Oregon Wolves

Feb03

Cascadia Wildlands Challenges Wildlife Services’ Wolf Killing in Oregon

For Immediate Release, February 3, 2016
 
Contacts:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463, nick@cascwild.org
John Mellgren, Western Law Environmental Center, (541) 359-0990, mellgren@westernlaw.org
Amy Atwood, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 504-5660, atwood@biologicaldiversity.org
Bethany Cotton, WildEarth Guardians, (503) 327-4923, bcotton@wildearthguardians.org
Brooks Fahy, Predator Defense, (541) 937-4261, brooks@predatordefense.org
Camilla Fox, Project Coyote, (415) 690-0338, cfox@projectcoyote.org
 
Lawsuit Challenges Wildlife Services' Authority to Kill Wolves in Oregon
 
PORTLAND, Ore. – Conservation groups filed a lawsuit today challenging the authority of the federal wildlife-killing program Wildlife Services to kill any of the approximately 81 remaining gray wolves in Oregon. The legal challenge, filed by the Western Environmental Law Center on behalf of four conservation groups, with Cascadia Wildlands representing itself, comes weeks after a federal court ruled that Wildlife Services’ controversial wolf killing program in Washington is illegal.
 
The groups contend that Wildlife Services failed to explain why killing wolves on behalf of livestock interests should replace common-sense, proactive and nonlethal alternatives such as those reflected in the Oregon Gray Wolf Management Plan. The National Environmental Policy Act requires this analysis and public disclosure. In Oregon and Washington, Wildlife Services completed vague plans to target wolves for livestock depredations but did not explain why nonlethal alternatives would be inadequate.
 
“Federal law requires Wildlife Services to conduct a full and fair evaluation of the ecological impacts of its wolf-killing program in Oregon, and it failed to do so,” said John Mellgren, the Western Environmental Law Center attorney arguing the case. “In addition to protecting gray wolves from being killed, our recent victory in Washington will help to shed light on this secretive federal program, and we hope to continue that process in Oregon.”
 
A federal extermination program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services kills roughly 1.5 million to 3 million native animals per year, including wolves, grizzly bears, mountain lions, otters, foxes, coyotes, birds and even domestic pets — with little oversight or accountability. Wildlife Services employs inhumane tools to kill wildlife including aerial gunning, leghold traps, snares and poisons. A 2013 internal audit revealed that Wildlife Services’ accounting practices lacked transparency and violated state and federal laws.
 
“Wildlife Services has for decades taken advantage of a legal loophole to avoid conducting any meaningful analysis of its deplorable killing program, or any assessment of whether its programs are effective at all,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “We believe if the agency truly takes a hard look at its activities, the impacts and the costs, these killing programs will be terminated.”
 
NEPA requires Wildlife Services to rigorously examine the environmental effects of killing wolves and to consider alternatives that rely on proven nonlethal methods like range riders, livestock-guarding dogs and shepherds, and disposing of livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves and other predators. In both Oregon and Washington, Wildlife Services completed vague analyses that did not consider alternatives and rejected evidence that nonlethal methods are more effective. NEPA also mandates a public comment period for the proposal.
 
“Oregon is no place for Wildlife Services,” said Amy Atwood, endangered species legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wildlife Services is a rogue agency that uses ineffective, cruel and costly methods to kill wolves instead of common-sense, nonlethal methods that foster coexistence.”
 
“Wildlife Services’ refusal to ensure its activities are based on the best available science leads to unnecessary and harmful killing and strips the public of an opportunity to meaningfully understand and contribute to decisions impacting the health of ecosystems on which we all depend,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians. “It's past time the dark practices of Wildlife Services are subjected to the sunshine of a transparent public process.”
 
Wildlife Services claims that killing wolves reduces wolf-related losses of livestock, yet recent peer-reviewed research finds that killing wolves leads to an increase in wolf-livestock conflicts. Wildlife Services also failed to address the effects of killing wolves in Oregon, including impacts on ecosystems, wolf populations in neighboring states and on non-target animals that may be killed or injured as a result of the wolf killing program.
 
“It is telling that Wildlife Services was formerly called Animal Damage Control,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense. “They changed their name, but nothing more. This misnomer of a program is notorious for abuse of power, lack of transparency, illegal activity and brutal treatment of wildlife. It has been criticized by members of Congress, the public and leading predator biologists. Further scrutiny of Wildlife Services’ activities in Oregon is long overdue, particularly now, as the gray wolf faces imminent delisting from state endangered species protections.”
 
“Wildlife Services’ predator control program is ecologically destructive, ethically indefensible and economically unjustifiable,” said Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote. “The science is clear that killing wolves is not effective at reducing conflicts and likely exacerbates problems by destabilizing wolf social structures. How many lawsuits will it take for Wildlife Services to do what’s right?”
 
Wolves were driven to extinction in Oregon by the late 1940s through a government-sponsored eradication program. The species began to return to Oregon from neighboring states and Canada in the early 2000s. In 2012, wolf recovery got back on track in Oregon. It took a legal challenge, but the state’s wolf killing program (separate from Wildlife Services') was put on hold and the wolf population grew from 29 to 81. In November 2015, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission stripped Oregon’s wolves of much needed state endangered species protections. Oregon's wolves face a long road to recovery and ongoing threats — including that of being shot and killed by Wildlife Services.
 
