Dear Governor Kate Brown,
You made a big mistake when you signed anti-wolf House Bill 4040 not long ago. I'm a proud progressive who is deeply irritated by this, notwithstanding my agreement with you on many other issues.
I am sad to report that Monday night, Governor Kate Brown signed HB 4040. This bill shielded the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife from public scrutiny and judicial review of their decision to strip endangered species protections from Oregon’s gray wolves.
If that is not evidence that the Governor is ashamed of this bill, I don’t know what is. But she put her name on it.
My wife and I are long-time advocates for top predators such as wolves and cougars. We're familiar with the solid research regarding their benefits to ecosystems through a trophic cascade.
In the years since the wolf reintroduction, Yellowstone has become a premiere scientific laboratory for wilderness observation and ecosystem recovery. Scientists have come from around the world to watch the effect wild wolves have on the park. We have discovered that an ecological effect called the “trophic cascade” has taken over Yellowstone, with the wolves initiating a more natural ecosystem balance than has been seen in over 65 years.
With only 5% of our nation’s wilderness left, people are recognizing the important roles complete ecosystems play in keeping all of us healthy. With new knowledge of the trophic cascade, we can now begin to focus wilderness recovery efforts on a wider variety of ecosystems. Using Yellowstone as an example, we can teach the world about the wolf’s positive and vital role in the wild.
Science. Facts. Reason. These are wonderful things. Until you signed HB 4040, I thought you believed in them.
Because HB 4040 was written by the Oregon Cattlemen's Association and passed with two-thirds Republican support. (See my previous post: "Why Governor Brown should veto the horrible Oregon wolf bill, HB 4040")
So it's pretty damn obvious that some sort of backroom deal was reached between the R's and D's at the legislature to approve the bill with sufficient Democratic votes for passage, given that Dems control both the House and Senate, plus the Governor's Office.
HB 4040 is an outrageous affront to Oregon's separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Almost certainly it prevents a court's review of the questionable evidence that led the Fish and Wildlife Commission to decide that having about 100 wolves in this state means they no longer are endangered.
A Salem Statesman Journal editorial said:
The legislation, House Bill 4040, is mystifying. It endorses the state wildlife commission’s decision last fall to take the gray wolf off Oregon’s official list of threatened or endangered species.
In doing so, the legislation apparently would block a lawsuit that conservationists have filed to overturn the commission’s decision.
So here we have the legislative branch of government lining up with the executive branch — the state Fish and Wildlife Commission — to preempt the third branch of government, the courts, from doing its job.
That seems like a blatant violation of the constitution’s separation of powers.
So now the Oregon Cattlemen's Association, which considers that the only good wolf is a dead wolf (I know this, because my wife has testified at numerous legislative hearings where ignorant ranchers in cowboy hats have said as much), is thrilled with your signing HB 4040, while environmentalists like me are outraged.
Well, Ms. Brown, I hope your campaign for another four years as a Democratic governor of this state gets lots of money from the Oregon Cattlemen's Association and their Republican friends, because I don't feel like giving you a dime.
When you signed HB 4040, this was an insult to sound science, transparency in public policy-making, your progressive supporters, and this state's environmental community.
You chose political expediency over doing the right thing. Sure, I understand this is the way governing works, but I don't have to like it, or approve of it. I often don't agree with Statesman Journal editorials, but in this case I do.
We firmly believe that Oregon and our natural resources are better off when competing interests find areas of agreement instead of resorting to litigation. Ranchers have legitimate concerns about wolves’ impact on livestock.
But it would be grossly unfair, and a bad precedent, for the Legislature to change the rules after the litigation has started.
Besides, aren’t Democrats — who control the Legislature and who drew DeFazio’s ire — the politicians who demand that environmental decisions be made on sound science, not unsound politics?