Oregon Wolves

Jul06

Oregon Wolf Delisting Challenge Reinstated by Court of Appeals

For Immediate Release
July 6, 2016
 
Contact:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org    
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613, aweiss@biologicaldiversity.org
Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild, (503) 283-6343 ext. 212, sp@oregonwild.org
      
Oregon Appeals Court Reinstates Legal Challenge to Premature Wolf Delisting
 
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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PORTLAND, Ore.— The Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled that Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Oregon Wild can proceed with their legal challenge to the state’s decision to prematurely strip endangered species protections from Oregon’s small population of gray wolves. Fewer than 120 of the animals are known to exist in the state.
 
“In no way should management of Oregon’s small population of recovering wolves be dictated by the livestock industry and its anti-wolf allies in Salem,” says Nick Cady, legal director with Cascadia Wildlands. “This ruling is a hopeful first step to ensure politics do not trump science when it comes to managing our treasured wildlife.”  
 
The ruling by the court late Tuesday reinstates a legal challenge filed in December by the conservation groups to last fall’s controversial 4-2 decision by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to strip state Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves. Following that decision lobbyists with the livestock industry worked with several legislators during the 2016 legislature to pass House Bill 4040, a bill blocking judicial review of wolf delisting. Subsequent public records releases documented that despite public denials, the staff of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown was heavily involved in the legislation.
 
In April the conservation groups’ legal challenge was dismissed after the Oregon Department of Justice argued that the lawsuit was potentially moot due to H.B. 4040.  However, wolf advocates sought reconsideration by the court of this decision on the basis that H.B. 4040 was unconstitutional because it violated the separation of powers doctrine, among other issues.
 
In yesterday’s ruling Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals Erika Hadlock wrote that the issues presented by conservation advocates’ legal challenge “are complex matters of public importance” that deserve further consideration by the appellate court.
 
“Oregon’s wolves will now get their day in court to reveal the flawed process that stripped their protection,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Gov. Brown’s wildlife commission ignored the best science to illegally delist wolves, then her staff was actively involved in the passage of legislation to eliminate the public’s right to challenge that decision.”
 
The wildlife commission’s decision to delist wolves was based on an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife analysis of the state’s wolf population that numerous leading scientists characterized as severely flawed and illogical.
 
“Access to the courts to ensure that our government obeys its own laws is a cherished right of Oregonians,” said Steve Pedery, conservation director of Oregon Wild. “Using H.B. 4040, Gov. Brown, legislators and livestock industry lobbyists tried to revoke that right when it came to wolves, and now it appears to have backfired on them.”
 
The wolf advocates’ opening brief is due to the appellate court on Aug. 23.
 
Cascadia Wildlands educates, agitates, and inspires a movement to protect and restore Cascadia's wild ecosystems. We envision vast old-growth forests, rivers full of wild salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion.
 
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
 
Oregon Wild was founded in 1974 and works to protect & restore Oregon’s wildlands, wildlife, and waters as an enduring legacy for future generations.
 
May02

Ethics Complaint Filed Against Three Oregon Lawmakers Over the Wolf Delisting Bill

For immediate release
May 2, 2016
 
Contact: Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
 
Ethics Complaint Filed Against State Representatives Over Gray Wolf Delisting Legislation
 
EUGENE, OR – Today, Cascadia Wildlands submitted a complaint to the Oregon Government Ethics Commission alleging numerous false statements and misrepresentations made by State Representatives Greg Barreto, Brad Witt, and Sal Esquivel in order to secure passage of House Bill 4040 (HB4040) during this spring’s legislative session.  HB4040 legislatively removed the gray wolf from Oregon’s list of threatened and endangered species.
 
On November 9, 2015, Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to remove gray wolves from the state’s list of endangered species, despite only approximately 80 wolves residing in the state at the time.  This decision was widely criticized as unscientific and politically driven, and was challenged by Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild and the Center for Biological Diversity in state court.  HB4040 referenced the delisting decision, but the three lawmakers, including Rep. Barreto, the bill’s author and sponsor, asserted both in the course of legislative hearings and through documents distributed to other state legislators that HB 4040 would have no impact on judicial review of the commission’s controversial delisting decision.
 
