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Avoiding a Wedge issue

Posted by Jasmine Minbashian at Sep 25, 2012 12:25 PM |

The current developments with the Wedge Pack is not what anyone wanted or expected as part of wolf recovery. Now is the time to come together to develop strategies, using past experience and outside help, to create a better outcome next year.

Avoiding a Wedge issue

For communities all over our state to learn how to live with wolves will take time, patience, and compassion for all sides - whether it be wolves, cows, ranchers, or WDFW staff.

Friday, October 5th update: Read Mitch's statement to Fish & Wildlife Commission

When Conservation Northwest supported the adoption of the final Washington wolf plan last December, we did so knowing that the road to wolf recovery would not be easy, nor without some losses of both wolves and livestock.  Seeing other communities that have managed to find ways of coexisting with wolves gives us hope that we could have it all: wolves back on the landscape with ranchers’ livelihoods largely unaffected (or at least livestock losses kept to a minimum). 

Butthe current developments in northeast Washington in an area called the "Wedge," is not what anyone wanted or expected as part of wolf recovery. An entire wolf pack is now scheduled to be eliminated due to their repeated depredation on cattle. 

Wedge Pack wolves

Understanding how this situation came to be is an important part of identifying solution, but it doesn’t change the current reality on the ground: we now have a pack that is keyed on killing cattle as an easy source of food.  At Conservation Northwest, we are fairly new to learning about wolf management so I rely on experts like Carter Niemeyer who has spent decades in the field managing wolves.  My first step was to discuss this situation at length with Carter, and he advised me that once a pack shows a clear and consistent pattern of repeated depredation, they cannot be rehabilitated.  The only practical solution for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is now is to take out the pack.  Here is more insight from Carter:

I can assure you from decades of experience - the wolves will again prey on [the rancher’s] cattle when they return. So the long-term solution will be to keep the wolves and the livestock apart. The reason I support removal of the wolf pack is: 1) it is unrealistic to believe they will avoid killing cattle next spring; 2) the cattle are legally present on private and public grazing lands; 3) a lack of cooperation has been demonstrated by the livestock owner, in this case; 4) continued wolf/livestock conflicts next spring will polarize people even further.

So, unless conditions change, meaning the Forest Service changes the conditions/policies/rules on grazing livestock in that area or the livestock producer buys into assistance with non-lethal measures and greater vigilance over his livestock, then nothing changes resulting in more dead livestock and more dead wolves. Killing this entire wolf pack is not the ONLY choice but unless the rancher and the agencies involved make major changes - I can just about guarantee you, based on three decades of accumulated experience dealing with predator/livestock problems in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Oregon that the current situation will resume come spring.

 

I hate the fact that we are at this point, but we are. Given this situation, taking out the pack is an option laid out in the wolf plan and probably a necessary step, but without commitments from both the agency and the Cattlemen’s Association to take non-lethal strategies seriously, “hitting the reset button” in this case will only result in the same sad outcome next year.

So while Conservation Northwest has gone on record supporting the department’s decision to remove the pack, we do so only with a commitment from both WDFW and the Cattlemen’s Association to expand their non-lethal efforts going into next grazing season and to develop some standards for what it means to "exhaust options.”  Here is a quote from our ED Mitch Friedman in WDFW’s press release last Friday:

Friedman expressed a strong desire for the department and ranchers in areas with wolves to work together to avoid a repeat of this situation. “There has to be a commitment on the part of all sides to allow wolves to occupy the landscape while protecting the rancher’s livelihood and maintain their ability to raise cattle,” he said.

And from Jack Field, vice president of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association:

“We understand that as wolves re-populate the state there will be conflicts with livestock. We also understand that we need to work with WDFW to find solutions, including the use of non-lethal measures, in order to minimize losses for producers, but we need everyone else to understand that managing and killing wolves that cause problems is an important part of a healthy co-existence.”

I firmly believe that what we need now are some cool heads to work on developing a comprehensive non-lethal program for the benefit of wolves and ranchers alike. Unfortunately getting these programs in place doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes time, patience, and compassion for all sides - whether it be wolves, cows, ranchers, or WDFW staff.

Business as usual from the ranching community, environmentalists, and from the agencies just won’t work. And making wolves into “a wedge issue” certainly won’t get us there either. Now is the time to let down the fences and come together to develop strategies, using past experience and outside help, to create a better outcome. 

NOTE: Commenting is currently having a technical problem.  If you don't see a "captcha" on your comment screen, it may not save your comment. Please check back soon. That said, we moderate all our comments and will not be publishing any comments that are rude or derogatory to our staff or other commenters.
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Wedge Pack

Posted by Melinda Hirsch at Sep 25, 2012 05:48 PM
I am appalled and dismayed that you have allowed yourselves to be bullied by a lazy rancher on public lands.But you're not alone--so did WDFW get bullied. Does anyone have a spine? This rancher has made it known he had no intentions of using non-lethal methods.
No one pushed him, no one publicized what he was doing--and now, the wolves pay the price. I am very disappointed in you for not getting to this in a timely manner. It's no secret who the problem ranchers are.They should have been exposed in the media from the very beginning, before the issue got out of hand and now you think you have to kill the wolves--rewarding the rancher for making noise and being angry.
Seriously...

