Posts Tagged ‘Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’

Feb06

Groups Urge More Cautious Approach on Washington’s Wolf-kill Policy

2019372475
 For Immediate Release, February 6, 2014
Contacts: 
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463
Jessica Walz Schafer, Gifford Pinchot Task Force (503) 221-2102 x 101
 
Groups Urge More Cautious Approach on Washington’s Wolf-kill Policy
Letter Urges Revision to State’s Policies on Lethal Control of Recovering Wolf Populations
 
OLYMPIA, Wash.— Twelve conservation organizations sent a letter to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife today raising concerns about the agency’s increasingly aggressive approach to killing endangered wolves and urged a more protective stance when it comes to the state's fledgling wolf population. The groups, working together as the Washington Wolf Collaborative, are requesting that the department revise its protocol for lethal control of wolves involved in wolf-livestock conflicts. Specific requests include a greater emphasis on nonlethal measures to keep livestock away from wolves and ensuring that Washington’s wolf lethal control policy is at least as protective of wolves as policies in place for wolves in neighboring Oregon.
 
“Washington’s wolves need tolerance and patience, not policies that are quick on the trigger,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The current protocol would allow wolves to be killed after just one or two conflicts with livestock, even though there’s no scientific literature confirming that killing wolves even solves the problem. Wolves are an endangered species and shouldn’t be managed like deer, elk or other game where the answer to every problem is just to start shooting.”
 
Washington’s wolf plan was crafted over five years by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife with input from a 17-member stakeholder group; it included more than 65,000 written comments from the public and a peer review by 43 scientists and wolf managers from outside the state.
 
Unfortunately, after the wolf plan was adopted in 2011, the state agency immediately transferred management authority over wolves from the Endangered Species Division to the Game Management division. Since then, agency actions toward wolves have strayed from the very conservative approach that is appropriate and necessary for recovering an endangered species. On Jan. 24, the agency issued a lethal control protocol, granting itself authority to kill wolves under circumstances that are a far cry from the precautionary approach that should be taken in the management of a recovering endangered species.
 
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Oct31

WDFW: Did You Ever Think to Ask?

Washington WolfBy Bob Ferris

In my experience so many conflicts are avoidable simply by checking in and asking simple questions.  In our office we do it all the time.  Is anyone else too hot?  Is my humming of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony bothering you?  Can I put popcorn in the microwave?  Anytime someone deals with a space or any other resource that is shared or co-owned a little consideration is an order.  

Collaborations or co-creations often spring from this approach and are a good thing, too.  More heads tend to add value to the product and also help spot those little issues that might turn out later to be Godzilla-like in their repercussions.  It is also a matter of courtesy.  

That is why the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s position of support for the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) gray wolf delisting proposal is so troubling.  It was done in the absence of any visible effort to gather input from those people who actually own the wildlife in question—the citizens of Washington, all of them.  

And while the agency certainly can and should make informed pronouncements about Washington’s wildlife, they should be more humble and circumspect when commenting on elements of federal rules or regulations that impact wildlife and habitats beyond their jurisdiction and owned by other states and citizens.  The agency would be unlikely to think that their successes in managing bears or elk, for instance, would give them license to comment on Alaska’s bear management plans or Colorado’s steps to cull diseased elk.  But giving a blanket and unqualified endorsement of the USFWS is essentially the same action.  

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is basically a good agency and we feel that we have a productive working relationship with them.  That said, we do think that they often miss important details like the broader implications and unintended consequences of this and similar actions.  To be clear, those unintended consequences include incomplete recovery in western Washington, stalled recolonization of states with great habitat and organized resistance such as Utah, Nevada and Colorado, and diluted opportunities in California. They also, like many wildlife agencies, forget that their public is much broader and more diverse than the hunting, angling and ranching communities.  These are important players and stakeholders but are not the only voices when it comes to wildlife.  Please join us in asking the agency and the Fish and Wildlife Commission to be more deliberate, judicious and sensitive to the views of all owners and users of Washington’s magnificent wildlife resource.  Please take action below.

