State agencies have been unwilling or unable to shake historical ties to the hunting and agricultural communities, and largely focus on carnivore species solely to facilitate further hunting and trapping to generate money for the agency. As an example, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife dedicates 98% of its funding to the management of game species to facilitate hunting and trapping while the 600 other non-game species are completed neglected.
Despite regular meetings with these agencies and the efforts of sympathetic staff within the agencies, Cascadia Wildlands has found that often the only way to overcome the obstinacy or bureaucracy of these state and federal agencies is through litigation. Litigation often opens to the door to conversations and negotiations these agencies are otherwise unwilling or politically unable to entertain and has paved the way for species recovery and the gradual reformation of these bureaucratic behemoths.
And occasionally there is an agency so archaic that litigation is necessary to either completely reform or remove it from carnivore management in the west. The federal agency Wildlife Services has a proven track record of abuse, abuse of animals, abuse of taxpayer money and abuse of science. This agency’s action towards carnivores is infamous and contemptible, and Cascadia Wildlands has long battled its efforts in the Pacific Northwest.
Below are several examples with links that provide further information on these ongoing efforts:
• Humboldt Martens: Cascadia Wildlands and our conservation allies have been fighting to protect two isolated populations of Humboldt martens living in the northern red woods of California and southern coast range of Oregon. There are only 400 of these martens remaining, and the species was believed to be extinct until 1996. It was still legal to commercially trap the species for fur in Oregon, and Cascadia Wildlands took numerous efforts to prevent elimination of the species. In June of 2018, Cascadia filed a petition to list the Humboldt marten as endangered with the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. Given that listing petition can take up to two years in Oregon, we also filed a petition to ban trapping for the species given its incredibly low population. The trapping ban was granted in August, but the Department is dragging its feet on actually implementing the ban. Also, the listing petition was denied on the grounds that there was not sufficient science to justify listing. On October 5, 2018 the federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing of the Humboldt marten under the Endangered Species Act, which establishes that the best available science supports listing and protecting the species. Oregon needs you voice now, please take action and urge the Commission to ensure this incredibly small population of martens is given a chance!
• Oregon Wildlife Services: On February 3, 2016, Cascadia Wildlands, along with a group of conservation allies, filed suit against Wildlife Services in Oregon challenging its participation in wolf killing at the state’s behest. This agency’s involvement in wolf management in Oregon has only served to stoke the flames of conflict by spreading fear and misinformation. Our claims surround the agency’s failure to justify the wolf killing with sound science, failure to explore the implications to other wildlife killed in the crossfire, and failure to take the basic look at what effect this would have on wolves. We lost before the District Court, but have appealed this decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The case was argued in July of 2018, and we expect a decision soon! We will provide updates on any progress.
• Oregon Wolf Delisting: On December 30, 2015, Cascadia Wildlands, along with Oregon Wild and the Center for Biological Diversity, challenged in the Oregon Court of Appeals a decision from the Fish and Wildlife Commission to remove wolves from the state’s list of endangered species. With merely 80 wolves in the state at the time of delisting, it was apparent that this agency’s determination that wolves had recovered was based upon flawed science and was plainly a product of political interference. This case became the victim of even greater levels of political meddling when state legislators misled colleagues in an attempt to unconstitutionally eliminate our legal challenge in the state Legislature. Despite these efforts, our case has been reinstated, and was argued in February 2018. We are awaiting a decision from the Oregon Court of Appeals.
• Wolverines: On October 20, 2014, Cascadia Wildlands with a coalition of groups working on wolverine recovery across the west challenged the decision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to deny protections for the species under the Endangered Species Act. Agency scientists initially recommended protections for the species due to severe climate change impacts on snowy breeding habitat, but the Service reversed its decision because of political pressure from several western states. On April 4, 2015, the Court ruled in our favor holding the agency accountable for its decision to discount the best available science about climate impacts on wolverine. We are still awaiting the agency’s response to the Court’s order, and whether or not the agency will proceed to list the species.
• Canadian Lynx: Although carnivore species like the Canadian lynx were granted federal protections under the Endangered Species Act, unlike the wolverine, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has attempted other roundabout ways to eliminate adequate protections for the species. On November 17, 2014, Cascadia Wildlands challenged the failure of the Service to designate critical habitat for the species. Lynx are sensitive to timber harvest, and in an attempt to appease timber interests, the Service completely neglected to set aside protective areas for the species as required under federal environmental laws. On September 7, 2016, the Court ruled in our favor, but regretfully excluded Oregon and Washington’s lynx populations from that decision. We are currently exploring our legal options to protect these struggling lynx populations in the Pacific Northwest, and will keep you posted on developments.