Enviros Lose Washington Bear Battle

A highly litigious out-of-state environmental group lost another court bid to insert itself into Washington predator management issues today.


The Center for Biological Diversity had sued WDFW over its black bear timber depredation program in spring 2018, but a Thurston County Superior Court judge this afternoon ruled against the Arizona-based organization.

The case stemmed from 1996’s voter-passed I-655 and to a lesser degree 2000’s I-713, which while banning hunting bears with bait or dogs and body-gripping traps, provided exemptions for problem wildlife.

In initial court filings CBD said WDFW’s program that was subsequently created to address bears that in spring gnaw on the bark of young Douglas firs, hemlocks and other species to get at a sugary sap underneath, often killing the commercially valuable trees, “does not fall within these narrow exceptions.”

It claimed the state agency was running “a program that illegally issues permits for the hunting of black bears using bait, dogs, and traps, in violation of both the spirit and the letter of initiatives passed by Washington voters banning such cruel and inhumane hunting practices.”

But Judge Carol Murphy did not see it that way and ruled that the program, which has been on pause since June 2018, can now continue.

“After reviewing the entire record, there may be additional input that would have been helpful, including data and opinions, but that is not the test in this court,” the judge said, according to a Courthouse News Service article tonight. “The court does not determine the best policy or reweigh the interests. The court considered whether the rules complied with and did not go beyond the agency’s statutory authority. They did not.”

Murphy’s decision followed a CBD attempt to introduce more than 130 documents in court this morning.

“The judge found that there was statutory authority for the rules, and denied the Center for Biological Diversity’s claim otherwise. The judge found that the rules were not arbitrary or capricious and met the legal standard,” WDFW said in a statement this evening.

“The judge determined that the guidance documents used by the WDFW to process the permits did not meet the definition of rules, and therefore the department did not need to go through the rule making notice and comment procedures,” the statement continued.

CBD has also attempted to insert itself into wolf management issues, challenging WDFW’s hard-won lethal removal protocols last summer.

After a short court stay last August, Murphy allowed the state to move forward and take out a wolf from a pack that continues to depredate on livestock, though an eight-hour court-challenge window now occurs before any removals began.

As for black bear damage issues, they probably wouldn’t be so bad if tree farmers didn’t establish monocultures of Doug firs while wiping out most competing native as well as invasive nonnative plants.

Meanwhile, CBD and others are sure to continue pressure campaigns against WDFW.

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