SALEM — The director of Oregon’s wildlife department has
told the federal government the state agency supports the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal to take the gray
wolf off the endangered species list, drawing fire from
conservation groups and an Oregon congressman.
Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Curtis Melcher, in
a May 9 letter that came to light this week, said his
department supports the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s
determination that the gray wolf in the Lower 48 states and
Mexico no longer meets the definition of an endangered or
threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The letter was first reported by the Capital Press, a weekly
agricultural newspaper published in Salem, Oregon.
Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, said Wednesday he is
“shocked and appalled,” saying the state wildlife agency
director has abdicated his mission to protect fish and
ashamed by your willingness to throw an incredibly important
predator species under the bus in favor of a few private
interests that clearly have a different mission than your
agency,” Blumenauer told Melcher in a letter.
comment, Oregon wildlife department spokeswoman Michelle
Dennehy said in an email that Melcher’s bullet points in his
letter speak for themselves on wolf recovery in Oregon and
why the department is supporting the federal delisting in
the Lower 48, except for the Mexican wolf subspecies.
letter to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Melcher noted an
increase in Oregon’s wolf population. ODFW reported in April
there were 137 known wolves in Oregon at the end of 2018, a
10% increase over 2017.
also said in his letter that Oregon is committed to gray
wolf conservation, ensuring the species’ progress while
minimizing livestock losses.
Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center
for Biological Diversity, said lifting federal protections
now would hamper further wolf recovery in Oregon and expose
the animals to killing by the state.
The state of Washington’s wildlife agency also recently said
wolves should be removed from the federal endangered species
list throughout Washington state.
Washington Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind said
his department “is confident that Washington’s wolf
population is on a path leading to successful recovery.”
Susewind wrote that protecting thriving wolves could expose
the Endangered Species Act to legislation weakening
protections for species in actual danger of extinction.
federal government has already delisted wolves in the
eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon, as well as in
Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and contends that gray wolves no
longer qualify for federal protection as an endangered or
Interior Department’s proposed delisting would cap a
decades-long restoration effort that saw a turnaround for
wolves, which were nearly exterminated across the Lower 48
states. Now more than 6,000 gray wolves live in portions of
officials have drafted a state wolf plan, which lists its
goal as ensuring “the conservation of gray wolves as
required by Oregon law while protecting the social and
economic interests of all Oregonians.” The new plan will
update the first one, adopted in 2005 when there were no
wolves in Oregon.
Oregon removed wolves from its state endangered species
list. But a prime objective of the draft plan is to continue
to promote a naturally reproducing wolf population in
Oregon, connected to a larger population of wolves and
allowing for expansion into other areas of the state.