Saturday, February 28, 2015

WA #wolf bill passes key committee

Don Jenkins
Capital Press
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service A key Washington legislative committee has approved a bill calling for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to rewrite its wolf recovery plan.
Legislation to reopen Washington's wolf recovery plan has won approval from House Appropriations Committee.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Legislation calling on the Washington Department of Fish an Wildlife to reopen its wolf recovery plan won approval Friday from a key committee in the Democratic-controlled House.

House Bill 2107 received bipartisan support from the Appropriations Committee. Before passing, it was amended to add another layer of environmental review, which could increase the cost and delay when game managers will finish their review.

The bill must still win approval from the full House and survive final budget negotiations.

The vote was a milestone in an effort by northeast Washington representatives to gain acknowledgment in the House that the reintroduction of wolves has harmed their constituents.

The bill would require state game managers to reconsider the recovery plan in light of the fact wolves are concentrated in northeast Washington and attacking livestock. The current recovery plan calls for wolves to remain on the state’s endangered species list until they are more widely dispersed. WDFW estimates the recovery may occur by 2021.

HB 2107’s prime sponsor, Okanogan County Rep. Joel Kretz, proposed reopening the plan to study how to hasten recovery and to consider how conflicts between wolves and livestock can be reduced.

Before approving the bill, the House Appropriations Committee added a provision that would require WDFW to subject any proposed changes to a review under the State Environmental Policy Act.
Previously, the bill exempted wolf plan revisions from SEPA.

WDFW had estimated revising the plan would cost $420,000. Following SEPA may increase the cost, WDFW wolf policy lead Dave Ware said. “It may or may not add much money,” he said.

SEPA also could add time. The bill calls for changes to be made by June 30, 2017. Ware said if required to follow SEPA, the department would want until the end of 2017.

In lobbying for the bill, northeast Washington officials and ranchers told lawmakers it was important for the state to act soon.