Gray wolf

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will move cattle off its grazing allotments if wolves show up.

Washington Fish and Wildlife plans to revise grazing policies for the 110,000 acres it leases to ranchers, introducing a new section that puts wolf recovery over livestock production.

Ranchers could be told to move cattle if wolves attack a cow or calf on the allotment, according to a department proposal. Fish and Wildlife says it will try, but can’t guarantee, finding another pasture.

In calling for ranchers to yield to wolves, the department cites its duty to wildlife and the money it gets from state and federal conservation grants.

“WDFW prioritizes wolf conservation on its lands due to its mission and the funding sources used to purchase lands,” according to a department document.

Fish and Wildlife has circulated the revised policies for public comment and plans to adopt them for the next grazing season. The department leases 50 allotments. More than 40% of them overlap with wolf territories. Preventing conflicts between wolves and livestock will be an overriding priority, according to the department.

Grazing on land where long-term conflicts between wolves and livestock occur would be “inconsistent with WDFW’s mission,” according to the department.

Washington Cattlemen’s Association lobbyist Mark Streuli said the proposed grazing policies depart from Fish and Wildlife’s own wolf management plan. The department shouldn’t give short-shrift to grazing, especially because grazing keeps down fire-prone vegetation, he said.

“It’s disappointing to read they’re putting wolf recovery over everything,” Streuli said.

Efforts to obtain further comment from Fish and Wildlife were unsuccessful.

The policy would apply to a relatively small percentage of public grazing lands in Washington. The policy, however, represents a change in how Fish and Wildlife manages wolf-livestock conflicts elsewhere.

Fish and Wildlife considers culling a pack after three depredations in 30 days, providing ranchers have tried to prevent the attacks. On its own land, the department proposes ranchers “exceed” those expectations.

Prior to turning out livestock in wolf territories, a rancher would meet with Fish and Wildlife officials to have a plan for preventing wolf attacks.

One depredation on the allotment would “trigger an updated risk assessment,” leading to more non-lethal deterrents, a change in grazing rotation or removing livestock from the allotment.

Wolf activity on or within 1 mile of the allotment also could lead to removing cattle, according to the proposal.

Comments on the policy are due 5 p.m. Sept. 24. They can be sent by email to rules.coordinator@dfw.wa.gov.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission plans to have a public hearing on the policy sometime during its meeting Oct. 22-24. The agenda has not been set.

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