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OR: Gov. Kate Brown Thinks Wolves Need Federal Protection, But Not In Oregon

by Tony Schick

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is distancing herself from one of her agency heads’ support for stripping away federal endangered species protections for gray wolves. She said she was not aware of her wildlife chief’s support for the move and that she doesn’t agree with it.

At least, not all of it. While Brown made clear in a letter sent to the Trump administration Wednesday that she does not support federally delisting wolves, she also doesn’t think federal protections are still warranted in Oregon for the wolves, whose official population count in the state is at least 137.

Brown told reporters Thursday that she and Oregon Fish and Wildlife Director Curt Melcher have a “disagreement in philosophy” regarding whether wolves still need to be federally listed throughout the Lower 48.

A wolf of the Wenaha Pack captured on a remote camera on U.S. Forest Service land in northern Wallowa County.

A wolf of the Wenaha Pack captured on a remote camera on U.S. Forest Service land in northern Wallowa County.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

But she has stopped short of advocating for ongoing federal protection of gray wolves in Oregon, instead walking a fine line in a letter this week to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

Oregon’s effort “gives me confidence that wolves are on the path to recovery and do not warrant a listing within Oregon,” Brown wrote. She said wolves should be federally listed because they need protections elsewhere.

Asked Thursday whether that stance meant she would support a partial federal delisting of wolves, just in Oregon, Brown was noncommittal.

“It depends upon what the scenario looks like,” she said. “It’s not like wolves pay attention to statewide boundaries. This needs a regional strategy and a range-wide recovery plan.”

Wolves are already partially delisted in the eastern third of Oregon and Washington by a 2011 act of Congress. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now considering removing protections for the wolf across its range, and is collecting public comments on the matter until mid-July.

Removing federal protections would put smaller and less-established populations in western Oregon under state management, opening the potential for more ranchers to kill wolves that attack livestock and removing a barrier to future opportunities wolf hunting.