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Wildlife commission adopts wolf recovery plan

Conservation Northwest applauds collaborative approach to wolf conservation

Conservation Northwest applauds the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for approving a state conservation and management plan for the gray wolf.

Olympia, WA Dec 03, 2011

Today the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to approve a state conservation and management plan for the gray wolf.

Crafted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), with the help of a seventeen-member public stakeholder advisory group, the plan went through an extensive vetting process.  WDFW consulted outside agencies and wolf experts, and conducted a blind scientific peer review. They held two public comment periods and several workshops, receiving comments from over 65,000 people – mostly supporting wolf recovery. The final product, adopted by the commission today, presents a science-based approach that balances the legal and biological requirements of a recovery plan with the real needs for on-the-ground management tools and a fair compensation package for the small number of livestock producers who may face impacts.

Derrick Knowles, an avid hunter who works for wildlife group Conservation Northwest, participated as a member of the Wolf Working Group.   Knowles congratulated WDFW and the Commission for their foresight and leadership towards finalizing a state plan for wolves:

“While it isn’t any one special interest group’s perfect plan, it’s the right plan for Washington and I applaud the Fish and Wildlife Commission for their leadership today.”

“Throughout the process I worked closely with hunters, cattlemen, scientists and other conservationists and my experience as a working group member convinced me that we can work through most concerns and differences, and be better off for it.”

“I am really proud of the work everyone has done to get us to this point.  We all spent countless hours serving on the Wolf Working Group to help shape the plan in a way that addressed everyone’s needs.  There was a lot of compromise.”

Jasmine Minbashian, who directs Conservation Northwest’s wolf program is also pleased with the outcome:

 “There is clearly a lot of support for a balanced wolf recovery plan in Washington, despite opposition from a minority.  A majority of the wolf working group supported it – including other livestock groups and some hunters.  Finding the middle ground on what is a polarizing issue – I’d call it a big success.”

“We’ve learned lessons from the conflict over wolves in the Rockies.  We want Washington to be a state where wolf recovery works without the divisiveness found elsewhere in the West.  This plan gives us the best shot at that goal.”


More Background on the Wolf Plan

Scientific credibility. The heart of the plan is that wolves remain protected under state endangered species law until there are at least 15 breeding pairs well-distributed among three separate areas across the state. (There is only one breeding pair in a pack, so 15 of them would likely equal less than 200 wolves.) A minority opinion wanted this number lowered, but independent experts advised that 15 pairs is a bare minimum needed for recovery. By comparison, we have 2,000 cougars and 25,000 black bears in our state.

Wolf habitat in Washington. Some critics of the wolf plan questioned whether Washington has habitat to support more than 200 wolves, yet our state has over 21 million acres of forestland, the preferred habitat of the gray wolf. In this we compare well to Idaho and Montana, and better than Minnesota where there are now 3,000 wolves, 5 million people, and a stable population of deer that sustains a level of sport hunting much bigger than ours.

Co-existence is part of the plan. This plan provides important management tools, such as pack monitoring and financial compensation to ranchers who lose livestock to wolves. In cases where wolves are caught in the act of attacking livestock or pets, or where repeated attacks on livestock occur, lethal control is allowed like in many other states’ wolf plans. The plan also allows for managing wolves if we encounter excessive impacts to deer, elk or caribou herds.


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