Tag Archives: lawsuit

Group Threatens Lawsuit Over Puget Sound Summer Steelhead

Even as Washington steelhead managers have been making plans to move away from hatchery Skamania summer-run releases in Puget Sound, an environmental group is threatening to sue the state agency over the program.


The Wild Fish Conservancy announced this afternoon it was filing a 60-day intent to sue WDFW, saying the stock violates the Endangered Species Act.

The highly litigious organization based in Duvall says that programs operated primarily on the Skykomish but also the North Fork Stillaguamish and Green-Duwamish Rivers threaten five wild populations of Puget Sound summer-run steelhead and are driving them “closer to extinction” by spawning in the wild, reducing fitness.

WFC cites concerns that the National Marine Fisheries Service had in mid-2017 over Skamanias — a 1950s mix of Klickitat River and Washougal River steelhead that came from a state hatchery on the Washougal — but in response to that WDFW in coordination with its ad hoc Puget Sound Steelhead Advisory Group and the Tulalip Tribes last year came up with a plan.

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It would eventually replace the strain in the Skykomish with Tolt River summers instead, but would also take multiple years.

“There’s no expectation to eliminate the existing program until we build up the Tolt,” WDFW’s Jim Scott, a special assistant to the director, told Northwest Sportsman for a story detailing the plan, “and there will be a period of overlap of the programs” before Skamania releases ends.

At last check late last year that plan was still moving forward, so it’s unclear whether it has gathered enough momentum to now be a threat to WFC and thus is forcing it into yet another lawsuit against fishery overseers.

But what is clear is that the 60-day intent to sue appears to purposefully bump up against the timeframe this year’s smolts would be released from Reiter Ponds into the Skykomish, perhaps in an effort to get WDFW to come to a settlement like what happened with Chambers Creek hatchery early winter-run steelhead in 2014.

While it also wasn’t clear from WFC’s intent-to-sue letter what they considered the five populations of wild summers threatened by Skamania summers to be, earlier this year, researchers studying hatchery summer and wild winter steelhead in Oregon’s Clackamas River found the former didn’t affect the latter.

IDFG Director Blasts Groups’ Steelhead Lawsuit Threat, Agency Details What Closure Means

Idaho steelhead managers are providing more details on today’s decision by the Fish and Game Commission to suspend fishing for the species as of midnight, Dec. 9.


The citizen panel made the move this morning under threat of a federal lawsuit from six organizations, three from out of state, who told IDFG in October they would sue over the agency’s lack of a federal authorization to hold fisheries over ESA-listed stocks unless the agency closed the season.

Officials say that an attempt to settle the dispute was unsuccessful after the groups asked for bait and boat bans, barbless hook restrictions, a prohibition on removing wild steelhead completely out of the water and closing steelhead fishing after Jan. 1.

IDFG claimed that deal would have made for “a disproportionate loss of angling opportunity for a particular user group, while preserving fishing opportunity for another.”

In a nearly 700-word letter to Idaho steelheaders, outgoing Director Virgil Moore explained that the commission didn’t want to go to U.S. District Court, lose because NMFS “dropped the ball on permit renewal” and waste sportsmen’s dollars to “pay bills for advocacy-group lawyers instead of conservation”

“Having been involved in steelhead management as a professional biologist, and being a steelhead fisherman for over 40 years, I’m well aware how important steelhead fishing is to Idaho anglers and local economies,” he wrote. “The loss of that opportunity, even temporarily, due to a lawsuit and unprocessed permit is truly regrettable.”


The permit in question ran out in 2010 but IDFG has been able to hold seasons in subsequent falls and winters “in coordination with federal managers,” according to an FAQ staffers put together.

For fans of Idaho steelheading, this means two things:

Per IDFG, fishing for steelhead will be closed in the Snake, Salmon and Clearwater, and it will be “illegal” to target them while seasons remain open on those rivers for whitefish, trout, sturgeon, etc.

As for the shared Snake, IDFG says “If Oregon and Washington continue their steelhead fisheries, anglers with a valid fishing license issued by Oregon or Washington may fish for steelhead consistent with the rules of those states.”

A WDFW official confirmed that.

“Short answer is we will keep fishing. Idaho anglers will be required to have a Washington or Oregon license if they are fishing for steelhead” on the shared Snake, said Chris Donley, the regional fisheries manager out of Spokane.

The six groups are using a page out of the same playbook some used in Washington in 2014, identifying an expired federal permit that provides cover for state fisheries over ESA-listed runs, then threatening a lawsuit.

In this case, they claim wild steelhead have been harmed during hatchery steelhead and Chinook fisheries.

