Ethics Complaint Lodged Against Oregon Lawmakers Sued Over Gray Wolf

Published June 21, 2016

Cascadia Wildlands, an environmental group in Oregon, has filed a complaint with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission alleging three Oregon state lawmakers committed ethics violations.

Cascadia says the lawmakers’ attempt to pass a bill limiting legal action to prevent gray wolf populations in the state from being removed from the state’s Endangered Species List qualifies as unethical behavior.

Citing evidence showing gray wolf populations in the state have been growing and safe from decline, Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Commission (OFWC) decided to remove the gray wolf from the state’s Endangered Species List in 2015. OFWC reported the wolf population had grown by 36 percent in 2015 alone.

OFWC’s decision was challenged by Cascadia Wildlands, who, according to court filings, said it was “premature and scientifically flawed.”

State lawmakers passed House Bill 4040 in March 2016 confirming the Commission’s decision. Citing the new law, the Oregon Court of Appeals threw out Cascadia’s lawsuit in April.

Cascadia Wildlands responded by filing an ethics complaint against Oregon state Reps. Sal Esquivel (R-Medford), Greg Barreto (R-Cove), and Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie). The complaint alleges the state representatives made “numerous false statements and misrepresentations” in order to help HB 4040 pass.

Esquivel is not concerned about the ethics complaint.

“The ethics complaint is just trivial,” Esquivel said.

Why The Complaint?

“The reason [for the ethics complaint], I think, is to recruit people and to send a message to their allies in the Democratic Party and the State of Oregon that says, ‘This is what we’re going to do to you if you cross us,'” Esquivel said. “Nowhere in the bill does it prohibit anyone from filing a lawsuit. It doesn’t do that, and they know it.

“It’ll be dismissed. I’m not even concerned about it,” said Esquivel. “It concerns me how they utilize this to smear three of us, a Democrat and two Republicans, and use this as their recruiting poster, in my opinion.”

Gray wolves have not caused significant problems in Esquivel’s mostly urban district, but farmers raising livestock in rural areas of the state have had problems.

“You can’t go out and just shoot a wolf. That’s against the law,” said Esquivel. “[Delisting] allows farmer John out there to shoot a wolf just like he can shoot a dog that is chasing his livestock.”

Mary C. Tillotson ([email protected]) is a freelance writer from Michigan.