By mid-2019, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will have paid a consultant up to $1.6 million over four years to help it reconcile conflicting views on wolves, according to the consultant’s contract.
Francine Madden, who has led meetings of the department’s Wolf Advisory Group since 2015, has signed a two-year, $425,000 extension, adding to the nearly $1.2 million in her previous contract.
WDFW wolf policy coordinator Donny Martorello said the department will continue to lean on Madden to forge agreements among interest groups and to train department employees to resolve conflicts.
Under Madden’s guidance, the advisory group for two straight grazing seasons has agreed on a policy related to protecting livestock and culling wolfpacks. “We’ve seen cohesion on one of the most challenging aspects of wolf management,” Martorello said.
WDFW hired Madden, founder of Human-Wildlife Conflict Collaboration, three years ago to assess the social conflict over Washington’s growing wolf population. She subsequently was hired to lead the Wolf Advisory Group. The department said it needed the expertise of a neutral facilitator to have any hopes of having the group agree on policies.
Her job, according to the new contract, is to bring about a “social system alignment to support and improve the likelihood of long-term capacity, empowerment and effective decision-making around wolf conservation and management.”
She is paid $400 a hour to consult by phone and $8,000 a day to lead meetings in person. The contract also includes travel expenses.
The Cattle Producers of Washington, whose members include ranchers directly affected by the return of wolves, withdrew from the Wolf Advisory Group in 2015. The organization has no interest in rejoining, Cattle Producers President Scott Nielsen said Tuesday.
WDFW has used the advisory group to avoid taking responsibility for managing wolves, he said.
“Our position has been and still is that wolves should be managed scientifically, not socially. I view the (advisory group) as social management, and I don’t think anybody disagrees with that,” Nielsen said. “The best thing for us is to not be there.”
Efforts to reach Madden for this story were not successful.
Madden has won support from state Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda. Kretz, whose district includes most of the state’s wolves, said that before Madden the Wolf Advisory Group’s policies were strongly tilted toward urban viewpoints.
“And we got out of it a really bad wolf plan,” he said. “The only progress I’ve seen with the (advisory group) has been since she’s been on it.
“I think she’s been real effective,” Kretz said. “When you look at Francine and the cost (of her services), what’s the cost of what we’ve been doing? What’s the cost for the ranchers?”
Before Madden, Wolf Advisory Group meetings were contentious, said group member Diane Gallegos, executive director of Wolf Haven International, a wolf sanctuary in Tenino.
“We didn’t have the expertise that Francine brings to communicate with each other,” Gallegos said. “ We needed the neutral person to break down the walls and make us human beings again.
“I am so grateful that the department acknowledged that it needed help with this,” Gallegos said.
Several environmental groups are represented on the advisory group. Two that are not, the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands, are suing WDFW. The lawsuit claims the advisory group has provided “political cover” for killing wolves without proper scientific review or public comment. The suit is pending in Thurston County Superior Court.