WDFW Please Reconsider Your Position on Wolf Delisting

The following state legislators in Washington are asking questions about the Department's position, and we thank them for the efforts and their leadership on this issue:  

State Senator Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island)
State Rep. Kris Lytton (D-Whatcom, Skagit and San Juan Counties)
State Rep. Hans Dunshee (D- Snohomish County) 
Senator Christine Rolfes (D-Kitsap County)

Oct11

Mr. Cady Goes to Washington or Ten Bears and Josey Talk Wolves

By Bob Ferris

I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s and watched Westerns with my dad.  We liked the action, wildness and, at times, the messaging contained in the films about cowboys, mountain men, desperados and the first folks in the Americans.   Somewhere in the proteinaceous filing cabinets of my brain I am sure that I have a collection of favorite scenes and lines.  And one of my favorites is the scene between Clint Eastwood and the late Will Sampson in The Outlaw Josey Wales (below).  
 

I think of this clip because I was just getting briefed on Nick Cady’s trip to Washington to speak before the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf team on behalf of these recovering canids.  Our intent in sending Nick to Olympia was two-fold.  First, after developing a relatively strong Wolf Plan in Washington, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, under pressure from the livestock industry, has been steadily whittling away at protections for wolves.  And clearly the Wedge Pack train wreck still stings and we wanted to make absolutely sure that happenstance was not repeated.

Our second intent was to bring what we have crafted through nearly two years of negotiation in Oregon north so that parties in Washington can benefit from all the hard work and lessons—both good and bad—that we have learned through our efforts in Oregon.  

The message delivered by Nick and others in our collation is much like the movie’s in that it proffers a clear choice between a path of unpleasant and painful, mutual destruction or one where we figure out exactly what we need to do to live relatively peacefully together.  Our preference is for the latter as our experience tells us that the most creative and effective solutions come from situation with similar dynamics, but we are also fully prepared for the former.  

Aug15

Conservation groups seek stronger wolf protections

 

By Ann McCreary–Methow Valley NewsPhoto by Scott Flaherty
August 14, 2013

Prompted in part by the state’s extermination of the Wedge Pack last year, a coalition of conservation organizations is advocating amending some provisions of Washington’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan to make them legally binding.

A petition filed by eight West Coast conservation groups asks the state Fish and Wildlife Commission to codify – or set into law – key elements of the plan. The petitioners say setting those policies into law would “bring greater certainty, accountability and transparency to wolf management in the future.”

The commission will hold a conference call meeting on Friday (Aug. 16) to consider the petition, which was submitted July 19. State law requires the commission to respond within 60 days.

A staff summary prepared for the meeting recommends the commission deny the petition because many areas of the plan identified in the petition are already being codified “and will continue to be amended as needed over time.”

State agencies have authority to adopt administrative codes, or rules, that are legally enforceable. Key aspects of the wolf management plan that petitioners want to become rules include the definition of what constitutes a wolf attack; provisions for lethal control (killing) of wolves and compensation to livestock or pet owners for losses to wolves.

The state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, adopted in 2011, was the result of a public process that took five years and 23 public meetings, 15 months of meetings by a 17-member stakeholder group, generated more than 65,000 written comments, and was peer-reviewed by 43 reviewers, the petition states.

“The Plan incorporates science as well as social and economic considerations, and represents five years of negotiated compromises … by stakeholders whose views regarding wolves spanned the widest possible range,” the petition states.

Without making key provisions legally binding, however, “the plan at this time is arguably no more than advisory,” petitioners said. “With codified rules, commercial livestock operators, conservation organizations, and regular citizens will all know with much greater certainty when and how the agency will react to a variety of situations. …”

Several key areas of the plan are proposed to be amended as legally binding rules, including provisions for lethal control by citizens and conditions for compensation for loss of property caused by wolves, said Dave Ware, game division manager for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). WDFW is currently taking public comments on these and other proposed amendments to the wolf plan until Sept. 20.

