Tag Archives: rep. joel kretz

Washington Lawmakers Tour Wolf, Wildfire Country In Search Of Solutions

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON STATE HOUSE REPUBLICANS

In the past decade, perhaps no two issues have affected local communities, ranchers and families in Northeast Washington more than wolves and wildfires.

Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers joined with legislative staffers, agency officials, local ranchers and federal foresters to discuss the problems, frustrations and potential solutions to these two critical issues.

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: REP. TOM DENT, R-MOSES LAKE; REP. MIKE CHAPMAN, D-PORT ANGELES; REP. LARRY SPRINGER, D-KIRKLAND; REP. BRIAN BLAKE, D-ABERDEEN; REP. DEBRA LEKANOFF, D-BOW; SEN. SHELLY SHORT, R-ADDY; REP. JOEL KRETZ, R-WAUCONDA; REP. ED ORCUTT, R-KALAMA; REP. JOE SCHMICK, R-COLFAX. (WASHINGTON LEGISLATURE)

Members of the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee began their day at the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area Headquarters.  They were welcomed by local legislators, Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda and Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, as well as Kelly Susewind, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).  They then listened to WDFW officials describe their animal capture plans, techniques, and equipment.

Afterwards, the legislators drove through scarred and burnt federal forestland on their way to the Deer Creek Summit Campground at the top of Boulder.  There, the lawmakers heard from Republic District Ranger Travis Fletcher.  The group saw the damage done to the forest and then discussed the forest management techniques now being utilized on state land to help prevent massive wildfires.

The tour ended with a stop at a local ranch near Danville to hear from fifth-generation cattle producers about the struggles they are having with wolves.

The ranchers described how the threat of wolves continues to force cattle off the higher elevation grazing areas, leading to an overabundance of dry grasses, which serves as potential fuel for wildfires.  This also places more stress on lowland grazing areas needed for later in the year as well as using up water at lower elevations.

The cattlemen also described their encounters with wolves, their interactions with WDFW officials when going through the “confirmed wolf kill” process, as well as the effects the wolves have on the pregnancy rates and weights of their cows.

“As a state, we’ve got to do better by these communities,” said Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen and chair of the committee.  “We need to be thinking out-of-the box in order to keep our producers whole and ensure these multigenerational ranchers have a chance at staying in business.”

Blake’s committee was invited to tour the region and interact with local community members by Kretz, an outspoken critic of recent forest and wolf management practices.

“It seems we are making some headway with our forest management so that we might have a fighting chance when the next major wildfire strikes our region,” said Kretz.  “But we’re not seeing a lot of progress on the wolf side of things.  My four northern counties have enough wolves to delist in the entire state, but because of political boundaries, it’s not been possible.  My district continues to be held hostage by statewide wolf repopulation expectations.  There are folks here that are barely hanging on.  They can’t wait another three or four years for a solution.  They needed one yesterday.  I’m glad some of our Westside lawmakers traveled across the state to see firsthand the problems we face.”

Rep. Debra Lekanoff, D-Bow, said that some of her fondest childhood memories include time spent in Northeast Washington and that committee members acknowledge the urgency of the situation.

“Is there another way, by using increased management methods in the wolf management plan, to address the problems ranchers and cattlemen are facing?” asked Lekanoff.  “What can the Legislature do to better manage the resources or provide the policy, laws, regulations, science, data and funding to help this rural community sustain its way of life with the predators, prey and livestock that all call this place home?  Let us start by changing our terminology and stop calling this the wolf conflict, but rather the Washington State Wolf Management Plan.  We take our commitment of continued economic viability to this rural community seriously and commit to address these issues with urgency.  We are not turning our backs on rural Washington.”

The visit to Northeast Washington by members of the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee was the first to the region in nearly a decade.

“This is a committee that deals with rural issues.  It’s vitally important that committee members get out of Olympia whenever possible in order to see the real-world problems our folks in rural Washington are up against,” said Kretz.  “I’m very grateful for the legislators who made the trip up here.  I’m hopeful that come next legislative session, we can work in a bipartisan fashion to provide relief to my communities.”