John Mellgren of the Western Environmental Law Center and Nick Cady with Cascadia Wildlands represent the following organizations in the lawsuit: Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, Predator Defense and Project Coyote.
 
Download a copy of the complaint here.
 
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Dec30

Suit Filed to Restore Endangered Species Act Protections for Wolves in Oregon

For immediate release
December 30, 2015
 
Contact:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands / 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity / 971-717-6403, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org
Rob Klavins, Oregon Wild / 541-886-0212, rk@oregonwild.org
 
Photo taken July 6, 2013 of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack.  Subadult wolves assist in the raising of the pups. Photo courtesy of ODFW. Download high resolution image.

Photo taken July 6, 2013 of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack. Subadult wolves assist in the raising of the pups. Photo courtesy of ODFW.

PORTLAND, Ore.— Three conservation groups filed a legal challenge  today to the removal of protection from gray wolves under Oregon's Endangered Species Act. According to the challenge, the 4-2 decision by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to delist wolves violated the law by failing to follow best available science and prematurely removing protections before wolves are truly recovered. With only about 80 known adult wolves mostly confined to one small corner of the state, Oregon’s wolf population is far from recovery, according to leading scientists.
 
“It's simply too soon to remove protections for Oregon’s wolves,” said Noah Greenwald, Endangered Species Program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s not rocket science that roughly 80 wolves in 12 percent of suitable habitat in Oregon does not equal a recovered population. The gray wolf remains endangered, and protections should never have been removed.”
 
Like the federal law, the Oregon Endangered Species Act requires protection of species when they are at risk in any significant portion of their range. After being extirpated in the mid-20th century, wolves have begun to make a comeback in Oregon but remain absent from nearly 90 percent of the state’s potential habitat. Wolves have only been present west of the Cascades since the wolf known as OR-7 (Journey) trekked across the state in 2011. OR-7 found a mate and established the Rogue pack in southwestern Oregon, the only known pack in the portion of Oregon where wolves are still recognized as federally endangered. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to strip wolves of federal protections in most of the lower 48, including where the Rogue pack lives, making the need for continued state protections all the more essential.
 
“Oregon’s endangered species act has provided critical backbone protections for gray wolves,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. "Oregon law with its science requirements wisely protects endangered species in this state from becoming political gambling chips. The commission’s decision to delist wolves is plain political kowtowing to the livestock industry. This decision was not based in science, it was not based on Oregon’s conservation values, it violated the law, and it will not survive scrutiny.”
 
Hundreds of citizens testified at hearings across the state and more than 20,000 public comments were submitted during the status review. More than 95 percent were in favor of maintaining protections.
 
“Most Oregonians value native wildlife, and wolf recovery has the potential to be a tremendous conservation success story,” said Rob Klavins, a conservation advocate for Oregon Wild in Wallowa County. “We look forward to the day we can celebrate the recovery of wolves in Oregon, but in a rush to declare ‘Mission Accomplished,’ the state caved to political pressure. If there were fewer than 100 elk or salmon or eagles left in the state, the agency would be scrambling to protect them. Wolves are being treated differently.”
 
Oregon’s endangered species act requires that the listing or delisting of a species is based upon the best available, verifiable science. More than two dozen scientists submitted comments to the state highly critical of the delisting proposal. The scientists strongly criticized the state's basis for delisting, documented that the state has not taken appropriate steps to lessen threats to wolves and concluded that wolves remain at risk and should not be delisted at this time.
 
Excerpts from scientists’ comment letters submitted to the state during the public comment period leading up to the commission’s vote to delist wolves:
 
“… it is untenable to think that being extirpated from nearly 90% of current suitable range … would qualify the species for delisting.”
 
—John Vucetich, Professor of Wildlife, Michigan Technological University; Jeremy T. Bruskotter, Associate Professor, School of Environment and Natural resources, The Ohio State University; Michael Paul Nelson, Ruth H. Spaniol Chair of Renewable Resources and Professor of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy, Oregon State University.
 
“It is my expert opinion that the existing [population viability analysis] is fundamentally flawed and does not provide an adequate or realistic assessment of the Oregon wolf population to meet Criterion 1 or 2 or 4, therefore the delisting requirements are not supported by the results of the [population viability analysis] as it was performed.”
 
—Derek E. Lee, Principal Scientist, Wild Nature Institute, Hanover, N.H.
 
“ODFW finds that the wolf is not now (and is not likely in the foreseeable future to be) in danger of extinction throughout any significant portions of its range in Oregon. . . . The reality is that the wolf is past being in danger of extinction throughout many significant portions of its range in OR because it occupies only 12% of its suitable habitat (so is extinct in 88% of its suitable habitat). The interpretation of this section of OR ESA by ODFW is an illegitimate interpretation that . . . also runs contrary to recent scientific literature on significant portion of range.”
 
—Guillaume Chapron, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Grimso Wildlife Research Station, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Riddarhyttan, Sweden.
 
 
Dec02

From Exterminated to a Rebounding Population: A Brief History of Wolves in Oregon

By Legal Director Nick Cady
 
Given the state’s recent move to remove the gray wolf from Oregon’s list of threatened and endangered species, it is worth taking a full look at the history of this species in Oregon to fully put in context the recent decision.
 
