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Letter written after ODFW adopted their wolf plan

Written by Sharon Beck, OCA Wolf Task Force, after ODFW adopted plan
Sierra Times February 20, 2005

"Shameful" is the way an Eastern Oregon County Judge put it when he called last night to recap the final actions of the 7 member Fish and Wildlife Commission on the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. "A shameful thing has been done to Eastern Oregon". I think his description is charitable.

I think I now know what it feels like to be accused, tried and sentenced in a kangaroo court where all sorts of unsubstantiated accusations are allowed, some even made by the jury who also acts as judge, with the legal advisor occasionally kibitzing from the sidelines to give weight to the officialness of it all.

The tiny hearing room was filled to capacity with at least half of the witnesses standing in the rear, in the doorway and spilling out into the park of the Sam Cox Annex. The first hour of the hearing had a somewhat carnival atmosphere because the front seats were taken up by about thirty squirming members of the Sunshine Environmental School, a Portland charter school, and their teacher who arrived earlier and obviously had made arrangements with the Commission chairwoman to perform. Two pre-teenage rapster’s performance was inaudible but drew cheers and applause from the wolf advocates just the same. Another trio did a poetic parody of the mean, murderous rancher, the kind and caring environmentalist, champion of goodness, and the misunderstood wolf. The entertainment couched as testimony in support of wolves, was lost on the grim faced ranchers, sportsmen and rural citizens who had driven hundreds of miles to testify on an issue very critical to their futures. One eastern Oregon county commissioner expressed sadness at the performance, not only for the scorn for the families of their rural counterparts that the children demonstrated but for their obvious innocence of the fact that their education is severely deficient and their social views are being intentionally skewed.

About five more hours of testimony was taken including a sheaf of signatures on a petition that said: "The Wolf Management Plan is a people management plan", it curtails the rights of individuals to protect their property, the losses stockmen will suffer, the decline in wild ungulates and the cost of implementing the plan are unacceptable and unnecessary. Although the signatures added up to over 1400 names of rural citizens from border to border to the Pacific Ocean, almost equal to the total number of comments the Commission received up to that point, the signers were essentially disenfranchised according to one Commissioner who said he didn’t consider this a simple ‘lets vote’ process because of the number of ‘form type’ messages on both sides of the issue. He said he "read messages for thoughtful ideas that may enable us to move forward".

So, move forward they did on the 11th, ignoring a letter signed by 18 state legislators requesting they hold off on adoption of the plan until the dust settled from the environmentalists’ lawsuit to prevent the federal downlisting to threatened in which Judge Robert Jones vacated the downlisting and removing the more liberal 4 (d) rules by which the US Fish and Wildlife Service has been managing wolves in the northwest for some months, including Oregon. The ruling moved the Canadian Gray wolf back to endangered species status under the exclusive protection of the USFWS, making any Oregon plans irrelevant.

Before the Commission began deliberation of the content of the plan they agreed not to delay its adoption by even a month despite one commissioners protests the evening before that they could not expect to digest hundreds of comments including new information from county, state and federal government as well as the public, received up until 5 p.m. the same day. The staff’s advice was not to delay for reasons that they needed to get right to the legislature to get the law changes they needed to fully implement the Oregon plan in case the USFWS managed to get the wolf down listed again in the next century. However would they know what to do if a wolf came to Oregon and we had no plan, totally ignoring that the wolf is identified in Oregon law as an Exotic Animal, for which there is a clear set of prohibitions for its keeping.

Another reason the staff gave for not delaying was that ODFW could monitor any activity of an arriving wolf and warn ranchers that they were here and give them permission to scare the wolves out of their livestock unless there is a den nearby. They did concede that the plan and rules depended upon legislative action and that at their first regular meeting after the adjournment of the 2005 session they would "consider" the outcome and whether the Plan needs to be repealed or amended. Then, without acknowledging our charges that they had developed a plan under rules of the Oregon Endangered Species Act for a non-native, introduced species, that did not exist in Oregon they moved into staff recommended amendments to the draft text of the plan and finally adopting each, always mindful of the environmentalist’s warnings that any changes would not be looked upon kindly by them. Any resistance voiced against a few changes by one Commissioner was quickly quelled by sufficiently convincing arguments from the chair, the staff or both.

The ruling and the sentence were swiftly delivered…five motions to approve, five unanimous ayes, another life sentence imposed upon the one just received from the federal government. If we should survive the federal up-listing of the wolf and by some happy quirk of fate the wolf gets delisted, then the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission’s sentence will kick in and little hope of living long enough to see a state delisting. Actually never delisting under the Oregon plan would be a lighter sentence, because that means we would not have been inundated with wolves’ state wide.

Sharon Beck

OCA Wolf Task Force





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