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Washington Commission Rejects Petition for New Rules to Prevent Wolf Killing, Conflicts
The petition, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians, sought mandatory measures to prevent conflicts that have led to the killing of dozens of wolves in the state.
“Yet again, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has failed the public in favor of private business,” said Samantha Bruegger, a wildlife coexistence campaigner at WildEarth Guardians. “It’s time for rules that reflect sound, scientifically proven, nonlethal wildlife coexistence policy, rather than the whims and emotions of the livestock industry.”
“We’re incredibly disappointed that the commission rejected efforts to fix Washington’s broken wolf-management system,” said Sophia Ressler, a Washington-based staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Enforceable rules are crucial to fixing the mismanagement of our state’s endangered wolves. The status quo will continue to fail Washington’s wolves and all who care about them.”
The petition, filed in May, requested rules that would require livestock producers to use appropriate non-lethal deterrence measures to prevent conflict in an effort to avoid lethal control actions.
The petition also proposed additional rules in locations with consistent conflict, such as the Kettle River Range, the traditional lands of the Okanagan and Sinixt peoples. Of the 31 wolves killed by the state since 2012, 19 were in the Kettle River Range, and 26 have been killed on behalf of the same livestock operation, Diamond M Ranch. On June 17, WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, and Kettle Range Conservation Group filed a lawsuit to ensure that the U.S. Forest Service protects endangered gray wolves on the Colville National Forest in northeast Washington.
“The state is annually spending scarce public dollars killing entire packs of wolves at the behest of a single livestock producer, and it is having impacts on the species’ recovery,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. “We are hopeful the governor’s office will step in here and make the right decision.”
“It’s disappointing that the commission voted to maintain sub-par status quo management,” said Jocelyn Leroux, Washington and Montana director for Western Watersheds Project. “This will only mean more avoidable deaths for livestock and wolves.”
According to the state’s recently released annual wolf report, a new pack now lives in the same area where the Department of Fish and Wildlife killed the entire Old Profanity Territory pack in August 2019. That area of prime wolf habitat is where the department wiped out the Sherman pack in 2017 and the Profanity Peak pack in 2016.
The groups have 30 days to appeal the commission’s decision to Gov. Jay Inslee’s office. The governor could then 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.