UNION COUNTY:  A group backs down on wolf talks

UNION COUNTY: A group backs down on wolf talks

Environmental groups around the state say that they have withdrawn from talks on how to handle the state’s rebounding wolf population. The group is claiming that the Oregon Department of Wildlife wants to make it easy on killing wolves that attack livestock without trying other means. A rancher, the president of the cattlemen’s association, and wolf spokesman, Rodger Huffman mentioned that wolf numbers have raised in recent years, the wolf population needs to be taken care of so livestock damage can be minimized. Oregon wolves live in remote northeastern areas where livestock graze on private land and in federally managed forests and grassland. Ranchers often use range riders, and other means, sometimes with little success on deterring wolves.

PRESS RELEASE FROM ODFW
After completing the last scheduled facilitated meeting with stakeholder representatives on Monday, Jan. 8, ODFW staff is working to finalize a revised Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. That Plan will be presented to the Commission at its March 15 meeting in Salem for final adoption.

Last year, Commissioners decided to postpone Wolf Plan revisions and conduct additional facilitated outreach in hopes of getting more consensuses from stakeholders. Professional facilitator Deb Nudelman with Kearns and West facilitated five meetings with stakeholders from late August 2018 through early January 2019.

While stakeholders representing ranching, hunting and wolf conservation came to an agreement on some topics, there was no consensus on several of the most controversial issues including the number of livestock depredations that leads to consideration of lethal removal of wolves when nonlethal deterrents have not worked. Environmental group stakeholders with Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife announced late last Friday, Jan. 4 that they would not attend the final meeting.

“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 the consensus is challenging to achieve.”

The facilitated process was designed to create a space for stakeholders to negotiate and allow for giving and take on all sides,” he continued. “We thank all stakeholders for their time and attention at the meetings and for the progress made on several issues, and everyone thanks Kearns and West for their professional facilitating of these meetings.”

Stakeholder groups were able to find some consensus on wolf collaring priorities, the desire to increase the use of nonlethal techniques and funding enhanced population modeling. But stakeholders remained divided on a lethal take of wolves when they are killing livestock, including the number and time frame of confirmed depredations before lethal control of wolves is considered.

ODFW is responsible for investigating livestock depredations and uses a rigorous, evidence-based process to determine if a wolf or wolves were responsible. A certain number of “confirmed” livestock depredations can lead to consideration of lethal removal of wolves by the department or a landowner. Currently, the Plan allows for consideration of lethal removal after two confirmed depredations within no specific time frame, but ODFW typically authorizes lethal removal after three or more confirmed depredations. In practice, ODFW has denied more lethal removal requests for wolves than it has approved.

Since the first Wolf Conservation and Management Plan was approved in 2005, hunting of wolves has been in the Plan as a potential tool to manage wolf populations. Throughout the current review of the Wolf Plan, no proposals have been made by ODFW to begin hunting wolves. If hunting of wolves were to be proposed by staff in the future, it would have to be approved by the Commission in a public rule-making process.

The Wolf Plan proposal will be available for review prior to the March 15 meeting Commission meeting on the wolf website at www.odfw.com/wolves