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Statement in opposition to legislation delisting wolves in northeast Washington

Feb 15, 2017
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Conservation Northwest opposes House Bill 1872. We believe wolves are still recovering in our state, and wildlife managers should stick to recovery goals in the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

Conservation Northwest opposes House Bill 1872. We believe wolves are still recovering in our state, and wildlife managers should stick to recovery goals in the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. 

The Washington State House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources heard testimony today on House Bill 1872, including opposition from Conservation Northwest’s Carnivore Policy Lead and Wolf Advisory Group representative.

HB 1872 would prematurely remove protections for gray wolves in the northern portion of Eastern Washington by prohibiting the state fish and wildlife commission from “designating or maintaining a designation for the gray wolf as an endangered, threatened, or sensitive species in a county east of the crest of the Cascade mountains that shares a border with Canada.”

We strongly believe that legislators and wildlife managers should respect our state’s current Wolf Conservation and Management Plan (Wolf Plan) and its recovery goals, as well the ongoing Wolf Advisory Group (WAG) collaborative decision-making process, and refrain from advancing HB 1872.

The existing Wolf Plan is a compromise crafted through years of scientific, public and stakeholder input. Despite some high-profile conflicts in 2016, that plan is working well. The WAG and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are addressing refinements to the Wolf Plan as needed, and we are seeing both wolf population growth and an increase in the use of conflict avoidance methods by ranchers and other residents in areas where wolves are returning. We are committed to continuing to support these efforts, including through our Range Rider Pilot Project and other efforts, to ensure that livestock producers have access to the resources needed to thoroughly employ measures to reduce or prevent conflicts with wolves.

Just because we do not support HB 1872 does not mean we do not support thriving rural communities in Eastern Washington. We understand the financial and psychological burden that the return of wolves to the landscape can create for livestock producers, and we are committed to working towards effective solutions that reduce conflict and foster the long-term recovery and public acceptance of wolves in our state alongside thriving rural communities.

However, while wolf recovery is progressing well in our state’s northeast corner, prematurely removing wolf protections in north-central and northeast Washington could undermine that important participation in conflict avoidance efforts. It could also significantly limit the timely dispersal of wolves into Washington’s other wolf recovery regions, notably the North Cascades and South Cascades/Northwest Coast areas where wolf recovery is still tenuous.

We strongly urge state lawmakers to stick with the current Wolf Plan and vote “NO” on HB 1872. Those wishing to contact their elected leaders in opposition to this bill can do so here: https://app.leg.wa.gov/pbc/bill//1872

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