September Wildlife Update: A New Hope for Wolf Protections

A sea otter reclines in the ocean - photo by USFWS

We’re one step closer to reintroducing sea otters to Oregon’s coast. Read more to find out how!

WOLVES

In last month’s newsletter, we shared the awful news that The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife had recently killed two pups from the Lookout Mountain pack in response to predation on livestock. In addition to being heinous, their rationale was also unscientifically proven (they claimed it was to “reduce the caloric needs of the pack”). Not surprisingly, the pack didn’t respond the way they thought. So after an additional depredation by the Lookout Mountain pack, ODFW reissued another kill order which happened to expire yesterday.  As far as we know, ODFW did not kill any additional wolves from that pack. Unfortunately, the pack has predated a few more times and as a result several people are calling for the full pack to be killed. Given the agency’s frustrating actions and lack of transparency, at this time, we don’t know what they will do or how they will respond to these kill order requests. 

This situation underscores, yet again, why the Biden administration needs to reinstate federal endangered species protections for wolves across the country. It is clear that individual states cannot be trusted to implement wolf recovery and management in a scientifically-based and ethical manner.  

To that end, we just found out yesterday that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be initiating a status review to consider relisting the Northern Rocky Mountain population of wolves (which for Oregon, are the wolves in the eastern part of the state). That’s exciting news and a step in the right direction!

WILDLIFE

When it comes to adequate funding for wildlife conservation in Oregon, our state is woefully lacking. For example, on average ODFW spends about 4% of their total budget on specific wildlife conservation programs. That’s not to say that other programs don’t include elements of conservation, but by and large, that piece of the pie is incredibly small. One attempt to remedy this problem came by way of the Oregon Conservation and Recreation Fund, which was established by the state legislature in 2019. Ultimately, the goal of this program was to fund projects that conserve wildlife, restore habitat, and connect people with nature. While we had our doubts about how this could turn out, we’re happy to say that it has funded some really incredible and value-added projects (like the sea otter feasibility study). We’re happy to report that in July of 2021 the legislature not only reauthorized this fund (because it was set to end in 2021), but removed the sunset in its entirety so that advocates don’t have to spend time every two years fighting for its survival.

While this fund is a step in the right direction, it’s still inadequate to fund the full suite of wildlife conservation needs. Proposals like the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act -- federal legislation that would allocate $50 million to Oregon for wildlife and habitat conservation programs -- are much more appealing when it comes to looking at large-scale funding. Like any legislation, the devil can be in the details, but as of now, RAWA offers the best opportunity for deep investments in wildlife conservation. Please stay tuned as we provide future opportunities to weigh-in on wildlife conservation proposals!

It’s here! It’s here! After two years of researching and writing, the team of scientists working with the Elakha Alliance has finally revealed their draft Oregon sea otter feasibility report. This important document is the first major report in determining whether or not the reintroduction of sea otters to Oregon’s coast is economically, ecologically, and socially possible! According to the report, “Restoring a population of sea otters on the Oregon coast is feasible if steps are taken to account for ecological, habitat, logistic, economic, and social factors highlighted in this Feasibility Study. There appear to be no insurmountable ecological, habitat, physiological, logistical, or regulatory barriers to restoring a population of sea otters in Oregon.” 

That’s great news and a huge step forward for sea otter recovery! If you’d like to learn more about this feasibility study or generally about sea otter recovery in Oregon, please feel free to register for the (virtual) Oregon Sea Otter Symposium (hosted by the Elakha Alliance), which takes place October 5-7th.

IN THE NEWS

For a more detailed overview of the Lookout Mountain pack situation, check out our wildlife conservation partner’s opinion editorial. 

Want to see what post fire recovery looks like in Oregon? You won’t want to miss this incredible video taken by OPB and our partner at Crag Law Center. 

EVENTS

We are putting the finishing touches on the next edition of our special audio program (podcast) about the California condor! Like our first program about sea otters, this one will take you through the history and cultural significance of this magnificent species and how various tribes in the region are leading the efforts to bring condors back to the Pacific Northwest skies. Stay tuned!

Photo Credits
Sea otter: USFWS; wolf: ODFW