Involvement

Posted by Barbara Christensen at Sep 25, 2012 06:02 PM
Melinda, I think, as someone who receives our updates, you know this is a hard decision but a deliberate one, carefully made after months of involvement in the issue, attempts at avoiding this outcome, and expert input from all over the region. And the decision wasn't made lightly, either. The issue has been a priority, and you can read the many stories on it here: http://www.conservationnw.org/wolf-news

Mitch had this to say on Facebook, "CNW doesn't make a decision like this based on generalities. I spent the whole week in Colville, meeting with many people and seeing the Wedge. Jay Kehne was touring the Wedge Tuesday. Jasmine Minbashian has been communicating with field biologists and national experts round the clock all summer. We know the ranchers, the Forest Service folks, the local politicians, people in these communities, etc. Our job... is to find solutions for the long term viability of a wild landscape and the wildlife that occupy it. Our record of success is clear and we take our job very seriously. I respect the opinions of those who disagree, as these issues are very open to different views. But please give us credit for diligence."

Wolf ... Pro & Con for people.

Posted by Dominic at Sep 25, 2012 06:28 PM
Hunters and cattlemen have everything to lose from wolves and virtually nothing (minus a wolf hunting season) to gain while city goers have tax payer dollars to lose, increase in beef cost and nothing to gain.

The wolf (at least in high numbers) is not meant to be part of our current environment. We must continue to remove those that target cattle and not be hasty to initiate a hunting season. The "wolves are god" type of folks bring no good things to the discussion table. They want no wolf shot ever. This cannot be the case.



No

Posted by Barbara Christensen at Sep 25, 2012 08:50 PM
We of course disagree with you wholeheartedly. Wolves are an important part of the ecosystem and deserve as much chance to thrive as any other wildlife. It is frustrating that this situation ended here, but we are moving forward to find solutions for wolves and people.

On costs

Posted by Daniel at Oct 03, 2012 08:05 PM
Urban residents are willing to absorb a nominal increase in their meat prices if those costs are specifically re-directed toward expanding the use of non-lethal wolf control methods, and preventing the repeat of episodes like this one.

The advent of dolphin-safe tuna didn't end the fishing industry; so too will it be with "wolf-safe" beef.

Wolf Pack

Posted by Bill J Buchanan at Sep 26, 2012 08:48 PM
One man's catlle which can be produced as fast as he can get his heifer's pregnant- against a wolf pack on public lands. I hang my head in shame for being apart of the human race. We let one man's avarice and greed drive us into killing something that may not be around by the next century and What if the ones that are being killed are the lynch pin for wolf survival overall. Boy howdy did we screw up!

the future

Posted by Barbara Christensen at Sep 26, 2012 08:55 PM
Bill, We know it seems bleak when you consider the loss of this pack, but we believe the future of wolves in Washington is made better by helping people learn to live with them and by making sure our state plan works as best as it can. We see opportunity to make the system better through this--the state needs to improve their non-lethal program and more of the ranching community needs to get on board. We see these changes already happening, and we will be there to keep them going.

Agree with Melind Hirsch on this one

Posted by Old Warhorse at Sep 25, 2012 08:44 PM
All owners of livestock are responsible for utilizing non-lethal methods to deter predation of their livestock. Not just from wolves, but other predators as well. Anyone who doesn't bother should not have their losses reimbursed. PERIOD. And those particular livestock owners should be responsible for bearing the cost of any actions that need to be taken to remove any wolves they have essentially trained to prey upon livestock due to their stubbornness and stupidity. PERIOD.

ideas

Posted by Barbara Christensen at Sep 25, 2012 08:47 PM
Old Warhorse, It's not as the law stands now, but if you feel strongly about it, that is an interesting concept for you to pursue w/ the state. There is a Wildlife Commission meeting on October 5th that you could attend with us to voice that idea. We'll have more info up soon

Wolf predation of livestock

Posted by Frances Hogan at Oct 05, 2012 10:15 AM
I think that ranchers should be required to use non-lethal predation as a part of their lease agreement for use of public lands. If the rancher/farmer is not willing to use non-lethal means and to make every effort to keep their livestock safe from wolves, then they should not be given a permit to graze their livestock on public land. If they already have a permit/lease on public land, it should be cancelled for refusal and/or failure to use non-lethal means of control.

Yes

Posted by Barbara Christensen at Oct 05, 2012 10:23 AM
Frances, We agree that there need to be enforceable guidelines for ranchers. We are headed to the commission meeting today to speak up for this, and we see a good step forward in the fact that the WA Cattleman's Association made a public statement with us that more ranchers need to and will be signing on to use non-lethal tools.

