For Immediate Release, July 19, 2013
||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.
|Photo courtesy USFWS. Photos are available for media use.
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.