PORTLAND, Ore. – With no official public meetings scheduled on a proposal to remove Endangered Species protections for gray wolves, community members in Oregon have decided to hold their own gathering.
Supporters of listing the gray wolf as endangered in the lower 48 states are rallying outside of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Portland office at 5 p.m. Monday and will hear from U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon.
Gray wolves have been de-listed in eastern Oregon, but they still remain protected west of the Cascades.
Sristi Kamal, a senior representative with Oregon, Defenders of Wildlife, one of the groups organizing the meeting, says wolf populations in Oregon have seen modest gains but need more time to fully return.
“We would like to see the wolves continue to recover and disperse throughout the state in Oregon as well as throughout the country, and this is a very premature move from our perspective and that’s why we want to make sure that our voices are heard,” she states.
The public comment period on this proposal ends May 14.
After the rally in Portland, there will be an expert panel discussion on wolves at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel near the Lloyd Center, where folks can also submit comments.
Supporters of delisting, led by ranching groups, say the population has made a big enough comeback to justify delisting.
According to the latest count, there are 137 known wolves in Oregon, mostly in the eastern part of the state.
Oregon still is in the process of developing a wolf management plan, which is another reason why Kamal stresses federal protections are important.
Some conservation groups worry de-listing could lead to trophy hunting or trapping of wolves. Kamal says those practices aren’t allowed in Oregon right now, but that could change.
“With no federal protection, all those terms and conditions such as hunting, trapping or how do we manage wolf populations, all comes down to the wolf plan,” she states. “So, at least having some sort of federal protection under the Endangered Species Act gives this species a baseline protection that it desperately needs.”
Similar community forums on gray wolf protections were held last week in California and Colorado.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service – OR