Conservationists deal blow to Wildlife Services in landmark WA wolf case

http://yubanet.com/usa/Conservationists-deal-blow-to-Wildlife-Services-in-landmark-WA-wolf-case.php#.VoiWcTZdG1s

By: Cascadia Wildlands

OLYMPIA, Wash. December 21, 2015 – In response to a challenge brought by a coalition of conservation organizations, a federal court rejected plans to escalate cruel wolf killing in Washington state by the secretive federal program dubbed “Wildlife Services.” Federal District Judge Robert Bryan held that Wildlife Services should have prepared a more in-depth environmental analysis of the impacts of its proposed wolf killing activities, finding the program’s cursory environmental assessment faulty because the proposed actions would have significant cumulative impacts that are highly controversial and highly uncertain.

Wildlife Services is a controversial program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service responsible for killing millions of wild animals every year, including wolves, grizzly bears, otters, foxes, coyotes and birds, with almost no oversight or accountability.

Judge Bryan vacated the program’s analysis, stating “Wildlife Services shall not take any further wolf management actions in Washington under the proposed action alternative, but shall observe the status quo in place prior to the environmental assessment and [finding of no significant impact].”

“Wildlife Services has long asserted that it need not comply with our nations’ federal environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, but this decision rejects those arguments and requires Wildlife Services to comply with all federal laws, not just those it finds convenient to comply with,” said Western Environmental Law Center Attorney John Mellgren.

A 2013 internal audit revealed that Wildlife Services’ accounting practices lacked transparency and violated state and federal laws. The program employs incredibly cruel tools to kill wildlife including aerial gunning, leghold traps, snares and poisons.

“It is long past time that we base wildlife management decisions on the best available science, not on antiquated anti-wolf rhetoric and myth,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “Wildlife Services needs to come out of the shadows, update its analyses and adopt practices in keeping with modern science and values about the ethical treatment of animals.”

The environmental assessment prepared by Wildlife Services failed to provide data to support several of its core assertions. For example, Wildlife Services claimed that killing wolves reduced wolf-caused losses of livestock, yet recent peer-reviewed research from Washington State University directly contradicts this conclusion, finding that killing wolves actually leads to an increase in wolf-livestock conflicts. The environmental assessment also fails to address the ecological effects of killing wolves in Washington, including impacts on wolf populations in neighboring states and on non-target animals, including federally protected grizzly bears and Canada lynx.

“This decision is so incredibly encouraging,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. “We have been working for over a decade to hold Wildlife Services accountable for its blind, reckless lethal control programs. This decision paves the way for meaningful analysis of the program’s impacts and hopefully a meaningful look at whether or not this wolf killing is worth it.”

Washington has experienced Wildlife Services’ wolf killing program firsthand. In August 2014, Wildlife Services snipers shot and killed the Huckleberry wolf pack’s alpha female during a helicopter gunning operation. The death of the Huckleberry pack’s breeding female threatens the future of the entire pack.

Wildlife Services also “advised” the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in the contentious 2012 killing of Washington’s Wedge wolf pack. In that instance, WDFW killed seven wolves after predation of livestock on public lands, despite the rancher’s failure to take sufficient action to protect his cattle.

“The Court made a wise and prudent decision that safeguards the legal right of citizens to know what their government is doing in their name,” said Timothy Coleman, executive director of Kettle Range Conservation Group. “The so-called Wildlife Services cannot just grant itself authority to execute an endangered species absent the public interest or best available science.”

Wolves were driven to extinction in Washington in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. The species began to return to Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s and the wolf population in the state has grown to 13 confirmed packs. Despite this growth, wolves in the state are far from recovered and face ongoing threats. According to WDFW, Washington currently has at least 68 wolves in 16 packs.

The organizations, Cascadia Wildlands, WildEarth Guardians, Kettle Range Conservation Group, Predator Defense and the Lands Council were represented by the Western Environmental Law Center.

copyrighted wolf in water

Ruling bars federal Wildlife Services Program from killing wolves

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by on • 5:53 pm

Plaintiffs applaud judge’s conclusions

By Ann McCreary

A federal judge has barred the federal Wildlife Services program from participating in lethal removal of gray wolves in Washington, and rejected an Environmental Assessment (EA) prepared by the agency.

