by the Center for Biological Diversity
OLYMPIA, Wash.— Just as Washington’s wolf population is making a historic comeback, senators in the Washington legislature have passed one of several bills pending that aim to gut key portions of the state’s wolf conservation and management plan, expanding when and how wolves can be killed.
Senate Bill 5187, which moves on to the Washington state House after passing the Senate on Friday by a 25-23 vote, permits the state wildlife commission to establish rules allowing livestock owners and their agents to kill endangered wolves and other predators without a permit or other form of permission even if they are not attacking livestock. This unregulated killing runs counter to the state’s “Wolf Conservation and Management Plan,” which was developed over five years with the involvement of the state wildlife agency, a citizen stakeholder advisory group and multiple opportunities for public comment.
“Let’s be clear: This isn’t a wolf-management bill, it’s a wolf-eradication bill,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These endangered, and still extremely fragile, wolf populations need more protection, not less. The state wolf plan needs to be adequately funded so that nonlethal, common-sense methods can be used to prevent wolf-livestock conflicts. Senate Bill 5187 and the other anti-wolf bills do just the opposite. Instead of taking a positive approach to encouraging coexistence between wolves and people, these bills embody the kind of extreme intolerance of wolves that drove the species to the brink of extinction in the first place.”
Washington’s first confirmed breeding pair of wolves in decades was confirmed in 2008. Since then, with federal and state protections in place, the state’s wolf population has grown to nine confirmed packs and two probable packs, numbering at least 51 wolves total as of February 2013. Unfortunately, bills related to wolf management have been a feature of this year’s legislative session in Olympia. Several are aimed at creating a special wolf license plate, with sales revenues going to fund nonlethal methods designed to prevent wolf-livestock conflict. Most of the bills, however, are aimed at gutting the state wolf plan and greatly expanding the circumstances in which wolves could be killed.
Senate Bill 5193 would reclassify endangered wolves as “big game” animals, even though the wolf plan’s population and distribution goals haven’t been met. The state wolf plan requires that delisting goals first be met, then a public process take place, before any reclassification of wolves.
Senate Bill 5188 removes wolf-management authority from the state wildlife agency and turns it over to county elected officials and sheriffs, who would decide when wolves could be killed for wolf-livestock conflicts. The bill does not require any preventative measures be used to avoid conflicts.
“County officials may be qualified for the jobs they currently perform, but they aren’t wolf or wildlife experts,” said Weiss. “Washington citizens have a right to expect that the state’s wildlife will be managed by the best available science and by trained wildlife biologists. After the Wedge Pack tragedy last year, when an entire pack was killed even though insufficient nonlethal remedies were used to prevent wolf-livestock conflict, people in Washington and nationwide are rightfully expecting the state to refocus on preventative measures — not to loosen the reins on when, where and by whom wolves can be killed.”