In a summary prepared for Friday’s meeting, Ware noted that petitioners disagree with several of WDFW’s proposed rules. One proposal would change the plan’s definition of “attack” from “biting, injuring or killing” to read “evidence to support the fact that animal to animal contact has occurred or is immediately imminent and the animal is in the attack posture or mode.”

Another proposal would eliminate the plan’s requirement that citizens obtain a permit from WDFW in order to kill a wolf caught in the act of attacking livestock (in areas of the state where wolves are not federally listed as endangered).

The amendments would also make permanent an emergency rule adopted earlier this year, which allows killing wolves caught attacking any domestic animal, including pets. The wolf management plan only allows for killing wolves attacking livestock.

“In this case the emergency rule … is outside of the plan,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity in California, one of the petitioners.

“When you have an agency introduce amendments … with language that is different from what the wolf plan said … you’re unraveling the plan piece by piece,” Weiss said.

“When the Wedge Pack action happened last fall, people were concerned that the plan wasn’t being followed,” Weiss said.

Wolves in the Wedge Pack in Stevens County were determined to be responsible for livestock injuries and deaths, and were subsequently shot by WDFW. Weiss said the cattle owner had not cooperated in non-lethal efforts to deter attacks outlined in the wolf management plan, and there were conflicting opinions from experts about whether wolves were in fact responsible for the attacks on the cattle.

Ware said WDFW officials regularly meet with the department’s wolf advisory group and are refining recommendations about the proposed changes to the wolf management plan. “We are having that … discussion now to get at predictability in compensation, lethal action,” Ware said.

“As suggested by the petitioners, a plan should be flexible and adaptive in order to successfully achieve its objectives, in this case recovery of wolves,” Ware said in his summary. He said WDFW is working “to maintain an open and transparent process of managing wolves.”

Petitioners include Cascadia Wildlands, Eugene, Ore.; Western Environmental Law Center, Eugene, Ore.; Gifford Pinchot Task Force, Portland, Ore.; Kettle Range Conservation Group, Republic, Wash.; The Lands Council, Spokane; Wildlands Network, Seattle; and Washington Chapter of the Sierra Club, Seattle.

Jul19

State of Washington Petitioned to Better Protect Wolves: Seven Groups Ask State Wildlife Agency to Follow, Enforce Wolf Plan

For Immediate Release, July 19, 2013
 
Contacts:  
 
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613
John Mellgren, Western Environmental Law Center, (541) 525-5087
Bob Ferris, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463
Greg Costello, Wildlands Network, (206) 260-1177
 
State of Washington Petitioned to Enforce Wolf Protections
 
Seven Groups Ask State Wildlife Agency to Codify Wolf Plan Into State Law
 

OLYMPIA, Wash.— In an effort to stop the indiscriminate killing of Washington’s wolves, seven conservation groups filed a petition today calling for the state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission to make the state’s wolf-management guidelines legally binding. The new push to codify provisions put in place in 2011 comes after the state killed seven Wedge Pack wolves last year — a decision that ignored Washington Wolf Conservation and Management Plan provisions governing when lethal control of wolves is allowed. 

In a comprehensive five-year process, Washington’s wolf plan was crafted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife with input from a 17-member stakeholder group; more than 65,000 written comments from the public; and a peer review by 43 scientists and wolf managers from outside the state. Yet despite the plan’s formal adoption by the Fish and Wildlife Commission in December 2011, department officials have publicly stated they view the plan as merely advisory and have recently proposed numerous amendments to Washington’s Administrative Code that significantly depart from the wolf plan’s provisions.

“Despite years of hard work to develop this wolf management plan with buy-in from all concerned stakeholders, when it came to the Wedge Pack, the state failed miserably,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity.  “The state’s killing of seven wolves last year was tragic, unnecessary and violated the wolf plan. But Fish and Wildlife got away with it because the wolf plan isn’t currently enforceable. Wolves — and Washington taxpayers — deserve better.”
 