In response to a challenge brought by a coalition of conservation organizations, U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan said last week that Wildlife Services should have prepared a more in-depth environmental analysis of the effects of its proposed wolf management activities.

The lawsuit filed by five conservation organization earlier this year claimed that Wildlife Services, a federal program involved in wildlife management and conflict resolution, violated federal law by not preparing an adequately detailed environmental analysis of the effects of killing wolves that attack livestock in Washington.

An agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services has worked under contract with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) on lethal and non-lethal approaches to wolf-livestock conflict.

In 2014, Wildlife Services killed one wolf in the Huckleberry pack after state wildlife officials linked the pack to sheep kills. In 2012, Wildlife Services provided technical information to WDFW when the department killed seven wolves from the Wedge Pack following attacks on cattle.

In his ruling, Bryan said that “although Wildlife Services may have taken a hard look at the effects of lethal removal on non-target species, Wildlife Services did not take a hard look at the ecological effects of lethal removal or its effect on gray wolf populations” in its environmental analysis.

Bryan said the agreements on wolf management activities between WDFW and Wildlife Services left “the potential for substantial mismanagement of the Washington gray wolf population in the hands of Wildlife Services without the benefit of an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement).”

He said Wildlife Services failed to meet federal environmental policy requirements by not preparing an EIS and not taking a hard look at significant issues.

“Wildlife Services repeatedly but erroneously falls back on the position that it need not do so because it only intends to act at WDFW’s direction,” Bryan wrote.

Arbitrary action

The EA describes Wildlife Services’ intent to be bound to the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, which “is subject to changes or additions by WDFW, giving the public scant recourse,” Bryan wrote.

“Wildlife Services acted arbitrarily and capriciously and contrary to law by not preparing an EIS,” Bryan said. “Although aspects of Wildlife Services’ consideration under the Environmental Assessment and FONSI (finding of no significant impact) were sufficiently thorough, Wildlife Services misjudged the scope of its responsibility by deferring to WDFW, rather than diligently considering issues that may arise under the potentially broad scope of involvement in the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.”

The judge ordered Wildlife Services to “not take any further wolf management actions in Washington” beyond the status quo that was in place prior to the Environmental Assessment and its finding of no significant impact.

The judge’s ruling was applauded by conservation groups that brought the case.

“The court made a wise and prudent decision that safeguards the legal right of citizens to know what their government is doing in their name,” said Timothy Coleman, executive director of the Kettle Range Conservation Group. “Wildlife Services cannot just grant itself authority to execute an endangered species absent the public interest or best available science.”

“We have been working for over a decade to hold Wildlife Services accountable for its blind, reckless lethal control programs,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. “This decision paves the way for meaningful analysis of the program’s impacts and hopefully a meaningful look at whether or not this wolf killing is worth it.”

“Wildlife Services has long asserted that it need not comply with our nation’s federal environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, but this decision rejects those arguments and requires Wildlife Services to comply with all federal laws, not just those it finds convenient to comply with,” said John Mellgren, an attorney with Western Environmental Law Center, which represented the environmental organizations in court.

WDFW’s involvement

Donny Martorello of WDFW said that although Wildlife Services is now barred by the ruling from participating in lethal removal of gray wolves in Washington, the agency may continue to work on non-lethal management as requested by WDFW.

“Those activities have included trapping and collaring wolves, investigating reports of wolf-livestock depredations, and implementing non-lethal measures,” Martorello said in an email to members of the state’s Wolf Advisory Group.

WDFW filed a brief in support of Wildlife Services and Martorello said the two agencies are now considering their legal options for responding to the ruling.

In his order, Bryan said, “The decision on how to proceed — whether to prepare and EIS, renegotiate a narrower cope of involvement with WDFW, or abandon assistance efforts entirely — rests with Wildlife Services.”