But we also believe, since ranchers often bear the brunt of the cost of wolves returning to a landscape, it is fair for them to get help from the state--and from us--in adopting those sometimes costly non-lethal measures. That is why Conservation Northwest is cost-sharing on a range rider program and hosting trainings for interested ranchers. Thanks for your thoughts.

a good problem to have

Posted by Erin Moore at Sep 26, 2012 01:44 PM
Having wolves back in Washington is a problem, but as my dad says - It's a good problem to have! He's been a hunter and conservationist since his teens and twenties - and he's over 80 now. He knows well what we've lost on the wildlife front in the last century and what we stand to gain by having wolves back. We are supremely lucky to have lands rich in deer and wild enough to support wolves, bears and wolverines.

Heartbroken.

Posted by Leslie C. at Sep 26, 2012 02:52 PM
Bill McIrvine did NOT participate in efforts to protect his cattle stating that this was merely a ploy for left winged environmentalist to take away land from ranchers. Why is he being rewarded for his bad behavior? Will the removal of this pack really solve an issue that obviously rooted at the lack of cooperation of this closed-minded human being? THAT is the true issue here. Not the Wedge Pack.

Please interview the Arapaho Ranch in Wyoming to learn from their ability to co-exist with wolves.(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/[…]/ranching-with-wolves_b_1870809.html) How can Washington use this model going forward? I believe it will save everybody a lot of grief and balance can be restored.

My 11 year old daughter and I moved here from California a few months ago so she could pursue her dream of studying wolves. We would be happy to participate, learn more, and collaborate solutions in co-existence. Please know that we are not anti-rancher, as we have family in Montana who are cattle ranchers. We do, however, feel that this issue was not resolved in a healthy manner.

Best and blessings.
Leslie & Bryeanna

Thank you

Posted by Barbara Christensen at Sep 26, 2012 03:25 PM
Thank you Leslie, for your comments.

We agree with you that this situation was not a success and it is very hard for us, too. That is why we are moving forward to ensure the state commits to better procedures and ranchers adopt more non-lethal methods, much like the model in the article. We are helping them do that by using outside experts from the wildlife-friendly ranching community (like the ones you mention) in training sessions we host. We are also cost-sharing on a range rider program and helping landowners connect w/ experts. Helping the people who have to live with wolves learn new skills will lead to fewer dead wolves.

Thank you for your willingness to see the bigger picture and be compassionate. We would love your daughter's and your support as a volunteer. An immediate need is for people to come to the Wildlife Commission meeting on Oct 5th. We need citizens to stand up and call for better policies and practices moving forward. Info on the meeting is here: http://wdfw.wa.gov/[…]/agenda_oct0612.html

Otherwise, please fill out the volunteer form here and we will be in touch soon: http://www.conservationnw.org/getinvolved/volunteer

Thank you again for your thoughtful reply.
~Barbara

Wolf Predation

Posted by Ron Stepchuk at Sep 27, 2012 12:37 PM
I raised a wolf pup for about two years. In that time she discovered a farmers chickens, and once having tasted the blood of chickens there was nothing that could stop her from hunting chickens. The only solution in this situation was not to put her down but remove her from harms way by taking her to a location where there were no chickens.

Nowhere

Posted by Barbara Christensen at Sep 27, 2012 12:43 PM
Hi Ron, For better or worse, you will not find many places in Washington where there won't be a community concern for moving a pack that has already dialed in on killing livestock coinciding with wild habitat. It simply wouldn't be fair to the new location to bring this pack there.

We are really sad it has come to this, so that is why we are turning that emotion into progress, looking for the state and the livestock owners to work with us to change how they do things. We'll be at the commission meeting on Oct. 5th making the first steps.

Wolf Predation

Posted by Ed Bayly at Oct 02, 2012 10:07 PM
The problem would not exist if the necessary steps had been accomplishhed that will prohibit cattle and sheep grazing on public lands. There are many well known and sound ecological reasons to accomplish this end and I will not repeat them here.
I feel this must be done and,in so doing,we
will put an end to a long standing privilege
bestowed on ranchers that amounts to a federal subsidy as it operates at a loss to the federal government. In return the ranchers should be compensated for their loss of grazing rights as their ancestors were invited to use the grazing priveleges by the same federal government.
Until we accomplish this important and necessary change it will continue to be impossible to deal with wolf predation or any of the other problems this continuing privelege causes.

You've let us down

Posted by Sean Livingston at Sep 27, 2012 10:33 PM
I just started contributing to your organization last year as part of our company giving campaign and once I heard that the government had killed the wedge pack wolves, was looking forward to greatly increasing this year's donation. I was outraged on learning of what drastic action had been taken by the government, so I reasonably expected that the conservation organization that had so attracted me with their purported sentiment to preserve wildlife and those gorgeous pictures of wolves on those same posters requesting donations, surely would be a champion to the cause to stand against this.

