SW WA Rep: No Reason To ‘Force The Wolves Here’

Steven Friederich of The Daily World (Aberdeen) wrote a good and lengthy article on last week’s state House hearing on wolves in Olympia, which we covered briefly earlier this week.

Friederich folds in post-hearing comments from House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Brian Blake about translocating wolves to the Olympic Peninsula and Willapa Hills, and WDFW Director Phil Anderson on the likelihood that that “tool” would be used.

Moving members of the species around Washington is part of the agency’s draft plan to achieve statewide recovery goals, but it is controversial, especially in areas where it would otherwise be pretty difficult for wolves to reach.

Blake: “There is absolutely no reason for the state to get involved and somehow force the wolves here.”

A Democrat, he represents Southwest Washington’s Pacific and Wahkiakum Counties and parts of Grays Harbor and Cowlitz Counties.

Pointing to reports of wolves around the other edges of the state — tracks, howls and photographs of animals in extreme southeast and northeast Washington and upper Ross Lake as well as confirmed packs in Okanogan and Pend Oreille Counties — Blake added: “All of these details tell us that the wolf is coming and it’s coming on its own without us needing to help it along.”

It was interesting that during the hearing (which I viewed afterwards online) no legislators asked Anderson point blank if WDFW was reintroducing wolves into the state. Some hunters believe as a matter of fact that the agency or wolf advocates in league with WDFW are bringing them in illicitly.

One story has it that a white rig, not unlike a Schwan’s delivery truck, was spotted resupplying the Lookout Pack with eight more members in spring 2009. A more dated one has it that Weyerhaeuser parachuted them into the Willapa Hills to reduce elk and deer damage to young trees.

They can be believable for those who view government and environmentalists suspiciously, though state and federal biologists scoff at the stories. One tells us that tales of sneaky bios shipping predators here and there are a worldwide phenomenon.

Realistically, the only way that WFDW would actually move wolves around is through translocation if it’s part of the final plan, but even so, that would be no slam-bam-thank-you-mam process, as Anderson sees it.

Friedrich quotes him as saying:

“Moving wolves that are within the state boundaries to another location in the state is a tool that is available in the plan but is not defined specifically that it be used … It’s not stated it will be used. It’s a tool that could be considered.”

And adds:

“Anderson said the issue would need to go through its own environmental planning process before the state agency could pull the trigger and decide to implement the concept.

‘It’s not something that could just be done,’ Anderson said. ‘I think translocation is a hugely controversial issue and it is so far down the road that it would take an excruciating process to get there.'”

Elsewhere in Olympia, WDFW staffers are categorizing by theme the 65,000 comments on the draft plan that came in during a three-month-long public review. Eight hundred separate ideas have been identified, and they will be put into a spreadsheet and given answers.

The agency had planned on meeting with its 17-member Wolf Working Group a few weeks ago, but that got scrubbed due to snow, the Capital Press reported Dec. 8.

Next up is development of a final plan this coming spring and summer, and a presentation to the Fish & Wildlife Commission in late 2011.

However, the CP story quotes WDFW spokeswoman Madonna Luers as pointing out that things are in flux with her agency.

“A lot could change between now and the end of session as to what we will do and how we are staffed and organized. Natural resources agency reform will be a big issue in the interest of saving money,” Luers told reporter Dan Wheat.

Gov. Gregoire earlier this week proposed merging WDFW with State Parks and the Recreation and Conservation Office plus eight of DNR’s law enforcement officers. It’s possible that the House and Senate will push different consolidations forward too; last session, a Senate bill would have put WDFW and Parks under DNR.

It’s also likely that wolf-related bills will be introduced in the coming legislative session.

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