Because the case is ongoing, WDFW would not discuss further details, Martorello said.

Organizations that brought the case are Cascadia Wildlands, WildEarth Guardians, Kettle Range Conservation Group, Predator Defense, and the Lands Council.

Gray wolves are protected as an endangered species throughout Washington under state law, and in the western two-thirds of the state — which includes the Methow Valley — under federal law.

There were at least 68 wolves in 16 packs in Washington according to a 2014 wolf census by WDFW. Two wolf packs have been confirmed in the Methow Valley.

Federal judge rejects some wolf kills in Wash. state

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http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Federal-judge-rejects-some-wolf-kills-in-Wash-state-363161961.html

Gray wolf (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) – A federal judge has rejected plans by a federal agency to assist in the killing of problem wolves in Washington state.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Bryan of Tacoma, Washington, issued a summary judgment last Thursday against the low-profile agency, known as Wildlife Services.

Bryan said the agency should have prepared a more in-depth environmental analysis of its agreement with the state of Washington to help kill problem wolves.

Bryan ruled in favor of conservation groups that sued the agency, concluding that an environmental assessment prepared by the agency was flawed.

Wolves were hunted to extinction in Washington at the turn of the last century. But they started migrating from neighboring areas in the early 2000s and there are an estimated 16 wolf packs containing 68 wolves in the state, all in eastern Washington.

Wildlife Services failed to create a full environmental impact statement about the proposal to reduce wolf conflicts in the state, Bryan ruled.

Wildlife Services is a program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture that is responsible for controlling the number of wolves, grizzly bears, coyotes and other wild animals. Officials at the agency didn’t have a response on the ruling.

Environmental groups cheered the ruling.

“It is long past time that we base wildlife management decisions on the best available science, not on antiquated, anti-wolf rhetoric and myth,” said Bethany Cotton of WildEarth Guardians.

Environmental groups contend the environmental assessment failed to address the full ecological impacts of killing wolves in Washington, including impacts on wolves in neighboring states and on other animals, such as grizzly bears and Canada lynx.

Wildlife Services has been involved in the killing of wolves in Washington in the past.

In August 2014, Wildlife Services snipers shot from a helicopter and killed the Huckleberry wolf pack’s alpha female. The death of that pack’s breeding female threatened the future of the entire pack, environmental groups contended.

Wildlife Services also advised the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in the 2012 destruction of the Wedge wolf pack in Eastern Washington. In that case, the state agency killed seven wolves after they preyed on livestock.

At the federal level, the state is split into two separate wolf populations. In the eastern third of the state, wolves are considered part of the large Northern Rocky Mountain population, which was removed from the endangered list in 2011. But in the western two-thirds of the state, wolves are considered part of the Pacific Northwest population, which is much smaller and still listed as endangered.

Another gray wolf pack identified in Methow Valley

http://methowvalleynews.com/2015/12/03/another-gray-wolf-pack-identified-in-methow-valley/

 

by on • 6:25 pm No Comments

Loup Loup Pack confirmed by wildlife officials

Photo courtesy of DavidMoskowitz A wildlife camera captured this photo of a Loup Loup Pack member.

Photo courtesy of DavidMoskowitz

A wildlife camera captured this photo of a Loup Loup Pack member.

By Ann McCreary

The Methow Valley is now home to two gray wolf packs, with a new pack confirmed to be living in territory that includes Loup Loup Pass.

State and federal wildlife officials last week confirmed the presence of the gray wolf pack and said it will be designated the Loup Loup Pack, reflecting the prominent landmark within the wolves’ range.

Wildlife officials also said last week that they are no longer receiving signals from a GPS radio collar on the breeding female of the Lookout Pack, the valley’s other wolf pack. Officials said they don’t know if the collar malfunctioned, or if the wolf died or was killed.

The female was captured and fitted with a collar last June, but the collar stopped transmitting data Oct. 20, said Scott Fitkin, a biologist with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in the Methow Valley.

