Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Ranchers have held up their end of wolf bargain
By Todd Nash and Rusty Inglis
Oregon’s ranchers want to set the record straight on wolves.
The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and the Oregon Farm Bureau Federation opposed wolf reintroduction from the beginning, knowing the toll it would take on our livestock producers. Nevertheless, the ranching community worked with environmental groups and state regulators and agreed to the conditions of the Oregon Wolf Conservation & Management Plan in 2005. This cooperation came at a significant expense to producers who expended resources to reduce the risk of attack on their animals.
The wolf plan has worked. In fact, it worked extremely well. State wolf populations have exploded since reintroduction, with a 36 percent increase in 2015 alone, bringing Oregon to a population of 110 wolves and 11 breeding pairs.
To put this in perspective, the threshold in the plan for consideration for removing wolves from the state’s list of endangered species is four breeding pairs for three consecutive years. Populations are currently well above that level.
Ranchers worked hard to live up to their obligations in the plan. Unfortunately, instead of doing the same and applauding Oregon’s rural communities for their efforts in promoting wolf recovery, Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild and out-of-state environmental litigation groups have once again filed a lawsuit — this time over a decision that in no way impacts wolf management in Oregon.
This is what these groups don’t want you to know: Delisting does not change current wolf management or conservation requirements for wolves. Wolf management is governed by the wolf plan, which is up for review this year. Wolves in Oregon have always been and remain one of the best-protected species in the state, and their population will continue to increase.
This begs the question: Why are environmental activist groups suing on the delisting decision? In short, they want to use this lawsuit to force changes to the Wolf Conservation & Management Plan. And these groups want these negotiations to take place in confidential settlement discussions instead of through a public forum.
We believe that the public discourse of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, the legislative process and the upcoming Wolf Conservation & Management Plan review are the correct places for these important decisions. Private settlement negotiations that cut out the public and policymakers from the discussion and subvert transparency most decidedly are not.