It was troubling to read recently that the Wolf Advisory Group (WAG) was used as a forum to essentially single out a producer for retribution for having repeated depredations. Even if he follows the rules and meets the depredation threshold, the environmental side is opposed to removing any more wolves. That WDFW allows the WAG to micro-manage individuals at this stage of recovery in Northeast Washington shows how far off the rails this whole process has gone.
The mandate of WDFW was to recover wolves, not put people out of business. By all accounts wolves in Northeast Washington are recovered. WDFW biologists have referred to the population as “saturated.” Wolves recovered in neighboring states without the requirement that ranchers do anything. And just like those other states, recovery in Washington doesn’t hinge on what producers do or don’t do. Despite a protocol based on no science and imaginary expectations for non-lethal deterrents, producers have tried to make it work. It’s hard to judge the biggest cost: The price of deterrents or the anxiety that comes with being the scapegoats of a flawed and underfunded Wolf Plan.
Last year a highly respected local rancher testified at a WAG meeting that the money he received from WDFW and a nonprofit covered about 30% of his costs related to wolf mitigation. That number is probably similar to other operations. This added input cost comes with no return to the producer. It’s that much less money flowing into the local economy and is money that could have been used to replace a needed piece of equipment or a college education for their kids. Needs like those don’t just go away. It leads to the depletion of savings or borrowing which makes them much less resilient in the long term. After seven years, with no end in sight, it’s taken a toll.
By continuing to demand more and more despite a recovered wolf population, producers and the towns they live near are being pushed to the brink. WDFW has a wolf plan and policies they can’t afford so they’re transferring the costs on to rural communities.
I would hope this point isn’t lost on the areas that lie in the path of wolf recovery. Producers in Northeast Washington have done their part. Generally they’re happy to support the wildlife they live with. Species that don’t move the fundraising needle for the Eco-Industrial Complex like wolves do but are vital to the land. If ranches go away the habitat that supports this wildlife goes away also, never to return. If conservation is actually important to you, that’s a disturbing thought. WDFW evidently doesn’t think any of this is a problem. If they did maybe they’d acknowledge it at a Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting or when they testify in the Legislature. Or maybe it would be a better subject for the WAG than blowing on the same old tired dog whistle Len McIrvin provides.
Kettle Falls, Wash.