Conservation groups that sued the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife say they’ve reached an agreement with the agency to get enough advance notice about wolf kill orders to seek legal action to stop them.
A department official says the agency hasn’t lost the ability to take action.
In a press release, the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands said the department will provide the groups 48 hours notice, including one business day, before killing problem wolves.
According to the press release, the agreement allows “time for pursuit of a temporary restraining order to stop any killing.”
Donny Martorello, wolf policy lead for WDFW, said attorneys for the agency and for the conservation groups essentially reached an agreement on scheduling for potential preliminary injunctions if needed. They did not reach agreements on any merits of the case, he said.
Under the scheduling agreement, the groups are not seeking a preliminary injunction at this point, Martorello said.
If a wolf pack reaches the point where the department considers killing problem wolves under its management plan, WDFW already gives advance notice to the public, depending on the method used.
“If the plaintiffs then choose to take any kind of action to stop the agency, then that would be up to them,” he said. “There hasn’t been any loss of department authority or ability to take action.”
Martorello said the department will continue to work with ranchers to use nonlethal deterrents to reduce conflict and look at criteria in its protocols for when the agency might consider killing problem wolves.
“We’re going to continue to do all the things we have done in the past,” he said.
Martorello said wolf conservation is a “very highly controversial” topic nationwide, with a history of litigation.
“We are disappointed that these two out-of-state groups have chosen to file a lawsuit, but the department is committed to continue working with our citizens, stakeholders, wolf advocates, hunters and livestock producers as we have in the past,” he said. “We will deal with the litigation and lawsuit, and keep moving forward.”
According to the conservation groups’ press release, the parties also agreed to cooperate to expedite the pending lawsuit to allow for a full hearing before Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Lanese before the 2018 grazing season begins.