Gray wolf. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.
SEATTLE. Conservation groups appealed to Governor Jay Inslee today to order the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to draft enforceable rules that limit when the state can kill endangered wolves for conflicts with livestock.
Today’s appeal, filed by WildEarth Guardians, Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, and Western Watersheds Project seeks a reversal of the commission’s June 26 denial of the groups’ formal petition for wolf-management rules.
“Unfortunately for Washington’s state-endangered wolves, the stakeholder process is broken. The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife relies on the Wolf Advisory Group for wolf management decisions, which gives disproportionate power to ranching and hunting interests. Effectively, this has silenced the public and created a system in which common-sense rules and modern science can be completely ignored,” said Samantha Bruegger, Wildlife Coexistence Campaigner at WildEarth Guardians. “It is critical to initiate rulemaking to repair the impossible situation the Wolf Advisory Group has created.”
The state has killed 31 endangered wolves since 2012. Twenty-six of those wolves were slaughtered at the demand of the same livestock operator, Diamond M Ranch, in the Kettle River Range on the Colville National Forest in northeast Washington.
In late June, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife issued a kill order on the Togo Pack, and today they issued a kill order for a wolf in the Wedge Pack. Agency staff recognize that this high-conflict area is prime wolf habitat. If enforceable requirements to use proactive deterrence measures aren’t implemented, conflict with wolves will continue, today’s appeal says.
The groups’ appeal proposed a mix of new and amended rules that would provide clarity to the agency, livestock operators, and the public. The amended rules would require that livestock operators use appropriate nonlethal deterrence methods to prevent conflict between livestock and wolves. The new rules would ensure that the state kills wolves only as a last resort.
“These are common sense rules that incentivize livestock producers to use non-lethal, preventative measures and encourage these producers to enter cooperative agreements with the Department,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “To be clear, livestock operators have the right to defend their own animals, but if they want the state to use public dollars to kill wolves on their behalf, these operations are going to have to play ball.”
“Livestock producers must manage their cows to reduce conflict with wolves, and this requirement should be welcomed by the Department,” said Jocelyn Leroux, Washington/Montana Director of Western Watersheds Project. “These rules are necessary so the Department can manage the wildlife they are tasked with protecting for a healthy, flourishing population across their native range.”
“The state’s constant killing of wolves shows that the current system is completely broken,” said Sophia Ressler, a Washington wildlife advocate and staff attorney at the Center. “New rules would save wolves, prevent livestock losses and provide the accountability the people of Washington deserve in the management of our endangered wolves.”
The governor has 45 days to respond to the appeal request. Gov. Inslee could overrule the commission’s decision and require that a rulemaking be initiated, which would open a comment period to seek public input on new rules.
Sophia Ressler, Center for Biological Diversity, (206) 399-4004, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, email@example.com
Jocelyn Leroux, Western Watersheds Project, (406) 960-4164, firstname.lastname@example.org
Samantha Bruegger, WildEarth Guardians, (970) 363-4191, email@example.com