Even as gray wolves continue to spread south beyond the bounds of the state, Oregon filed a friend of the court brief last week in a lawsuit claiming the animals’ federal delisting was “premature.”
Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum joined Michigan AG Dana Nessel in submitting the 15-page amicus curiaethat is supportive of arguments that the US Fish and Wildlife Service “unlawfully relied upon the recovery of the gray wolf in the Great Lakes states to delist the endangered species nationwide.” The news was reported yesterday by Michigan Live.
In late October 2020, the federal government declared gray wolves recovered in the Lower 48 and shifted management to the states, including in the western two-thirds of both Oregon and Washington, a move that took effect just after New Year’s Day.
Wolves in the eastern thirds of both states and the Northern Rockies had been delisted in 2011.
But environmental groups sued in U.S. District Court for Northern California, claiming various Endangered Species and Administrative Procedural Act violations. They called the delisting “premature,” a contravention of USFWS’s “responsibility to take a precautionary approach to wildlife management” and that it went against various past court decisions.
In the lead up to that, USFWS said ESA does not require that wolves occupy all former habitats, rather measures “whether wolves are in danger of extinction (endangered) or at risk of becoming so in the foreseeable future (threatened) throughout all or a significant portion of its range. By any scientific measure, gray wolves no longer meet the ESA’s standard for protection and so should be delisted.”
Oregon is where the director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife supported federal delisting until being undercut by Governor Kate Brown. A spokesman for the Democratic executive last fall stated, “A significant part of (the state management) plan relies on federal protection across Western states.”
DNA analysis shows that wolves in California’s three current packs and a fourth former pack are related to Oregon wolves, which themselves are related to wolves that came from Northern Rockies reintroductions and Washington recolonizations, which came from Canada and Northwest Montana.
In its recent Lower 48 delisting, USFWS said it will “continue monitoring gray wolves for five years to ensure continued success.”
Oregon’s wolf population grew nearly 10 percent last year to a minimum of 173 – meaning at the very least and likely many more.
The species is still protected in the state, where there are no hunting or trapping seasons, though the “the major change” that came out of full delisting is that lethal control can be used for cases of chronic livestock depredations where nonlethal tactics are stemming losses, as long as certain criteria have been met, according to ODFW.