In 1947, the last wolf was killed in Oregon as part of a government bounty program, which was part of a nationwide predator extermination campaign facilitated by federal and state governments. Upon passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973 under Nixon, the federal government began focusing on recovering many of the species wiped out by extermination campaigns and habitat lost to industrial development.
 
One of the first critters focused on was the gray wolf.  After 66 wolves were reintroduced over two years in central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park, individuals eventually dispersed west into Oregon.  In 1999, an initial lone wolf swam the Snake River and was Oregon’s first wolf in over 50 years, but wildlife managers with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) were politically and physically unprepared to handle wolves returning to the state.  The lone wolf was darted and shipped back to Idaho. Two more wolves that crossing the Snake were killed, one poached and another run over on I-84.
 
This series of events began a state-sanctioned process to develop a wolf conservation and management plan in Oregon designed to address the unique relationship between Oregonians and wolves.  Development of the plan involved many different stakeholders including conservation groups, livestock interests, the hunting community, county commissioners, and ODFW.  A comprehensive plan was finalized in 2005, but the plan left many questions and situations unaddressed, mainly the response to wolf-livestock conflict and its intersection with the state Endangered Species Act, which has a prohibition against killing a listed species.
 
Walla Walla_odfw

Wolf from the Walla Walla Pack (Photo Courtesy of ODFW)

The 2005 plan did establish a framework for the path recovery would take in Oregon.  Recovery was divided into three phases for each half of the state (western and eastern).  In the first phase (Phase I), wolf conservation and management would be focused on wolf recovery.  Killing wolves in response to depredations would be a last resort, after all available non-lethal methods for eliminating the conflict had been exhausted.  In exchange for these relatively stringent standards, the recovery numbers under Phase I were low: once a side of the state reached four breeding pairs for three consecutive years, wolf conservation and management would transfer into Phase II where the standards on when wolves could be killed were relaxed.  A breeding pair was defined as a pair of wolves that had at least two pups that survived the calendar year.
 
By 2011, Oregon had its first established breeding pair of wolves, the Imnaha pack.  This pack’s alpha pair produced OR-7, the famous wolf that journeyed from northeast Oregon to northern California, and the female wolf that helped establish California’s first wolf pack in almost one hundred years.  But during 2010-2011, Oregon began experiencing its first wolf-livestock conflicts in northeastern Oregon, and the livestock community began pressuring ODFW to kill wolves to reduce this conflict.  
 
Shasta Pack

Shasta Pack in California (Photo Courtesy of CDFG)

Although the numbers of wolf-livestock conflicts were limited, especially when compared to other sources of livestock mortality, and have remained incredibly low to date, the issue of wolves was swept up in politics and the rise of the Tea Party across the rural West.  Wolves became a symbol of federal government intervention, and Republican representatives in these areas began to be threatened by Tea Party candidates who were running on staunch anti-wolf platforms.  In response, these candidates also began banging on the anti-wolf drum.  The ultimate result of all this noise making was the legislative, federal delisting of wolves in the Rocky Mountain gray wolf recovery area, which included Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and eastern Oregon and Washington.  This was the first time Congress had delisted an endangered species, and marked the beginning of a still ongoing legislative and legal battle over wolves and other imperiled species.
 
Specifically in Oregon, this meant that federal protections under the Endangered Species Act in the eastern portion of the state had been eliminated, and that the state was permitted to kill wolves.  The livestock community and anti-wolf political figures began pushing hard for killing wolves in Oregon.  Cascadia and others fervently reminded the state and ODFW that we only had a single breeding pair of wolves in Oregon, and approximately only 12 or 13 wolves total.  Despite these protests, ODFW moved to kill the alpha male of the Imnaha pack and one of the pups born that year.ODFW determined that after only a few incidents of wolf-livestock conflict, the Imnaha pack satisfied the wolf plan’s “chronically depredating” standard and needed to be killed.
 
Folks at Cascadia Wildlands were outraged. We reminded the state the commitments it had made in the plan to make killing wolves a measure of last resort at this early juncture of recovery, and we disagreed with ODFW that a few incidents over the course of two years marked a “chronic” issue.  We went to court over the disagreement, preventing the killing of the Imnaha pack, but ultimately settled the suit with both the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and the ODFW.  This settlement defined some of the vague terms used in Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, laid out clearly defined requirements for implementing non-lethal preventative measures, and delineated exactly what the plan meant by “chronically depredating.”  Additionally, a compensation program was set up for ranchers that lost livestock to wolves, and a tax credit established to further compensate ranchers for efforts expended on preventative measures.  These rules have been highly lauded as the most thorough and successfully wolf conservation and management program in the country.
 
ODFW began executing the clarified rules with earnest, and over the next few years Oregon saw depredations decrease dramatically and wolf numbers steadily increase.  With ODFW and ranchers focusing on preventative measures, ODFW has not had to expend taxpayer dollars to kill a single wolf to date.  We now have approximately 15 wolf packs in Oregon, wolves have been initially dispersing into western Oregon, and there are now potentially two new packs in southern Oregon near the California border.  At the last official count, there were over 70 confirmed wolves in Oregon.  This has been such a promising recovery to date, and has been one of the pride and joys at Cascadia Wildlands — a direct result of our efforts.
 
