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#RelistWolves x Student PIRG

Earlier this year, The #RelistWolves Campaign was proud to work with Student Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) chapters in 54 universities across 14 states to gather signatures calling on USFWS to relist wolves to the endangered species list. Below is a note from Addie Cooper and Olivia Heffernan, who led the effort at the University of Oregon and collected over 350 petition signatures in just two days!

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The #RelistWolves Week of Action at the University of Oregon

By Addie Cooper and Olivia Heffernan

My name is Addie Cooper and I am the current Chapter Chair of OSPIRG (Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group) at the University of Oregon (UO). We are a student-run, student-funded activist organization working to tackle environmental and social issues, on campus, statewide, and federally. 

 

This year OSPIRG joined a nationwide campaign of students from 54 university campuses from 14 states across the country calling on Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) to protect the gray wolves in the Northern Rockies by putting them back on the endangered species list! 

 

I grew up in Idaho, a state that, unfortunately, has very few laws and policies protecting wolves and other important species. I decided to attend the University of Oregon because of the beautiful nature and diverse ecosystems that I saw on campus and all around the state. Oregon prides itself on its environmental values. Having lived here for 3 years, I now consider myself an Oregonian, and I wonder how we can pride ourselves on these environmental values when such a keystone species is on the brink of extinction, with no real plan to ensure they survive and thrive for future generations. With the National Wolf Recovery Plan set to be released in December 2025, we have an opportunity to make a change for the gray wolves and we need to do it now. 

 

When our chapter first heard about The #RelistWolves Campaign at the Student PIRG National Student Training in August, we immediately knew we wanted to bring it back to campus. Our whole group was super excited to bring this campaign to the University of Oregon because we knew students would want to fight for the wolves! Oregon is one of the few states with a stable wolf population, so we knew we were uniquely positioned to make a difference on this issue.

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When the #RelistWolves National Week of Action was announced, we saw such an excited response from the members of OSPIRG. After announcing it, we frequently received follow-up questions about the virtual kickoff and other events surrounding the campaign. When we ran our campus outreach efforts,  we saw an amazing response. Calling for the protection of a species that plays a key role in maintaining our ecosystems is an easy cause to support, especially for young people who are committed to protecting the future of our planet.  We ended up collecting over 350 petition signatures in just two days! 

There is such a large knowledge gap about wolves and their importance as a keystone species. Many people take assumptions from folklore and fairytales and apply them to real, living creatures. Students seemed pleasantly surprised to find out that wolves manage their own population and that they are responsible for a negligible amount of farm attacks. It was so amazing to have the opportunity to connect with students from all over the country and talk with them about the wolves, debunking the common myths, and showing them cute pictures that were provided by #RelistWolves! Although USFWS failed to relist gray wolves last year, it was an important opportunity to engage hundreds of students at UO and educate them about wolves. As USFWS drafts the National Wolf Recovery Plan, we hope to continue our work growing our coalition of student advocates committed to protecting our country’s vulnerable wildlife.

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