Eight conservation groups will appeal the state Fish and Wildlife Commission’s rejection of their petition to add more conditions for ranchers to meet before problem wolves could be killed.
The groups will appeal the commission’s decision to Gov. Jay Inslee within 30 days, said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity, one of eight conservation groups that filed the request. Inslee would have 45 days to reply, she said.
The groups were asking for the rules to include nonlethal measures livestock producers must take before livestock depredation counts against a wolf. They also sought additional measures the department would need to take before killing problem wolves.
Under the proposed rule, a rancher would have to use best management practices, employing nonlethal measures “for a meaningful period of time” to be eligible for compensation after a wolf killed livestock, Weiss said.
“It can’t be that they started doing those things after they got a depredation and then requested compensation, or even if (they started) the day before a depredation,” she said.
Nonlethal measures would need to be established and documented by the department, Weiss said. They include sanitation and maintenance of livestock carcasses, removing unnatural attractants and protecting young, sick or injured animals.
Prior to the commission’s decision, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife advised the commission to reject the petition.
In a summary, the department indicated it would work with the wolf advisory group, which consists of stakeholders from the livestock industry and conservation groups, to assess rules and contract a facilitator for a discussion of rules covering lethal action against wolves.
The public supports lethal action, 63 percent compared to 28 percent opposing, when necessary to stop livestock losses, according to the summary.
Jack Field, executive vice president of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association, said he was pleased by the denial of the petition.
“We fully believe the Washington wolf management plan has to remain as flexible and fluid a document as possible,” Field said. “We cannot have the department’s hands tied when it comes to predator management.”
The department must have a clear and concise process and be able to make decisions without litigation each time, Field said.
The department and wildlife experts have indicated it’s better to remove problem wolves quickly.
However, Weiss believes the department should immediately ramp up nonlethal measures to steer problem wolves away from livestock.
“I am not convinced that you need to kill a problem wolf right away,” she said.
Weiss would like to see a scientific control, testing what happens without killing the wolves or only using nonlethal options.
Field believes the commission’s decision will give the management plan time to succeed.
“We are going to have to kill problem wolves in order to recover wolves in Washington,” Field said.
Weiss said the department’s current plan is not enforceable.
“There’s nothing to make the department not back down if they get enough pressure from ranchers to go in and kill wolves anyway, or compensate people even if they weren’t taking the right action,” she said.