King County Judge Rules For WDFW In 2nd Wolf Removal Lawsuit

Another Westside judge has ruled that WDFW doesn’t need to run its wolf removal protocols through the State Environmental Policy Act, the second court defeat for litigious wolf activists in just over two months.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

King County Superior Court Judge John F. McHale today reaffirmed the agency’s argument that lethal control of depredating wolves flows from the 2011 management plan for the species, and that each removal is carefully considered.

“The Court finds that WDFW’s referenced last resort approach allows for true case by case consideration that fits within … categorical exemptions … and that the lethal action challenged in this lawsuit is not part of a WDFW common scheme or plan for which actions can be seen as combined to the point that they require SEPA analysis,” McHale wrote in his three-page decision.

The lawsuit was filed by two King County residents — Genevieve Jaquez-Schumacher and John Huskinson — and Tim Coleman of Ferry County over 2019’s removals of the Old Profanity Territory Pack in Northeast Washington’s Kettle Range.

McHale dismissed their two SEPA claims, just as Thurston County Superior Court Judge John C. Skinder did last November with a lawsuit filed by Arizona- and Oregon-based wolf advocates over removals done in 2018 in the same region.

Both lawsuits aimed to throw a wrench in 2017’s hard-won wolf removal protocols, arrived at after extensive input between WDFW and members of its Wolf Advisory Group, and only implemented in the federally delisted eastern third of the state.

The plaintiffs argued that the protocols should have undergone a SEPA review, a long process that in the meanwhile would have handicapped the state’s ability to remove wolves to try and head off further cattle and sheep depredations.

WDFW argued that taking out livestock-attacking wolves falls “squarely within several SEPA categorical exemptions” and pointed to state Supreme Court case law, state statutes and administrative codes.

After hearing oral arguments in his downtown Seattle courtroom Jan. 3, McHale dismissed the two SEPA claims “with prejudice,” meaning they can’t be brought again.

As he said following that November decision, WDFW wolf policy manager Donny Martorello stated that rather than go to court over wolf-livestock conflict issues, he’d prefer to work collaboratively on them.

“This decision lets us continue to do that,” Martorello said.

Both lawsuits also include a third claim that has yet to be resolved.

Meanwhile, Governor Jay Inslee last fall told the agency to “make changes in the gray wolf recovery program to further increase the reliance on non-lethal methods, and to significantly reduce the need for lethal removal of this species” in Ferry County’s Kettle Range.

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