Now I learn that your group not only allowed the willful extermination of the wedge pack wolves so some rancher can make more profit (don't care BTW, move the wolves if needed or move the rancher and his cows). I now wonder if you really stand for conservation the way I expected you would, or if you just cave in to pressure from those who could really care less about anything but a profit. Now what sickens me most of all was to learn that the same collars used to track the data on the wolf pack members were used to hunt down and kill every single one of that pack. You should not only be ashamed for agreeing to this, I think you should enact a measure in your constitution that no scientific device will ever be used to help hunt down or kill the same animals that we all are trying to help be studied and saved. I will very likely never contribute to your organization again due to this egregious misstep, as I feel that the spirit by which I made donations to your organization have been severely betrayed. There had to be a better way, and I don't think you can talk your way out of this any more that the Susan B Komen group could when they put politics over the cause they supposedly stand for.

wolf recovery

Posted by Mitch Friedman at Sep 28, 2012 09:29 AM
I totally understand your feelings, Sean. We've had the same ones ourselves for weeks now, as the Wedge Pack situation went continually from bad to worse. I've dreamed of and worked for wolf recovery in Washington for 25 years, and this isn't what I signed up for. But it is, sadly, part of the deal. With the great news of wolf presence and their explosive population growth towards recovery (from 1 pack to maybe 12 in just 4 years), will come occasionally gut-wrenching news of conflict

All alternatives were considered. There's nowhere to move the wolves to. The rancher was actually in the process of moving his cattle, but that's a long process. Moreover, the pack roamed a large area that included other ranchers' herds, including one whose ethic and stewardship, quite in contrast to the McIrvins, we all applaud. But the (even pro wolf) experts were clear: Once a pack has turned to beef in this way, it won't turn back. The mistakes that McIrvin made early, against our best effort to provide him new stewardship ideas, set in motion a tragic chain of events.

Wolves are new to Washington, after a 3 generation absence. We're all learning here. The people in those eastern Washington communities, including many who are open and receptive to wolf presence, have fears and concerns. The quickest way for us to squash wolf recovery and the hope for a day when we have healthy numbers of wolves and ranches on the landscape, would have been to let the Wedge Pack situation continue to boil over. It would have violated the state plan (a great plan that Conservation NW helped create) and the commitments we all made to follow it.

One of the uncomfortable facts of these early days of wolf recovery here is that the state will attempt to radio collar at least one member of every pack, at least in cattle country. Those collars are what we rely on to find ways to co-exist. They allow the state to inform ranchers and their range riders (one of which is paid for by Conservation NW in another area) to know where the pack is relative to the herd at any given time, so that a human presence can be kept in that specific area. It's that presence, and how the rider manages the herd while wolves are around, that can prevent incidents that lead to wolves over time becoming habituated to preying on livestock.

Some day we'll have enough wolves, knowledge, and accumulated good stewardship habits that collars won't be needed. Until then, this is what we have to accept in order for us all to learn how to adjust to a new normal of wolves on the landscape.

For my part, I wish I could wipe this past week from memory. Even more, I wish I could count on not ever having to repeat an experience like this. Neither is an option. Wolves are not easy, nor a perfect fit for our modern world. We can't have a goal of saving every wolf, but we sure can have a goal of having a recovered population of wolves on the landscape. That will take accommodation, tolerance, and occasion painful days. I hope you stand with us and continue to support Conservation NW as we work - every long day with all hearts - towards that goal.


Transparency?

Posted by Steve Hamm at Sep 28, 2012 12:13 PM
Hello;

I'm relatively new to this issue, that is, to your complicit involvement. I've been following the issue of reintroducing wolves for a few years.

I like to ask questions before asserting accusations that may be off target. So the question I want answered is "Did you address, consult, or notify your private financial supporters that you were considering this as an option before signing on to this procedure?"

Also, you never seemed to directly answer the concerns of the above commenters regarding their assertions about the rancher who, evidently, cared less about the wolves and, apparently, did nothing to avoid this outcome. Why did you skirt that issue?

transparency

Posted by Mitch Friedman at Sep 28, 2012 04:54 PM
Steve, we don't normally consult our donors/members on strategic decisions. The nature of this decision, whether or not to publically state that we believe that this was in fact the best (or least worst) available option for DFW, doesn't rise to that level, especially given the time constraint.

It's not true that the rancher "did nothing," but I think it is true that they did too little, too late. We've made that clear in media, and the rancher's name has been dragged through the mud nationally. What's most important is that I think events have set up a dynamic that is likely to mean much better cooperation in future.

Wolve recovery and the State of Washington

Posted by Claudia at Sep 28, 2012 01:02 PM
Its a very discouraging sign to see Washington state kill the Wedge
Pack wolves at the behest of a rancher who has made it clear that he sees no use for wolves and who did everything he could to avoid using predator avoidance tactics. This rancher was on public lands when the majority of the depredations occurred and the public is strongly against killing these wolves. Public lands are just that public lands. Ranchers get to graze their livestock almost for free but when one gets taken by a predator they act like they will go broke if they loose 1% of their herd. If this is the case tell them to remove their herds from public lands and pay to graze else where. Wolf and predator advocates had much hope for Washington and the new direction it seemed to be taking on wolf policy. It looked like Washington state would be a stronghold against the slaughter that has been taking place in the western states. Sadly and predictably, the instant that livestock is killed, there is a cry to kill the wolves. When some of the predation may not have even been wolves at all. In this case, killing the Wedge Pack is a return to the policies that have done nothing to advance a new thinking of wolves or a new paradigm of management. The killings just promote more of the same backward, intolerant policies that private citizens and wildlife advocates strenuously object to and that are detrimental to healthy ecosystems and wildlife populations. 