“Making the wolf plan legally binding will help avoid future confusion and mistrust over how wolves are being managed and will prevent the occurrence of such clear departures from the plan’s provisions, as happened last year with the Wedge Pack,” said John Mellgren, a staff attorney with Western Environmental Law Center.  
 
Wolves were driven to extinction in Washington in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. They began to return from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s, and their population has grown to 10 confirmed packs today. This represents solid growth, but wolves in the state are far from recovered and face ongoing threats. The state Fish and Wildlife decision last fall to kill the entire Wedge Pack in northeastern Washington for livestock-related conflicts resulted in a firestorm of public controversy; the department issued its wolf kill order despite conflicting opinions from experts about whether the initial livestock losses were due to wolves and despite the livestock owner’s refusal to take adequate proactive steps to prevent losses.
 
“The reestablishment of wolves in Washington is still in its infancy, and the species needs ongoing, adequate protections and certainty in management actions to recover and conserve a sustainable wolf population here,” said Josh Laughlin, conservation director for Cascadia Wildlands. 
 
In addition to provisions regarding conflict-prevention strategies and the specific circumstances when lethal control of wolves is allowed, the plan also sets forth requirements for ongoing monitoring of the health and sustainability of wolf populations in Washington; the publication of annual reports to keep the public updated regarding the status of wolf recovery and conservation; and meeting specific population goals before regional delisting of wolves within the state can take place. But because the plan’s provisions have not been codified into law, none of them are enforceable; they can be changed by the department or commission at any time without public input.
 
The petition to increase protections for wolves was filed by groups representing tens of thousands of Washington residents, including: the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, Western Environmental Law Center, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, Kettle Range Conservation Group, The Lands Council and Wildlands Network.
 
Today’s filing of the petition with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission starts the clock ticking on a 60-day statutory period within which the state must respond.
 
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For additional information and background please see:

 
 
 

 

 

 

Apr29

Reasonable People Can Disagree, but…

 

By Bob Ferris

“Reasonable, even intelligent people can, and frequently do, disagree on how best to achieve peace in the Middle East, but, peace must be the goal of our foreign policy tools, whether they be by the stick or by the carrot.” Nick Rahall Congressman from West Virginia
 
I have always liked the above quote because I think it is transferable to a lot of other issues.  In this instance, I am thinking about the wolf.  Reasonable, intelligent people can and often do disagree on the best pathways for wolf recovery.  All things being equal I have found that people’s reasonableness will win the day—when that reasonableness is honest and is allowed to flourish. 
 
The problem when we try to apply this approach to wolves in Eastern Washington and this recently rushed through “emergency rule” is that we are not always dealing with reasonable people.  And even if those people started out reasonable, anti-wolf forces are working overtime to make them less so.  
 
Northeast Washington-based hunting guide Dale Denney had similar suggestions on how conservationists could meet hunters halfway: “Learn to accept the fact that wolves need to be managed (especially problem wolves) if you ever want the public to accept them. Pro-wolf groups also need to promote responsible management of problem wolves and agree with wolf numbers that fit into our modern ecosystems without upsetting the balance that has been established over the last 100 years. Many hunters would be more acceptable to a moderate number of wolves established slowly rather than imposing unregulated numbers of wolves and preventing management.”  Quoted in Conservation Northwest’s Fall 2012 Newsletter
 
The above quote seems reasonable and paints Mr. Denney of Bear Paw Outfitters in a reasonable and open light until you realize that Mr. Denney is also the owner of the website Washington Wolves which is packed chock-full of anti-wolf rhetoric, untruths and fear mongering.   
 