“Collars fail. That’s one possibility,” said Fitkin.

The new Loup Loup Pack is believed to include several members, said Scott Becker, wolf specialist for WDFW.

“Right now it looks like at least six individuals,” Becker said Monday (Nov. 30).

For a few years people have reported wolf sightings and evidence of wolves in the area now confirmed to be Loup Loup Pack territory, Becker said.

“We did get some good sighting reports a couple of months ago … and were able to document signs of multiple individuals up there. We put out a few cameras but it wasn’t until the snow started flying that we were able to follow tracks out,” Becker said.

WDFW and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to monitor the new group over the winter and will attempt to capture and fit one of the wolves with a radio collar next summer to monitor the pack, the agencies announced last week.

Annual survey

WDFW conducts an annual wolf pack survey each winter, which confirmed 16 wolf packs in Washington at the end of 2014. Only three packs were confirmed in the North Cascades and the rest in eastern Washington. The Loup Loup Pack brings the number of wolf packs in the North Cascades area to four.

Gray wolves are protected throughout Washington under state law as an endangered species, and will remain protected until the population reaches goals outlined in a state Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

They are also protected as endangered under federal law in the western two-thirds of the state, which includes the Methow Valley.

Gray wolf packs typically range across a territory of about 300 square miles, Becker said. And they often travel very long distances to find mates and begin new packs.

“With the capability of wolves to disperse and find each other, the wolves that started that [Loup Loup] pack could have come from Montana or British Columbia,” Becker said.

The new pack “is probably ranging from the Methow to Okanogan” valleys, Fitkin said. “It’s not surprising to see a pack establish near the Lookout Pack.”

There is no evidence that the collar on the Lookout Pack female stopped transmitting because the wolf was poached or otherwise harmed, Becker said.

“We have no way of knowing because we don’t have a dead wolf in front of us,” he said.

“We have a 20 percent failure [collar] failure rate,” Becker said. The collars are expected to last about 18 months before their batteries wear out, he said. The collar had been placed on the Lookout Pack female about four months before it stopped transmitting.

The collars are designed to emit a “mortality signal” if the collared animal stops moving, so that wildlife officials can try to locate the animal. The collar on the Lookout female never gave off a mortality signal, Becker said.

“There’s a high probability that that animal is still alive and doing well,” he said.

Uncertain about Lookout Pack

It is unclear how many wolves are now in the Lookout Pack, according to wildlife officials. Fitkin said he conducted a howling survey in the Lookout territory in late summer, and received howling responses from what sounded like “a minimum of three or four pups.”

Becker said wildlife officials might try to collar another Lookout Pack member next summer.

Last winter, the Lookout Pack was believed to have four members — two adults, one pup and one juvenile wolf between one and two years old.

Under the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, wolves can be removed from the state’s endangered species list after 15 successful breeding pairs are documented for three consecutive years among three designated wolf recovery regions in the state.

A successful breeding pair of wolves is defined as an adult male and an adult female with at least two pups surviving to Dec. 31 in a given year.

Because the Lookout Pack had only one surviving pup last year, the Lookout wolves were not considered a successful breeding pair. The remains of one pup were found in an area burned over during the Carlton Complex Fire in July 2014. It was unknown what happened to other pups, if there were any.

Biologists aren’t sure how many wolves are in the Lookout Pack at this time, but estimate two to four adults and an unknown number of pups. If the pack does not have both a breeding male and female this year, it would not qualify as a successful breeding pair, even if there were multiple pups.

The Lookout Pack had up to 10 members in 2008, the year it was confirmed as the first gray wolf pack in Washington in more than 30 years. Over the next year the pack was decimated by poaching, until only the breeding pair and one yearling survived in 2009.

The breeding pair, which had been collared in 2008, had both disappeared by 2011. The Lookout Pack, named for Lookout Mountain, travels through a territory estimated by biologists at about 350 square miles extending roughly from Black Canyon in the south to Little Bridge Creek in the north.