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Tax On Recreational Gear To Help Fund WDFW Gets Hearing In Olympia

An idea whose time has come, an “unfixable” one — or something in between?

Washington lawmakers heard all sides during a hearing on a bill that would add a .20 percent tax on certain recreational equipment and clothing over $200 to help fund the upkeep of WDFW-owned fish and wildlife habitat.

MEMBERS OF THE WALGAMOTT-ECKSTEIN CLAN SET UP TENTS IN THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS DURING A FOURTH OF JULY CAMPOUT SEVERAL YEARS AGO. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Citing a ring of invasive knapweed around a state wildlife area sign in Okanogan County, prime sponsor Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) said he was trying to fix a long-standing problem for the agency since the Great Recession chopped a big part of state General Fund support for its myriad missions.

“I think $2 million would give us a start,” he told members of the House Finance Committee.

That’s how much a fiscal note says HB 2122 as initially written would raise on average over the coming six years for WDFW’s Wildlife Account, from $800,000 in 2020 to $2.9 million in 2025

Hunters and anglers presenting their licenses at that point of sale would be exempt as we already pay through federal excise taxes via the venerable Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts.

“That group has been paying the freight for a pretty long time,” Kretz pointed out.

REP. JOEL KRETZ TALKS ABOUT HIS BILL, HB 2122, BEFORE A HOUSE COMMITTEE DURING A TELEVISED PUBLIC HEARING. (TVW)

However, representatives from the retail industry say they oppose it, including for its broad language and the dollars that outdoor activities already generate for local economies and state taxes — $26 billion and $2 billion, according to Mark Berejka of Seattle recreational giant REI.

“This bill is not a fix and it is not fixable,” he said.

He also questioned how the sportsman exemption would work when buying items online, and complained that the bill had been “sprung” on his industry.

THOMAS O’KEEFE OF AMERICAN WHITEWATER STATED THAT THE BILL WOULD TAX THE SKIS HE STRAPS ON ON FEDERAL LANDS BUT NOT THE PADDLE HE’D USE AT A WDFW WATER ACCESS SITE. ANOTHER SPEAKER WONDERED IF HORSE SADDLES WOULD BE TAXED. (TVW)

James Moshella of the Washington Trails Association said his group was opposed, but that if such a tax was going to be imposed it needed to have a broader conversation and also should benefit all state lands — WDFW, DNR and State Parks — that hikers use.

Organizations closer to WDFW’s mission expressed support.

Jen Syrowitz, a hunter and hiker with Washington Wildlife Federation, called the bill a “fair ask of the recreational community.”

She said there was a “disconnect” between state residents and our wildlife and the bill would help everyone understand they’re all stakeholders in WDFW carrying out its conservation mission.

Syrowitz called the tax nominal, and in offering Audubon Washington’s support, Adam Maxwell said it amounted to “60 cents on a pair of Nikon Monarch binoculars.”

He said that the dollars WDFW receives generate a 350 percent return on investment to state coffers.

Calling himself an avid hiker and photographer, Chris Bachman of Spokane’s The Lands Council said, “I’m glad to pay the tax.”

He added that what would be taxed under the bill needs to better defined, a work-in-progress sentiment that was echoed by Tom Echolls of the Hunters Heritage Council and Mitch Friedman of Conservation Northwest. The former gentleman signed in as “other,” the latter in support.

WITH WDFW’S NATE PAMPLIN LOOKING ON, CONSERVATION NORTHWEST DIRECTOR MITCH FRIEDMAN EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR THE BILL DURING THE PUBLIC HEARING. (TVW)

Also testifying was WDFW’s Nate Pamplin, which said his agency was supportive of the intent of the bill, which came out of legislative requirements for state fish and wildlife overseers to review their operation, conduct an audit, look for efficiencies and convene stakeholders, the Budget and Policy Group, or BPAG.

He said that that found that the department’s mission benefits all Washingtonians, and it should be funded that way.

Asked by Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama) how much WDFW lost in General Fund revenues due to the recession 10 years ago, Pamplin said funding went from $110 million in the 2007-09 biennium to $75.6 million in 2009-11 to $57.7 million in 2011-13. While it recovered to $94.4 million in the current two-year budget cycle, with inflation it’s still $30 million below where it might otherwise be.

