Secrecy has no place when it comes to doing the public's business.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is making another investment in secrecy with its decision to spend more than $850,000 on a wolf consultant who insists on meeting behind closed doors.
The “Wizard of Oz” comes to mind. Whatever goes on behind the curtain is, well, magic. Just by clicking her heels she can help environmentalists, ranchers, hunters and others find the yellow brick road to coexistence.
Through the centuries, Americans have insisted that the public’s business be done in public. Discussing wolf policy in Washington state is somehow exempt from that concept, according to Fish and Wildlife managers.
There are two ways to look at this decision.
One is that department managers really do hope she can somehow convince Washington citizens that they don’t want to know anything more about the issues related to wolf management.
Apparently, the concept of a well-informed citizenry is highly overrated. If the department can feed the public only what it believes they need to know, everything will be much better.
Another way to look at it is the bigwigs in Olympia just wanted to get rid of the wolf issue and stroked a check to get it off their desks.
If she succeeds in getting all sides of the wolf issue to hold hands and build a bridge to each other’s heart, they’ll all be heroes.
If the effort fails, the Olympia crowd can say they tried but, dang it, it just didn’t work out.
Either viewpoint is highly cynical, we will readily admit. We’re always cynical about secrecy.
But the only other way to view this is to put on our rose-colored glasses, jump on a unicorn and ride into the sunset, crossing our fingers that whatever happens in secret will be for the good of all.
Wolf management is not a secret, and it’s not magic. And, believe it or not, Washington is not the first state to deal with gray wolves. Idaho did it. Oregon did it. Montana did it. Canada has more than 50,000 wolves — 10,000 are in British Columbia alone — and somehow its leaders have managed the wolves.
What, exactly, makes Washington so special?
Wolves are not typical endangered species. They are predators, prolific, highly mobile and can fend for themselves.
These qualities alone call for managing them differently that other protected species.
And the fact that some of them prey on livestock, threatening the financial well-being of ranch families, many who have lived off the land for generations, makes it that much more important for wildlife managers to do their job, not shovel it off to high-paid consultants who hide behind closed doors.