Groups in Oregon with differing views on wolves are having a difficult time coming together on a resolution that will properly manage wolf and livestock interactions.
Earlier this month four conservation and activist groups announced their opposition to the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. These groups include Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and Oregon Wild, all of which sit on the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) Wolf Plan Stakeholder Representatives (WPSR) Working Group. Those organizations opted out of participating in the WPSR meeting that was held on Jan. 8 and was intended to finalize the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.
A joint letter addressed to Gov. Kate Brown by the groups voices their protest of ODFW’s proposed resolutions because the four organizations think it is weaker than other drafts. The groups believe the stakeholder process is flawed.
“After reviewing ODFW’s latest draft, it is clear the agency’s intention is to find ways to kill wolves faster, not prioritize conflict prevention through non-lethal measures. Barring a change in direction, our four organizations will be collectively and actively opposing the revised Plan as proposed by ODFW,” the letter says.
The Wolf Conservation and Management Plan was created in 2005. The plan is put together by multiple stakeholder groups besides those four organizations including ODFW, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association (OCA), Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Hunters Association, and Rocky Mountain Elk. All of the stakeholders were supposed to update the management plan in 2015, however there have been no revisions finalized.
The meeting was still held without the Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife on Jan. 8.
“We were disappointed these groups left the discussion and we did not have the full stakeholder group present at the final meeting,” says Derek Broman, ODFW Carnivore Coordinator. “Since the drafting of the original 2005 plan, stakeholders remain very passionate so consensus is challenging to achieve.”
Another stakeholder meeting is planned on March 15 in Salem where a final plan is to be adopted.
Roger Huffman, OCA’s Wolf Task Force Committee Chair who sits on the stakeholder board, tells Oregon Public Broadcasting that the activist groups had raised valid concerns. He also says their opinions were being heard through a third-party negotiator to ensure they were considered.
“It’s a bid to try and get attention,” Huffman says of the groups not showing up to the meeting. “Like a little kid throwing a tantrum.”
In a blog written by Robyn Smith, communications director for OCA, the problems with the stakeholder group as seen by cattle producers.
“With environmental groups refusing to come to the table, it’s unclear how ODFW will proceed with stakeholder recommendations. On January 8th, the stakeholder meeting went on as planned and the groups that participated gave their final opinions on ODFW’s proposal, which may be adopted in March. The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association is now focusing on bringing this conversation to Washington D.C. with the help of members from across the state,” Smith writes.
Oregon has the seen wolf population increase recently with ODFW reporting that there were at least 124 wolves in Oregon at the end of 2017. This is the highest total reported by ODFW with the population rising year-over-year since 2009 when there were just 14 wolves in the state.
During 2018 there were a number of wolf depredations on livestock, including the Rogue Pack that killed seven cattle last year and another calf at the start of 2019.
Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and Oregon Wild believe that their proposed measures will limit conflict between wolves and livestock.
“It is evident that ODFW will disregard science under political pressure. Killing wolves should be at most an action of last resort. Sadly, this proposed plan stands as yet another example of the agency putting commercial interests ahead of Oregonians who value native wildlife,” the groups say.
The four organizations do not want the $1.17 million allocated for wolf management to be used for killing wolves. Instead, the groups want 50% of the funds moved towards compensating livestock owners for implementing non-lethal prevention of wolves and to pay livestock owners for economic losses from wolf attacks.
For more on wolf attacks in Oregon read the following stories: