A bill that would delist the gray wolf from the state endangered species list will be voted on this week in the state Senate after narrowly passing in the Oregon Legislature. House Bill 4040, which passed by a 33-23 margin, would ratify the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s decision to remove wolves from protection under the state ESA.
The commission originally voted to delist back in November, but three conservation groups—Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild, and the Center for Biological Diversity—have filed a petition in the Oregon Court of Appeals for a judicial review of the decision.
“This decision was not based in science, it was not based on Oregon’s conservation values,” contended Cascadia Wildlands’ director Nick Cady, “it violated the law, and it will not survive scrutiny.”
HB 4040 effectively protects the Commission from pending litigation so that ODFW can move on with the Wolf Plan and have more flexible means for managing the species.
With wolves delisted, ODFW can consider lethal methods to manage problem wolf packs and ranchers will be allowed to shoot wolves that they find chasing or biting livestock on their property.
Corvallis Representative Dan Rayfield believes that the bill would preempt a fair assessment of the decision to delist. “It is something that should be determined in a court of law,” explained Rayfield, who voted against the measure when it came to the House floor on Feb. 12.
Congressman Peter DeFazio also expressed his concerns about the bill in a written testimony submitted to the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, calling the bill “an extraordinary abuse of power” and advising that Oregon take a cautious, scientifically informed approach towards wolf recovery.
Once the bill leaves the Senate committee, it will go to the Senate floor for a vote sometime next week.
By Taylor Smith