Rep. Kretz said the dropoff could be seen in “lapses in management” and in his opposition to habitat acquisitions, such as Scotch Creek, where the aforementioned weed-ringed wildlife area sign stands.

“We really appreciate the sponsor [Kretz] for thinking outside the box and this committee for holding the hearing,” Pamplin said, adding that he looked forward to working with stakeholders on the bill.

Kretz Washington Wolf Status Review Bill Passes House, Now In Senate

Even as WDFW begins a status checkup of gray wolves in Washington, state lawmakers are giving hard deadlines for the agency to complete it and for the Fish and Wildlife Commission to decide whether to update the species’ listing.

REP. JOEL KRETZ SPEAKS DURING DEBATE ON THE FLOOR OF WASHINGTON’S HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES EARLIER THIS WEEK. (STATE LEGISLATURE)

“We need the department to take this step to officially document how the wolves are faring,” said prime sponsor Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) in a press release yesterday. “I know how my ranchers and communities are faring, and it’s not good. Despite honest efforts on both sides of this issue, folks back in my district are desperate. The state needs to show that it’s listening, it hears them, and is going to start taking their concerns to heart.”

HB 2097, which passed out of the House on Monday, requires the review to be based on statewide wolf numbers and scientific data to determine if the “population is no longer in danger of failing, declining, or no longer vulnerable to limited numbers, disease, predation, habitat loss or change, or exploitation.”

The bill must still pass the Senate, where this morning it was introduced and referred to the natural resources committee, and be signed by Governor Inslee, but under it WDFW’s work would have to be finalized by the end of next February and its citizen oversight panel need to reconsider the state endangered status of wolves by August 31, 2020.

A status review is one of two ways under the Washington Administrative Codes’ “delisting criteria” that a species can be taken off state ESA lists.

WAC 220-610-110

Endangered, threatened, and sensitive wildlife species classification.

Delisting criteria
4.1
The commission shall delist a wildlife species from endangered, threatened, or sensitive solely on the basis of the biological status of the species being considered, based on the preponderance of scientific data available.
4.2
A species may be delisted from endangered, threatened, or sensitive only when populations are no longer in danger of failing, declining, are no longer vulnerable, pursuant to section 3.3, or meet recovery plan goals, and when it no longer meets the definitions in sections 2.4, 2.5, or 2.6.

The other is by meeting benchmarks set by the Fish and Wildlife Commission. With wolves, that 2011’s management plan, approved before recovery really got going. Under it, there needs to be either 15 or 18 successful breeding pairs in various parts of the state for certain periods of time.

WDFW has been estimating that that would occur somewhere around 2021, give or take.

Where the latter criteria is essentially a “measuring stick” for how close wolves are to reaching the wolf plan’s predetermined numerical figures, the former considers the “robustness” of the actual population. The most recent annual count did find nearly 15 breeding pairs, though almost all were in one single recovery region.

Indeed, there can be no doubt that pack goals have been reached in Kretz’s district — Pend Oreille, Stevens and Ferry Counties and northeast Okanogan County — but his initial bill’s possible regional delisting wording was stripped out as it moved through the legislature’s lower chamber after its Feb. 19 introduction.

Still, the unanimous 98-0 vote was a good sign for ranchers, hunters and others concerned about growing wolf numbers.

The bill also includes provisions for WDFW to study how wolf recovery in the state’s federally delisted eastern third is affecting recolonization elsewhere.

While a fringe out-of-state pro-wolf blog is already claiming the goal posts are being moved, page 68 of the wolf plan also states that if 2011’s population models turn out to be wrong, “Incorporating wolf demographic data specific to Washington will allow WDFW to update predictions of population persistence during wolf recovery phases and to revise the recovery objectives, if needed.”

And the bill would continue efforts in Ferry and Stevens Counties to deal with wolf-livestock conflicts, and create a grant program for using nonlethal deterrents in all of Eastern Washington.

“In many ways, the state has drug its feet in addressing my constituents’ concerns regarding the wolf issue,” said Kretz in the press release. “The state needs to step up financially and assist with the problems it has created, or at the very least, neglected.”

