Ignoring scientists and the pleas of thousands of concerned wildlife advocates, Oregon’s Fish & Wildlife Commission voted to remove gray wolves from the state Endangered Species Act.
“It’s a travesty to see another fish and wildlife agency use politics rather than science to drive wolf management decisions. This is a time when wolves need more, not fewer protections in place to help them reach a full, sustainable comeback.” — Leda Huta, Executive Director, Endangered Species Coalition
Gray wolves in Oregon have recovered to a population of just 81 individual wolves, leaving them highly vulnerable. The decision to remove protections hinged on a highly dubious Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) report that was called into question by independent scientists. The report and associated delisting plan are described as “fundamentally flawed” by researchers due to its reliance on overly optimistic modeling that discounts the threats that small populations like those in Oregon must face.
Potentially worse than ODFW’s reliance on an erroneous study, is the agency’s selective exclusion of scientists that disagreed with their delisting plan. Scientists whose comments were not supportive of ODFW’s plan were left out of the agency’s presentation to the Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission, calling into question both the report and the agency’s motives.
The existing population of just over 80 wolves is just 5 percent of what peer reviewed studies have determined the state can support, but the agency contends that this premature delisting will prevent a decrease in social acceptance of wolves. This assertion based on an assumption of future societal attitudes towards wolves dismisses the agency’s mandate to recover populations based on science, and inexplicably surrenders to inaccurate misperceptions of wolves. ODFW and the Fish & Wildlife Commission appear to have made this decision based only on political input from hunting and agricultural groups, with little to any credence given to scientists as required by law.
The overwhelming majority of the public that spoke out on Monday and in advance of the hearing, as well as the scientific community, supported continued protections of wolves in the state. That the agency chose to ignore all of these voices when wolves have only recovered to approximately 10 percent of the state should concern anyone interested in science-based decision making.
Update: Representative Peter DeFazio (D OR-4) released a statement calling on the Governor and Legislature to take action.