Cattlemen’s bill would increase state wolf control

By Observer editorial February 07, 2012 09:41 pm
Legislators are considering a bill proposed by the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association which would increase the ability of state wildlife managers to kill wolves if they’ve attacked livestock.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials thought they were following the state’s wolf plan when they set out last fall to kill two Wallowa County wolves.

But three conservation groups filed a lawsuit to block the kill because the targeted wolves are members of the Imnaha pack, the original pack to form in Oregon after wolves spread from Idaho and the only pack so far to be blamed for livestock deaths here.

The conservation groups argue that the wolves are protected by the state’s Endangered Species Act and, if the alpha male and another wolf are allowed to be killed, the pack will probably die out because it will only have the alpha female and a pup remaining.

The Oregon Court of Appeals has indefinitely stopped the hunt while considering whether the killing of wolves is warranted under the state’s Endangered Species Act, a process expected to take six or eight months.

It’s unclear if the proposed law allowing the state’s killing of wolves would end the lawsuit.

But officials with Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Oregon Wild — the groups that brought the lawsuit — claim the Cattlemen’s Association is trying to circumvent their lawsuit with the bill.

They argue that by providing a loophole for the killing of wolves, the bill would create a precedent for getting around state protection for any species that gets in the way of ranching, logging or development.

Cattlemen’s Association officials claim the bill would simply clarify the ODFW’s power to kill wolves who kill livestock.

This bill may not solve the problem and perhaps the issue of endangered species protection for wolves needs to be decided in court.

But there is no doubt that wolves are killing livestock with increasing frequency here in Northeast Oregon and that must not be allowed to continue.