Tag Archives: sepa

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.

Judge Dismisses SEPA Portion Of Lawsuit Over WDFW Wolf Removals

A Thurston County Superior Court judge today ruled against out-of-state environmentalist groups targeting Washington’s protocols for lethally removing problem wolves.

The Center for Biological Diversity of Arizona and Cascadia Wildlands of Eugene said the guidelines adopted in 2017 should have been evaluated under the State Environmental Policy Act and before three kill orders were issued last year, but Judge John C. Skinder dismissed their two claims to that effect.

(WIKIMEDIA)

In court papers, 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.

The agency said that the organizations were misreading the act to try to include its wolf-livestock protocols, which guide nonlethal and lethal responses to attacks on cattle, sheep and other domestic animals, as part of the SEPA process.

WDFW’s wolf management plan did go through the environmental review before it was adopted in 2011, and the protocols are said to “flow from” that document.

Even as it represents another court victory against those chivvying WDFW over its predator management, wolf policy manager Donny Martorello was subdued early this afternoon in response to Judge Skinder’s decision.

“Our preference is not to be in court. I’m not a fan of winners and losers. I prefer the Wolf Advisory Group’s collaborative process,” he stated. “I concur that the judge’s decision was concurrent with case history, concurrent with state statute and Fish and Wildlife Commission rules, and I think it’s the right decision.”

The lawsuit was filed last fall by the two pro-wolf organizations after agency Director Kelly Susewind issued authorizations to kill members of three packs that were depredating cattle in Ferry and Stevens Counties.

WDFW, CBD and Cascadia Wildlands agreed to drop a third claim over a kill permit that had been extended to a Togo Pack range rancher.

A fourth claim, a merits hearing on whether removals violate the state’s Administrative Procedure Act, has not yet been scheduled, according to Martorello.

Killing wolves is a hot topic in Washington as WDFW attempts to balance recovering the species with the impact the animals have on local ranchers and herds.

Earlier this fall, Governor Jay Inslee 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.

The agency is currently in a public scoping period for what’s important to hunters and other residents as it begins planning for postrecovery management of wolves in Washington.

Comment Open For Cooke Sterile Steelhead Seapen Proposal

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM WDFW

Yesterday, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) began a 21-day public comment period regarding Cooke Aquaculture’s proposal to farm sterile (triploid) rainbow trout/steelhead in Puget Sound.

ANGLERS FISH NEAR A BROKEN CYPRESS ISLAND NETPEN IN HOPES OF LANDING ATLANTIC SALMON IN THE AFTERMATH OF AUGUST 2017’S DISASTER. (DNR)

The Department posted a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) mitigated determination of non-significance that analyzes the environmental impacts of Cooke’s proposal to transition from farming Atlantic salmon to farming steelhead in several of the company’s existing facilities. These facilities include four net pens located near Rich Passage and Skagit Bay, but in the future may cover three more Puget Sound net pens currently owned by Cooke.

“Given the escape of Atlantic salmon in 2017, we know that there is a heightened sense of concern around the impacts of fish aquaculture in Puget Sound,” said WDFW Fish Program Director Kelly Cunningham. “We want to hear from the public about Cooke Aquaculture’s proposal and our proposed permit requirements.”

In addition to agreeing to farm only sterile fish, Cooke will also need to prescreen any fish destined for net pens in Washington waters to ensure that they are free of disease.

Cooke submitted a five-year Marine Aquaculture Permit application to WDFW in January 2019, and a SEPA Environmental Checklist with supporting documents in July 2019.

WDFW continues to work with its natural resource agency partners to provide oversight and ensure compliance with the terms of aquaculture permits and leases in Puget Sound. Cooke’s proposal would also be subject to additional regulatory review by WDFW’s sister state agencies before the proposed transition could take place.

The public is asked to submit comments by Oct. 22, 2019. The determination, including ways to comment, and supporting documents can be found at: https://wdfw.wa.gov/licenses/environmental/sepa/open-comments.