“Our government is founded upon a system of checks and balances, including access to the courtroom, and these politicians worked overtime to remove our ability to bring this important case in front of a judge,” says Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “Oregon’s small wolf population and advocates for democracy ended up being the losers.”
 
Conservation advocates repeatedly warned that HB4040 would in fact undermine the public’s ability to challenge the commission’s wolf delisting decision. However, it was not until after the bill’s passage through Oregon House of Representatives that an inquiry by Oregon’s Legislative Counsel Committee uncovered that the only effect of the bill was to prevent judicial review of the wolf delisting decision.
 
On April 22, Oregon’s Court of Appeals dismissed the legal case brought by the three conservation organization, specifically stating the “enactment of HB4040 renders the judicial review moot and dismisses the judicial review on that ground.”
 
ORS 171.764(1) regulating ethical conduct maintains that no public official shall make any false statement or misrepresentation to any legislative or executive official.
 
“Lawmakers undermine the public’s trust when they mislead their colleagues and make false statements,” says Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “The Oregon Government Ethics Commission should determine whether Representatives Barreto, Witt, and Esquivel were deliberately mischaracterizing HB4040 in their attempt to fast track the removal of protections for Oregon’s recovering wolf population. The misrepresentations surrounding HB4040 allowed the bill to pass through Oregon’s Legislature, and gray wolves will ultimately pay the price.”
 
The ethics complaint lists several instances of lawmakers declaring that HB4040 does not undermine judicial review.
 
 
If found in violation of ethics laws guarding against false statement or misrepresentation, lawmakers could face civil penalties.
Mar31

Press Release: State of Oregon to Kill Alpha Pair and Two Others in Imnaha Wolf Pack

March 31, 2016
For immediate release
Contact:
Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746; nick@cascwild.org
 
UPDATE: At 2:49 pm today we received communication from ODFW that the agency lethally removed the four wolves.
 
Following a series of cattle and sheep depredations in Wallowa County, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has authorized lethal control of four Imnaha Pack wolves, including the alpha male (OR-4), the alpha female (OR-39), and two young wolves.
 
"We are deeply saddened by the difficult situation that has arisen for these Imnaha Pack wolves," said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands.  “Although the situation appears to be escalating in Wallowa County, we don’t condone using public taxpayer dollars to kill wolves on behalf of private interests.
 
OR-4 is one of the original alpha males in Oregon and has played a significant role in wolf recovery across the state.
 
"This is a particularly difficult day as OR-4 has sired an incredible number wolf pups over the years, which has fueled wolf recovery across the state,” says Josh Laughlin, Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “His role and that of the other three wolves should be celebrated and remembered."
 
Four other members of the Imnaha Pack appear to have split from this group of four, and are not being targeted, according to ODFW. The separation of the pack, and the advanced age and condition of both OR-4 and OR-39, could indicate the pack is splitting and may be contributing to the spike in livestock depredations.
 
Lethal control under these circumstances, like when pro-active nonlethal techniques are used to deter conflict, is contemplated in the Oregon Wolf Plan, and it appears the state has meaningfully deliberated over its decision.
 
More background on gray wolf recovery in the Pacific West can be found here.
 
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Mar22

Governor Brown’s Environmental Record Far from Green

Register-Guard guest opinion by Shawn Donnille
 
When Gov. Kate Brown took office, she promised the most open, transparent and responsive administration possible. She would do away with back-room deals cut with special-interest lobbyists, she said, and instead would conduct business in the full light of day. One year later, the gap between Brown’s promises and her actions on environmental policy is as wide as the Willamette River.
 
In just 12 months, she has racked up a remarkably bad environmental record that has not only caught the attention of the environmental community, but the natural and organic products industry as well.
 
