Dear Chair Finley & Commission Members,
Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project is primarily based in Fossil, Oregon. We work on four national forests, and have been active in Eastern Oregon for 25 years. Our mission is to protect and restore the natural ecosystems of the Blue Mountains and Eastern Oregon Cascades. Wolves are an integral part of ecosystem health in these areas. We are very supportive of their full recovery so that they can once again fulfill their ecological roles and have sustainable populations.
We wish to voice our opposition to the premature delisting of wolves. We are concerned that in light of ongoing threats from poaching and other sources of mortality, Oregon’s small wolf population continues to be in jeopardy of extinction. Wolves are still too limited in numbers and in distribution to maintain sustained populations or for ecological recovery to occur. If wolves are delisted, then shrinking populations in neighboring states, combined with weakened protections in Oregon, will not ensure sufficient genetic diversity and connectivity. Delisting will also threaten the establishment and viability of wolves across significant portions of their range within Oregon. Approximately 83 wolves is a very small number for any recovering population, especially given wolves’ pack structure and breeding dynamics. We are also very concerned that poaching will continue, and poses a very real threat to wolf recovery.
The law requires that the Commission base any delisting decision on scientific criteria related to the species’ biological status in Oregon and to use documented and verifiable scientific information. If the commission moves forward with the premature delisting of wolves, we request an independent review. We would also like to point out that under Oregon’s current management Plan, wolf numbers are up while depredations remain low.
Given the contentious nature of this decision and the political pressure to delist wolves, it is important to remember that there are many clear reasons to have strong legal protections in place for wolves:
- The public favors wolf recovery. Oregonians have been clear in their overwhelming support of wolves, and want strong protections in order to ensure wolf recovery.
- Good-sense economic strategy favors strong ecological protections for wolves. Oregon’s natural landscapes are one of its most valuable economic assets. Oregonians receive tremendous economic gains from clean water, livability, outdoor recreation activities, tourism, and other resources associated with our breathtaking natural heritage. Wolves indirectly and directly contribute to these economic gains.
- Wolves fill vital roles in ecosystems, such as helping to protect our streams and rivers from overgrazing by ungulates.
- Non-lethal control is effective. Working ranches that fully implement non-lethal measures have been successful at keeping depredations very low, even in areas of high wolf activity. Resources are in place for compensation, as well as for grants to help ranchers implement non-lethal control measures. Co-existence with wolves is possible and necessary.
- Killing wolves harms wolf pack structure, which may cause young, inexperienced, or immigrating wolves to be more likely to prey on livestock. Killing wolves will, in most situations, make livestock-wolf conflicts worse.
Please see our written comments for more examples, and for citations. Also please consider the strong evidence submitted by independent scientists suggesting that delisting is premature and unwarranted. We urge you not to weaken existing protections for wolves. Thank you for considering my testimony.
Paula Hood, Co-Director of Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project
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