The subject of wolves is front and center for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The agency released the working draft of its wolf management plan to stakeholders Nov. 17. The draft highlights changed wording from the draft released last April.
ODFW media representative Michelle Dennehy said that the plan will be discussed at a Dec. 8 ODFW’s wildlife commission meeting that will include a panel of stakeholders but no public comment. The results of that meeting will be worked into a draft to be presented at the commission’s Jan. 19 meeting, which will include public comment.
Dennehy said that the present revised version reflects the concerns of the plan’s stakeholders, including the public and commission members. She named a number of the plan’s significant changes, including the addition of several sections. For example, the role of wolves in ecosystems and how it might apply to Oregon wolves.
Additional sections include wolves as special status game mammals. The agency is following the lead of the legislature, which changed the status of wolves from protected nongame wildlife to game mammals in 2009.
“It recognizes the wolves’ distinct history in extirpation and conflict,” she said. “It’s based on Oregon’s management success with respect to other large carnivores ... but also recognizes the factors that make the wolf different from other large carnivores.”
While some have questioned the final draft being approved before the early 2018 count, Dennehy said it was time for the approval.
“This has been going on for more than a year now,” she said. “We’re looking to bring this to completion. We have others asking us when the plan is going to be finished. It’s a big public process, and we didn’t want to rush it.”
Arran Robertson, media representative for Oregon Wild, said the April plan was not to the group’s liking and that the latest revisions did little to change that.
“The previous version that’s being edited was not starting from a strong place in terms of wolf conservation,” he said. “I would say that although there’s a few small changes that improve here and there, there’s also some things that take it further back. It doesn’t look like a better plan from our perspective.”
Robertson was unable to provide further details because the group’s wolf expert, Rob Klavins, was on vacation and not available for elaboration.
Oregon Wild works to protect and restore wildlands, wildlife and waters in the state as an enduring legacy for future generations.
Local rancher Todd Nash, who also serves on the county’s board of commissioners as well as the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association wolf task force, saw little in the plan to encourage ranchers.
“There’s protection for wolves, but very little for anything else,” Nash said. “Things we’ve been asking for are absent in there -- even some of the things that the commission directed.”
According to Nash, collaring wolves into Phase 3 of the plan was not on the table. He said that both Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the management plan call for at least two wolves of each pack to be radio collared so the wolves and their locations can be monitored more closely.
“They never really achieved that, like a lot of other things they don’t achieve,” Nash said.
The agency explained that collaring wolves was expensive because they’re hard to find, but Nash said collaring helped identify which packs stayed within close range of livestock. He said that Michael Findley, the commission chair, assured him money could be found.
“They get a directive from the chair of the commission, then you read what’s in the plan, but it’s not there,” Nash said.
The rancher said suggestions of more local control of suspected depredations was also completely dismissed by the agency. He added that the suggestion that law enforcement, including Oregon State Police, be involved in the process was also discarded, even though local agencies were willing to participate.
Nash said that another bone of contention with the plan is a section that called for mandatory minimum wolf population on units, but did not dictate maximum wolf populations. He also said the plan as it stands probably won’t be acceptable to either ranchers, hunters or conservationists.
“It doesn’t address the three components that I think are necessary to have wolves in Oregon,” Nash said. “Livestock producers need to be assured that their livestock can be protected in an effective manner; hunters need to be assured they’ll have viable wildlife populations to hunt; and the environmental community needs to be assured that wolves that are not in conflict with the last two will be unharmed. If we have all three of those, we achieve equilibrium and possibly live with each other.”
In Nash’s opinion, conservation groups probably called ODFW wolf coordinators Russ Morgan or Roblyn Brown enough to wear them down while livestock producers try to openly air their grievances in public debate.
“It looks like most of the environmental applications are being addressed but very little of what we’ve asked for,” Nash said.
The rancher said that he hopes changes will take place in the plan before the final revision is issued. He said that as it stands, he didn’t think stakeholders such as the Oregon Hunters Association, the Farm Bureau and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation would sign on to the document.
“It’s as if we aren’t even in the room,” Nash said.
The Chieftain also tried to elicit comments from Cascadia Wildlands, a Eugene-based conservation group, but did not receive a reply.