Bill to share wolves touted
Kretz: 'It seems like most of the support for wolves is in areas where there are none'
By MATTHEW WEAVER
A lawmaker from Eastern Washington says if wolves are so welcome on the west side of the state, they should be moved there.
Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, planned to propose legislation this week to move wolves into Western Washington where he says their supporters live.
"When there's problems with wolves in one part of the state, they could be relocated to another part of the state that really should be able to share the benefits of wolves," he said.
"Right now the brunt of the whole thing is being borne by my district, basically," he said, noting there have been as many as eight wolf packs in his district. "It's really easy for a senator in the San Juans to criticize dealing with wolf depredations in Eastern Washington."
Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, has expressed concern over the state's killing of the Wedge Pack wolves after they repeatedly attacked livestock.
Kretz said he is concerned that there could be too many wolf packs in the wrong parts of the state to be delisted as an endangered species under the state's wolf management plan.
"It seems like most of the support for wolves is in areas where there are none," he said.
Kretz expects the bill to be a long shot to be passed. He calls it an "honesty test."
"The pro-wolf people typically love them as long they don't have to deal with them," he said. "It's a chance for the people in those areas to step up and actually deal with the real problems happening in northeastern Washington."
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials killed six wolves in September 2012 that had been preying on livestock on the Diamond M Ranch in Laurier, Wash. Kretz said critics didn't sound off until after the fact.
"They're criticizing the department, they're personally criticizing the rancher, when they absolutely don't know a damn thing (about) what they're talking about," he said.
Kretz said he thought the treatment of the Diamond M ranchers by the department and environmental groups was "shameful."
"They were castigated publicly," he said. "It's easy to criticize when you've got nothing on the table. When they're divvying up a rancher's livelihood, they need a little skin in the game. Let's just spread the love."
Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest, which support wolves, said he gets Kretz's point.
"We would do better if the Northeast Washington ranchers understood the pro-wolf people and if the Seattle pro-wolf people had a better understanding of the rural folks who have to deal with wolves," he said.
But Friedman said Kretz is hurting his own interests by treating the issue as a joke, or "a fun stunt." Advancing wolf recovery would offer more management options, which both sides want, he said.
Ultimately, Friedman said, wolf recovery will reach the point where wolves are near their supporters.
"It wouldn't be a bad idea at all to have wolves in Olympic National Park or the Alpine Lakes wilderness," he said. "Places that are near our urban centers. They're going to get there eventually anyhow, let's get them there sooner."
Ranchers are a "huge" part of the economy in Kretz's district, he said.
Kretz said he doesn't support wolf recovery in areas where there's human population. He doesn't think the winter range exists to support wolves in areas where there is agriculture, ranching or communities, but said wilderness areas or Yellowstone Park might be appropriate.
"Basically this is an effort to get the other side to put their money and votes where their mouth is and get some equity," he said. "If folks on the West Side are so supportive of (wolves), they need to have them in their communities."
Kretz is also working on a bill for the state to delist wolves east of Highway 97. They are federally delisted, but the state must follow suit, he said.
Kretz expects his legislation to go before the state's code reviser in the next few days before formal introduction.