However, this year a new conflict over wolves has emerged surrounding the removal of the species from Oregon’s list of threatened and endangered species.  When wolves in Oregon first satisfied the four breeding pairs for three consecutive years in 2014, and wolf management in eastern Oregon moved into Phase II, the state began exploring whether or not wolf numbers and recovery warranted removal of the species from the endangered species list.
 
Livestock interests were pushing the state hard, arguing that the state was required to remove protections for the species under the wolf plan.  However, the wolf plan very clearly said that the state was only required to begin exploring the delisting process, to make an early determination over whether delisting was warranted at this time or not.  Cascadia Wildlands and our conservation partners began weighing into the process as well, presenting public comments and soliciting scientific input on whether or not delisting was warranted.  The “endangered” status of the wolf is critical because it provides the entire framework and backbone of the current wolf conservation and management program and the rules developed under the mutual agreement in 2011.  Without this classification, the ODFW could do whatever it wants with regard to wolves, and under similar circumstances in 2011, we witnessed the state try to kill the Imnaha pack when it was the only breeding pack in Oregon.  
 
So Cascadia Wildlands and our allies worked tirelessly to convince the ODFW that delisting was not the right move, particularly with under 80 confirmed wolves in the state. Wolves have just barely begun to get a foothold in western Oregon, and we were concerned that additional mortality associated with management of wolves in Phase II would stagnant recovery and dispersal of the species. At the end of a series of hearings this fall, in which there was an enormous amount of public and scientific testimony, over 90 percent of Oregonians had urged the state to retain endangered species protections for the species. The overwhelming message from the scientific community was that delisting was premature because of the limited numbers and distribution of the species across the state.  
 
Despite the weight of this evidence and the desire of the public, ODFW and its Commission removed the wolf from the list of threatened and endangered species in mid-November.  Cascadia Wildlands is again exploring legal options and ways to retain this critical classification for a species still very early in its recovery.
 
 Cascadia Wildlands cannot thank enough our volunteers, members and supporters who wrote letters, talked to elected officials and traveled great distances to publicly testify in support of wolves. This passion gives us our inspiration, and we will continue to fight for this species as it continues on its perilous path to recovery. Stayed tuned for next steps as this struggle is far from over, and please consider donating to support our ongoing efforts.
 
Nov10

Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Removes Protections for Imperiled Gray Wolf

Press statement
November 10, 2015
Contact: Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands Legal Director, 314.482.3746
 
In the face of overwhelming opposition from the public, political leaders, and the scientific community, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted last evening to remove the gray wolf from the state's list of endangered species.  There are approximately 80 wolves in the state.
 
Photo taken July 6, 2013 of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack.  Subadult wolves assist in the raising of the pups. Photo courtesy of ODFW. Download high resolution image.

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Many leading and independent wolf scientists have recently written scathing critiques of the plan to strip key protections for Oregon’s recovering wolves.
 
Last week, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) sent a sharp response to the Commission about the department’s proposal to remove protections.
 
Wolf advocates believe the decision is premature and worry that removing key protections for Oregon wolves at such an early juncture in recovery will signal to others that it is OK to resort to the old ways of dealing with wolves through trapping, poisoning and shooting. Wolves are in the early stages of recovery since reestablishing themselves back into the state in 2008.
 
Statements from Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands Legal Director:
 
"The decision to strip key protections for wolves at this early stage of recovery is disappointing," said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands.  "It is readily apparent that the Department and Commission are kowtowing to fringe, special interest groups in flagrant disregard to their responsibility to the public and to use good science.  With approximately 80 wolves in the entire state, this decision does not pass the laugh test."
 
“Decisions to remove protections for animals returning from the brink of extinction must be grounded in science,” says Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Unfortunately, politics appear to be hampering the process here, and the imperiled gray wolf will be the one that loses out.”
 
(Photo of Oregon wolves by ODFW)
 
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Oct29

Oregon Slammed for “Flawed” Scientific Basis for Wolf Delisting

Contacts:
Nick Cady, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Amaroq Weiss, (707) 779-9613, aweiss@biologicaldiversity.org
Steve Pedery, (503) 283-6343 x 212, sp@oregonwild.org
 
Scientists Slam Oregon’s ‘Fundamentally Flawed’ Proposal to Strip Wolves of State Endangered Species Protections
Top Researchers Determine Wolf Population Far From Recovered  
 

Photo taken July 6, 2013 of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack. Subadult wolves assist in the raising of the pups. Photo courtesy of ODFW.

PORTLAND, Ore.— A group of leading independent scientists this week voiced their opposition to a plan to remove state protections from Oregon’s wolves, saying the estimated population of only 83 wolves cannot be considered recovered. The scientists identified significant flaws in a “population viability analysis” conducted by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife that claims wolves are at low risk of extinction.
 
The researchers’ critical analyses of the delisting plan are included in comments submitted today by conservation groups from the Pacific Wolf Coalition to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, which is scheduled to vote Nov. 9 on whether to strip state Endangered Species Act protection from wolves.
 
