Oregon's Gray Wolves Could Still Regain Endangered Species Status

Wolf activists received a reconsideration from the Oregon Court of Appeals to continue their lawsuit to protect gray wolves.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission wants to strip Oregon's gray wolves of their endangered species status, but the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that wildlife activists can continue their legal challenge against this action.

The argument centers around whether or not the gray wolves, in their current range in Oregon, are actually in danger of extinction or not.

Previously, the Oregon Department of Justice had ruled that a lawsuit proposed by wolf activists to reinstate the gray wolves' endangered species status was a moot point under House Bill 4040, which stated that the ability for wolves to repopulate was not being threatened.

Cascade Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Oregon Wild—the organizations that filed the original lawsuit against delisting the gray wolves—reached out to the Oregon Court of Appeals for a reconsideration, and they got it.

During yesterday's ruling, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals Erika Hadlock wrote that these issues are "complex matters of public importance" and the fewer than 120 gray wolves in Oregon deserve reconsideration as endangered species. This recognition means they would receive legal protection against hunters, allowing them to continue the recovery of their population.

This population has already seen a spike of close to 36 percent since 2014, when the gray wolf population was a mere 77 wolves. As of March, the Department of Fish and Wildlife reported there were 110—a fact that the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission used in support of delisting the animals in 2015. But, wildlife activists argue that just because a population is regrowing does not mean that it should no longer be considered endangered.

"In no way should management of Oregon's small population of recovering wolves be dictated by the livestock industry and its anti-wolf allies in Salem," said Nick Cady, legal director with Cascadia Wildlands. "This ruling is a hopeful first step to ensure politics do not trump science when it comes to managing our treasured wildlife."