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Ranchers argue against moving flock off grazing lands

The Stevens County Cattlemen's Association says moving Hunters, Wash., rancher Dave Dashiell's sheep out of land where the rancher has a grazing contract to protect the herd from wolves would threaten private property rights. Association president Steve Nielsen says preventing legitimate use of private property to meet political goals is always unacceptable.

The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association says moving sheep out of a grazing area to protect them from wolf attacks threatens a Hunters, Wash., rancher’s property rights.

In a press release, the association said groups are pressuring the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to make rancher Dave Dashiell leave the area as members of the Huckleberry wolf pack continue to kill sheep from Dashiell’s flock.

If the state doesn’t follow through on its commitment to remove problem wolves, and prevents the Dashiells from fulfilling their grazing contract with private landholder Hancock Timber, it will negatively affect the land, the association says.

“That timberland is being grazed to the benefit of the timber stands, the reduction of wildfire fuel loads and improvement of wildlife habitat,” association president Scott Nielsen stated in the press release. “If we call all of that management to a halt because we refuse to deal with a predator crisis, we are moving in the wrong direction.”

Forcing Dashiell to leave his grazing lands won’t solve the problem, Nielsen added.

“Preventing the legitimate use of private land to meet political goals is always unacceptable,” Nielsen stated. “Under this logic, we have seen endangered species policy ruin businesses and deny people’s property rights. We do not want that to happen here.”

More than 22 sheep have been killed since the Huckleberry pack started targeting Dashiell’s sheep herd, according to the association.

According to the association, the helicopter authorized to remove up to four wolves on Aug. 22 was recalled, after only one wolf was killed. Padded leg hold traps have been deployed to catch the wolves and euthanize them, according to the association.

The association supports the attempt to kill the wolves, but the current crisis was caused by denying ranchers the collar data information they needed to keep their herds from wolf areas, Nielsen stated. The department’s position that information could not be obtained from the Spokane Tribe of Indians is not valid because they had more than a year to sort out the issue, Nielsen said.

“We need to remember that if the Dashiells had the collar data as they requested last year, there would likely never have been livestock herds in proximity to this wolf den,” Nielsen stated. “The rancher has every right to be on that land and should not be forced to leave.”

The Center for Biological Diversity and seven other conservation groups have filed an appeal to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to block efforts to kill wolves from the pack.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in August denied the groups’ petition to add more steps by ranchers and the state before killing wolves in livestock depredations.

Under the proposed rule, a rancher would have to use best management practices and employ nonlethal measures “for a meaningful period of time” to be eligible for compensation after a wolf killed livestock.

“All we’re asking for are some very reasonable standards on what ranchers need to do to protect their livestock and when the state can step in and kill an endangered species,” Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer with the center, said in a press release.

Inslee’s office has 45 days to respond with a final decision, according to the center.



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