FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Statement on wolves before the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission
Made by Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest
A statement on Washington's wolves by Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest, made before the WA Fish and Wildlife Commission, October 5, 2012.
Wolves are the new normal in Washington. They are going to be part of our state for the indefinite future. Conservation Northwest, along with three quarters of Washingtonians, celebrates this fact.
The removal of the Wedge Pack was tragic. The crisis might have been avoided if, in the early summer, the rancher had been open to adjusting his practices and the Department had been more firm and effective. Since we are all new to life with wolves, we shouldn’t be surprised by mistakes. But Conservation Northwest’s support of the Department’s lethal removal decision in no way endorsed the efforts that led up to it. We only recognized that no better option existed to resolve a situation that had become damaging to the public support wolves need.
Conservation Northwest will never again support lethal action in the absence of both solid requirements for early action to avoid conflict, and a transparent record of good faith and timely cooperation by the rancher.
Wolf recovery must work for all concerned. Agriculture is a vital part of our region. Ranches provide food, open space and quality habitat for our wildlife. Some ranchers won’t have the means to invest in the good animal husbandry techniques that are essential to reducing wolf conflicts. There is an essential role for the state and groups like mine in helping. Conservation Northwest has been and will continue to put our money where our mouth is, offering information and funding to ranchers who are ready to explore solutions that are allowing livestock and wolves to coexist in the Rockies.
The public has every right to demand that wolves – part of our lawful natural heritage – be respected. We have an even greater right expect those who graze livestock on our public lands to use the highest quality and predator-friendly stewardship. While individuals have the right to hate wolves, conservation groups and the government, they do not have the right to harm our resources. The consequences of sloppy ranching should be felt by the rancher, not the wolves.
Conservation Northwest remains committed to the wolf recovery plan. We see three keys to rapid recovery: First, retain strong protections for wolves, including high penalties for poaching. Second, double down on providing assistance to ranchers for good animal husbandry that reduces conflict. And third, let’s get serious about colonization of the South Cascades, including through translocation.
Until wolves are recovered statewide, these keys must be our focus.