Recovery document plan based on called 'inherently flawed'
By DAN WHEAT
The Washington Cattlemen's Association and the Hunter Heritage Council have filed a petition with state Fish and Wildlife Commission seeking delisting of the gray wolf as a state endangered species in the eastern one-third of the state.
That is the same area -- east of Highways 97, 17 and 395 -- where the wolf already is federally delisted.
Such action would allow the state to control and manage the wolf in that area as a big game species instead of focusing on recovery, said Jack Field, executive vice president of the Cattlemen's Association.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife would be able to adopt rules to control problem wolves, including killing them, Field said.
On Oct. 17, Philip Anderson, department director, declined a petition to delist wolves from Okanogan County commissioners. The petition was based, in part, on wolves not being native to the state.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission is considering adopting a Wolf Conservation and Management Plan Dec. 2 or 3 that the department says addresses recovery and control. But the Cattlemen's Association and Hunter Council say the plan is overly focused on recovery to the detriment of control and management. There are too many restrictions on wolf control, they said.
The council is a coalition of 50 hunter groups of 45,000 members in the state.
"The plan right now is an Endangered Species Act recovery document which is inherently flawed," Field said. "We don't need ESA recovery for an apex predator."
The plan has no finish line and will lead to endless litigation, said Dave Duncan, a Cattlemen committee chairman.
Both organizations support recovery, but wolf populations should not be allowed to get so large that they become a menace and there's a public backlash like there is with cougars in some parts of the state, said Mark Pidgeon, president of the Hunters Council.
There are five confirmed wolf packs in the state and two breeding pair, which has happened without the aid of any plan over the past four years, Field said.
Wolves are spreading into the state from Idaho, Oregon and British Columbia.
In the 23 years since wolves were reintroduced in Wyoming, their number has gone from zero to 1,614 in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, Field said.
"To get there, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had to kill 1,517 problem wolves to protect livestock. So if we have a plan with no control we will have disaster," Field said.
"The department is leading us into the worst wildlife management fiasco we've ever seen," he said.
The department is rushing to have the commission adopt the plan, saying then the USFWS would treat the western two-thirds of the state as threatened and not endangered, Field said. But it's more important to have real controls, he said.
The department says the plan will cost $1.9 million over six years to implement but it's probably closer to $1 million a year and "money isn't falling from trees in the state," he said.