Paula Swedeen of Conservation Northwest said she appreciated lawmakers commitments to recovering wolves and providing enough funding for wolf-livestock conflict avoidance work, what she called “a significant positive step for both wolves and ranchers.”

“This allows for more social tolerance to be fostered across the state, including in the rural areas where wolves are already abundant. There is robust discussion about increasing the effort to promote coexistence in areas where livelihoods are affected by wolf recovery,” she said in a statement.

It all comes as US Interior Department Acting Secretary David Bernhardt last week said that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would soon propose removing gray wolves from ESA protections in the western two-thirds of Washington and elsewhere in the Lower 48.

WDFW has long maintained it is ready take over managing wolves across the state.

Kretz has introduced numerous wolf bills in the state legislature, some more serious than others. It appears this latest one has a good head of steam and could pass.

Oly Update II: Gill Net Ban, Bainbridge Wolf Preserve Bills Introduced

Just a brief update from the Olympia Outsider™ as the second week of Washington’s legislative session comes to a close.

Lawmakers continue to introduce fish- and wildlife-related bills, and several of note were dropped this week, some more serious than others.

A TONGUE IN CHEEK BILL INTRODUCED IN OLYMPIA THIS WEEK WOULD ESSENTIALLY DECLARE BAINBRIDGE ISLAND A WOLF PRESERVE. IT’S REP. JOEL KRETZ’S RESPONSE TO A LOCAL LEGISLATOR’S BILL THAT WOULD BAR WDFW FROM LETHALLY REMOVING DEPREDATING WOLVES IN HIS DISTRICT. NEITHER ARE LIKELY TO PASS. (THE INTERWEBS)

With our rundown last Friday starting with House bills, this week we’ll lead off with new ones in the Senate:

Bill: SB 5617
Title: “Banning the use of nontribal gill nets.”
Sponsors: Sens. Salomon, Braun, Van De Wege, Rolfes, Wilson, L., Rivers, Fortunato, Palumbo, Keiser, Das, Frockt, Randall, Warnick, Hunt, Honeyford, Brown, Cleveland, Saldaña, Nguyen, Darneille, Conway, Pedersen, Wilson, C., and Liias
Bill digest: Not available as the bill was just introduced this morning, but parsing through the text, which cites declining wild salmon runs, the importance of Chinook to orcas and reforms on the Columbia, it would phase out gillnets “in favor of mark selective harvest techniques that are capable of the unharmed release of wild and endangered salmon while selectively harvesting hatchery-reared salmon.” It would not affect tribes’ ability to net salmon.
Olympia Outsider™ analysis: First thing that jumps out about this bill is the massive number of cosponsors, 24 — nearly half of the Senate on board from the get-go. The second is its bipartisan support — 17 Democrats, seven Republicans. The lead sponsor is the recently elected Sen. Jesse Salomon of Shoreline, who defeated commercial fishing supporter Maralynn Chase last fall. It’s highly likely that the bill will make it through its first committee too, which is chaired by Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, one of the cosponsors. It also comes with some apparent backsliding led by Oregon interests on efforts to get gillnets out of the shared Columbia.

Bill: SB 8204
Title: “Amending the Constitution to guarantee the right to fish, hunt, and otherwise harvest wildlife.”
Sponsors: Sens. Braun, Fortunato, Takko, Wagoner, and Wilson, L.
Bill digest: Unavailable, but if passed would put the above up for a vote at the next general election.
OO analysis: The nut of this bill has been around for a few years, but here’s hoping it gets more traction this legislative session than 2017’s!

Bill: SB 5404
Title: “Expanding the definition of fish habitat enhancement projects.”
Sponsors: Sens. Rolfes, Honeyford, Van De Wege, McCoy, Salomon, Hasegawa
Bill digest: None available, but essentially adds projects restoring “native kelp and eelgrass beds and restoring native oysters” to those that could be permitted to enhance fish habitat.
OO analysis: A recall watching shimmering schools of baitfish off a pier in Port Townsend that had signs talking about the importance of eelgrass to salmon and other key species, such as herring. With so many acres of beds lost over the decades, this seems like a good idea.

