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WA: Washington Governor Urged to Order New Rules to Reduce Wolf-killing

SEATTLE— Conservation groups petitioned Gov. Jay Inslee today to order the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to draft enforceable rules that limit when the state can kill endangered wolves for conflicts with livestock.

Today’s appeal, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians, seeks a reversal of the commission’s June 26 denial of the groups’ formal petition for wolf-management rules.

“The state’s constant killing of wolves shows that the current system’s completely broken,” said Sophia Ressler, a Washington wildlife advocate and staff attorney at the Center. “New rules would save wolves, prevent livestock losses, and provide the accountability the people of Washington deserve in the management of our endangered wolves.”

The state has killed 31 wolves since 2012, 26 of those for the same livestock operator in the Kettle River Range in northeast Washington.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife today issued a kill order on the Wedge pack. A separate kill order on the Togo pack is still open despite the last known predation occurring over six weeks ago with no other conflict since. Agency staff recognize that this high-conflict area is prime wolf habitat. As stated in today’s appeal, if enforceable requirements to use proactive deterrence measures aren’t implemented, conflicts with wolves will continue.

The groups proposed a mix of new and amended rules that would provide clarity to the agency, livestock operators and the public. The amended rules would require that livestock operators use appropriate nonlethal deterrence methods to prevent conflict between livestock and wolves. The new rules would ensure that the state kills wolves only as a last resort.

“These are common-sense rules that incentivize livestock producers to use nonlethal, preventative measures and encourage these producers to enter cooperative agreements with the Department,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. “To be clear, livestock operators have the right to defend their own animals, but if they want the state to use public dollars to kill wolves on their behalf, these operations are going to have to play ball.”

“Livestock producers must manage their cows to reduce conflict with wolves, and this requirement should be welcomed by the Department,” said Jocelyn Leroux, Washington/Montana director at Western Watersheds Project. “These rules are necessary so the Department can manage the wildlife they are tasked with protecting for a healthy, flourishing population across their native range.”

“Unfortunately for Washington, the stakeholder process the Department relies on through the Wolf Advisory Group is broken and gives disproportionate power to ranching and hunting interests,” said Samantha Bruegger, wildlife coexistence campaigner at WildEarth Guardians. “This has silenced the voices of the public and created a system in which common-sense rules and modern science can be completely ignored. It is critical to initiate rulemaking to repair the impossible situation the Wolf Advisory Group has created.”

The governor has 45 days to make a decision. Gov. Inslee could overrule the commission’s decision and require that a rulemaking be initiated, which would open a comment period to seek public input on new rules.