Statement on HB 2097 addressing statewide wolf recovery
ConservationNWAdmin / Feb 21, 2019 / Legislation, Ranching, Wolves
In response to a bill, HB 2097, introduced in Olympia addressing statewide wolf recovery, Conservation Northwest released the following statement:
“There are several aspects of this proposed legislation that we support,” said Paula Swedeen, Ph.D., Policy Director and a member of Washington’s Wolf Advisory Group. “We appreciate the Legislature’s commitment to recovering wolves in Washington and its support for the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 2011 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. We also think the bill’s stated intent to provide adequate funding for non-lethal deterrence measures now and into the future is a significant positive step for both wolves and ranchers. This allows for more social tolerance to be fostered across the state, including in the rural areas where wolves are already abundant. There is robust discussion about increasing the effort to promote coexistence in areas where livelihoods are affected by wolf recovery.”
Seventy-five percent of known wolf packs in Washington are in the four counties east of the Cascade Mountain crest and bordering Canada. Conservation Northwest recognizes the effect this is having on some communities in those counties. For a decade, through our Range Rider Pilot Project and other efforts, we have spent significant money and effort working directly with ranchers on proactive means of keeping livestock safer, which we believe is the path toward coexistence with a healthy wolf population.
“We agree with the notion of the Department of Fish and Wildlife conducting a periodic status review to update the public and the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s understanding of current wolf population dynamics and appropriate management status,” said Swedeen. “Adaptive management, or learning from experience and new information in a systematic way, is a part of the Wolf Plan. However, the Wolf Plan calls for a geographically-distributed population of wolves in order to create a population that has long-term viability, and there is insufficient evidence that this has occurred yet. Additionally, setting a precedent of regional delisting could have unintended consequences for other species in the future. As such, we do not support provisions of this bill related to regional delisting.”
Conservation Northwest does recognize the need for responsive management to livestock conflicts.
“We support the flexibility that the current Wolf Plan allows in authorizing the Director to use all the tools available to ensure that livestock loss is minimized while also conserving wolf populations,” said Swedeen. “We think that the Legislature can best support the mutual goals of promoting wolf recovery and supporting local livestock producers by sufficiently funding WDFW, which would support appropriate staffing in northeast Washington to optimize non-lethal deterrence and pay appropriate reimbursement, ensuring the Department addresses depredation situations efficiently. We also support expedient and thorough public discussions on how wolves should be managed once they are recovered in the state.”