Bill: SB 5525
Title: “Concerning whitetail deer population estimates.”
Sponsor: Sen. Shelly Short
Bill digest: None available, but directs WDFW to annually count whitetail bucks, does and fawns on certain transects in Northeast Washington with the ultimate goal of increasing deer numbers to 9 to 11 per mile.
OO analysis: State wildlife biologists already drive roads here in late summer to estimate buck:doe ratios, but we’re not going to argue with getting more deer in the woods!

Bill: HB 1404
Title: “Concerning a comprehensive study of human-caused impacts to streambeds.”
Sponsor: Rep. Blake
Bill digest:  Unavailable, but directs WDFW, DNR and DOE to review scientific literature for the effects that mining, running jet sleds and operating diversion dams, among other impacts, have on fish, gravel and water quality, with the report due next year.
OO analysis: Could be interesting to read that report.

Bill: HB 1516
Title: “Establishing a department of fish and wildlife directed nonlethal program for the purpose of training dogs.”
Sponsors: Reps. Blake, Dent, Chapman, Kretz, Walsh, Lekanoff, Orcutt, Springer, Pettigrew, Hoff, Shea
Bill digest: Unavailable, but essentially a companion bill to the Senate’s SB 5320, which yesterday had a public hearing and enjoyed widespread support from hunting, ranching, farming and conservation interests — even HSUS. It would create a program for training dogs for nonlethal pursuit of predators by vetted houndsmen to protect stock and public safety.
OO analysis: To quote the chair at Thursday’s hearing on the Senate side bill, “We love when there is widespread agreement.”

Bill: HB 1579 / SB 5580
Title: “Implementing recommendations of the southern resident killer whale task force related to increasing chinook abundance.”
Sponsors: Reps. Fitzgibbon, Peterson, Lekanoff, Doglio, Macri, Stonier, Tharinger, Stanford, Jinkins, Robinson and Pollet; Sens. Rolfes, Palumbo, Frockt, Dhingra, Keiser, Kuderer, and Saldaña.
Note: By request of Office of the Governor
Bill digest: Unavailable, but per a news release from Gov. Jay Inslee the bills “would increase habitat for Chinook salmon and other forage fish” through hydraulic permitting.
OO analysis: Good to see some teeth when it comes to overseeing projects done around water. Of note, this bill would also essentially reclassify some toothsome Chinook cohabitants, scrubbing smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and walleye from the list of officially approved state “game fish,” a precursor to slashing limits?

Bill: HB 1580 / SB 5577
Title: “Concerning the protection of southern resident orca whales from vessels.”
Sponsors: Reps. Blake, Kretz, Kirby, Peterson, Appleton, Shewmake, Morris, Cody, Jinkins; Sens. Rolfes, Frockt, Liias, McCoy, Dhingra, Hunt, Keiser, Kuderer, Saldaña, Wilson, C.
Bill digest: Unavailable, but per the Governor’s Office, “would protect Southern Resident orcas from vessel noise and disturbance. The bills would require vessels to stay at least 400 yards away from Southern Resident orcas and report vessels they witness in violation of the limit. It would also require vessels to travel under seven knots within one-half nautical mile of the whales. The legislation would create no-go and go-slow zones around the whales to protect them.
OO analysis: With vessel disturbance one of three key factors in why Puget Sound’s orcas are struggling, this bill follows on recommendations from Inslee’s orca task force. Having companion bills makes passage more likely.

Bill: HB 1639
Title: “Ensuring that all Washingtonians share in the benefits of an expanding wolf population.”
Sponsor: Rep. Joel Kretz
Bill digest: Unavailable at this writing, but essentially declares Bainbridge Island a wolf preserve and would translocate most of the state’s wolves there so “they can be protected, studied, and, most importantly, admired by the region’s animal lovers,” as well as sets new limits for considering when to lethally remove depredating wolves, including after four confirmed attacks on dogs, four on domestic cats or two on children.
OO analysis: Rep. Kretz is known for dropping some amusing wolf-related bills in the legislature, often at the expense of lawmakers who live on islands, and this latest one needles Bainbridge’s Rep. Sherry Appleton, whose HB 1045 would bar WDFW from killing livestock-attacking wolves to try and stave off further depredations in Kretz’s district and elsewhere in Washington. Neither bill is likely to pass, but the text of HB 1639 is a hoot.

