If ten worked for Idaho and Montana, ten can work for Washington too.
Concerned about game populations and impacts to livestock, six members of the state Department of Fish & Wildlife’s 17-person Wolf Working Group have submitted another opinion on the draft management plan for Canis lupus in the Evergreen State, this one accepting a few more breeding pairs, but also asking for a cap on the overall wolf population.
“We would agree with 10 BPs as long as there was a targeted maximum population not to exceed 200 wolves and the major items within this document are addressed,” wrote Jack Field, Duane Cocking, Ken Oliver, Daryl Asmussen, Jeff Dawson and Tommy Petrie in a 12-page letter sent to WDFW late last week.
Field, Dawson and Asmussen are cattlemen, Petrie and Cocking hunters, Oliver a former county commissioner in Northeast Washington. In a May 2008 opinion, the sextet stated support for eight breeding pairs equaling delisting to big-game status.
The letter follows the working group’s two-day meeting in Ellensburg which came on the heels of the release of WDFW’s revised wolf management plan in late May. The draft holds the line on 15 breeding pairs spread across three regions of the state, fewer than many folks had said they wanted in public comment.
Ten breeding pairs was the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s original goal back in the mid-1990s for each of the three states in the Northern Rocky Mountains recovery region (or a total of 30 pairs) to maintain for three years in a row. (Idaho and Montana adopted 15 breeding pairs as minimums in their subsequent state plans.) A benchmark reached long ago, state management was held up by lawsuits and Wyoming’s inadequate management plan. At the end of 2010, there were a minimum of 1,651 wolves, 244 packs and 111 breeding pairs in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and eastern thirds of Washington and Oregon. In May of this year, the species was finally delisted through Congressional action.
The minority group continues to want to eliminate the three-year waiting period between reaching recovery benchmarks and delisting from state protections, saying that the time lag between those points could result in a population of 496 wolves versus 262 — and that’s if nobody sues.
They question WDFW’s wolf habitat modeling work and says it is “unacceptable” that the agency’s plan takes a “wait and see approach on ungulate/wolf conflict” for game species like elk. By their mathematics, if state delisting is held up for two years, the number of elk killed by wolves could top the number harvested by hunters.
The lack of a wolf population cap also sends “a clear message that (the WDFW) intend to adjust hunter harvest levels to provide for wolf consumption first and hunters second,” the letter states.
The six espouse a “zonal” management approach for downlisting — that is, areas like the eastern third of the state should have fewer breeding pairs because of less habitat and prey — and support translocation, specifically moving wolves to the Olympic Peninsula which “contains a large amount of habitat and prey.”
They argue, “The absence of translocation and wolves to the Northwest Coast is discrimination against the effected people in the other three existing wolf recovery zones.”
In closing, they write:
“The proposed Wolf Plan will not create trust between the effected people (rural residents, cattlemen, sportsman and hunters) and the WDFW. Social acceptance of this Plan and the Wolf amongst effected people is needed to achieve success. The proposed Wolf Plan has the potential to criminalize effected people. The Wolf Plan as proposed will preclude de-listing (targeted maximum population). The WDFW needs to completely re-vise the Draft Wolf Plan and not ignore the comments from effected people and the comments contained within this Minority Opinion if they truly wish to create a document that does not deceive the public and thereby ensures for a sustainable wolf population.”
The entire opinion is downloadable in at least two places:
As for other Washington wolf news, we’ve got our ears to the ground and expect developments this week, and WDFW is setting up a series of workshops this summer and fall to talk more about wolves and the Fish & Wildlife Commission will officially get the draft plan in August and is scheduled to make a final decision this December.
(EDITED JUNE 29, 2011 TO INCLUDE ID, MT STATE PLAN WOLF MINIMUMS OF 15 BREEDING PAIRS)