“It is logically indefensible, and contrary to the notion of recovery under the Endangered Species Act, to suggest that wolves are in some way recovered when they’re still missing from nearly 90 percent of their suitable range in Oregon,” said Dr. Michael P. Nelson, the Ruth H. Spaniol chair of renewable resources and a professor of environmental ethics and philosophy at Oregon State University. “Dropping state protections for wolves right now would suggest that politics, rather than science and law, are guiding wildlife management decisions in Oregon.”
 
The state currently has about 83 wolves living in 10 packs, with several breeding pairs.
 
Under Oregon’s state wolf plan, reaching four breeding pairs for three consecutive years in the eastern half of the state triggers a status review. With its wolf population having reached that population threshold at the end of 2014, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife prepared a status review and recommended that wolves be delisted. But the commission has failed to initiate a formal peer review of the department’s analysis by an independent panel of experts, as required by state law.
 
The sole outside scientist who was asked by the state to comment on its wolf population status review raised serious questions about the review’s findings. Dr. Carlos Carroll, a wildlife ecologist with the Klamath Center for Conservation Research, whose research focuses on habitat, viability and connectivity modeling for threatened and endangered species, expressed concern in his written analysis that the manner in which certain factors were applied in the analysis “is overly optimistic compared to data from well-studied wolf populations,” and that the status review relied on information “that doesn’t accurately represent what is currently known about genetic threats to small wolf populations.”  
 
The department’s delisting recommendation relies largely on a population viability analysis questioned by multiple scientists, including one who characterizes it as being “fundamentally flawed” and not providing adequate or realistic assessments of Oregon’s wolf population to meet legally required delisting criteria. The scientists also raised concerns about the department’s delisting criteria assessment and about its apparent lack of understanding regarding social tolerance for wolves and other large predators.
 
“There appears to be little scientific evidence to justify Oregon’s assertion that a population of only 85 wolves is recovered,” said Dr. Guillaume Chapron, associate professor in quantitative ecology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, where his research focuses on large carnivore conservation and management, with a particular emphasis on modeling and viability analysis.
“According to some of the world's foremost experts in wolf and population biology, the state of Oregon's move to strip gray wolves of protection simply doesn't reflect reality,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The scientists’ comments make clear that removing protections for wolves now runs directly counter to the Oregon Endangered Species Act, which requires such decisions to be based on solid, verifiable science.”
 
The commission has received more than 22,000 comment letters from the public, plus substantial testimony at three public meetings this year, opposing delisting the wolves.
 
“Conservation groups and tens of thousands of Oregonians have told the commission that delisting of Oregon’s tiny wolf population is premature and that wolves still face threats to their continued existence in significant portions of their historic range — and the scientific community wholeheartedly agrees,” said Steve Pedery, executive director of Oregon Wild.
 
The state’s estimated population of around 80 wolves is only 5 percent of what peer-reviewed science says the state could support, and wolves are entirely absent from nearly 90 percent of their historic range in Oregon.
 
“We have repeatedly asked the commission to conduct an outside, expert peer-review of ODFW’s status review as required under Oregon law and the Department’s own regulations,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Conducting an external scientific peer review on the Department’s proposal to ensure it can move forward with legal and scientific confidence is the right and only path forward..”
 
The Pacific Wolf Coalition includes the following member organizations:
 
BARK – California Wilderness Coalition – California Wolf Center – California Chapter Sierra Club – Cascadia Wildlands – Center for Biological Diversity – Conservation Northwest – Defenders of Wildlife – Earthjustice – Endangered Species Coalition – Environmental Protection Information Center – Gifford Pinchot Task Force – Hells Canyon Preservation Council – Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center – Living With Wolves – Mountain Lion Foundation – National Parks Conservation Association – Natural Resources Defense Council – Northeast Oregon Ecosystems – Oregon Chapter, Sierra Club – Oregon Wild – Predator Defense – Project Coyote – The Larch Company – Washington Chapter Sierra Club – Western Environmental Law Center – Western Watersheds Project – Wildlands Network – Wolf Haven International
 
Public Comment Opportunity
 
Cascadia Wildlands has partnered with Oregon Wild, Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity to host a training in order to give folks interested in testifying a chance to practice their testimony and help them to refine their message.  We will be meeting at the Cascadia Wildlands office in Portland, 5825 N. Greeley Ave, December 4, 2015 from 6 to 8 pm.  See more on that event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1644960965776806/
 
Cascadia Wildlands' most recent testimony to the Fish and Wildlife Commission can be found here.
 
Sep28

Oregon Wolf Delisting Training

2019372475by Legal Director Nick Cady
 
You may have heard the terrible news out of northeast Oregon last week that two wolves, the alpha male and female of the newly formed Sled Springs pack, were found dead next to each other.  It is highly likely that these animals were poached; poisoned given the unusual circumstances surrounding their demise, and the absence of bullet wounds.
 
This pair had just recently given birth to a litter of wolf pups, and now these five-month old pups must survive the winter on their own — a tall order.  The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is reaching out for information concerning the deaths of these wolves, but we are not hopeful.
 
