The Biden administration should reject pleas from groups that earlier this week advocated for resuming federal protection for gray wolves in parts of the West, including Eastern Oregon.

The legal petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society and Sierra Club asks Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to use her emergency authority to protect wolves under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Wolves in the Northern Rockies region, which includes Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, the states with the largest wolf populations, were removed from federal protection in 2011.

That decision by Congress also ended federal protection for wolves in the eastern part of Oregon — east of Highways 395, 78 and 95. That area, which includes Baker, Union and Wallowa counties, is home to a large majority of Oregon’s wolves, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).

The petition was prompted by decisions by lawmakers in Idaho and Montana that make it much easier to kill wolves in those states. Idaho Gov. Brad Little said the goal is to reduce that state’s wolf population from 1,500 to the allowed minimum of 150.

None of this is applicable, though, to Eastern Oregon. Here, the wolf population has risen steadily since federal protection ended and ODFW took over responsibility for managing the animals. The minimum estimated population has more than doubled in six years, from 81 at the end of 2014 to 173 at the end of 2020. Wolves don’t need federal protection in this part of Oregon.

— Jayson Jacoby, Baker City Herald editor

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