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Consensus on ODFW Wolf Plan fails posted on 02/01/2019

Despite conservation groups having withdrawn from the meetings, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) is finalizing a revised Wolf Conservation and Management Plan to be presented to the state wildlife commission next month.

Five meetings were held from August 2018 to January 2019 attended by stakeholders representing ranching, hunting and wolf conservation but no consensus was attained on several issues including the number of livestock depredations that would lead to lethal removal of wolves.

Last month, four conservation groups withdrew from the meetings.

“We were disappointed these groups left the discussion and we did not have the full stakeholder group present at the final meeting,” said Derek Broman, ODFW carnivore coordinator. “Since the drafting of the original 2005 plan, stakeholders remain very passionate so consensus is challenging to achieve.”

The meetings were convened by Gov. Kate Brown, but the conservation groups notified her and state wildlife commission they were withdrawing, citing a flawed process for updating the state’s wolf plan and lobbying by wildlife managers wanting to make it easier for the state to kill wolves.

Oregon’s wolf population has reached 124 according to ODFW’s report of April 2018. Most of these wolves occupy areas in the eastern part of Oregon, but two packs are currently known to inhabit the western Cascades.

“Poll after poll has shown that Oregonians support wolf recovery and believe that conflicts with livestock should be avoided through nonlethal approaches,” said Sean Stevens, executive director of Oregon Wild, one of the four conservation groups involved in the meetings. “And yet ODFW continues to insist on a plan that makes it ever-easier to kill wolves without any enforceable standards.”

Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands, cited the return of wolves to the Pacific Northwest as an incredible wildlife success story that all Oregonians should be celebrating.

“Instead of assisting this recovery, our state government is fixated upon killing the species at the behest of the commercial livestock industry,” Cady said. “There are between 100 and 200 wolves in the state total. This is absurd.”

Prior to talks breaking down, the groups were able to find consensus on wolf collaring priorities, the desire to increase the use of nonlethal techniques and funding enhanced population modeling.

In practice, ODFW has denied more lethal removal requests for wolves than it has approved.

But the impasse continues with conservation groups – Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife – continuing to believe ODFW discourages neutral oversight and guidance to encourage meaningful discussion and collaborative brainstorming.

The wolf management plan will be presented to the governor March 15.

By Larry Berteau/MT

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