“[Wildlife] Commissioner Chuck Perry of Moses Lake said he was a little concerned about the limit of killing one wolf, because they are pack animals.” (see here)
 
Moreover, this emergency rule—even if people are reasonable and responsible—lacks the appropriate conditions or sideboards to prevent abuse.  Where in here are requirements for pro-active preventative measures such as range riders or fladry prior to allowing citizen control of a state endangered species? And where are the prohibitions about attractive nuisances such as carcasses or bone piles? 
 
All we see here in this emergency rule is a wildlife agency continuing to act like an agricultural department and setting of the stage for another Wedge Pack disaster.  Only this time everyone will get to participate.  

 

Oct01

WDFW and the Wedge Pack—Not a Class Act

By Bob Ferris

People who teach in a classroom understand that the game is won or lost and the tone set extremely early in the process.  Setting and communicating clear boundaries and expectations on that first day of class can help head off problems and save a lot time and energy on corrective actions.  By this measure, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and their governing commission failed the Wedge Pack and also failed the public who expects that the agency—first and foremost—to protect the interests of the wildlife under their care.

The fact that WDFW field staff seemed unclear about procedures and policies, everyone except gas station attendants appeared to be verifying wolf depredation claims and agency’s strategy of not answering the phone and pretending to not be home when the concerned and angry public called only added to the Keystone Cop-nature of this whole affair.  In short, through all these actions WDFW has seriously lost the public’s confidence and either needs to make some massive changes or find new leaders that can.
 
What kind of changes?  First, the agency has to bend over backwards to rebuild trust with the public and remember that WDFW is in the business of species recovery not looking for ways to placate a recalcitrant and generally uncooperative public lands rancher.  There is another state agency that looks after the rancher very well, thank you.
 
Then WDFW also needs to go back to square one—or day one—in terms of making sure that appropriate expectations are set and the infrastructure is there to forward wolf recovery.  This will be tough because the agency has already shown itself to lack a certain level of gumption when it comes to dealing with the ranching community.  Since the agency has been tested and failed, push back will happen and WDFW will just have to push back harder and stronger.  This probably requires a new team—in short—a new sheriff has to come to town.
 
The public lands grazing aspect of this and the responsibility of leaseholders to undertake preventative measures and practice proactive stewardship may seem like a sideshow, but it is central to the problem.  The cattle industry has occupied the throne on public lands for a long time and many still embrace a romantic view of cowboys—including me occasionally.  But that inertia and those emotions have to be balanced with facts and reality particularly as we look at actions on our public estate.  
 
The last figures I reviewed peg the taxpayer costs of public lands grazing in the West at a cool $100 million annually.  Grazing fees on public lands are much, much lower than those on private.  Add to those costs the environmental impacts of grazing from degraded habitat and water quality that translate directly into fewer elk and deer plus less fish and song birds to diminished recreational opportunities on our wildlands.  I respect and often like ranchers, but in a multi-use setting there can be no kings or fiefdoms and all public lands users have to act responsibly.  And given that hunting, fishing, and wolf-oriented tourism are all economic engines in their own rights, it really begs the question of whether we can or should still treat these lands as some sort of subsidized bovine day care facility for a handful of ranchers.  This needs to be examined fully and acted on.
 
To address the above the agency needs to insist—particularly on public lands—that ranchers make sure they are doing everything possible to stem potential problems.  Conditions have changed with the natural arrival of the wolf and ranchers can no longer expect to just dump their cattle at the beginning of the season and pick them up at the end.  WDFW needs to simultaneously set expectations and also offer training and assistance.  And ranchers need to remember that the original public lands grazing fees were set lower because these were lands where conditions such as predation would be higher.
 
People in Washington State and around the world are deeply saddened by the loss of the Wedge Pack—particularly so—because this was a tragedy that could and should have been avoided.   The agency likely saved themselves from embarrassing court time through some last minute adjustments, but in the court of public opinion the judgment is strongly and painfully against them.  To satisfy that judgment, WDFW needs to remember and be true to all aspects of their mission, vision and goals (see here) and get to the job of recovering wolves, because the “class” is currently out there shooting spit wads and paperclips and it has to stop now.
 