Washington Ranchers want compensation for reduced weight gain, low pregnancy rates caused by wolves.

http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20151016/wdfw-seeks-panel-to-review-wolf-caused-losses

by Don Jenkins

Capital Press

Published:October 16, 2015 9:11AM

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
A Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife file photo shows a member of the Teanaway wolf pack. Washington wildlife officials are recruiting livestock experts and conservationists to advise the state

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will form a board to review claims for indirect losses caused by wolves.

Washington wildlife officials are recruiting livestock experts and conservationists to advise the state on compensating ranchers for lost production caused by wolves.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife plans to appoint up to five volunteers to serve on the new committee.

The panel will review WDFW’s approval or denial of claims for reduced weight gain, low pregnancy rates and higher-than-normal losses.

The department will make the final call on payments, but the panel will bring additional expertise and transparency to the process, WDFW wolf policy coordinator Donny Martorello said.

He said WDFW wants a variety of viewpoints represented. “Diversity is important. If it were all like-minded people, we’d need only one person,” he said.

WDFW pays ranchers the market value for livestock killed by wolves. The state’s wolf recovery plan also calls for WDFW to develop a system to compensate ranchers for livestock losses where there is no direct evidence wolves caused the damage.

Martorello said WDFW has not made any payments for indirect losses, but two ranchers have filed claims.

Volunteers will serve staggered one- or two-year terms. The committee may start meeting as early as mid-November and will likely meet about four times a year, according to WDFW.

Committee members will be reimbursed for travel expenses.

Applications and nominations must be submitted in writing and include a description of “experience in collaborating with people who have different values.”

Applications also must include the candidate’s name, telephone number, email address and organization affiliations.

Candidates should explain why they would be an effective board member and report their experience with livestock, natural resource management or wildlife conservation.

People or groups nominating members must include their names and contact information.

Applications and nominations must be postmarked by Oct. 31 and mailed to WDFW Game Division Manager Mick Cope, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091 or by email to Mick.Cope@dfw.wa.gov.

Bill Proposed to Remove Wolf Protection in UT, OR, and WA

http://newsradio1310.com/bill-proposed-to-remove-wolf-protection-in-ut-or-and-wa/

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse has introduced a bill to remove the gray wolf from Endangered Species Act protections in Washington, Oregon and Utah.

The freshman lawmaker says removing wolves from the list is “long overdue” and would allow state wildlife officials to manage wolves more effectively.

The Yakima Herald-Republic reports his bill would also prevent states fromcopyrighted Hayden wolf in lodgepoles providing protections to wolves that are stronger than those found in the federal Endangered Species Act.

A spokesman for Conservation Northwest, which works on wolf recovery issues, calls the bill disappointing. Chase Gunnell says there are only a few wolves receiving federal protection in Washington and Oregon

Read More: Bill Proposed to Remove Wolf Protection in UT, OR, and WA | http://newsradio1310.com/bill-proposed-to-remove-wolf-protection-in-ut-or-and-wa/?trackback=tsmclip

 

Fortunately for Cougars and Wolves, there’s Only One Washington

From the Capital Press article:

One Washington, two sides

by Don Jenkins    March 26, 2015

OLYMPIA — Residents of Eastern Washington are frustrated with the more populous Westside of the state. And nowhere was that frustration more prominent than one day last month in the Capitol. On the docket were cougars and wolves, two hot-buttoncopyrighted Hayden wolf in lodgepoles issues that split the state right down the center of the Cascade Range.

In one hearing, Eastside ranchers were asking senators to loosen the state’s law against using hounds to chase cougars and keep the predators away from livestock.