Without the NMFS permit, the state is vulnerable to the suit from The Wild Fish Conservancy and Wild Salmon Rivers of Washington, The Conservation Angler of Portland, and Idaho Rivers United, Friends of the Clearwater and Snake River Waterkeeper, all based in Idaho.

But in its FAQs, IDFG states, “Angling has minimal impacts to wild steelhead and the majority (~85%) of the 5,000 miles of wild steelhead spawning and rearing habitat is closed to fishing.”

The agency says that most impacts on the fish occur downriver and that catch-and-release of wild fish has a 3 percent mortality rate.

Even so, a C&R fishery on even clipped steelhead can’t be kept open because it would accrue impacts on wild fish without a permit to do so.

As for when that permit will arrive, IDFG says it will take “a few months” for the feds to take public comment and finalize biops and other documentation, but it “may be completed in time to reopen the spring steelhead fishery,” which runs into April.

Idaho To Close Steelhead Season In Early Dec. Due To Lawsuit Threat

Editor’s update 11:45 a.m., Nov. 14, 2018: Due to the threat of a lawsuit, Idaho’s Fish and Game Commission this morning has voted to suspend the state’s fall steelhead season after Dec. 7 and won’t open the spring season, which begins Jan. 1, 2019, until a fisheries plan is OKed by NMFS, per a report from Eric Barker at The Lewiston Tribune. He says the commission feared IDFG “would be on the hook for legal fees should the season continue and the groups follow through with their intent to sue.” Below is our earlier story on the issue.

Another state, another low-hanging-fruit lawsuit in the works by wild steelhead zealots against fishery agencies.

In 2014 it was WDFW and its Chambers Creek early winter program in Puget Sound; in 2018 it’s IDFG and its A- and B-runs.


The two agencies’ lack of federally approved management plans for hatchery operations and to hold fisheries more so than low runs leave them vulnerable to suits.

Washington’s was eventually settled out of court and a new plan is in place after several disrupted fishing seasons, but now Idaho is under threat.

In October, the Wild Fish Conservancy and Conservation Angler, along with Rivers United, Friends of the Clearwater and Snake River Water Keeper notified IDFG that they were going to take it to court in December if they didn’t close steelhead season by early in the month.

This year has seen a low run to the Snake River Basin and all three states dropped the limit to one already, but this lawsuit is very similar to the one WFC and others pursued against WDFW several years ago when it didn’t have a NMFS-OKed hatchery genetic management plan for the Skykomish and other winter rivers.

HGMPs provide the states with Endangered Species Act coverage, and at the time draft plans for multiple rivers and stocks were piling up on the federal fishery overseers’ collective desk following a raft of listings throughout the region.

In IDFG’s case, its expired all the way back in 2009, per Lewiston Morning Tribune outdoor reporter Eric Barker.

“The state submitted a new monitoring and evaluation plan the same year but officials at Fisheries Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration let it sit idle while working on other pressing issues,” he writes in a story out overnight.

Also at risk are Idaho’s spring, summer and fall Chinook fisheries.

What to do about it is on the agenda of Idaho’s Fish and Game Commission meeting today.

“Department and federal agency review processes to date have found Idaho’s management frameworks for hatchery steelhead and chinook fisheries do not jeopardize wild steelhead populations,” reads a staff briefing out ahead of the confab. “The Department has monitoring and evaluation frameworks in place for hatchery steelhead and chinook fisheries, with annual reporting to NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service.”

Barker reports NMFS is working on a new draft plan and it’s out for public comment now.

Still, IDFG may have to close steelheading as of Dec. 7 to head off the risk of a lawsuit being filed on the 9th, Barker reports.

Stay tuned.

Of All The Reasons To Sue WDFW …

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has been in court what seems like a fair amount of late, what with all the Center for Biological Funding Diversity lawsuits over bears and wolves.

So today we’re going to play a game we like to call “Bluff the reader,” a total ripoff of the Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me radio segment where three news stories are read to a listener who must guess which one is true.

Our theme: We’ll see you in court, WDFW!


Guess which of these is an actual lawsuit that’s been served on the agency and you win!*


An environmental group whose candidate wasn’t chosen as WDFW’s new director last Saturday is suing in an attempt to force the Fish and Wildlife Commission to reconsider before the new boss Kelly Susewind takes the reigns Aug. 1.

Frequent agency critic the Center for Biological Diversity says that Wolfstar Flowerwillow is eminently qualified to lead WDFW’s 1,800 employees, and oversee its land base of 1,400 square miles and $437 million two-year budget.

“Mr. Flowerwillow has a masters degree in Outerior Design from Evergreen State and studied wolves and cougars under Rob Wielgus at Wazzu,” said spokesman Amaroq Weiss.

Unfortunately for the prospective candidate’s chances, Flowerwillow was among the job seekers whose resume was flushed early on from the pool of 19 choices by Fish and Wildlife Commission members.

