FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Federal Wolf De-listing Threatens Recovery in Oregon
Bush administration plan to strip Endangered Species Act protection from gray wolves could kill recovery efforts, undercut years of work
The Bush administration's plans to strip Endangered Species Act protection from wolves in the Western US could kill recovery efforts in Oregon before they ever have a chance to get off the ground.Portland Mar 07, 2007
CONTACT: Steve Pedery, 503-283-6343 ext. 212
With a hearing on plans to strip Endangered Species Act protection from gray wolves tonight in Pendleton, the conservation group Oregon Wild is calling on the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Bush administration to drop this reckless scheme.
The hearing is being billed as a chance for the USFWS to receive public feedback on their plan to remove gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountain Distinct Population Segment (which includes the eastern third of Oregon) from the safety net of the Endangered Species Act. Oregon Wild and other conservation groups have called for additional hearings in Portland and Seattle, to allow greater public participation in this process. Unfortunately, the USFWS has not responded to those requests.
“Fifty years ago wolves were driven to extinction in Oregon,” observed Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild’s conservation director. “Now it appears that despite years of hard work on a wolf recovery plan by state biologists, conservation groups, and concerned citizens, the Bush administration wants to make sure they never get a chance to come back.”
Wolf recovery in the western United States has been one of our nation’s greatest conservation success stories. In 1995, a program was launched to reintroduce wolves into Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, beginning with just 14 individual animals. The program has been spectacularly successful. Together with the natural expansion of wolf populations south from Canada, this program has resulted in an estimated 450 wolves in Yellowstone and as many as 800 in the backcountry of Idaho. The natural recovery of wolf populations in Idaho has been expected to lead recovery efforts in Oregon, as well as other states.
“Over the last several years, Oregon has worked hard to develop a wolf-management plan that actually recovers these majestic animals and minimizes conflict with livestock,” said Pedery. “We’ve put the groundwork in place for restoring a critical part of Oregon’s natural heritage.”
The Bush administration’s de-listing plans would severely damage recovery efforts by turning critical wolf management questions over to state governments. Governor Otter of Idaho, anticipating the de-listing, is already calling for a mass killing of wolves in that state, reducing overall numbers to just 100 individual animals. In fact, Idaho has already announced plans to sell tags to legally allow the shooting of wolves. Wyoming’s wolf management plan would allow wolves to be shot on sight in nearly 90 percent of the state using extreme measures such as gunning down entire packs of wolves from airplanes and helicopters.
“Gray wolves are the symbol of American wilderness, as well as the symbol of America’s commitment to conservation and good stewardship of our natural resources,” said Pedery. “But the Bush administration is gutting wolf-recovery efforts in order to pander to an extreme anti-conservation minority.”
Oregon Wild will submit testimony at the Pendleton hearing calling on the USFWS and the Bush administration to drop the de-listing effort. The organization will highlight the importance of continued protection of wolves in Idaho to recovery efforts in Oregon and emphasize the need for science-based policies to govern management decisions.
The debate has extra urgency for Oregon, as last summer state biologists began fieldwork in the Eagle Caps Wilderness to follow up on several credible wolf sightings, including some grainy video footage of what appears to be a small black wolf along the Minam River. If verified, the sightings could mean a handful of wolves have already arrived in Oregon. Without continued Endangered Species Act protection for wolves in Idaho, however, it is doubtful that these animals would be able to establish a viable population.
Oregon Wild, formerly Oregon Natural Resources Council, is a non-profit conservation organization with approximately 5,000 members throughout Oregon. Since 1974, Oregon Wild has worked to make Oregon a special place to live, work, and raise a family. For more information visit www.oregonwild.org <http://www.oregonwild.org>.