Soon after Brown took office, the state Department of Forestry joined with timber and chemical lobbyists to block a bill in the Oregon legislature intended to reform aerial spraying of pesticides by the logging industry.
 
Their actions meant that rural families continue to be exposed to cancer-causing chemicals, without adequate buffers to protect homes and schools, or even advance notice before sprays occur. In addition to imminent threats to rural communities, aerial spraying is now compromising organic farms throughout the state, thus crippling a thriving and sustainable industry.
 
During the 2015 legislative session, Gov. Brown also tried to cut a back-room deal with fossil fuel lobbyists to repeal Oregon’s landmark Clean Fuels law. This tactic was aimed at buying Republican votes for a transportation package, but her plan fizzled when pro-­environment Democrats in the House of Representatives rebelled.
 
The 2015 session also saw Brown’s administration push ahead with plans to privatize the Elliott State Forest, the only state land in Oregon still containing significant old growth. Such a move would almost certainly result in this old growth being clear-cut, and the public being shut out of the process.
 
Earlier this year, Portland residents were stunned to learn of toxic contamination from glass manufacturing plants near residential neighborhoods.
 
Even more shocking was that the state Department of Environmental Quality and Brown’s administration knew about the problem for more than a year, but failed to act.
 
The governor has since called for soil testing and more money from the federal government, but she has not addressed the cozy relationship between her agency and polluting industries.
 
Her inaction isn’t limited to Portland. Despite repeated warnings, Brown’s administration failed to act on much-needed improvements to Oregon’s weak and outdated Forest Practices Act. On March 11, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, fed up with excuses, froze $1.5 million in federal funding to Oregon over Brown’s failure to protect clean water and salmon from rampant clear-cutting.
 
During the 2016 legislative session, Oregon’s tiny population of endangered gray wolves was also in the governor’s crosshairs. Her staff partnered with livestock industry lobbyists to craft a bill to circumvent the Oregon Endangered Species Act, and to block Oregon citizens from challenging a state Department of Fish and Wildlife decision to remove conservation safeguards from wolves.
 
While some environmental gains have been made over the past year, including important legislation to address climate change, those measures came because of the threat of a citizens’ ballot initiative.
 
It should not take the threat of a citizens’ referendum to force Brown and the Legislature to protect our air, water and wildlife; these values should be safeguarded by the head of our state.
 
Her arrangements made with lobbyists who work against wilderness and wildlife, or schemes to protect polluters rather than public health, don’t fit the kind of open and transparent administration Brown promised our state.
 
My business, Mountain Rose Herbs, employs more than 200 people in Lane County. We relocated to Oregon more than a decade ago because we wanted to live in a place with protected wildlands, healthy rivers and abundant wildlife.
 
Oregon’s reputation as an environmental leader has been an important part of our success, from attracting world-class employees to maintaining the trust of our hundreds of thousands of customers around the world. Our governor is putting that reputation at risk.
 
Gov. Brown is now running for re-election, and she does not have a serious challenger in the Democratic primary.
 
This is unfortunate, because I feel that would keep her honest to our ecological heritage as Oregonians and would remind her of the importance we place upon the health of our communities and the health of our living landscape.
 
Shawn Donnille is vice president and co-owner of Mountain Rose Herbs in Eugene.
 
Feb25

House Bill 4040 and the Politics of Delisting Oregon’s Wolves

by Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands legal director
 
California's Shasta Pack (CDFW photo)

Shasta Pack

It is astonishing to folks at Cascadia Wildlands that House Bill 4040 (HB4040) was even a topic of conversation this "short" legislative session. Every other year, the Oregon legislature holds a short session that only lasts around one month, and because of the limited time for discussion and debate, usually only non-controversial bills are taken up.
 
However, this session the House passed and the Senate is seriously deliberating over HB4040 despite tremendous controversy, deceit, and enormous amounts of misinformation.  HB4040 would legislatively remove the gray wolf from the state list of threatened and endangered species, precluding the public's right to judicial review to ensure that the delisting is scientifically and legally sound.  
 
