September 16, 2014
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.
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)
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.
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.