Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Political War on #Wolves


Obama Administration Sides with Hunters over Protection of Gray Wolves

Tuesday, March 03, 2015
(photo: AP/National Park Service)
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) under President Barack Obama believes it is okay for hunters and ranchers to begin killing gray wolves again, a species that nearly went extinct last century.

FWS filed court documents with a Washington, DC-based court of appeals saying it opposed a federal judge’s decision to restore legal protection for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region.
The Obama administration is joined by two states, Michigan and Wisconsin, which also objected to U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell’s ruling in December that said the states’ management plans for the wolves don’t do enough to protect the species. Howell’s ruling also applied to the management plan developed by Minnesota. The plans in all three states allow sports hunting; in Michigan and Wisconsin they also permit the trapping of wolves.

FWS spokeswoman Laury Parramore told the Associated Press: “The science clearly shows that wolves are recovered in the Great Lakes region, and we believe the Great Lakes states have clearly demonstrated their ability to effectively manage their wolf populations.”

But Howell believes more needs to be done for the animals.

The judge wrote that the Endangered Species Act (pdf) “offers the broadest possible protections for endangered species by design. This law reflects the commitment by the United States to act as a responsible steward of the Earth's wildlife, even when such stewardship is inconvenient or difficult for the localities where an endangered or threatened species resides.”

Russ Mason, wildlife division chief of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, told AP that some sort of controls are needed for farmers to protect their livestock from predator wolves. A coalition of environmental groups has proposed most of the wolves be reclassified from “endangered” to “threatened,” which would allow livestock managers to kill them when they repeatedly attack farm animals. The Humane Society of the United States supports that position as a reasonable “middle ground.”

However, a recent study by at Washington State University determined that the killing of wolves that attack livestock actually brings about an increase in such wolf attacks.

The combined wolf population in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin is about 3,700. The national population is believed to be less than 17,000. Nine states are considered by scientists to be Great Lakes wolves’ territory. Alaska has the largest gray wolf population.

Since 2003, the U.S. government has made four attempts to end protection of the wolves, and each time its effort was overturned in court.

Although FWS has already filed documents with the court, an agency spokesperson said that a final decision on whether to pursue the case has yet to be made by the U.S. Department of Justice.



Senate bill would change how state manages wolves

Mar 4, 2015
OLYMPIA — The state would overhaul its wolf-management measures and goals under a bill that the Senate passed 39-9 Wednesday. The bill now goes to the House. The bill sponsored by Sen. Brian Dansel, R-Republic, would order the state Department of Fish & Wildlife to change its 2011 wolf management plan to base full recovery on packs instead of breeding pairs; to examine wolves killing livestock and wildlife, such as deer and elk; and to nail down when a wolf can be legally killed.

The department also would have to determine when ranchers and farmers can be compensated for the loss of livestock to wolves. The deadline to overhaul the wolf management plan is June 30, 2017.
Wolves in the western two-thirds of the state are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act.
Wolves in Eastern Washington lost their federal protection in 2011 but not state protection.

A state report for 2013 estimated that Washington had 52 wolves in 13 packs with five successful breeding pairs. Ten packs are in the state’s northeast corner, which also had three of the state’s five breeding pairs in 2013. However, Reuters recently reported that Washington is down to two breeding pairs. A breeding pair is a female and male with at least two pups.

Right now, one of Washington’s criteria for a successful wolf recovery is 15 successful breeding pairs for three consecutive years with four breeding pairs on each of three recovery areas. The 2013 state report found no more than two breeding pairs in any recovery area.

On Tuesday, the Western Law Environmental Center filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Seattle to stop the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Service from killing wolves, Reuters reported.
Last year, the Wildlife Service shot a female wolf in a breeding pair — dropping the number of three to two — by mistake, thinking it was another wolf that had attacked livestock.

On Wednesday, Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, noted that during a Senate committee hearing, one rancher testified that wolves killed 300 of his animals. He said, “This is a serious issue.”

This article was produced and distributed by in partnership with the Kitsap Sun.



House Democrats support rethinking wolf plan

Don Jenkins
Capital Press
The Washington state House has passed a wolf bill, showing bipartisan support for reviewing a recovery plan that so far has only impacted the state's northeast corner.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — With wolves massing in northeast Washington but not elsewhere, the Democratic-led House on Tuesday approved a bill directing wildlife managers to review the state’s wolf recovery plan.

House Bill 2107 passed 98-0 and will go to the GOP-led Senate, which has already passed a similar bill.

The measures differ in some details and will have to reconciled. But the House vote indicated bipartisan support for taking a look at the impacts reintroducing wolves have had on northeast Washington, particularly the livestock industry.

Neither bill would immediately change state policy. The Fish and Wildlife Commission would have until June 30, 2017, to amend the plan.

The state’s wolf recovery plan, adopted in 2011, carves the state into three zones. Under the plan, wolves will remain a state-protected species until each zone has at least four breeding pairs and the entire state has at least 15.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife reported Friday that the state has five breeding pairs, a number that’s remained unchanged since 2012. Four breeding pairs are in northeast Washington.

The total wolf population grew from 52 to 68 in 2014, with 55 wolves in northeast Washington. The number of wolf packs increased from 12 to 16.

HB 2107 and Senate Bill 5960 were introduced by lawmakers from northeast Washington’s sprawling 7th District.

The bills wouldn’t dictate changes, but they would instruct WDFW to consider measuring recovery by wolf packs rather than breeding pairs. WDFW also would have to consider changing recovery zone boundaries and clarify when the state will kill wolves to protect livestock. “The way the wolf plan is set up now, we could have 20, 30, 40 packs in the 7th District before we would reach de-listing in the state of Washington,” said Okanogan County Rep. Joel Kretz, prime sponsor of HB 2107. Regardless of how you feel about wolves, you know, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing,” he said. “We’re seeing impacts that will get more intense as time goes on.”

The House bill instructs WDFW to consider whether penalties are high enough to deter wolf poaching. The provision is not in the Senate bill. Also Tuesday evening, the House voted 98-0 to study how wolves in northeast Washington are impacting deer and elk herds. House Bill 1676, introduced by Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, will now go to the Senate.

House Agriculture and Natural Resources Chairman Brian Blake, an Aberdeen Democrat, supported the bills, paving the way for the Democratic caucus to get behind them.

On Wednesday, the Senate passed a bill directing WDFW to consider de-listing wolves in Eastern Washington. Senate Bill 5583 passed by a 27-22 vote. A similar bill was introduced in the House, but died in the agriculture committee, along with a proposal to relocate wolves closer to Western Washington.