Recently in Washington, a man admitted to running down an endangered wolf with his truck, and then shooting the animal.  After acknowledging poaching an endangered species, the man was released with a hundred dollar fine and a six month's probation.  (See more on this story here.) Last fall, the alpha female of the Teeanaway pack near Cle Elem was poached.
 
odfw imageThis tragic sequence of events is occurring in the midst of efforts by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to remove state endangered species protections for the species. Aside from all the practical and legal implications, we are worried this delisting effort will send a message to those out there hostile to wolves that it is open season. 
 
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission is hosting a hearing on October 9th in Florence, Oregon concerning its proposal to remove wolves from the state endangered species list. Your testimony is welcomed.
 
Cascadia Wildlands has partnered with Oregon Wild, Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity to host a training in order to give folks interested in testifying a chance to practice their testimony and help them to refine their message.  We will be meeting at the Cascadia Wildlands office in Eugene, 1247 Willamette Street, October 8, 2015 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. 
 
Food is being generously donated by Falling Sky and Oakshire has donated beverages for the event.  Don't be shy, come meet people working on these issues, and help stand up for wolves in Oregon!
 
(Washington wolf pup photo by Conservation Northwest)
May27

Wolf Tracks

Willamette Week by Aaron Mesh
May 27, 2015
 
Nick Cady is thrilled to see the return of gray wolves to Oregon’s Cascade Range. He celebrated when the wolf dubbed OR-7 was spotted south of Crater Lake in 2011, more than 60 years after hunters wiped out the species from the state.
 
But even as wolves return to Oregon’s southwestern mountains, Cady fears the U.S. Forest Service will authorize logging and road building that could cut off the wolves’ range.
 
“Federal agencies are supposed to lay out how projects will impact species,” Cady says. “What we’ve seen with wolves is they say, ‘Oh, it won’t impact them at all.’ I don’t think that is true.”
 
This spring, Cady’s environmental nonprofit, Cascadia Wildlands, filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking all Forest Service plans for protecting wolves while selling off timber and building roads in Oregon and Washington’s national forests. Two months later, the agency hasn’t given him a single document.
 
So Cady’s group has gone to court, suing the Forest Service in U.S. District Court on May 20 for its failure to respond to Cascadia Wildlands’ records request.
 
Lawsuits accusing government agencies of violating the FOIA have become a reliable tool for environmental groups trying to watchdog public officials.
 
Cascadia Wildlands’ suit is the 10th lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for Oregon in the past decade by an environmental group seeking to force the release of public records. It’s the second in less than a month. On April 29, the Northwest Environmental Defense Center in Portland sued to see water-quality records from the Columbia Generating Station in Hanford, Wash.
 
Cascadia Wildlands says it filed the records request March 12, seeking communications between the Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The suit says Cascadia Wildlands then wrote letters in April and May offering to let the Forest Service release the documents gradually.
 
The Forest Service responded in May by saying it needed more time to review the request, because it had 20 other records requests ahead of Wildlands’.
 
Glen Sachet, a spokesman for the Forest Service’s Portland office, declined comment to WW on pending litigation.
 
Oregon officials estimate 77 wolves live in the state, but just seven of them are in the western half of the state. The largest Cascade Range wolf pack, called the Rogue Pack, includes OR-7, his mate and three pups.
 
Cady fears that commercial logging could disrupt the wolves’ range, expose them to cars and change the behavior of deer and elk, making it harder for wolves to find food. The group also says building new timber roads makes it easier for hunters to get deep into the wilderness and set wolf traps.
 
He says his group wants assurances from the Forest Service that the agency’s plans take into account protections for the Rogue Pack and the next generation of Oregon wolves.
 
“We just hope they’re taking a hard look at the science before proceeding with irretrievable resource damage and road construction,” Cady says. “They might have taken a good, hard look at this. But I don’t think that’s the case. We’ll find out.”
 
A copy of the complaint can be found here.
 
Apr27

Maintaining Protections for Oregon’s Wolves

By Nick Cady, Legal Director
 
WOLF_OR17_odfw_Photo taken July 6 2013 of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack. Subadult wolves assist in the raising of the pupsPhoto courtesy of ODFW

Imnaha Pack Wolves

This past Friday, I was driving to and from Bend, over five hours in the car, to give three minutes of testimony because the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) was proposing to remove gray wolves from the state endangered species list.  I was appropriately pissed given the plain fact that only 77 wolves exist in the state, but I was also feeling pretty jaded about the whole thing. I’ll explain why.
 
In 2011, when wolves were first returning to the state (there was 12 wolves and one breeding pair at the time), the ODFW tried to kill the male of that breeding pair and one of the sub adults from that same pack.  I had passed the bar exam weeks earlier and had one lawsuit filed to my name when co-worker Josh Laughlin yelled across the office that I needed to find a way to stop this active hunt for the alpha male, OR-4.
 
So I started digging around.  The problem was I did not have time to really conduct a thorough review as ODFW agents were out in the field hunting for the wolves as I was researching and writing.  But I just starting working, and began digging around in state laws pertaining to the protection of endangered species.  The gray wolf has been listed as an endangered species in the state since the passage of the law decades ago.
 
As it turns out the state laws did have a prohibition on taking or killing endangered species.  But everyone who had been working on wolf issues, everyone who was involved in drafting the state’s wolf plan in 2005 (governor’s office, ODFW, conservationists, agricultural interests, etc.) had not given this provision any thought, when the plan purported to allow wolves to be shot in response to wolves killing livestock during the early stages of wolf recovery while they were still listed.
 
