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.
“It is time for the department to honor and implement the Washington Wolf Plan that was agreed upon by all the stakeholder groups,” said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “The current backslide in protections for wolves is incredibly disappointing given the overwhelming support for wolves in Washington. It just demonstrates that this Department is out of touch.”
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 and two probable packs today. But wolf recovery in Washington is in its infancy, and at this early stage nonlethal methods of conflict-prevention should be the mantra guiding the state wildlife agency’s actions.
“Washington’s wolf plan itself notes that, at the early stages of recovery, the utmost caution be used in considering or implementing lethal control of wolves, because this is when the population is most fragile,” said Jessica Walz Schafer, conservation director for Gifford Pinchot Task Force.
The letter to the department was filed by groups representing hundreds of thousands of Washington residents, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, The Humane Society of the United States, Western Environmental Law Center, Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club, Conservation Northwest, Wolf Haven, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, Kettle Range Conservation Group, The Lands Council and Wildlands Network.