CBD Wolf Lawsuit ‘A Giant Step Backward For Social Tolerance’ — Hunter

Hunter representatives on Washington’s Wolf Advisory Group are lending their voices to the growing backlash against out-of-state environmentalists’ legal actions temporarily blocking lethal removal of Togo Pack wolves.

“The Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit is a giant step backward for social tolerance and management of wolves on the landscape,” said longtime WAG member Dave Duncan. “Sadly it is all about cash flow.”

TOGO WOLF. (WDFW)

Duncan, of Ellensburg, belongs to Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation, an umbrella organization of sportsmen’s clubs and others around the state.

Last Monday, after WDFW announced it was going to take out one or more members of the northern Ferry County pack for depredations stretching back to last November, including three in a recent 30-day period, CBD of Arizona and Cascadia Wildlands of Oregon got a Thurston County judge to issue a temporary restraining order, blocking implementation of the kill order.

It took several days but anger began to bubble to the surface from other members of the WAG.

On Thursday, Conservation Northwest said it saw “little upside” in going to court because “lawsuits and polarization haven’t worked out well for wolves elsewhere,” and the organization instead called for continued collaboration.

Essentially, the lawsuit is over the hard-won lethal removal protocol that WDFW and the WAG came up with.

“It was really difficult to get through,” Rep. Joel Kretz, a Republican who represents almost all of Northeast Washington, told the Capital Press. “It’s all out the window now.”

County officials and ranchers in this part of the state held a meeting on Friday about what to do.

“When the judge put the restraining order on the department he didn’t put the restraining order on the wolves,” Stevens County commissioner Don Dashiell told the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

WDFW hasn’t reported any more depredations, but last Friday the agency investigated after a livestock producer checking on cattle when collar data showed a wolf near them fired a shot at one in self-defense.

In the meanwhile, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Lanese has scheduled a preliminary injunction hearing for this Friday. That could determine how long the restraining order is in place for.

“I concur with Conservation Northwest, Northeast Washington lawmakers, area county officials, and others speaking against it,” said Mark Pidgeon of Hunters Heritage Council, a political action organization dedicated to hunting, and who is also a longtime WAG member. “I think Representative Kretz’s comments sums it up the situation pretty well: ‘I think it’s a tragedy.'”

I’m going to butt my way into this story to say that when CBD and Cascadia Wildlands inevitably went to court last Monday I actually felt my tolerance level for this whole thing slip a few notches.

Like I told someone, I get that it’s process and I’m not going to suddenly starting spouting SSS, but in these wildly overly politicized times, it boggles my mind why in the hell the two groups would mess with things here.

Jet fuel, anyone? How’d that work out the last time?

Kretz’s Wolf Bill Translocated To Senate After Passing House

A bill pushing WDFW to translocate wolves out of Northeast Washington was passed by state representatives yesterday and will now be considered in the Senate.

It could face a tougher go in the upper chamber, and would have to also be signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee before going into effect.

REP. JOEL KRETZ, 7TH DISTRICT (R). (WASHINGTON LEGISLATURE)

“This is not the be-all, end-all solution by any means,” said prime sponsor Rep. Joel Kretz, Republican of Wauconda in a press release. “But my constituents need something. If there isn’t the political will to follow the federal government’s lead to de-list the wolves in my legislative district, than maybe we can export a few to help even things out a bit.”

Legislators made a couple amendments to his original bill, including requiring WDFW to immediately begin the State Environmental Policy Act review process as well as determine that potential relocation areas have stable wolf prey populations.

Raquel Crosier, WDFW’s legislative liaison, said the agency was happy with those tweaks as they clarified concerns from the livestock and conservation communities.

Translocation is part of the state wolf management plan, but WDFW has preferred that the often polarizing animals move west on their own.

The mid-1990s reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone and Central Idaho still chafes many the wrong way as the species was otherwise naturally recolonizing the Northern Rockies at the time, albeit slowly.

Most Washington wolves are in four counties, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille, with some also in the Central Cascades and Blue Mountains and at least one in Skagit County.