In another hearing, an Eastside county commissioner told legislators that his constituents were fed up with wolves.                                                                              …

In the weeks since, lawmakers have agreed to take a close look at the wolf problem. The hounds, however, will remain on the leash. …

More: http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20150326/one-washington-two-sides#.VRRp-qw3hjc.facebook

“Social Acceptance” of Wolves has Disappeared in NE Washington

[Never mind that wolves are social animals too…]

From Capital Press: http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20150224/wolf-cougar-and-hemp-bills-meet-deadline-to-stay-alive-in-olympia

Here is a look at where some agriculture-related bills stand:

• Wolves: House Bill 2107 requires the Department of Fish and Wildlife to amend by June 30, 2017, the wolf recovery plan. The bill instructs game managers to review thecopyrighted Hayden wolf in lodgepoles plan in light of the fact that wolves are concentrated in northeast Washington but have not spread throughout the state.

The bill got bipartisan support in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. But it may be amended by the full House to require that changes to the wolf plan be reviewed under the State Environmental Policy Act, a lengthy process.

Northeast Washington officials say “social acceptance” of wolves has about disappeared in their corner of the state. If SEPA is attached to HB 2107, any change to the wolf recovery plan likely will be pushed back much later than mid-2017.

• Cougars: SB 5940 would allow hounds be used to pursue or hunt cougars in Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Chelan and Okanogan counties for the next five years. Other counties could opt in. The bill received bipartisan support in the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee.

WA legislation proposes relocating wolves

http://www.spokesman.com/outdoors/stories/2015/feb/05/kretz-legislation-proposes-relocating-wolves/

THURSDAY, FEB. 5, 2015, MIDNIGHT

Kretz legislation proposes relocating wolves

Washington’s best wolf habitat is in the southern Cascade Mountains, where vast federal lands support more than 20,000 elk in the state’s two largest herds.

State biologists expect wolves to discover this prime territory and thrive there by 2022, after gradually dispersing south along the Cascade range.

But seven years is too long a wait for state Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, whose Northeast Washington legislative district is currently home to 11 of the state’s 14 wolf packs, as well as cattle ranchers and sheep herders.

He’s again sponsoring what he calls a “share the love” bill that would require the Department of Fish and Wildlife to try relocating wolves to other parts of Washington.

“Most of the support in the state for wolves … comes from areas where there are no wolves,” said Kretz, who last year sponsored a bill to capture Eastern Washington wolves and transplant them to the districts of West Side legislators opposed to any controls on the predators.

But the current bill, HB 1224, isn’t a jab at Western Washington, Kretz said. Instead, it’s intended to speed up wolves’ colonization of the state, which would hasten the removal of federal and state protections for wolves and allow for more active management.

The legislation is among several wolf-related bills scheduled for hearings today in the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Relocating wolves would face steep political hurdles, but some livestock producers and environmental groups think the idea has merit.

The Washington Cattlemen’s Association wants ranchers to have more options for dealing with wolves that attack livestock, said Jack Field, the association’s executive vice president. That won’t happen until wolf populations recover to the point that federal protections are lifted throughout the state, and relocating wolves would make that happen faster, he said.

According to Washington’s wolf recovery plan, wolves will remain a protected species until at least 15 breeding pairs are documented across the state for three years. The pairs must be geographically dispersed so there are breeding pairs in Eastern Washington, north-central Washington and a zone that includes the south Cascades and Western Washington.

Environmental groups also support faster colonization.

“The South Cascades has the best wolf habitat in the state because of the prey base,” said Mitch Friedman, Conservation Northwest’s executive director. In addition to the Yakima elk herd, with about 10,000 animals, the area contains the St. Helens herd, which is infected with a bacterial hoof disease.

“The state is hiring gunners to mercy-kill some of those elk. Wolves would do a better job,” Friedman said.

But the southern Cascades and the Olympic Peninsula, which also has good wolf habitat, are rural and conservative, much like Northeast Washington. Politically, it would be difficult to get the support to relocate wolves, Friedman said.

“There’s a big difference between wolves coming there on their own paws versus in a state pickup truck,” he said.

That’s one of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s concerns, said Dave Ware, the agency’s policy lead on wolves. In the Northern Rockies, anti-wolf advocates have never forgotten the federal government transplanted Canadian wolves into Yellowstone and Central Idaho.

“There’s that stigma that you brought them here, versus them moving in naturally,” Ware said.

