Some of the first governance
meetings held in Oregon were convened in 1843, due
concerns over wolves killing
required more than 100 years of concerted effort
before the last Oregon wolf was presented for
bounty in 1946.
Due entirely to their ill-advised reintroduction,
the same issue is being actively debated today, more
than 170 years after the first control efforts
Last week, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission
voted 4-2 to delist the Canadian Gray Wolf
from the state’s endangered species list. The
Commission’s decision came following an entire day
of testimony from more than 100 people who signed up
to sound off on the matter.
People from throughout the state attended the
meeting, including wolf advocates primarily from
Portland and Eugene. Their perspective was countered
by representatives of the Oregon Hunters
Association, the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and
many other residents of eastern Oregon. Recent
Commission appointee Jason Atkinson was once again
absent from the proceedings.
The Commission heard
presentations from the Oregon Department of Fish and
Wildlife’s (ODFW) wolf program coordinator, as well
as one of the program’s original architects, a
biologist who has since retired. The presentations
maps of the areas
in which wolves are known to exist in Oregon. It
clearly showed that the apex predators are found
nowhere near Portland or Eugene, but largely in the
northeastern part of the state.
The Commission then began
hearing arguments representing both sides of the
issue including oral testimony from my office. We
according to recent press
constituent operators of a century ranch located in
northern Klamath County awoke on three consecutive
mornings to find that wolves had maimed or killed
their cattle. Also placed into the record by my
written testimony provided by
representatives of Oregon Wild and the Sierra Club
during a meeting of the House Agriculture and
Natural Resources Committee last April.
That committee had considered a bill that would have
authorized the Legislature to be in charge of the
wolf delisting decision. At that time,
environmentalists testified they believed the
Legislature did not have the expertise to make a
delisting decision and that the Fish and Wildlife
Commission was the only body capable of making such
“Managing our state’s wildlife is the role and
responsibility of the Oregon Department of Fish and
Wildlife, and decisions regarding listing or
delisting species are entrusted to the Oregon
Department of Fish and Wildlife, and decisions
regarding listing or delisting species are entrusted
to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. These
entities have the necessary scientific, policy and
legal expertise to make these decisions, and the
processes to ensure full compliance with the law and
opportunities for public participation.”
Now that the Commission has made its decision, we
believe it is important for them to hear and
understand that quote. It would be much more
difficult to for environmentalists to successfully
overturn a delisting made by the Legislative
Assembly than a delisting made by the Commission.
We understand that environmental organizations are
unhappy with the Commission’s decision and believe
they are likely to sue the Commission, even though
they nuanced their delisting decision by suggesting
that the Legislature should limit the delisting to
Eastern Oregon and significantly enhance the penalty
for killing a wolf. Under current Oregon law, that
penalty is a $6,250 fine and up to one year in jail.
Much of the testimony provided
by environmentalists at the hearing appeared to be
based on emotion rather than reality. A frequent
argument was that the delisting would open the door
for the wholesale slaughter of wolves. This is
simply not true.
in the Salem Statesman Journal newspaper provides an
excellent summary of what the delisting decision
Although a giant step forward for protection of some
livestock, the state delisting does not allow the
killing of any wolf in the area designated as
Western Oregon, lethal action may only be taken
against wolves in the area designated as Eastern
Oregon, and then only when they are literally
“caught in the act” of killing or maiming livestock.
The Commission action will provide little help to
reduce wolf depredation in Klamath County because,
absurdly, Western Oregon is now defined to include
most of Central and Southwestern Oregon. Therefore,
only non-lethal means are being deployed to
discourage the lone wolf that killed and maimed the
Klamath County calves.
The Oregon Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires
conservation that brings a species to the point
where measures are no longer necessary. It requires
the Commission to base the delisting on scientific
criteria related to the species’ biological status
in Oregon and mandates the use of documented and
verifiable scientific information.
Oregon’s current wolf plan was developed in 2009,
and was a collaborative effort directly involving
all of the stakeholders, including environmental
groups. It was approved unanimously in the Senate
and had broad bipartisan support in the House.
Under the plan, it was agreed that the delisting
could be considered once the wolf population reached
a specific threshold. That threshold was reached
nearly a year ago.
Ranchers and other people in Eastern Oregon upheld
their part of the bargain. They endured the last
several years abiding by the terms of the wolf plan,
with the understanding that delisting would occur
once the wolf population reached the milestone
established under the agreement.
Last April, ODFW issued a draft evaluation
recommending delisting of the wolf. ODFW staff made
the recommendation to delist the wolf last month
based on their best science and reiterated the
recommendation during the hearing.
They based their recommendation on the fact that
Oregon wolves are not in danger of extinction, and
that existing programs and regulations are adequate
to protect the species and its habitat. In short,
the plan was created, agreed upon, and the criteria
for de-listing has now been exceeded.
The Oregon wolf plan does not allow for hunting or
other unauthorized killing of wolves. It only allows
for taking of wolves as a management tool, in
response to depredation. Nonetheless,
environmentalist organizations attempted to use
their typical tactics to pursue their agenda. Their
rhetoric is reminiscent of the disastrous 1994
Northwest Forest Management Plan, when stakeholders
came to an extensive agreement that was almost
immediately derailed by environmental groups failing
to act in good faith. The lengthy trail of lawsuits
and devastated rural communities is now the true
legacy of those efforts.
For wolf advocates, the delisting represents a major
setback in their concerted, coordinated and
continued efforts to eliminate the grazing of cattle
and sheep on public lands. The most significant
change resulting from the delisting is that
environmentalists would no longer be able to use the
Oregon ESA to file frivolous lawsuits under the
guise of protecting the wolves.
Within hours of the
Commission’s decision, the Center for Biological
already using the delisting
for fundraising purposes.
They are promising to take the ODFW to court within
days to overturn the delisting. Apparently, they now
believe the ODFW expert scientists are incapable
making a decision based on sound science.
Last week’s delisting decision ultimately represents
a hard-fought victory for rural Oregonians who have
lived under the constant threat posed by these
dangerous and destructive predators. Hopefully,
common sense will continue to prevail, and the
organized wolf advocates will no longer be able to
use the wolves to advance their agenda to
deliberately destroy the livelihoods of people
outside of the Willamette Valley.
Please remember--if we do not stand up for rural
Oregon, no one will.
Senate District 28
I Phone: 503-986-1728
Address: 900 Court St NE, S-311, Salem, OR 97301