The reason why no one had considered this provision was that when the state Endangered Species Act was passed, the timber industry had gutted the law of any substance that could negatively impact the ability to clearcut our forests.  Standard Salem politics. To be specific, the bill was clarified so that the “taking” of an endangered species, which was prohibited, does not include destruction of a species habitat.  So someone would have to go out into woods and shoot a spotted owl out of a tree to violate the law, while cutting down the owl’s nest tree and clearcutting for miles in every direction was fine.   Therefore, in order to violate the law, you had to directly go out and kill an endangered species.  Folks thought that this was preposterous. No monster would intentionally kill an endangered species, and another meaningless law for the environment was passed by Oregon Democrats, or so they thought.
 
Until it came to wolves.  Wolves are habitat generalists; as long as there is prey and not too many human beings around, they will survive.  The real threat to wolves is people shooting and trapping them, the reason why the species was wiped out and then protected in the first place.  The ridiculous contention that people might intentionally and admittedly kill endangered species had become reality in Oregon, but everyone had forgotten about the Oregon Endangered Species Act, the supposedly meaningless act of Democrat consolation to Oregon conservationists.
 
So I wrote a legal memo and pressed forward with the lawsuit with colleagues Oregon Wild and Center for Biological Diversity. There was a stream of late nights and Thai food drafting everything up as ODFW was actively trying to kill these wolves.  And a day or so before we filed, we got word that the agency hunters had actually taken a shot at OR-4 (father of OR-7 or “Journey”), and were not sure if they had hit him or not.  We quickly put everything together and filed.  The Court issued us a stay later that day and ended the hunt temporarily.  Ultimately, we settled the lawsuit with the state and the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association by developing stringent rules or when the state could use lethal control on wolves (more on the details of those rules here).  ODFW could only now kill wolves in limited circumstances early in recovery, and when different population objectives were hit these rules would be automatically relaxed.  
 
Organizationally, Cascadia Wildlands spent so much time and resources on this process.  The settlement took almost two years to negotiate, and involved what seemed like weekly trips to Salem.  It was a brutal process, but it ultimately led to an agreement that has since made Oregon the national model for responsible wolf conservation.
 
Turning back to my trip to Bend, and ODFW’s attempt to delist wolves, I was feeling jaded because I hoped that this landmark agreement would have bought more time before I was again taking long commutes and debating state agents and livestock producers over wolf management.  I was especially upset because we had intentionally designed the wolf rules to avoid this debate over delisting.  Specifically, we crafted the rules so that changes in wolf management as the population grew happen automatically and do not hinge on listing or delisting.  Everyone at the table knew that the listing of wolves on the endangered species act would be incredibly controversial, so we wanted to avoid the conflict.  
 
But apparently we were wrong, and our efforts to avoid a pointless, premature contest over delisting were in vain.  Despite only having 77 wolves in the state, ODFW made recommendations to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission that wolves be delisted.  Although delisting would not have any management implications immediately, years down the road it could open the door to wolf hunting in the state. So we had to make the trip, organize testimony, get scientists to weigh-in and analyze the delisting proposal, because we knew the well-funded livestock lobbyists would be doing the same. I was pissed and frustrated, we had designed the rules to avoid this conflict, and ODFW launched us into it regardless.  It all just seemed somewhat pointless and a waste of precious energy given all the other threats to Oregon’s environment.  
 
After all, the wolf is just one species among many, and a species going through a successful recovery.  Although the majority of the wolves and packs in Oregon are concentrated in the northeast corner of the state, wolves are beginning to disperse west.  Two packs are now established in the southern Cascades, and wolves have recently been documented in the northern Cascades as well.  On the other hand, spotted owl populations are crashing, sea counts of marbled murrelets indicate that numbers are plummeting, and several wetland species are now listed in the state due to disappearing habitat.
 
So I found myself sulking.  But something happened at the meeting.  As public testimony began, I starting listening to all the different voices supporting the wolf’s continued listing on the Endangered Species Act: the hydrologist testifying about the importance of wolves to aquatic ecosystems, the business lawyer testifying about the importance of liberal wildlife policies to new businesses and attracting workers, the grade school teacher presenting loads of drawings from her students about wolves, the retired ODFW employee advocating for the exercise of caution. A slew of people testified and had made the trip from all corners of the state.
 
I began to feel inspired.  I had gotten caught up in the details of these rules and management phases, and had lost focus of what wolves and their status as an endangered species meant to the general public in Oregon. Aside from the rules and laws, wolves and the species’ recovery means so much to so many in Oregon.  They are a symbol of nature and true wilderness. A species that protects the intricate web of life in our fragile ecosystems.  Their recovery and the struggle to protect them is representative of the growing environmental ethic in this country.  
 
A meeting that I went into feeling discouraged and pessimistic, turned into a reformation.  A rejuvenation of enthusiasm about wolves and all they mean to the people of this state.  And I was not the only one that was influenced by the public’s outcry. The Commission, despite the Department’s urgings, voted to delay any decision on delisting until later this year so that more scientific information could be gathered and analyzed.  A wise decision for the Commission and the wolves.  So Cascadia Wildlands will gather further evidence and analysis on the ODFW proposal as we would have regardless, but now with a renewed sense of purpose thanks to the public voices concerned with the protection of wolves.  Thank you.

