Shuffle of natural resource agencies may affect effort
By DAN WHEAT
Work on Washington state's wolf management plan likely will shift into high gear after the 2011 legislative session, a state Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman said.
A Nov. 30 meeting of the state Wolf Working Group was canceled because of a snowstorm, but no heavy work was planned anyway, said Madonna Luers, a department spokeswoman in Spokane. The agency has been drafting a wolf management plan since 2007 and is to present a final plan to the Fish and Wildlife Commission in August.
The Nov. 30 meeting at Central Washington University in Ellensburg would have been the 17-member group's first meeting in more than a year. It was intended more for meeting the department's new director, Phil Anderson, and other new staff, and to receive updates on wolf populations and public comments, Luers said.
The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee was to be updated on the plan Dec. 10 in Olympia.
What the committee might do or what may happen with the plan because of the state budget crisis and potential merging of natural resource agencies is anybody's guess, Luers said.
"A lot could change between now and the end of session as to what we will do and how we are staffed and organized. Natural resources agency reform will be a big issue in the interest of saving money," she said.
The Washington Cattlemen's Association, a member of the working group, is concerned about loss of cattle.
The draft plan and legislation passed last year calls for compensation for livestock loss to wolves, but only $30,000 in federal and private funding has been set aside. The plan allows killing wolves to protect livestock only after the gray wolf population is recovered in the state and is no longer listed as an endangered species.
The cattlemen's association has called for a population viability analysis to prove whether the state has enough wildlife to support hunting and 15 breeding pair of wolves called for in the plan.
Luers said such an analysis likely would prove there's enough wildlife to support far more than 15 breeding pairs. She said other groups want an analysis and that the department is considering it.
The gray wolf is listed as an endangered species under federal and state laws. State law requires the state to adopt a management plan even though the wolf is not being reintroduced to the state but is coming in on its own from Idaho, Oregon and British Columbia.
There are wolf packs in Pend Oreille and Okanogan counties and two more are suspected in the far northeast and southeast corners of the state, Luers said. The Okanogan pack lost its female and may not be classified as a pack by spring, she said.