Friday, August 31, 2012

Front line update on Washington’s wolves

Posted: 29 Aug 2012

Good things can happen when people just sit down and talk things out. This week, up to four wolves from Washington State’s Wedge wolf pack were slated to be killed by the state for allegedly preying on livestock. But after my meetings with state officials, I am happy to report that the state agreed to reassess the situation. Even before our meeting, they had already pulled traps and are withdrawing the sharpshooters today.

The state had decided to kill wolves based on assumptions that they were the cause of recent livestock injuries in the area. But I have been assessing wolf livestock kills for more than a decade and the physical evidence just didn’t add up. These injuries looked more like those commonly sustained by cattle grazing on national forest lands. I double checked my assessment with some outside experts and they agreed. So yesterday I took my case straight to the State Director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Wolf activists at the Governor’s office
Along with other groups, I met with Director Phil Anderson and his staff and went over our assessment of the evidence. In contrast to many state wildlife officials in the region, he was very respectful and genuinely interested in what we had to say. And he acknowledged that our concerns were valid. We met with the governor’s office as well and they agreed a reassessment was in order.

I walked out of these meetings hopeful that our concerns were heard, but the entire episode reminded me of how collaborative and productive wildlife management can be when everyone respectfully listens to everyone else and lets sound science rule the day. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Governor’s office both deserve appreciation for being willing to listen to the concerns of others and acknowledge the need for further assessment. And a big thank you to our members and supporters who weighed in with state officials, asking them to take a step back, review the science again and spare these wolves. We heard from the governor’s office that they received over 1200 calls from wolf supporters just on Friday alone.

Washington State is a critical player in the ongoing saga of wolf recovery in the Northern Rockies, but lots of work remains. Yesterday’s developments, and the people who made it happen, gave me hope that we are on the right track.