Conflict Over Northern Rockies Delisting for Wolves Extends to Pacific Northwest
While the battle over Northern Rockies gray wolf management has been most visible in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, wolf issues are also heating up in the Pacific Northwest as Washington and Oregon strive to manage small but growing packs. Environmentalists are blasting Oregon wildlife managers for killing two wolves last month, dropping the state's wolf population to 17. The state also has issued 30 permits authorizing land owners to kill wolves caught attacking livestock or dogs.
Meanwhile, Washington is struggling to develop a recovery and management plan that satisfies both wolf advocates and opponents as wolves move back into the state, which is now home to three confirmed packs.
Gray wolves in the eastern third of Washington and Oregon were removed by Congress from the federal Endangered Species List in May along with wolves in Montana, Idaho and parts of Utah. The Northern Rockies delisting measure was inserted into a last-minute budget deal funding the federal government through the rest of the fiscal year (Land Letter, May 5).
However, wolves are still protected by federal law in Wyoming and in the western two-thirds of Oregon and Washington. State law also protects wolves in the two Pacific Northwest states, where the animals were once abundant before being extirpated as ranching and farming expanded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
But as Rocky Mountain wolves slowly recovered after the late 1970s, some of the animals began to trickle into the Pacific Northwest, giving rise to conflicts between ranchers, property owners and wildlife advocacy groups "When wolves came into Oregon, they came into a different political, social and ecological landscape," said Rob Klavins, wildlands advocate for Oregon Wild. "We had a hope Oregon could do better than places like Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, and up until last year we had this feeling of 'all right, we can avoid the wolf wars.'"