The Oregon Fish and Wildlife commission is finally set to vote on a plan for managing wolves in the state, after years of contentious meetings.
The commission is expected to vote in March, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported .
As in other northwestern states, wolves have been controversial in Oregon, with ranchers saying they wreak havoc on livestock and conservationists saying they play a key role in the ecosystem.
The main sticking point has been over when and how lethal action can be taken against wolves that kill livestock.
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The first wolf management plan was implemented in 2005 and revised in 2010, just a year after wolves made their return to Oregon after dispersing from packs in Idaho. The plan was supposed to be updated every five years, but the 2015 revisions became mired in argument and repeated delays ensued.
The state said it will release the management plan to the public before the vote, but the plan currently allows officials to consider killing wolves that have been confirmed to have killed livestock twice. However, officials typically don't approve wolf kills until after three or more confirmed depredations, the agency said in a written statement.
"In practice, ODFW has denied more lethal removal requests for wolves than it has approved," the statement said.
The state hired a professional facilitator last year to oversee five meetings between the sides, beginning last August. But all four conservation groups involved — Defenders of Wildlife, Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands and the Center for Biological Diversity — pulled out of the discussions last week, just before the last meeting. The groups said the state failed to seriously consider their proposals.
"It was a very difficult decision to make after years of advocacy and coming to the table in good faith," said Quinn Read, Northwest director for Defenders of Wildlife. "If we thought there was still an opportunity for meaningful discussion, we would be there."
Derek Broman, carnivore coordinator for the state agency, said the decision by the conservationists was disheartening.
"We were disappointed these groups left the discussion and we did not have the full stakeholder group present at the final meeting," Broman said in a statement. "Since the drafting of the original 2005 plan, stakeholders remain very passionate so consensus is challenging to achieve."
Jim Akenson, conservation director for the Oregon Hunters Association, said the talks had been heated at times, but the process had been fair.
There are more than 120 wolves living in a dozen packs in Oregon, most of them in the northeastern part of the state. There were 17 confirmed wolf attacks on livestock in 2017, according to the state. Five were killed that year for repeatedly attacking livestock.