The endeavor also would be costly and time consuming, he added. State biologists figure they would need to trap and transplant about 30 wolves – preferably in packs – to end up with several breeding pairs that would stick around in their new location.

Such an action would require thorough state and federal environmental analysis, which would take two to three years to complete. A wolf relocation pilot project, as outlined in Kretz’s bill, would cost about $1 million, according to state estimates.

In a few years, wolves will be establishing packs in the South Cascades on their own, Ware predicted. Wolf tracks have been documented northwest of Yakima, in the foothills of the Cascades, where credible sightings of multiple wolves also have occurred. Last spring, a photo of a wolf was taken in Klickitat County.

“They are bounding around. They’re looking,” Ware said. “It’s just a matter of time before a male and female find each other and decide to start a pack.”

But Kretz said livestock producers in Northeast Washington need faster action to protect their animals from wolf attacks. He and Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, also are sponsoring or co-sponsoring several other wolf bills.

Also on the agenda for today’s hearing are bills that would order the Fish and Wildlife Department to manage wolf problems with “lethal means” under certain circumstances and give the Fish and Wildlife Commission more leeway in changing a state endangered species classification.

Sen. Brian Dansel, R-Republic, is sponsoring a companion bill in the Senate, allowing state endangered species to be declassified by region. If adopted, it would allow the state to manage wolves differently in the eastern one-third of Washington than in other parts of the state.

“We’re putting out a number of ideas,” Short said. “We’re saying we just need some relief.”

copyrighted wolf in river

Capital Press: Washington lawmaker proposes moving wolves

http://www.capitalpress.com/Washington/20150116/washington-lawmaker-proposes-moving-wolves

Don JenkinsCapital Press

Published:January 16, 2015 4:56PM

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A northeast Washington legislator introduces bills to speed up wolf recovery.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A northeast Washington legislator has introduced two bills to hasten wolf recovery and the day the predator no longer is protected by the state’s endangered species law.

Rep. Joel Kretz, an Okanogan County Republican, said ranchers can’t wait several more years for wolves to spread out before measures are put in place to control their numbers.

He said “social acceptance” of wolves has eroded in his district because his constituents have suffered the consequences of what’s purported to be a statewide goal.

“I’m really concerned about the disproportionate distribution more than anything,” Kretz said. “I don’t want to kill the last wolf, but we have to have more management tools than we’ve had so far.”

House Bill 1224 would authorize the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to study moving wolves to state or federal lands in regions of the state they have yet to venture.

House Bill 1225 would allow the state to remove wolves from its endangered species list in regions where recovery goals have been met. Regional delisting would open up discussions about whether to regulate wolves as a game animal in some areas.

The state’s recovery plan carves up the state in three districts, with each region needing at least four breeding pairs. The plan does not limit the wolf population.

The state’s wolf recovery plan holds out as an option moving wolves to help the species establish itself throughout the state. WDFW Game Manager Dave Ware said the agency isn’t considering it.

At a work session Thursday, Ware told the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee that moving wolves would require studying the environmental impacts. The studies would take years and by the time they were done, wolf recovery objectives would probably have been met, he said.

WDFW projects recovery could occur as soon as 2021.

“Moving a few wolves out of the northeast probably isn’t going to solve your problem because those wolves would probably be replaced pretty fast,” Ware told Kretz at the work session.

Kretz proposes waiving state environmental review laws in moving wolves. The state would still have to comply with federal laws.

Two years ago, Kretz introduced tongue-in-cheek legislation calling on the Olympic Peninsula and Whidbey Island to “enjoy” the “ecological benefits” of “apex predators.” The bill this year has a serious tone, calling on WDFW to look for “suitable (wolf) habitat that is located the farthest from any known and recognized wolf packs and the most unlikely to be populated through the natural dispersion of the species.”

The bills have been referred to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Hearings on the bills have not been scheduled.

“I think there’s more of a recognition we have a real problem in the northeast,” Kretz said.

De-listing wolves by region would erase a lot of the frustration, he said.

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