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DeFazio, Enviros Slam Oregon Wolf Bill

The Oregon State Legislature is considering a bill this week that, according to Congressman Peter DeFazio, would "would ratify the flawed decision by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission to remove the gray wolf from Oregon’s endangered species list and block judicial review of their decision."

DeFazio send a letter to the Oregon State Senate Democrats "blasting" the bill, HB 4040 according to a Feb. 22 press release. He writes that "the actions that Oregon has taken, particularly the consideration of HB 4040, directly undermine my efforts at the federal level."

He writes, "I am currently fighting to maintain protections for the gray wolf at the federal level in response to increased political attacks and pressure to remove the wolf from the federal ES [endangered species list]."

The congressman is concerned with a lack of judical review that the bill is calling for. "In addition to having concems with legislation that would ratify the Oregon Department of Fish and wildlife's (Department) flawed recommendation to remove the gray wolf from the state ESA, HB 4040 also preempts judicial review of the decision, an extreme precedent-setting measure that should not be taken lightly."

DeFazio takes issue with the lack of an independent peer review process:

"The Department’s recommendation to delist the gray wolf was premature and not subject to an independent peer-review process as required by state law. Through my extensive experience with federal wolf delisting efforts, I know it is critically important that wildlife management, especially management of an iconic predator species like the gray wolf, is based upon sound scientific findings and analysis. The Department’s decision not to open their findings to a rigorous scientific review is both alarming and telling, especially since the pending federal proposal to delist the gray wolf has been mired in a near identical controversy over the science used to justify the delisting in addition to concerns over the improper influence by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the composition of the independent peer-review panel."

DeFazio is not the only one concerned about the way the bill and the wolf delisting has come to pass. Rob Klavins of conservation group Oregon Wild writes of the bill, "We're concerned about the merits of the bill as well as the clear intent/effect to sidestep the public's right to independent review of the decision."

Oregon Wild is one of three environmental organizations that "have requested a review of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission’s controversial 4-2 decision to delist wolves in November, 2015." The basis of the challenge is that the decision did not follow Oregon state law.

In a memo alleging disinformation on the bill in the Legislature, Oregon Wild writes, "HB 4040-A would be to sidestep the public’s right to hold a government agency (ODFW) accountable to its own laws."

DeFazio is also concerned with the public input that could be lost. In his letter to the Legislature he says, "The extensive stakeholder outreach and collaborative approach used by the state to develop Oregon's Wolf Management Plan, which is currently up for review this year, have made Oregon the model for wolf conservation in the nation." 

The congressman concludes, “Decisions on whether to remove a species from the state ESA should not be taken lightly or used as a political bargaining chip. At the very least you should be sure that the Department’s recommendation to delist the wolf is legally and scientifically sound.”

According to Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands, another conservation group working on wolf issues, a Senate committee will vote on the bill today after which it would pass to the full Oregon Senate.