Oregon, the state I’m happy to call home, is a land of contrasts. We have lush rain forests on the Pacific Coast. We have vast acres of high desert in our interior. Our state hosts a wide array of wild creatures, from tiny newts to 80,000 pound grey whales that migrate past our coast.
Our humans are diverse as well. The islands of Ashland, Eugene, and Portland are largely comprised of liberal-minded individuals while the rural areas, especially to the east, lean toward a more conservative mentality. In the 1920’s the Oregon KKK boasted a membership of 35,000. Sadly, our state remains a holdout for white supremacists. Yet we’re also the first to legalize physician assisted suicide and our vote has gone Democratic in every presidential and gubernatorial election since 1988.
It was a diverse group that came together to create Oregon’s new and innovative wolf management plan. Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild, The Oregon Cattleman’s Association, Governor Kitzhauber, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) set aside a long history of differences to make this happen. Rob Klavins of Oregon Wild tells me this is the first time he has seen legitimate compromise between conservationists and the livestock industry in our state.
But compromise means compromise so not everyone will be happy. The livestock industry will now be held accountable for proving they are using non-lethal measures if they seek assistance from the state in removing problem wolves. Previously, their word was sufficient. Under the new plan their efforts will be available to an inquiring public, as will be any decision made by the ODFW to kill a depredating wolf. As Klavins says, this is a “huge step forward in prioritizing nonlethal measures.”
Perhaps this will prevent a future reenactment of Washington’s Wedge pack situation, where an entire pack was taken out by their Fish and Wildlife staff last September. This action came about suddenly and without what most would consider a proper public airing.
On the other hand, those that do not believe any wolf should be killed to protect the livestock industry may well be disappointed. Some members of the Imnaha pack in Northeast Oregon have already three proverbial strikes against them, leaving only one until they can be legally killed. This means that if OR 4, the black patriarch of the pack preys on one more cow before July 28th ODFW will have the right to decide if he will be lethally removed.
However, the new plan is much more reasonable in regards to depredations. The former plan allowed only two depredations in an undetermined amount of time, while the current one states a wolf cannot be lethally removed unless it is proven to have been involved in four livestock losses in a six month period. Therefore, if OR 4 and other Imnaha pack members keep their noses clean, one strike will be removed on July 28th, and so on until they could eventually have a clean slate. This seems reasonable and it allows for ranchers to find better ways to prevent problems without resorting to the usual reflex of lethally removing the wolves.
As Rob Klavins said in our phone conversation yesterday, “It is the responsibility of ODFW to conserve wildlife for all Oregonians.” Therefore, the 70% polled that want wolves in our state should have as much say as the handful that don’t. With the new plan in effect wolves stand a chance. And those that admire them can know that, while things aren’t perfect, at least we are being heard.
Check out these links to Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands websites containing a thorough description of the new wolf management plan. We have much to be grateful for and these two groups should be on top of our list. With their persistence, hard work, and ability to compromise, Oregon wolves may face a much brighter future.