This bill's success thus far has been unbelievable for a number of reasons.  First, Oregon still only has around one hundred wolves in the state.  This is approximately seven percent of the state's purported ecological capacity, and the wolves only occupy about 12 percent of their suitable habitat in the state.  Most of the wolves are still concentrated in the northeast corner of Oregon.  We believe that these statistics alone show that wolves, while on the path to recovery (we had zero wolves 10 years ago), have not fully recovered and are not ready for critical protections to be removed. The scientific community has largely agreed with us and offered widespread critique of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission's proposal to delist.
 
Second, Oregon has democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate. We believed, as did the Salem Statesman Journal, that democrats supported the concept that environmental decisions should be made on the basis of sound science and not politics.  In the past, democrats in Oregon have prevented the intervention of special interests in wildlife management, especially when involving threatened or endangered species. For example, four of the past five years extremists in the livestock industry and their lobbyists in Salem have introduced bills aimed at removing protections for wolves, and these bills never got serious attention, largely through pushback by democrats.  We are dumbfounded as to why democratic legislators in Salem are now kowtowing to special interests given that 96% of people who commented on the delisting encouraged retaining the wolf's listed status.
 
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 of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack.

Third, the bill is undemocratic because it precludes judicial review of ODFW's delisting decision.  Essentially, judicial review functions as a crucial part of our government's system of checks and balances.  The legislature makes laws — general guidelines for agency behavior.  The executive or administrative agencies enforce these laws and carry out their execution.  The judicial branch ensures that agency actions comply with the laws.  Here, ODFW and its Commission delisted the gray wolf. Pursuant to our state laws concerning endangered species, such a finding is required to be based upon the best available science and make certain findings, like whether or not wolves have recovered throughout a significant portion of their range in the state.  We believed that because wolves only occupied a small percentage of their range, ODFW failed to make the required findings, and we and our colleagues sought judicial review of the agency decision.  HB4040 amounts to the legislature changing the rules of the game after the agency has already made the decision, exempting ODFW from having to make the requisite scientific findings.  Again, the Salem Statesman Journal put it well: "It would be grossly unfair, and a bad precedent, for the Legislature to change the rules after the litigation has started."
 
Fourth, the bill's proponents weren't being truthful in order to pass it through the House.  When the bill first popped up, Cascadia Wildlands directed its supporters interested in the wolf topic to contact their representatives and tell them to not vote for the bill for all of the reasons above.  The message that was repeatedly received was the representative was supporting the bill because it was simply "a pat on the back" for ODFW, and would not preclude judicial.  We were dumbfounded. Upon close scrutiny, the only reason for this bill, its sole effect, is to preclude judicial review of the wolf delisting. Obviously, lobbyists and even legislators pushing this bill were not being truthful about its effects, and legislators regurgitating this refrain either refused to look at the bill or made a conscious choice to spread the misinformation further.  
 
The true purpose of the bill was uncovered before the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources this week through the honorable efforts of Senators Michael Dembrow and Floyd Prozanski. But instead of killing the bill because of the blatant deceit or at the very least sending it back down to the House with full disclosure about the bill's intent and effects, the Senate Committee passed the bill with a vote of 3 to 2, with Senators Dembrow and Prozanski voting against the bill, and Senator Chris Edwards (D-Eugene) supporting it along with two republicans on the Committee.
 
It appears the divisive politics paralyzing Washington DC and partisan game playing have now infected our state.  
 
We have allies in this fight for sound science.  State Senators Dembrow and Prozanski have worked hard to defeat the bill.  Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) has taken up the effort, calling out fellow state democrats for their betrayal of sound science for political games.  
 
This fight is not over yet, and there is still opportunity to turn senators who are on the fence about this bill.  Take action now and also call your local state senator to urge them to vote "no" on HB4040.  And thank you for standing up for Oregon's recovering 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.
 
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