By MATTHEW WEAVER
An Eastern Washington lawmaker has followed through on his promise to introduce legislation to relocate wolf packs to Western Washington.
Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, introduced House Bill 1258 on Jan. 21. The bill was referred to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
Last week Kretz told the Capital Press he considered the bill an "honesty test" for wolf supporters who don't live in the same area as the animals.
According to the bill, the state is "enjoying" an expanding gray wolf population.
"Unfortunately, however, this bounty has been geographically limited to areas in eastern Washington and the entire citizenship has not been fully able to enjoy the reestablishment of this majestic species," according to the bill.
The bill says the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife can accelerate wolf recovery by moving gray wolves to areas "currently deprived of their ecological contributions."
Kretz's bill calls for the department to move wolves as the primary tool for managing wolf-related wildlife interactions in the areas of the state where wolves are naturally occurring.
According to the two-page bill, a wolf may only be moved to an area where conditions exist to "improve, maintain or manage riparian or other ecosystem functions and where a geographic barrier exists between the translocation area and the rest of the state."
The bill identifies such areas as including any island with an area of at least 50 square miles and the Olympic Peninsula, due to Interstate 5 and other highway barriers to migration.
In the bill, Kretz said the legislature has found an adult gray wolf requires a minimum of 50 square miles to range on an annual basis.
"The western part of Washington is uniquely situated to support wolf ranges of this size while still providing natural and existing man-made barriers to migration from translocation sites to the large population centers of the Interstate 5 corridor," the bill states.