Take action in Washington on October 5th:
 
 
Please See Related Posts:
 
 
 
 

Sep05

Press Release: Washington State Resumes Hunt for Wolves With Aim to Destroy Wedge Pack

For immediate release

September 5, 2012

Contact:    Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
                  Bob Ferris, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463     

OLYMPIA, Wash.— Following two depredations last week, the state of Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife ended its brief wolf-hunting reprieve and is again gunning to kill up to four wolves in the Wedge pack, with the aim of potentially breaking up the pack.  

“These wolves should not be killed,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “As long as Washington’s wolves remain endangered, every effort should be made to resolve wolf-livestock conflicts through nonlethal means, and by compensation of ranchers — which in this case has already occurred.”

Wolves from the Salmo Pack in Washington (WDFW)

 

Unlike some of the previous incidents of injury or death of livestock, which the department appeared to have erroneously determined were caused by wolves, the two depredations late last week appear to have indeed been caused by wolves, according to outside experts.  

Minimal action was taken to resolve the conflict with the Wedge pack using nonlethal means, including moving calving to areas not used by wolves, turning the calves out later and sending cowboys to check on the cows more frequently, according to information on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website. Many other actions designed to avoid fatal conflicts between livestock and wolves were not taken, including the use of a range rider or guard animals, or the practice of hazing wolves when they come near livestock. Resolving conflicts using nonlethal measures before killing wolves is a requirement of Washington’s wolf-management plan.

"Regardless of whether or not it is ultimately determined that wolves clearly killed livestock in the Wedge area, the experience to date has indicated that the department needs to take some time to get its ducks in row," said Bob Ferris, executive director of Cascadia Wildlands. "Endangered species such as wolves need to be managed with clear rules and solid procedures by people adequately trained in this process, and we hope to see that in the future."

The department killed a female wolf from the Wedge pack — so named because its range includes a triangle-shaped area defined by the Canadian border and the Kettle and Columbia rivers — on Aug. 7.

Wolves are just beginning to make a comeback in Washington after a government-sponsored program of poisoning, shooting and trapping the animal to extinction in the state. Since the historic return of wolves to Washington in 2008, eight packs have become established in the state. This past December the state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted the “Wolf Conservation and Management Plan for Washington,” a stakeholder-developed framework that outlines recovery and management objectives for wolves in Washington.

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Relevant Links:

Previous Wedge Pack Press Release 

Wedge Pack Blog Post

 

Aug24

State of Washington Urged to Halt Wolf Killing: Evidence Lacking That Wedge Wolf Pack Is Responsible for Livestock Loss

For Immediate Release, August 24, 2012

Contact: Bob Ferris, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Suzanne Stone, Defenders of Wildlife, (208) 861-4655
Greg Costello, Western Environmental Law Center, (206) 260-1166
 
OLYMPIA, Wash.— Seven conservation organizations sent a letter today calling on Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire and state agencies to rescind an order to kill four wolves in the Wedge wolf pack in northeastern Washington. The kill order comes just two weeks after the state killed another wolf-pack member. State agents have been dispatched and are currently in the field tracking down the wolves to kill.
 
The letter was sent by Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Humane Society of the United States, Snohomish Group of the Sierra Club Washington State Chapter, Western Environmental Law Center and Wolf Haven International. The groups assert that the state’s plan to kill the four wolves is illegal because the state has failed to show that the livestock were killed by wolves or that the ranchers took actions to avoid depredations. 
 
“This is a simple case of the state not following its own rules,” says Bob Ferris, executive director of Cascadia Wildlands. “You can’t kill four more members of the pack if you can’t show conclusively that wolves were responsible for the livestock deaths.”
 
There is a strict standard in the recently adopted “Washington Wolf Plan” about when lethal control on wolves can be authorized, including demonstrating that the livestock at issue “have clearly been killed by wolves.” A state of Washington incident report about a recent depredation near the Diamond M Ranch specifically concluded that the incident could not be confirmed as a wolf predation. 
 
