The Washington House of Representatives last week voted in favor of a bill that would require the Department of Fish and Wildlife to study moving wolves from Eastern Washington to Western Washington.
The bill passed 85-13, opposed not surprisingly by three Democrats and 10 Republicans representing districts that would be the likely recipients of translocated wolves if it comes to that. Also not surprisingly, the bill was supported by eastside legislators who already have wolves and urban representatives who have no worry that wolves will one day be roaming the wildlands of Seattle.
House Bill 2771 was the brainchild of Okanogan County Republican Joel Kretz. His district has wolves aplenty.
He would have preferred a bill that would allow wildlife managers greater leeway to control wolf populations. That’s gone nowhere.
“I’m not excited about putting wolves onto anyone, anywhere,” he told the Capital Press. “But on the flip side, I’ve tried to deal with this in a way that didn’t affect anybody else’s district, and it hasn’t worked.”
The bill’s prospects in the Senate are unclear. And even if it were to pass and be signed by the governor, it’s not that easy to move wolves from one spot to another.
First, state wildlife managers are inclined to let wolves disperse naturally.
Second, wolves are protected in the West by the federal Endangered Species Act, while wolves in the East are managed solely by the state. Any plan to move wolves from the eastside to the westside would require the approval of the federal government and involve lengthy studies.
Still, it’s an interesting gambit.
Cattle Producers of Washington President Scott Nielsen, a Stevens County rancher, wants to enlist westside farmers into the battle eastside ranchers have been fighting for a number of years.
“While I don’t wish wolves on anyone, it will bring the rest of agriculture and rural folks into the fight,” Nielsen told Capital Press. “It’s a social battle, and the best way to win a social battle is to have as many people on the same page as us.”
Introducing an apex predator in their midst that they are powerless to control will certainly motivate westside livestock producers and rural residents to join the fight.
Facilitating an enemy’s attack on a neighbor in order to recruit that neighbor as your ally is a novel strategy. Such is the frustration of eastside ranchers.