhood.

They showed copies of newsletters comparing the Lockwood Valley residents to Montana ranchers who wish to be able to hunt wolves to keep them from attacking cattle. The newsletters ask people to send money for lawyers to fight the neighbors’ complaints.

The “Howling Press” newsletter also says that the “County of Ventura has already approved this CUP and this hearing is due to complaints from neighbors, all of which are unfounded, exaggerated and have no bearing on the CUP process.”

In one passage, LARC co-founder Lorin Lindner, a Ph.D. psychologist, says “The people who launched the baseless campaign against LARC are known wolf hunters who go to Alaska for their trophy hunts.” She goes on to say that “wolves are an easy scapegoat for the economic decline of small ranches due to factory farming and the mortgage crisis….”

Lindner said in an interview this week that the facility had not been cited for noncompliance with county codes. She said the roads to her facility are owned by the county. When asked where she got the information that someone in the neighborhood was hunting wolves in Alaska for trophies, she said that Stan McCuen’s wife had told her that.

We checked with Cindy McCuen, who said Lindner’s comment was untrue, and that she was distressed to hear the claim. McCuen said he does not hunt wolves, only deer once a year. The couple said they went sightseeing in Alaska once in 2006, but did not have any interest in hunting wolves.

Ventura County Planner for the project, Josias Gonzalez, said that there had indeed been a noncompliance citation levied on the facility. County documents indicate it required posting a $4,000 bond. He said that the roads are private, and not owned by the county, but that LARC would have legal access to use of the roads.

Gonzalez said LARC had been following county guidelines to get the facility into compliance. He also said that the sound level test by an acoustic technician were not out of compliance with county standards. He said they did not need 60 wolves on-site to make the tests, indicating that a single animal could be monitored and the probable sound level extrapolated from that.

As to the claims in the “Howling Press” about ignorant neighbors eager to shoot wolves, “I, for one, will make sure future newsletters are less offensive,” Lindner wrote when informed of the concern her claim gave the McCuens.

The hearing is at 8:30 a.m. at 800 S. Victoria Avenue, Ventura 93009 at the Board of Supervisors’ hearing room. Case PL12-0141 documents can be seen at www.ventura.org/rma/planning

Photo captions:

A committee of neighbors meeting with TriCounty Watchdogs Sunday.

An escaped wolf-dog at a neighbor’s property line. Below, Eli Meigs wearing ‘Wolves and Warriors’ T-shirt and Stan McCuen bringing petitions and documents opposing the facility.

Stan McCuen showing USDA regulations for possessing “inherently dangerous animals” such as wolves.

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