“Ultimately, they went with that … that … that butcher Susewind! Have you not seen how many hunting licenses, tags special applications that beast bought last year?!?” said Weiss. “We’re not going to stand for it!”

CBD’s lawsuit calls for the director search to start over, to disqualify anyone who’s ever bought a hunting or fishing license, and to just hire Flowerwillow instead.

WDFW had “no comment” on the lawsuit.


A fiery anti-government Washington resident is suing WDFW over what he considers to be a violation of his constitutional rights.

“They say, ‘Lanuch at your own risk,’ but by god, I’ll lanuch whether the state says it’s risky or not,” said Geau Avay. “I will lanuch in the morning, in the blazing-hot sun without sunscreeen on, and while firing bottle rockets out of my butt!”

What Avay is actually referring to is a WDFW water access sign on which the word “launch” was misspelled.

But that’s not stopping him.

“If the state is now in the business of determining whether I should be lanuching or not, what next?” Avay wondered. “This is just the first step towards tyranny, and I aim to stop it!”

WDFW had “no comment” on the lawsuit.


A Whatcom County woman is suing WDFW because a representative advised her to drown nuisance squirrels she’s live-trapped “out of sight of anyone this may offend.”

Vegan licensed euthanizer Rebecca Crowley says she can not “abide the infliction of undue harm or suffering to any being, human or nonhuman” in a superior court lawsuit, according to the Bellingham Herald.

She points to veterinary standards, and county and city codes that she says bars it — and even WDFW guidelines that say if you don’t have any sodium pentobarbital on hand, instead of drowning, put the unwanted squirrel in the garage with the door closed and car left running.

Crowley wants drowning problem wildlife to be banned and for WDFW to never, ever tell people they can go ahead and do so.

Her lawyer, Adam Karp, who created the Facebook page Squirrels Over Troubled Water, says nonlethal preventative methods should be used first, things like buying a pack of squirrel hounds, clearcutting and brushbusting your property to remove squirrel habitat, and putting away all the toys and other squirrel attractants in your yard.

As you may have guessed, WDFW had “no comment” on this actual lawsuit.


* Absolutely nothing.

WDFW Sued Over Black Bear Timber Damage Removal Program

Two weeks after a Thurston County judge dismissed one lawsuit against WDFW, over wolves, the Center for Biological Diversity is back in superior court with another, this one concerning the removal of black bears damaging valuable private timber.

The Arizona-based outfit contends that the state agency is 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.”


WDFW spokesman Bruce Botka said the lawsuit had just come in and did not have a comment on it.

The lawsuit is the latest example of how state wildlife management has come increasingly under the microscope in recent years, especially bears, wolves and cougars, and primarily by entities that the Associated Press story on this labeled as “conservation groups” but really are highly litigious environmental organizations with different aims than true conservationists.

It stems from 1996’s 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.

However, CBD says the 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 says that since 2010, WDFW has OKed killing 900 bears damaging private timberlands through the use of hounds, bait and traps.

According to KING 5 reporter Alison Morrow, who has been reporting on the damage control hunt the past few years, including interviewing two top state officials about it, it does not necessarily remove the offending bear.

However, it does reduce the pool of potential problem animals, which appears to be the state’s and timber companies’ goals.

The question is whether how it’s being operated contravenes voters’ wishes.

CBD is asking a judge to find that WDFW is issuing damage control permits outside its authority, doing so is arbitrary and capricious and that all those issued this year be declared unlawful.

Another Ferry Co. Wolf Depredation, Another CBD Lawsuit

Usually Washington’s wolf world cools off as winter approaches. Not this fall.

WDFW this afternoon is reporting a second depredation in northern Ferry County this month just as an out-of-state environmental group has filed a second lawsuit against the agency this autumn.

As the kids like to say these days, let’s unpack these one at a time.

THE LATEST DEPREDATION — a dead calf — was discovered Nov. 8, six days after another calf was reported injured nearby.

Both attacks occurred on a local livestock producer’s fenced private land though in different locations.


The dead calf was found as a cattle herd was being moved, and was tarped to preserve evidence.

The next day, WDFW determined it to be a confirmed depredation, based on bite marks, signs of struggle, wolf tracks and the injured calf.

The two depredations follow on the heels of another rancher catching a wolf in the act of attacking their stock in late October and killing it, which is legal in this part of Washington.

That wolf was killed less than 3 miles from where the dead calf was found, according to state wolf managers.

Even with two confirmed attacks in less than 30 days, it’s unclear what pack may be to blame should state gunners be authorized for lethal removals. Reporting on the injured calf earlier this month, WDFW said that attack occurred outside known ranges.

