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Wolves are the new normal

Oct 05, 2012
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Oct 5 - Wolves were the main focus of a meeting of Washington's Fish and Wildlife Commission, and nearly 100 people showed up to comment for continued recovery of wolves in Washington.

Wolves are the new normal

Nearly 100 people attended the Oct 5, 2012, Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting on Washington's wolves.

Wolves were the main focus of a meeting of Washington's Fish and Wildlife Commission, and nearly 100 people showed up to comment on continued recovery of wolves in Washington. Comments and sentiments ranged widely during the comment period.

Read Conservation Northwest's Jasmine Minbashian on Avoiding a Wedge issue and Mitch Friedman's editorial, Standing in another's shoes.

"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."

People thanked the agency for hard work on a difficult decision, and expressed empathy for both wolves and ranchers, as well as great sadness and some anger about the killing. Most acknowledged the tragedy of the loss of the Wedge Pack and the need for clear, accountable, and enforceable guidelines on when  non-lethal options have been exhausted.

At the hearing, executive director of Conservation Northwest Mitch Friedman testified: "Wolves are the new normal in Washington. They are going to be part of our state for the indefinite future."

"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."

While sympathizing with the new challenges facing the state and ranchers, as well as offering education and funding for non-lethal tools like range riders, he also made clear that, "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."

He pointed to three keys to rapid recovery:

  1. Retaining strong protections for wolves, including high penalties for poaching.
  2. Doubling down on providing assistance to ranchers for good animal husbandry that reduces conflict.
  3. Getting serious about colonization of the South Cascades, including through translocation.

"Until wolves are recovered statewide in Washington, these keys must be our focus," said Friedman.

Learn what more Conservation Northwest is doing for wolves.

In a statement about the pack's removal, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Phil Anderson said, “Directing the pack’s removal was a very difficult decision, both personally and professionally, but it was necessary to reset the stage for sustainable wolf recovery in this region,” he said. “Now we will refocus our attention on working with livestock operators and conservation groups to aggressively promote the use of non-lethal tactics to avoid wolf-livestock conflict.”

Also overheard

This testimony from a long-time hunter resonated with us:

 "I tip my hat to the responsible livestock owners out there who see a new reality and are now living with wolves and adjusting. I don't support the Wedge killing because these wolves paid the ultimate price. Are we going to eliminate whole packs each time? Did the rancher cooperate and try? Lethal action is the easy way out. The Department has a moral obligation to manage and exhaust all other options first. The hunting experience is what I crave, and that experience includes wolves."

Other speakers had interesting viewpoints:

"In northeast Washington, ranching is our Boeing or Microsoft. I live with predators, but don't allow them to eat my livestock."

 "We need transparent communications, early and often, so that this never happens again."

"Our next step is to talk calmly about ways to minimize conflict. That helps wolves recover, helps ranchers, helps condition of range. Lethal is last resort ."

"Wildlife are a public trust for all the people in Washington.You need to work harder at upholding that trust. We need to protect ranching, I don't want ranchers to fail, it doesn't support wolf recovery."

Video of the full meeting proceedings .

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