Wolves are welcome in one Western state

  Oregon may soon be the first Western state to independently welcome back wolves following their near eradication and reintroduction in the Lower 48. In September, a citizen panel of ranchers, hunters, wildlife activists and others presented the state Fish and Wildlife Commission with a blueprint that would allow eight or more wolf packs to move in from neighboring Idaho.

The strategy calls for at least four breeding pairs of wolves on both sides of a north-south line that divides Oregon roughly in half. The division is designed to spread the responsibility for wolf recovery across the state: Eastern Oregonians could loosen protections for the animals, even if they haven’t fully recovered in the western half of the state. "I just don’t want people in northeast Oregon to be stuck with having to deal with them, while people in Portland say, ‘Isn’t it nice we have wolves in Oregon?’ " says Joe Colver, a Portland trapper who helped draw up the plan.

If the Fish and Wildlife Commission accepts the plan in October, and the Legislature adjusts the laws accordingly, ranchers will be allowed to kill wolves they catch attacking livestock, although they will need a permit to do so on public land. A compensation fund will reimburse them for losses to wolves.

"I would prefer never to have a wolf in Oregon, but that’s not realistic now," says rancher Clint Krebs, who summers livestock in the Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon, and also served on the citizen panel. Oregon’s state Endangered Species Act requires the state to restore wolves across much of their range.