The Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to delist wolves from the state Endangered Species Act throughout Oregon today.
The meeting began at 8 a.m. and adjourned at 6:44 p.m. About 106 people came to testify and they were limited to three minutes each.
Commissioners thanked the public for coming to testify and asked that interests on both sides of the issue continue to work with each other.
Chair Finley noted the many people “some in cowboy hats and others in t-shirts supporting wolves” who came out to testify on opposite sides of the issue because they care about wolves. “The Wolf Plan has been working well and you are all responsible for that,” he told the public still in the meeting at the end of the day. “We will remember the merits of the Wolf Plan and the next one will be as good or better. You can all help that happen.”
With the Commission’s decision made, the rule will be filed with the Secretary of State tomorrow, Nov. 10. The filing removes wolves from the state ESA but has no other effect on wolf management at this time.
The Wolf Plan continues to provide protection of wolves into the future. Any take of wolves is tightly regulated in all phases of the plan. Non-lethal preventive measures to prevent wolf-livestock conflict are the first choice of wildlife managers in all phases of wolf management. There is no general season sport hunting of wolves allowed in any phase of the Wolf Plan.
Wolves in western Oregon will continue to be managed with ESA-like protections until they reach the conservation objective of four breeding pairs for three consecutive years. This is known as Phase 1 of wolf management.
Additionally, west of Hwys 395-78-95 wolves are also still listed under the federal Endangered Species Act and the Commission’s action has no effect on their federal status.
Wolves in eastern Oregon moved to Phase 2 of management earlier this year. They will move to Phase 3 after ODFW documents seven breeding pairs for three consecutive years, which could occur as early as January 2017. In Phase 3 while wolves are delisted, controlled take of wolves in situations of chronic depredation or wolf-related declines of prey populations (deer and elk) is allowed with Commission approval.
The vote was not unanimous. Commissioner Greg Wolley voted not to delist while Commissioner Laura Anderson supported delisting only in the eastern part of the state and voted against the motion.
Other Commissioners also expressed support for delisting in eastern Oregon only. However, they noted that Oregon ESA law does not allow for delisting in only a portion of the state. Commissioners will be sending a note to the Oregon State Legislature asking that the law be changed so that listing and delisting would be allowed in only a portion of the state for other species in the future. Commissioners also asked that penalties for unlawfully taking a wolf be increased. Currently, the maximum penalty is a $6,250 fine and a year in jail and that penalty does not change with the delisting of wolves.
The Commission is the policy-making body for fish and wildlife issues in Oregon. Its next meeting is Dec. 4 in Portland.