I know you are aware of the NBC poll taken after the wolf story broke, some 90,000 took the poll on one day with 72% believing the wolves should not be killed but the rancher should be held accountable. There were more than 2500 comments posted that day,
the majority speaking out against the killing. This is a remarkable reaction. It illustrates the depth of public sentiment and
an abhorrence against killing wolves, despite depredations. The vast majority of Americans are moving away from the barbarism that defined wolf policy in the past. Its time for management to look in a new direction, the public demands it.  Appeasement policies that placate special interests are not acceptable to the majority of us, for wildlife, or for your image and they certainly do nothing for conservation of predators, as illustrated by the bloodshed in the aftermath of de-listing of wolves. Its time to hold ranchers
accountable and to ensure that they utilize the most progressive and successful predator avoidance tactics rather than provide them with compensation for killing wildlife because of ignorance, the case illustrates that the ranchers actions all but ensured the wolves would be attracted to the cattle. I see it as staged predation by the rancher to make a point with the politicians that are in league with the cattlemen s associations.
The public knows what is going on and as citizens, I believe we
have entered a new era where many more people are interested in seeing wolves inhabit their former ranges and expect that we will need to make some changes to co exist with wildlife especially predators. Rewarding ranchers with a death warrant for these wolves only emboldens predator intolerant ranchers and reinforces current bad policy. 

I urge Washington State and Conservation NW to push a rethink the killing of the remaining wolves and to listen to your constituents in Washington and nationwide, the majority of whom support wolf recovery and conservation in Washington and nationally.

Wedge pack and wolves

Posted by Julie Webster at Sep 28, 2012 01:27 PM
One obvious negative effect of this situation is that one rancher has become the face of ranching in the state of Washington. People know his name and the name of his ranch.

I would like to see the ranchers who did work with the DFW get equal or more air time. Those of us who care about wolves should be able to give them our support.

It is also time to push the idea of predator friendly meat. We should be able to give our business to those ranchers whose practices we want to encourage and deny business to those we do not.

As a child growing up in the east, wildlife and ranchers were equally part of my image of the west. I want both to survive and flourish.

focus on the good

Posted by Mitch Friedman at Sep 28, 2012 04:10 PM
These are great points, Julie. For better or worse, unlike McIrvin, most ranchers don't seek attention. Several media (KING, NPR, others) have spoken with us and our rancher collaborators about getting out that story. Unfortunately those ranchers, at this point at least, aren't interested. See the new edition of our newsletter (in your mailbox this week) for more on those projects.


Shameful

Posted by C. Earle at Sep 28, 2012 04:02 PM
We had been considering license plates that would put money into wildlife management until we learned of the killings of wolves. Unfortunately, we can not voluntarily support state agencies that take life in this way. When humans introduce domestic animals into wild areas, humans must understand that predators will do what predators do. It is the responsibility of the ranchers to protect their herds using well established, non-lethal methods. Now that the State has taken an incorrect approach, it has lost, and will continue to lose, a great deal of support.

Responsibiity and consequences

Posted by Carolyn at Sep 28, 2012 07:14 PM
The federal law for grazing and livestock use of the National Forest System allows a permit to be canceled for a number of reasons, including "if the permit holder is convicted for failing to comply with Federal laws or regulations or State laws relating to protection of air, water, soil and vegetation, fish and wildlife, and other environmental values when exercising the grazing use authorized by the permit."

The rancher behind this calamity is on record as saying that he wanted the pack destroyed. Not exactly protecting the wildlife, eh?
 
It's shameful that the handling of the situation further empowered someone who's obviously already got too much power. It set a very bad precedent for recovery elsewhere in the state. And sadly, his grazing term ends on Monday, compounding the tragedy. Couldn't this have been avoided?
 
The culprit--who has an irrational hatred of wolves--should have to take responsibility for his actions and losses--just like the rest of us citizens, who are never covered the way he was. If he can't, well then he shouldn't be in business. You want to operate in a wilderness area? You better understand what that means and be able to deal with it. Many of these ranchers/resource exploiters have no compunction about wiping out every form of life that competes with their ability to make money--even if it means the extinction of a species. They're organized (along with the hunters) and they’re lobbying for their own narrow (and narrow-minded) interests--and against wolves, the public good, and the country’s biodiversity and rightful natural heritage.
 
