Wolves should be taken off the federal endangered species list in Washington, according to state Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind.
In a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Susewind calls a proposal to delist wolves throughout the Lower 48 “appropriate and timely,” particularly in the western two-thirds of Washington. Wolves in the eastern one-third of Washington already are managed by the state.
“The department is confident that Washington’s wolf population is on a path leading to successful recovery,” Susewind wrote.
Susewind’s letter is one of more than 56,000 comments USFW had received as of Wednesday on its proposal to withdraw federal protection from gray wolves. Many of the comments are duplicative form letters.
Wolves already have been delisted by USFW in the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon, as well as Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The USFW says gray wolves elsewhere no longer qualify for federal protection as an endangered or threatened species.
Unlike the federal agency, Washington Fish and Wildlife will consider using lethal control to protect livestock from chronic attacks by wolfpacks.
Susewind wrote that wolves are reproducing and moving west in Washington.
Protecting thriving wolves will expose the Endangered Species Act to scrutiny and legislation weakening protections for species in danger of extinction, according to Susewind.
“The state of Washington is well prepared to be the management authority for wolves statewide and would be pleased to see limited federal resources directed to other species still critically in need,” Susewind wrote.
According to USFWS, wolves in Central and Western Washington are the edge of the recovered populations of wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and British Columbia.
Most wolves in Washington are in the northeast corner of the state and already are under Fish and Wildlife’s watch. Since Fish and Wildlife began counting wolves in 2008, the population has averaged 28% growth a year, Susewind noted.
Growth has been in the single digits the past two years, though Fish and Wildlife documented the first pack west of the Cascades last year.
“Wolf recovery and subsequent population sustainability long term will remain a department priority,” Susewind wrote.
The Washington Farm Bureau also submitted comments supporting taking wolves off the protected list.
“This decision should be considered a victory for both the wolf population that was nearly eliminated by the 1930s, and ranchers who aspire to be both stewards of the land and protectors of their livestock as well as their livelihood,” according to the Farm Bureau.
Many Washington state residents have sent a form letter saying they were “alarmed that the Trump administration is considering action to remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the continental United States.”