“The killing of five wolves in the Wedge pack would completely violate both the spirit and letter of the state’s wolf-management plan,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The state needs to rescind this kill order right away and pull its staff from the field.” 
 
Several wolf-depredation experts have reviewed the state’s investigation reports and found that none of the injuries are characteristic of wolf predation on livestock. 
 
“The rush to kill these wolves based on misidentified predation sets a very dangerous precedent for wolf management in Washington,” said Suzanne Stone, northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife, who managed the organization’s regional wolf-compensation program from 1999 to 2011. “Instead of waiting for legitimate depredations to occur, the state should focus on using proven nonlethal alternatives that are much more effective at reducing conflicts over the long run. People will never learn how to coexist with wolves if the state is so quick to kill them.”
 
This pack is known as the Wedge pack because its range includes a triangle-shaped area defined by the Canadian border and the Kettle and Columbia rivers. The incidents have taken place on leased grazing land within the Coleville National Forest.
 
“Managing the return of wolves to our public landscape is an emotional issue, and the state will always be pressured to take extreme control measures when livestock are killed regardless of whether a wolf was responsible or not,” said Greg Costello with the Western Environmental Law Center. “Therefore, it is imperative that the state’s integrity is maintained during the wolf recovery process to ensure fair and transparent decision-making.”
 
Wolves are just beginning to make a comeback in Washington after a government-sponsored program of poisoning, shooting and trapping the animal to extinction in the state. There are currently eight packs of wolves in Washington since the animals’ historic return in 2008. This past December the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted the “Washington Wolf Plan,” a stakeholder-developed framework that outlines recovery and management objectives for wolves in Washington. 
 
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Aug22

The Wedge Pack–Prudent Protocols and Thick Skin Needed

 

Washington wolf (WDF&W)

The situation with the Wedge pack in Eastern Washington is troubling and raising our blood pressure here at Cascadia Wildlands.  While we fully understand and support the need for management actions to deal with problem wolves, we are very concerned that Washington is putting the cart before the horse on this action.  Our concerns in this instance revolve around three areas:
 
1) Conclusive Verification: From what we have heard from various sources verification of the extent and seriousness of the depredation is in question.  We understand that there are 8 animals and those animals have been discovered during the last two months.  What remains in question is whether those animals were killed or harmed by wolves and whether those were killed or harmed by wolves in the last two months.
 
2) Apparent Lack of Preventive Actions: Because these potential depredations occurred on public lands and involve species listed under the Washington State Endangered Species Act, we think the State of Washington should make sure that the lessee has taken prudent actions to avoid depredation.  In this case, we have reason to believe that this lessee has not acted prudently and we think that should be a pre-condition on public lands.
 
3) Appropriateness of Remedy: We have heard that the state plans to kill four non-alpha wolves from the pack.  The stated rationale is that this will lower the food requirements of the pack and thus solve the problem.  We believe this is a political decision rather than a decision driven by science.  We are dubious of this being an appropriate remedy.  Moreover, this seems to violate the Washington wolf plan’s guidance about avoiding control actions during denning season.  
 
All wolf management actions occur in a fish bowl with shouting happening from many different quarters and often in the presence of unbelievable pressure—these are all givens.  But these programs must be guided first by good science and then by ethics-based commonsense.  Those programs that work best are built around strong, pre-established protocols and covered with an abundance of thick skin.  We think the wolf management program in Washington needs to pay more attention to the former and think about acquiring the latter.
 
Lest I be accused of offering harsh and detached criticism, I administered the wolf compensation program for roughly eight years when I worked at Defenders of Wildlife and was the one who ultimately signed off on all compensation payments made during that time.  I understand the level of pressure and the nature of the vitriol. It is a necessary part of running a defensible program while at the same time forwarding recovery.  
 
Bob Ferris
Executive Director 

 

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