Last week, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) posted this brief update to a press release it had issued earlier that week:
UPDATE March 31, 2016: The four wolves of the Imnaha pack associated with recent depredations were shot and killed today by ODFW staff on private land in Wallowa County.
That brief notice marked the latest in what has been an excruciatingly frustrating several months in Oregon.
The pack that was singled out for what the state terms ‘lethal control’ was the Imnaha pack. It had become the target of state killing due to recent depredations of livestock. ODFW swiftly carried out the order, killing four members of the Imnaha pack: OR4, the father of OR7 (Journey), his likely pregnant mate, and two yearling pups.
Putting aside whether the state should have acted so quickly to kill these wolves, this action is part of what is becoming a familiar and disturbing pattern in Oregon’s dealings with gray wolves. Over the last several months, legislators and state officials, including Governor Kate Brown, have acted with increasing hostility towards the state’s burgeoning wolf population.
In November, the ODFW Commission voted to remove gray wolves from the state endangered species list with just over 100 wolves occupying the entire state. This action alone was a red flag that the Brown administration was putting politics over science and sound ecology. Oregon is a state rich in landscapes suitable for gray wolves. Their presence would not only enrich the ecosystem, but if the Northern Rockies are a guide, it would draw tourist dollars. It is estimated that wolf-related tourism including photography exhibitions and other non-consumptive activities bring in more than 30 million dollars to areas around Yellowstone. But in order to draw wolf-enthusiasts, Oregon needs wolves and while 110 is a nice start, it’s just that—a start.
The ODFW is not alone in creating more obstacles for wolf recovery. Not comfortable to sit on the sideline while the Commission stripped gray wolves of state endangered species protections, the legislature pushed through a bill that both reaffirms this delisting and effectively prevents judicial review. Conservation organizations, activists, scientists, and even members of the U.S. Congress spoke out against the legislation. The governor quickly signed it into law.
Oregon is a beautiful state that has earned its place as a leader on environmental issues. Decisions like those being made by ODFW and the Brown administration put that reputation at risk and threaten Oregon’s wolf recovery.