Oregon's top wildlife official last week told the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service the state supports the feds' proposal to remove the gray wolf from the Endangered Species list.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced plans to delist the animal in March.
In a May 9 letter, first reported by Capitol Currents, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Curtis Melcher lauded Oregon's wolf plan as sufficient and said it didn't expect state gray wolf populations to decrease after federal delisting.
"The [ODFW] has been working diligently toward and in preparation for federal delisting and is currently situated to become the primary wildlife agency responsible for wolf conservation and management statewide," Melcher wrote.
He added that ODFW "supports the [USFWS] determination that the gray wolf in the lower 48 United States and Mexico (except the Mexican wolf subspecies) no longer meets the definition of an endangered or threatened species under the federal ESA."
The letter has quickly drawn outrage from conservation groups, who say Gov. Kate Brown, who oversees the department, is betraying commitments she made to protect Oregon's environmental interests from the Trump Administration.
"Brown's record on wildlife is the worst I've seen in twenty years of working on conservation in Oregon," Oregon Wild's conservation directory Steve Pedery says. "Who needs Trump when you've got Kate Brown?"
In 2017, after President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris climate accord, Brown joined governors in California and Washington in saying the West would form a "green wall" against Trump.
"Given the vacuum in climate leadership that has resulted from the election of Donald Trump," the statement read, "our states must continue to form a 'green wall' in the West that will maintain climate leadership in the United States."
Conservation groups say ODFW's letter goes against that commitment. But discontent among conservationists about Brown's handling of the state's wolf plan has been long-brewing. In January, four groups pulled out of the governor's stakeholder meetings, saying revisions to the wolf plan made it easier for livestock owners to lobby for killings.
In April, outrage exploded over Brown's nomination of a big game hunter to the commission that oversees the wolf plan. The decision pushed Oregon Wild to raise funds for attack ads against the governor.
Amaroq Weiss, Center For Biological Diversity's senior west coast wolf advocate, says that ODFW's letter goes against scientific consensus.
"Highly credentialed specialists are clearly saying [gray wolves] are not recovered," Weiss says. "We are dismayed to see ODFW come out with this decision, particularly at a time when the state wolf plan is up for revision and going to be voted on June 7 by the Fish and Wildlife Commission."
A spokesperson for Gov. Brown did not immediately respond to WW's request for comment.