Court ruling affects wolf plan

Morgan Dunn, 9, of Mt. Vernon, gets a close-up look at a stuffed wolf Jan. 27 during the annual Roadkill Chili Feed in John Day. A court ruling effectively pre-empts portions of Oregon's draft wolf plan by mandating stricter protections of wolves than Oregon would require. Other portions of the plan are unaffected. The Eagle/Jill Mallory

SALEM - The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is moving ahead with plans to present a draft Wolf Conservation and Management Plan to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission for consideration and possible adoption at its Feb. 10-11 meeting in Troutdale.

The announcement follows a Feb. 1 court ruling requiring the federal government to reinstate wolves as "endangered" under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The court ruling effectively pre-empts portions of Oregon's draft plan by mandating stricter protections of wolves than Oregon would require. Other portions of the plan are unaffected.

ODFW maintains the plan is still needed.

"The court did not order the wolf to stay in Idaho," said Craig Ely, ODFW Special Projects coordinator, who has been leading the multiyear effort to develop a wolf conservation and management plan. "Wolves are still coming to Oregon, and Oregon still needs a plan to deal with them."

In addition, having a wolf conservation and management plan in place will enable Oregon to quickly take over wolf management in the event the federal government does eventually downlist wolves or takes other measures to shift management of wolves to the states, he said.

"ODFW also has an obligation to satisfy the requirements of Oregon's Endangered Species Act," Ely said. "The state ESA requires ODFW to work toward conservation of any species designated as endangered under state law, and that includes wolves."

Ely and his team are at work identifying those areas of the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan that will be pre-empted by federal law and those that can take effect. These areas will be identified in the plan, but no changes to the plan are being proposed as a result of the court ruling.

One key difference between the federal law and Oregon's proposed Wolf Conservation and Management Plan is the "take" provision.

So long as wolves remain listed as endangered at the federal level, only federal personnel can lethally control wolves. No other individuals are allowed to take wolves unless there is an immediate human safety risk.

Oregon's proposed plan would allow more flexibility for private landowners to haze and take wolves under specific circumstances, as well as provide a compensation plan for loss of livestock. This portion of the plan, however, as well as legislative changes required to implement it, would be pre-empted as long as wolves remain endangered at the federal level.

"The focus of Oregon's plan, as directed by state law," said Ely, "is to conserve wolves while minimizing their impact on human and animal safety, and the economic well-being of ranchers and rural communities.

The plan will be presented at the commission's Feb. 10-11 meeting in Troutdale. The two-day meeting will take place at the Sam Cox Building, 1106 East Columbia River Highway. The commission will take public testimony on the draft plan Feb. 10 beginning at 1 p.m. and will consider final rulemaking action Feb. 11 beginning at 1:30 p.m.

A bus is leaving at 7 a.m. Feb. 10 from Les Schwab's parking lot. The bus seats 47 people, and has a bathroom and video monitors. The cost is $20. Anyone going needs to bring a sack lunch for the trip there. The plan is to stop in Biggs on the way back to buy dinner. For more information about the trip, call Dave Traylor, 932-4618 or David Snider, 932-4810.

Contributions from area merchants are helping to pay for the trip.

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