“The producer checks on the cattle multiple times every day during feedings,” the agency noted in today’s update. “The producer has also used range riders periodically this year and last year. The producer removes sick or injured cattle from the area. The producer also received locations of nearby collared wolves via WDFW’s Sensitive Wildlife Data Sharing Agreement.”

In October, there was a confirmed depredation in Stevens County by the Smackout Pack. In previous years, livestock attacks have mostly occurred in June, July, August and September.

AS FOR THAT LAWSUIT, it was filed by the Center For Biological Diversity in Thurston County Superior Court against WDFW over public records.

The Arizona-based organization is trying to get ahold of details on the June caught-in-the-act shooting of a wolf by a Stevens County ranchhand, as well as information on the removal of much of the Profanity Peak Pack of northern Ferry County in 2016 for a series of depredations.

“The public has every right to know how and why wolves are being killed in Washington,” CBD’s Amaroq Weiss said in a press release. “Wolves are still in a fragile state in Washington. It’s frustrating that state wildlife officials won’t come clean with the full details on these lethal operations.”

It’s the outfit’s second lawsuit in two months, following on one in late September trying to stop lethal removals, and it “disappointed” instate wolf advocates.

“While this group spends money on lawyers and undermines Washington’s collaborative wolf policy process, Conservation Northwest funds range riders and on-the-ground field staff working to protect both wolves and livestock,” said spokesman Chase Gunnell. “Balanced coexistence, not courtroom wrangling, is the best path for long-term wolf recovery. We firmly believe that sitting down with other wildlife stakeholders to create common-ground policies and win-win solutions is far more effective than divisive lawsuits.”

While both organizations are listed as members of Pacific Wolf Coalition, CNW has a seat on WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group while CBD does not. The former is typically more in tune with on-the-ground realities in Washington’s wolf world than the latter, which attempts to paint the population as “fragile,” even as numbers increase year over year as more arrive from Canada, elsewhere in the Lower 48 and instate packs multiply and split.

“WDFW can’t comment at this point, since neither we nor our attorneys have had the opportunity to review the complaint,” said agency spokesman Bruce Botka.

Pro-Wolf Groups File Suit To Try And Stop Lethal Removals In Washington

Pro-wolf groups from out of state are challenging WDFW’s lethal removals, filing a lawsuit in court today in a bid to prevent managers from killing any more in the federally delisted portion of Washington.

The move could fracture the collaborative work of in-state stakeholders managing the return of a difficult species with longterm recovery goals in mind.



It comes after three wolves in the Smackout and Sherman Packs in Northeast Washington were taken out this summer by WDFW as it follows a protocol that blends rancher buy-in and nonlethal deterrents with real consequences for depredating packs by acting faster to head off larger livestock and wolf body counts.

The 619-page lawsuit was filed in Thurston County Superior Court by the litigious Center for Biological Diversity of Arizona and Cascadia Wildlands of Eugene.

It claims that WDFW Director Jim Unsworth improperly authorized going after Sherman Pack members in late August in violation of the State Environmental Policy Act, or SEPA, and Adminstrative Procedure Act, or APA.

That authorization came under new protocols adopted this year following discussion with the Wolf Advisory Group. Now, the number of depredations needed before WDFW begins lethal removals is three including one probable, in a 30-day period, or four confirmed over a 10-month period.

Removals start with one or two wolves followed by a period of observation. Since two Smackouts were killed in July, there have been no further depredations.

The agency’s wolf management plan went through SEPA before it was adopted in 2011, and the lethal removal protocols agreed to by the WAG — of which neither CBD or Cascadia Wildlands are a part of — are said to “flow from” that document.

WDFW did not have an immediate comment about the lawsuit except that officials needed time to read and understand what they’d just received this afternoon.

The suit comes at the tail end of the grazing season. The latest that WDFW has shot a wolf for chronic depredations was Sept. 27, 2012, when the collared Wedge alpha male was killed by a marksman.

“We can’t sit by and watch Washington wildlife officials kill more wolves from the state’s small and recovering wolf population,” said CBD’s Amaroq Weiss in a press release. “Washingtonians overwhelmingly want wolves recovered, not killed. The Department of Fish and Wildlife needs to listen to public opinion and consider the dire environmental costs of killing more wolves.”

A 2014 poll found 63 percent of Washington’s public in fact supports lethally removing wolves to protect livestock with 28 percent opposed. In 2008, those percentages were 61 and 31.

The groups’ press release also plays the taxpayer card, though we’ve previously reported that lethal removals are funded by the agency’s Wildlife State account, which includes revenue from license sales, but not taxpayer dollars.

Despite the removal of almost all of the Wedge Pack, and members of the Huckleberries, Profanity Peaks, Sherman and Smackouts, the state’s population has done nothing but grow at a rate similar to that seen in the Northern Rocky Mountains.