Oregon: State fish and wildlife to delay decision about gray wolves

Published: August 10, 2002

The Associated Press
News Register, McMinnville, Oregon

CORVALLIS, ORE - 8/12/02 - The state Fish and Wildlife Commission decided on Friday to take its time deciding how to handle gray wolves migrating to Oregon, rejecting petitions from ranchers and environmentalists who have been trying to shape wildlife policy.

"Stay tuned," said commission chairman John Esler. "We are going to have lots of good discussion the rest of this year and find out how people feel about wolves in this state."

The commission rejected a petition from the Oregon Cattlemen's Association and other farm groups that sought to remove the gray wolf from the Oregon Endangered Species List. Ranchers said they do not want wolves welcomed back to Oregon after they were eliminated 50 years ago because they will attack livestock.

Acting on advice from legal counsel Bill Cook, the commission unanimously rejected the cattlemen's petition because it did not meet the requirements of commission rules.

Cove rancher Sharon Beck, a past president of the cattlemen, said the commission made a mistake not to remove the wolf from the state endangered species list because environmentalists eventually will sue to force the state to develop a potentially costly management plan for wolves.

"The attorney said it didn't address the science," Beck said about the panel's rejection of the cattlemen's petition. "It's a scientific fact that there are no wolves in Oregon. They don't see it."

The association's executive director, Glen Stonebrink, said a new petition would be submitted rather than going to court or seeking a legislative change.

The commission also rejected a petition from the Oregon Natural Desert Association and other environmental groups demanding the state create guidelines to protect migrating wolves from being shot or harassed, and determine how state lands and state agencies can help the wolves that move to Oregon.

Cook advised the commission that the petition was flawed because it sought actions specifically exempted under the commission's rules.

The Legislature enacted requirements in 1995 for wildlife survival guidelines and other measures, but the commission exempted species listed before 1995. The wolf was listed in 1987.

Oregon Natural Desert Association attorney Peter Lacy said the commission appeared to be headed down a path very similar to that sought by environmentalists.

"It's just a slower time line and not the specific requirements under the law," he said.

Since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been experimentally reintroducing wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyomiing, three have strayed into Oregon. One was shot, one was hit by a car and one was captured and sent back to Idaho.

The agency has said it is moving to remove the wolf from the federal endangered species list and it will be up to the states to manage wolves in the future.

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