In this case, the profiteering rancher is personally benefiting from our tax dollars, the combined efforts of numerous agencies and many people, the use/trampling of our public lands (for a pittance) and death (of the wolves and the cattle he raises for slaughter). He obviously cares only about his personal enrichment. His exhibited the height of arrogance, ignorance, selfishness and ingratitude.
 
Carter Niemayer was dead-on when he said the rancher's posture could backfire on him. It has. I’m behind any efforts that result in the termination of the lease agreement of this man/family/ranch. The sooner, the better. And the Forest Service needs to kill the whole taxpayer-subsidized federal grazing program. It’s a bust--for wildlife, ecosystems, and the majority of Americans.
 
 


others

Posted by Barbara Christensen at Sep 28, 2012 07:29 PM
We agree that this ranch was the problem and they politcized the situation. Unfortunately, though, they aren't the only ranch grazing cattle in this territory, including those who were better stewards and deserve support for their efforts to live with wolves. If you live near Olympia, we hope you will come speak up for your beliefs, as well as urge the state and cattleman's association to keep the commitments they publicly made during this tragic occurrence: improved and expanded non-lethal program and enforceable standards for ranch operation. Thank you for your thoughts, Carolyn

wedge issue

Posted by K. Pool at Sep 30, 2012 02:29 PM
I only have one question, as I agree with you.My question is this:What are some of the nonlethal ways that could have been pursued to avoid this issue? And what are some nonlethal ways that can be pursued to prevent this from happening again?

non-lethal

Posted by Barbara Christensen at Sep 30, 2012 02:57 PM
Hi K, Great question. According to the rancher and state, some non-lethal methods were pursued, but other people are questioning if it was enough. We don't disagree with their questioning the situation at all; check out earlier blog entries for our thoughts on this issue throughout the summer (click "Scat! Our Blog" on the link at the top of this blog). You can also read what WDFW has to say about what actions were taken here: http://wdfw.wa.gov/[…]/index.html#faq

Whether what the McGirvins did was enough or how they politicized the issue doesn't change the fact that the wolves were preying extensively on livestock in the end, and at that point the only feasible option was removal, frustrating as that is. We wish that were not the case, but we also know there were other ranches in the area that do practice good stewardship who deserve support and local concern over the actions of the pack.

You hit on the right next question, too: So, what do we do moving forward to prevent it? We believe (as do most wolf recovery experts) that they key to wolves fully recovering in WA is to help the people that have to live most closely with them, to avoid this kind of escalation in the future. With the Wedge Pack tragedy, the state and the WA Cattleman's Association publicly spoke up with us for improved and expanded non-lethal efforts--that public commitment alone is a huge first step. We are working with them on commitments in writing from ranches across the state to practice non-lethal conflict avoidance and are gathering citizens to hold them to those commitments (Join us at a WDFW meeting: http://www.conservationnw.o[…]ish-and-wildlife-commission ) The state knows what methods have worked elsewhere (moving herds regularly, range riders, fladry, dogs to warn when wolves are near, etc), now we must ensure they have the resources--funding, experts on staff, public support--to implement them here or learn what other methods will work better on our unique landscape.

Conservation Northwest is also helping on the ground with non-lethal efforts. We are cost-sharing on a range rider program started this year in another area and hoping to expand that next season. We are holding ranch trainings that feature experts from across the West and Canada on how to avoid conflicts with predators. We are making in-roads with ranches across the state through open dialogue, instead of entrenched platforms.

You can read more about our programs in the latest newsletter (If you aren’t a member, get a complimentary copy here: http://www.conservationnw.org/resources/newsletter )



Hopeful of future good

Posted by Rob Stait at Sep 30, 2012 10:26 PM
As so many concerned citizens have already voiced, I too was very disappointed in the decision to eliminate the wedge pack, especially in what seems to be a case of appeasing a single rancher who believes the only good wolf is a dead wolf. Without rehashing all the justifiable feelings/rationales that others have brought up, I do want to say that I admire your decision to support the elimination of the pack, not because I wanted the pack killed but because it shows that your organization is more concerned with science and the future of wolves in the state of Washington than creating a spectacle in order to create a fund raising bananza. I sincerely hope that this sad episode results in a better future for the wolf in the state of Washington.
The Cattle Growers of Washington need to use best practices while on our public lands and wildlife organizations need to show/train them on how to properly implement them. A war between wildlife supporters and cattle ranchers will never result in a wolf friendly landscape. Both sides must learn to understand each other and work together toward a common cause, the return of a viable population of wolves (and other predators) in this state while allowing room for cattle as well.
Thank you for being able to make the hard choice.
Sincerely.

Raise personal action

Posted by Lili H at Oct 01, 2012 10:53 AM
It is a very sad set of circumstances that turned CNW to this heart-breaking decision to kill wolves for being wolves. People feel hopeless and powerless in how to change the situation. CNW can loudly advocate two personal actions to its network to help wolves and other wildlife:

First, another commenter mentioned predator-friendly meat. This is a great personal action for "city goers" to demand at their groceries and avoid all other grass-fed meat. Ranchers will notice if predator-friendly meat grows in demand. I don't see any WA ranchers on predatorfriendly.org. Can CNW look into this?

