Lawmaker with ranching background seeks solution
By STEVE BROWN
OLYMPIA -- The Washington state Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Parks recently heard four pieces of wolf-related legislation.
Two Senate bills address funding for compensation:
* SB5079 would establish a compensation program of $50,000 from the state's general fund. Bill sponsor Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, said that mechanism would spread the burden across the state, since wolf management and recovery are of statewide interest.
* SB5193, sponsored by Sen. John Smith, R-Colville, would tap the State Wildlife Account for the same amount. It would also add the gray wolf to the list of big game species.
Smith said he raises cattle in the middle of three confirmed packs. His intentions are "not to attack wildlife, but to recognize we've reached equilibrium for our predators."
Brad Miller, from Ferry County, was one of four county commissioners from Eastern Washington who testified. He said it was important to him to protect the economy of his county.
"Bringing in predators is devastating to ranchers," he said. "The plan didn't anticipate so many wolves in the same location."
Smith also introduced two bills addressing the authority for lethal removal:
* SB5187 would authorize livestock owners, their family members or their employees to kill wolves attacking the owner's livestock. "If I interfered with an attack on my dogs or horses, I'd be guilty of a felony," Smith said. "We live in the environment. It's our God-given right to protect our lives and property."
* SB5188 would authorize county legislative bodies to declare an imminent threat to livestock under specific conditions. The county then could authorize the sheriff or another county agent to lethally remove wolves. The sheriff already has the duty to protect, Smith said, and this bill would clarify county authority.