 

 

Feb12

Living in the Age of Returns and Firsts

 

By Maya Rommwatt, Communications and Development Intern

On February 13th, comments are due to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the Jordan Cove LNG project.  The potentially catastrophic project includes both a pipeline and a terminal for the purpose of transporting fracked natural gas and liquefying it for export to Asia.  Similar to other proposals to transport gas and coal for the purposes of export, this project refuses to consider the impacts it will have on climate change, which now stands between us, and a livable future.

We’re living in an age of returns and firsts.  Just recently, photos confirmed the presence of an extremely rare Sierra Nevada red fox in Yosemite National Park.  There have been no sightings of the elusive creature there for ninety-nine years.  And closer to home, we learned of activity of what appears to be another one or two wolves near Crater Lake, in addition to the burgeoning Rogue Pack. I never thought I would be able to speak of Western Oregon wolves, and yet here they are, pups and all. 

But as this encouraging story unfolds, we make plans for pipelines and exports that will guarantee a future governed by catastrophic climate change.  That future has no room for recovering species.  This, as the EPA announces Canadian tar sands will only be developed if the Keystone pipeline is built, now that oil prices have dropped.  While the Keystone pipeline may soon be a receding threat, the more local Jordan Cove project is a wholly different beast.  The project would assure the export of inefficient fracked natural gas for decades to come, and once the Boardman coal plant shuts down, it will be Oregon’s biggest polluter.  This doesn’t even factor in the emissions associated with obtaining the natural gas, nor does it consider the burning of the gas by its consumers in Asia.  And yet, Oregon moves closer and closer to the LNG terminal.  We have not even begun to ask what a future with the project might look like.  If an accident were to happen with this project, say a spill, we taxpayers would likely be forced to help foot the cleanup bill, as the history of corporate settlements shows (corporations forced to pay punitive damages often deduct their settlement costs from their taxes).Two pups from the Rogue Pack, June 2014

The Jordon Cove LNG project is a disaster we can’t afford on a number of levels.  It’s foolish to think we can both recover species and build the natural gas pipeline.  Will we choose the path to recovery and growth, returns and firsts?  Or will we choose the path of negligence and loss?  Help us show the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission we stand on the right side of history, that we respect other species, and are not working in opposition to them.  We have not spent countless hours and resources building a narrative with a future, only to wash it away so a Canadian corporation can make a profit at our expense and the expense of OR-7 and the Rogue pack, the wolverine, and the remaining ancient carbon-storing forests of the Pacific Northwest. No LNG Rally, photo courtesy of Francis Eatherington

Now is the time to submit our comments; we have until noon on Friday the 13th for online comments or postmarked mailed comments.  If you haven’t already done so, you can submit your comments beginning here.

 

More information on the pipeline can be found here.

 

Photo Credits: Top left, Two pups from the Rogue Pack, June 2014. (Photo by ODFW).  Bottom right, No LNG protest. (Photo courtesy Francis Eatherington).                              

 

 

 

 

Jan28

Cascadia Wildlands Statement on Wolf Recovery Announcement by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Press statement
January 28, 2015
Contact: Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 314.482.3746
                 Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 541.844.8182
 
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife just announced it is moving to phase II of its wolf recovery plan in eastern Oregon after state wildlife biologists confirmed that there were seven breeding pairs in the state in 2014. The wolf plan states that when there are four breeding pairs for three consecutive years in each respective part of the state, wolf management moves to phase II in that zone. This means livestock producers will now have more management flexibility in dealing with wolf/livestock conflicts in eastern Oregon. Wolves in the state’s western recovery zone will still be managed under phase I.
 
In 2012 Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild negotiated a landmark settlement agreement with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife andWalla Walla_odfw the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association after securing a legal injunction against wolf killing in Oregon. The settlement requires that during phase I livestock producers use proactive, non lethal methods to deter conflict between wolves and livestock, like cleaning up bone and carcass piles and utilizing human presence, before any lethal control on wolves can be used. It also sets a threshold of four livestock depredations by the same wolf or wolves in six months in order to trigger lethal control. The settlement also greatly increases agency transparency in its wolf management program. No wolves have been lethally controlled in Oregon since the settlement agreement was signed.
 
"Cascadia Wildlands is encouraged by the ongoing success of wolf recovery in Oregon, but it is not the time to let up," said Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands.  "It is our hope that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife continues to implement the state’s landmark wolf management plan and rules that have served as a recovery model for other states while preventing burdensome conflict."
 
“While it is exciting that wolf populations in Oregon continue to expand, it is critical that the state remain vigilant in ensuring statewide recovery objectives are met,” said Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “Much of western Oregon’s wildlands remain devoid of wolves and will be relying on robust populations in eastern Oregon to disperse into new territories.”
 
“Oregon's wolf management rules incentivize non-lethal measures aimed at preventing wolf/livestock conflict and provide necessary tools and financial assistance to livestock producers,” explained Cady.  “The plan has kept conflict down and headed off the constant political battles that have hampered recovery efforts in neighboring states like Washington."
                                                            
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