Second, there is a win-win proposal to phase out grazing permits, called Rural Economic Vitalization Act (REVA - see here: www.facebook.com/REVA4PublicLands ) from Congressman Adam Smith. A great personal action is to contact congress about this and spread the word. Is CNW endorsing this?

CNW seems to be offering tools for the ranchers. How about the city goers?


 

Thanks

Posted by Barbara Christensen at Oct 01, 2012 11:18 AM
Hi Lili,

Thanks for your comment. I am working on info on predator-friendly products as we speak, so great minds think alike :) I don't eat beef, but I just purchased some predator friendly yarn in Montana from Thirteen Mile and was happy to pay extra. I see practicing non-lethal conflict avoidance as a way livestock owners can add value to their product.

Certification is in its infancy. As far as I know, there are no certified predator-friendly beef products in WA right now (only honey from Brookfield Farm), but as you probably know, certifications are expensive to the producer. So I am also hoping to highlight those ranches that, while not certified, are practicing good stewardship. Our work directly with ranches in WA puts us in the unique situation of knowing which ones are doing good work. But please note that we don't always have permission from the ranchers to share their names (unlike the media blitz around the Wedge Pack, most ranchers avoid the spotlight).

We'll keep sharing what we can and encourage those landowners who are working hard to live with wolves to promote their better products. For example, Mitch and several staff buy their beef from the 20 Bar 3 ranch in the Tunk Valley, who are excellent stewards of their land and its wildlife.

Thanks for the info on REVA as well; it is being shared widely on social media, and we are tracking it.

And yes, we will keep building our information base for *all* of Washington as quickly as we are able. Please remember we are a small local non-profit, not a huge national group with backup staff in DC, so we have to be strategic on where our staff time will make the most difference on the ground for wildlife. We really appreciate you sharing this info with other readers!

Wedge Pack

Posted by Jo Roberts at Oct 02, 2012 11:17 AM
Congratulations on thinking this through; considering the science and politics and future ramifications and supporting the Cattlemen (with conditions) and WDFW. Difficult as it was
this will pay off for wolves in the long run.

Reducing Diversity

Posted by Steve Hamm at Oct 05, 2012 10:08 AM
Jo;

We have to remember that every time we kill a wolf, especially a whole pack, we reduce the potential for genetic diversity, which is the lynch pin of species success. So I disagree with your assessment that this will "pay off for wolves in the long run." What will pay off for wolves (and all other species we seem to think are pests or unlimited food sources) is for us to back off and pay far greater attention and respect for their right to co-exist with us. We have the ability and the technology to change our behavior and succeed. Most, if not all, wild animals rely on their instinctive behavior to survive.

Further, these wolves don't "belong" to us as Barbara said below. Every species fits into the ecological web and our hubris infected and assumed right to manage that web and all its resources is rapidly coming back to haunt us in untold (for now) ways.

We claim to be concerned about the future. Well, continuing our inept management patterns of a system we have only the barest understanding of is not going to leave much for the future. (See http://www.greenfacts.org/[…]/figure1-8-species-extinctions.htm)

re reducing diversity

Posted by Mitch Friedman at Oct 08, 2012 03:07 PM
Steve,

One very positive thing about wolves is that they are extremely robust in reproduction. While you're right int he sense that every human-caused death reduces genetic diversity, I certain that the loss of this pack won't result in any sort of meaningful reduction in population fitness.

The biggest obstacle to wolves recovering to significant numbers is social acceptance. If the pack had remained, it likely would have continued to kill livestock almost daily, including brazen attacks at the rancher's coral on private land. Public support couldn't have withstood that.

re Wedge Pack

Posted by Mitch Friedman at Oct 08, 2012 03:06 PM
Thanks much, Jo. I appreciate your encouragement.

wedge pack kill

Posted by Pete at Oct 03, 2012 08:09 AM
I find the killing of the Wedge pack completely unjustified. The rancher is putting his cattle into what is tradionally a wolf environment,with little care taken to deter wolves from the cattle, and the wolves are destroyed for their transgression. Isn't the point of wolf recovery to return a predator to the ecosystem and bring nature in Washington back into balance? Why does the rancing community have so much say in the whether a crucial member of the ecosystem is allowed to exist? As ranchers they should accept the loss as the cost of doing business in a wilderness that is (finally) returning to its natural state. They should provide for the fact that wolves are part of the landscape--get guard dogs, run the cattle in a way that does not invite predation, but don't call for the destruction of an animal that is so important to Washington's wilderness. The mentality of wiping out a whole pack seems to reactionary, so backward, so turn-of-the-century, and so brutal, and all to ensure the security of the beef industry. I am ashamed to have a Department of Fish and Wildlfe that would participate in such a bloodbath.

wolves

Posted by Barbara Christensen at Oct 03, 2012 08:16 AM
Hi Pete, We agree that the rancher in this case did not live up to their end of the bargain and have politicized this issue. That is why we are looking to the state to create enforceable standards for ranchers using non-lethal controls before wolves are killed. It is also why we are working with ranchers who are looking to expand their non-lethal efforts, with things like cost-sharing on range riders, trainings from outside experts, etc.

