ODFW on Track with Wolf Plan

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The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is moving ahead with plans to present a draft Wolf Conservation and Management Plan to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission for consideration and possible adoption at its Feb. 10-11 meeting in Troutdale.

Today’s announcement follows a Feb. 1 court ruling requiring the federal government to reinstate wolves as ‘endangered’ under the federal Endangered Species Act. The court ruling effectively pre-empts portions of Oregon’s draft plan by mandating stricter protections of wolves than Oregon would require. Other portions of the plan are unaffected.

ODFW, however, maintains the plan is still needed.

“The court did not order the wolf to stay in Idaho,” said Craig Ely, ODFW Special Projects Coordinator, who has been leading the multi-year effort to develop a wolf conservation and management plan. “Wolves are still coming to Oregon, and Oregon still needs a plan to deal with them.”

In addition, noted Ely, having a wolf conservation and management plan in place will enable Oregon to quickly take over wolf management in the event the federal government does eventually downlist wolves or takes other measures to shift management of wolves to the states.

“ODFW also has an obligation to satisfy the requirements of Oregon’s Endangered Species Act,” said Ely. “The state ESA requires ODFW to work toward conservation of any species designated as endangered under state law, and that includes wolves.”

Ely and his team are at work identifying those areas of the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan that will be pre-empted by federal law and those that can take effect. These areas will be identified in the plan, but no changes to the plan are being proposed as a result of the court ruling.

One key difference between the federal law and Oregon’s proposed Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, noted Ely, is the “take” provision. So long as wolves remain listed as endangered at the federal level, only federal personnel can lethally control wolves. No other individuals are allowed to take wolves unless there is an immediate human safety risk. Oregon’s proposed plan would allow more flexibility for private landowners to haze and take wolves under specific circumstances, as well as provide a compensation plan for loss of livestock. This portion of the plan, however, as well as legislative changes required to implement it, would be pre-empted as long as wolves remain endangered at the federal level.

“The focus of Oregon’s plan, as directed by state law,” said Ely, “is to conserve wolves while minimizing their impact on human and animal safety, and the economic well-being of ranchers and rural communities.

“The draft plan was developed with the input of thousands of Oregonians and the hard work of the 14-member Wolf Advisory Committee,” said Ely. “It is the culmination of an effort that began in spring 2002.”

The plan will be presented at the Commission’s Feb. 10-11 meeting in Troutdale. The two-day meeting will take place at the Sam Cox Building, 1106 East Columbia River Highway. The Commission will take public testimony on the draft plan Feb. 10 beginning at 1 p.m. and will consider final rulemaking action Feb. 11 beginning at 1:30 p.m.