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A challenge to find solutions for wolves and people

Posted by bchristensen at Nov 16, 2012 03:40 PM |

Recently Jay Kehne, Conservation Northwest's Okanogan County conservation associate, joined WDFW staff in Montana on a visit to the Blackfoot Challenge. Will Washington livestock owners step up to the challenge of living with wildlife? This trip gave one example of how it may be done.

A challenge to find solutions for wolves and people

Conservation Northwest arranged a tour of Montana's Blackfoot Challenge to glean some good ideas on how Washington might learn to live with predators. (photo: Jay Kehne)

Earlier this month, Conservation Northwest's Jay Kehne headed out from Omak to get some perspective on how land and livestock owners in Montana have adapted to living with wildlife, including predators.

On this trip, he had with him some very important things. First, several staff from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and US Forest Service. Second, a curious mind, ready to learn from this  cooperative of ranchers, agencies, conservationists, and companies that has forged a successful alliance for more than 20 years.

The cooperative he visited, Blackfoot Challenge, was formed to "coordinate efforts that conserve and enhance the natural resources and rural way of life throughout the Blackfoot watershed," which lies along the Continental Divide in Montana. The Challenge encompasses 1.5 million acres, with a mix of federal, state, corporate timber, and private owners.

The Forest Service says that, "in its 132 mile journey, the [Blackfoot] river runs through some of the most productive fish and wildlife habitat in the Northern Rocky Mountains."

Ranching, logging, and more recently recreation tourism, are important parts of the economy in the ecologically rich area, much like Washington's wilder rural areas. Would the lessons Blackfoot Challenge has learned over more than a decade living with wolves help our own state agencies and landowners?

Months before trekking to Montana, we hosted a workshop for Washington ranchers, to start addressing that very question. The workshop featured ranchers and experts from Blackfoot Challenge, as well as another cooperative in Alberta. At that workshop, local ranchers heard how tools like range riders help deter livestock depredations by wolves and how cooperatives like Blackfoot can pool resources and share information to help ranchers avoid conflicts with all kinds of wildlife.

When Jay visited Montana, he then got a better picture of how the Blackfoot Challenge works on the ground. He sent me his thoughts after the tour,

The Blackfoot Challenge is a group of people that have decided to work together on problems that arise where large carnivores and livestock interact. They don 't have all the answers, but they do have over 10 years of experience that others can learn from.  Their message to us was: have a professional, trusted depredation determination process in place; do everything possible with non-lethal techniques and practices; have a compensation program established; and have a plan for taking lethal action where necessary.  They have a strong track record of keeping losses of livestock and predators to a bare minimum. 

 Washington's wolves are recovering at a good pace--something we can celebrate wildly! We recognize, of course, that increased wolf presence also asks more of the people who live and work near wolves. They must spend more time, funds, and energy to avoid conflicts in order to remain economically successful. We are grateful for the chance to share Blackfoot's and others' experiences to help them succeed. Helping livestock and land owners avoid conflicts is not only a part of the Washington wolf recovery plan, but a good idea for the future of wolves and people.

 

 

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Wolves

Posted by Felicity Marsh at Dec 06, 2012 06:06 AM
I note the Staff from Washington wildlife and fisheries and Jay kehne had to travel to the area where the wolves are inhabiting indicating as so often is the case that there decisions do not affect their own back yard.
The wolves have been replaced out there as much as they have in the towns and the fact that there are conflicts even at this early stage in their reintroduction suggests it was not such a good idea to meddle with other peoples lives. i dont imagine their prey are so keen either.

Local investments

Posted by Barbara Christensen at Dec 06, 2012 06:25 AM
Felicity, Of course he had to travel to Montana!
    Jay lives in eastern Washington where ranchers are currently most affected by wolves, and we have staff in Omak, kettle Falls, and Twisp.

Washington's wolves were not reintroduced. They came here naturally from both the east and from BC in the north because the habitat offered sufficient resources for them.

We applaud WDFW for investing in trips like this with us. It helps wolves and ranchers.

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