For Immediate Release, June 30, 2010
Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495
Oregon Wolf Plan Blasted for Too Easily Allowing Killing of Wolves and Setting Too Low a Recovery Goal
PORTLAND, Ore.— The Center for Biological Diversity today blasted Oregon’s wolf management plan for making it too easy for federal agents to kill wolves before first exhausting nonlethal methods to keep them away from livestock. The group – in its comments to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on the last day for public comments – also criticized the 2005 plan for setting recovery goals far below what’s needed for a healthy, sustainable population.
“The Oregon wolf plan stemmed from the good-faith civic participation of many people with opposing values, and we honor that,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center. “Unfortunately, the plan strayed from the science, and that’s why we’re witnessing the unconscionable prospect of federal employees gunning down two members of Oregon’s only known breeding wolf pack.”
The Center’s comments take issue with the authority the plan gives Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife to issue permits to kill wolves in Oregon before ensuring all nonlethal measures have been taken to discourage depredation of livestock. Although the plan contains some requirements for measures to be taken before kill permits can be issued — requirements that have not been met in this case — it doesn’t go far enough. For example, the plan doesn’t require that piles of livestock carcasses that can attract wolves be cleaned up before lethal measures are taken against wolves. Adding insult to injury, the Department this week made a special rule further weakening plan requirements for issuance of kill permits.
“Making a special rule that eases the path to kill permits — right in the middle of an open comment period on the possibility of revising the wolf plan — is a clear violation of the public trust,” said Greenwald.
The Center’s comments also refute the wolf plan’s position that wolves may be taken off Oregon’s list of endangered species after just three years of maintaining only four breeding pairs in eastern Oregon. Scientific studies show that hundreds, if not thousands, of breeding animals are necessary to maintain genetic health and long-term viability of wildlife populations.
The Center recommends that the wolf plan be revised in three major ways: 1) Clearly require the removal or destruction (i.e., rendering inedible) of the carcasses of non-wolf-killed livestock so that wolves are not attracted to areas with vulnerable stock before any kill permits can be issued; 2) Eliminate the authorization for killing wolves not caught in the act of attacking livestock; and 3) Raise the bar for consideration of taking wolves off the Oregon endangered species list. The goal should be changed from the unsupportable number of four breeding pairs in eastern Oregon to a number reflecting the needed distribution within and outside the state. Only a higher number will ensure Oregon’s wolves’ connectivity to populations elsewhere and the species’ genetic health.
“Allowing government agents to kill wolves in Oregon without requiring that all other non-deadly steps be taken first – and with so few wolves in the state to begin with – clearly highlights the need for continued federal protection under the Endangered Species Act,” said Greenwald.
The state wolf plan is in effect in the absence of protection of wolves on the federal endangered species list. The Center and other conservation organizations have sued in federal court seeking to place wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and eastern Oregon and Washington back on the national list. A ruling is expected this summer or fall. Should the conservation groups prevail, continuation of the ongoing wolf “control” operation would require new authorization, including a federal permit. The Center successfully opposed such a permit to kill wolves in Oregon in the past and would do so again.