Wildlife belongs (for lack of a better word) to the public, and the public has the right to expect ranchers will respect our values and work towards coexistence with wildlife as best they can. It is also our belief that willing ranchers have the right to expect help from us in adapting to this new landscape with wolves, so we are out there on the ground making it happen as best we can, too.

Wolf Kill

Posted by Susen Oseth at Oct 03, 2012 04:30 PM
Re your support of this wolf kill, will CNW continue fundraising for wolf recovery and protection? At some point, the photos from WDFW of the killings will be available. Will you post them those on your website?

per my email

Posted by Barbara Christensen at Oct 03, 2012 04:31 PM
Hi Susan, I'll repeat the answer I gave you over email when you asked me this today already, in case you missed it:

Photos: WDFW will have to decide if they release those photos; that is not up to us. We rely on outside experts to ascertain the evidence of wolf attacks from photos or visiting the site in person and advise us. You are welcome to contact them to see if you can get copies.

Gifts: We continue to work on wolf recovery in Washington. Our generous donors support the following work:
~Helping landowners avoid conflicts with wolves to give wolves a chance to thrive. We are cost sharing with the state on hiring range riders and hosting trainings with outside experts on living with wolves.
~Pressuring the state to improve procedures and strengthen criteria for their non-lethal program so we never have to be in this situation again.
~Public outreach events and materials to bring the story of Washington's wolves and their role in our ecosystem to a wider audience.
~Jay, Jasmine, Mitch, and Derrick working on the ground in areas of conflict and in state and federal governments to strengthen the state plan. Our years of direct involvement in this issue means we are best poised to make the most meaningful changes.
~Funding a generous poaching reward fund to deter poachers.
~Working on legislation that improves wolf recovery as needed

the call of the wild

Posted by Zygmunt Dubiel at Nov 07, 2012 12:40 PM
As a matter of principle, an environmental organization should have never supported, or agreed to, lethal removal of wolves, especially a wholesale removal of a whole pack. Yes, I am fully aware of that something unpleasant to an idealist called "Realpolitik" (political realism), which means compromises and practicality to move forward toward achieving a goal in a collective composed of several divergent interests. However, Conservation Northwest (CNW) sold out the wolves without a fight and protest, while pretending to negotiate concessions from the other parties, which, in the end, turned out not to be real; the whole affair made the CNW look more political than environmental in the eyes of a purist.
Mitch Friedman stated in a letter sent to members that the CNW's decision was influenced by the compromising stance of the Washington Cattlemen's Association (WCA). Sorry, but I do not see it. In its statement on the Wedge Pack issue, the WCA was as uncompromising as ever, insisting that "healthy coexistence" means healthy existence of ranchers and only conditional subexistence of wolves; the WCA also urges its members not to cooperate with the WDFW program of nonlethal management of wolves. The CNW seems to excuse its decision by a pseudoscientific opinion of a WDFW biologist that gives the impression that ranchers were in the Wedge first and wolves need to be taken out because they misbehave; Mr. Niemeyer's "practical solution" ignores the science and commonly known facts of who was first where and who needs to be taken out, or at least behave accommodative if wants to stay. Natural and civilizational histories teach us that the call of the wild preceded grazing allotments and grazing "rights."
I also think the CNW's relationship with hunters is too cozy. I was just to contribute to the CNW's Columbia Highlands Capital Campaign, but I now pause: with several hunters or supporters of hunting on the organization's board of directors, will hunting be allowed on the parcels of wildlife habitat paid for with my dollars? In my worldview, protection of nature and people with hunting rifles contrast sharply in an oxymoronic perspective. The historical fact that primitive hominids hunted does not necessarily lead to the inference that modern humans should, can, or must. Unlike wolves, people do not have to prey on and kill (wolves or elk, for that matter) to exist (as humans, that is). So, I urge you, in an afterthought, that when you dine on a beefsteak or a hamburger, think of the wolves and your own call of the wild.

reintroduction of wolves

Posted by john smith at Mar 19, 2013 05:20 PM
I have been fallowing the wolf reintroduction in Washington state for the last few years and I think that there was a better alternative to killing the wedge pack but when a rancher starts loosing livestock he is losing money and most non lethal methods for controlling wolves are costly as opposed to lethal methods and the average rancher couldn’t afford them in the first place, for many years wolves have been absent in Washington state and because of that the ecosystem in Washington state has adjusted to their absence and now that wolves have been reintroduced the reaction to the ecosystem is similar to an invasive species which is why ranchers are worried about losing livestock on forest service lands because for about the last 70 years wolves have been gone and the average rancher wouldn’t have to worry about them and because of this many ranchers were not ready for such a short notice change to non lethal methods of managing wolves.

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