Helping ranchers deal with wolves

Jay Shepherd, right, works with ranchers and range riders to minimize the number of wolf attacks on northeast Washington livestock.

Nonprofit organizations have until July 1 to apply for state money to protect livestock in four northeast Washington counties from wolves.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture announced Monday that $352,000 will be awarded to fund non-lethal preventive measures in Okanogan, Stevens, Ferry and Pend Oreille counties. Those four counties have 21 of the state’s 27 documented wolfpacks.

The agriculture department will collect the applications. Washington Fish and Wildlife will comment on the proposals, and a four-member advisory board representing conservation districts in the four counties will decide who gets money.

The advisory board awarded $276,000 in 2018 to four ranches and one nonprofit group. This year, lawmakers tightened up who qualifies for funding. Only nonprofit groups are eligible, not individual producers. Only three nonprofit groups applied last time.

The only nonprofit group that received funding, the Northeast Washington Wolf-Cattle Collaborative, plans to apply for a new grant, co-founder Jay Shepherd said in a text message Monday.

The collaborative received a two-year, $185,493 grant. The collaborative had six to seven range-riders watching livestock last year, Shepherd said.

The advisory board turned down a proposal by the Cattle Producers of Washington to help sheriffs in Ferry and Stevens counties monitor wolfpacks. The sheriffs endorsed the plan, but Fish and Wildlife recommended against funding it, stating lawmakers didn’t authorize a public-private collaboration.

Cattle Producers President Scott Nielsen said Monday that the organization may resubmit a proposal.

“We felt we had a pretty good request last time,” he said.

Grants are expected to be awarded in July or August, according to the agriculture department.

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