Plea for emergency declaration to address wolves denied

By Katy Nesbitt, The Observer June 30, 2010 09:18 am
ENTERPRISE — Wallowa County’s request to Gov. Ted Kulongoski and the Office of Emergency Management for a state of emergency declaration due to wolves has been denied.

The county made the request so that it might have access to funds for managing the growing wolf population.

Mike Carrier, the governor’s Natural Resources Policy director, said that the request doesn’t apply.

“Funding trapping and collaring wolves is not within the authority of the Office of Emergency Management,” Carrier said.

Wallowa County Board of Commissioners Chair Mike Hayward received a letter from Carrier on June 25 that said, “This situation does not qualify for funding from the Office of Emergency Management as requested in your resolution. However, as part of our discussions with ODFW, we will ask the department to advise us of its funding needs to respond to local concerns and to implement refinements to the Wolf Conservation Plan. As those needs are identified, we will work with the department, the legislature and other stakeholders to secure funding.”

Hayward said he was not surprised by the reply.

“We need more money to deal with this issue,’’ he said. “The request does, however, start a conversation.”

The commissioners had hoped the request would increase funding for tracking wolves in order to better document their activity and slow down cattle depredation. Six calves were confirmed as wolf kills by ODFW between May 5 and June 5.

Though Wallowa County is currently the only county with a confirmed breeding pair and 14 documented wolves, Hayward said he believes it will soon become a statewide issue.

In 1999 the Wallowa County commissioners created Resolution 99-18 and County Ordinance 99-013 as preemptive measures against the threat of wolves migrating into Oregon from Idaho.

The resolution said, “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shall immediately destroy or return all wolves from experimental populations that are found in Wallowa County at the expense of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shall be held liable for any damages from wolf predation while in Wallowa County.”

In May 2009 the gray wolf was de-listed as a federally endangered species. Since then, ODFW has taken the lead in managing wolves, which remain on the state endangered species list.

Hayward said after consulting with attorneys, the county cannot preempt state and federal laws. The state of emergency request was an attempt to call attention to the situation that Wallowa County ranchers face. With a growing wolf population in the county, the belief is cattle depredation will increase as well.

The Oregon Wolf Plan is in the comment period and will be under review by the ODFW Commission at its Oct. 1 meeting in Bend.

Carrier’s letter said, “The point you made today that there is much to learn during this early phase of wolf repopulation that can inform adaptations to the plan is very insightful and important. To that end, I will continue to work with you, your commission and ODFW to address your concerns.”