“The ranchers and pet owners and those raising livestock in my district have waited long enough,” Kretz in the press release. “This isn’t going to help my neighbors tomorrow or later this spring during turnout when they’re dealing with another wolf kill.  But it is a measure of hope.”

The bill passed 85-13.

Notably, all the dissenting votes came from a mix of Democrats and Republicans representing largely rural and/or suburban portions of Western Washington, including the South Cascades, Willapa Hills and eastern King County.

Wolf Translocation Bill Clears Washington House Committee

Translocating wolves around Washington hasn’t gotten much traction in the state Legislature — until today.

A bill prompting the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to use that tool from the agency’s 2011 wolf management plan moved out of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee this afternoon on a bipartisan 12-3 recommendation.

REPRESENTATIVES BRIAN BLAKE (MIDDLE) AND JOEL KRETZ CHAT BEFORE TODAY’S DO-PASS RECOMMENDATION ON THE LATTER LAWMAKER’S SUBSTITUTE HOUSE BILL 2771, TRANSLOCATION OF WOLVES, AN IDEA WHICH BLAKE WAS IN “VISCERAL OPPOSITION” TO. (TVW)

It’s a victory for Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) who has annually introduced translocation legislation — some bills more serious than others — to capture wolves in Northeast Washington, where they’re relatively plentiful, and ship them to parts of the state where there are few if any packs.

“It’s part of the wolf plan; why aren’t we using it?” Kretz asked during a public hearing yesterday on his HB 2771.

That plan calls for set numbers of successful breeding packs in three regions of Washington, a benchmark that’s only being met east of Highways 97, 17 and 395, with no known pairs in the South Cascades and Olympics Zone as of the count last March.

For its part, WDFW was officially neutral on the bill, not seeing a need with the state’s wolf population growing at 30 percent a year and the drawn-out SEPA process that would come with translocation.

“In Washington, we are seeing wolves disperse naturally — with multiple sightings on the west side of the Cascades. So while we appreciate this tool, we’d prefer to see wolves recolonize the west side of the state naturally,” said Raquel Crosier, the agency’s legislative liaison, via email.

Still, Kretz was looking to instill “a little urgency” with WDFW.

“We have a plethora of wolves in one small geographic area that is highly dependent on the livestock industry,” he told agency wolf manager Donny Martorello who testified. “We can’t wait another three of four years for you guys to decide maybe we should do something.”

REP. JOEL KRETZ’S 7TH LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT, OUTLINED IN RED ON WDFW’S MARCH 2017 WOLF PACK MAP. (WDFW)

Also in support was Tom Davis, representing the state farm bureau and cattlemen’s association.

Conservation Northwest is neutral, according to spokesman Chase Gunnell.

Responding to Wednesday’s comments from WDFW and others, the substitute bill that was passed today clarifies that livestock-depredating and other problem wolves not be part of a translocation program and removes a cap that required it be completed in three years.

The amended legislation also calls on WDFW to make a report to lawmakers by the end of 2020.

That said, the bill is a long way from becoming actual law. It first would need to be passed by the full House, the Senate and then signed by Governor Jay Inslee.

Among those voting against Kretz’s bill was committee Chairman Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen).

Yesterday, he acknowledged the frustrations felt by cattle producers in Northeast Washington but he also told the Capital Press he has “a visceral opposition to translocation.”

Before today’s vote he joked he might be “a lone wolf” with his no vote, but he was joined by his fellow South Coast representative, Jim Walsh, a Republican, and Ed Orcutt, also a Republican who represents much of the rest of Southwest Washington.

Voting yes were Republicans Vincent Buys of Whatcom County, Joel Kretz of Northeast Washington, Tom Dent of Central Washington, Bruce Chandler of the Yakima Valley and Joe Schmick of Southeast Washington, and Democrats Mike Chapman of the Olympic Peninsula, Joe Fitzgibbon of western King County, Kristine Lytton of the San Juan Islands and Bellingham, Eric Pettigrew of Seattle’s Rainier Valley and Renton, June Robinson of Everett and western Snohomish County, Larry Springer of north King County and Derek Stanford of southwest Snohomish County.