Tag Archives: thurston county superior court

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.

A PEELED TREE IN THE TIGER MOUNTAIN STATE FOREST LAST SPRING. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

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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WDFW OPT Wolf Removal Op Can Proceed After Lawsuit Attempt

Editor’s note: Since this blog was posted around 3:30 p.m. today, Aug. 1, 2019, a King County Superior Court judge has sided against parties trying to stop WDFW from lethally removing livestock depredating wolves. “Judge decided in DFW’s favor so we can move forward with removal,” said agency spokeswoman Staci Lehman at 5:30 p.m. via email. “However, we don’t have a timeframe currently and someone else could file another TRO at any time.”

Editor’s note 2: During the Aug. 2, 2019 Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting, Director Kelly Susewind provided an update to say that there will be an Aug. 16 court date “for a follow-up status report” and that in the meanwhile WDFW is “actively looking” to implement his lethal removal authorization.

Another active day in Washington’s wolf world, as the focus shifted from northern Ferry County to Seattle today.

That’s where a Maryland-based organization says a motion has been filed to stop WDFW from killing more Old Profanity Territory wolves for chronic cattle depredations.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The state agency has paused its planned lethal operation against the pack now blamed for killing or injuring 27 cows and calves since last September pending a judge’s decision.

A temporary restraining order could be granted with a follow-up court date in several days, or the injunction could be tossed out, which would allow WDFW to proceed, according to spokeswoman Staci Lehman.

As of 3:30 p.m. Thursday, word one way or another had yet to emerge from court.

WDFW Director Kelly Susewind had greenlighted more OPT removals first thing yesterday morning, and following an eight-hour window for court challenges, state staffers could have begun targeting the eight wolves last evening or this morning.

But the lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court by “two Washington residents” represented by Seattle attorney Johnathon Bashford and “with the support” of Wayne Pacelle’s Center for a Humane Economy put a halt to that.

Lehman says that technically motions can be filed by anybody at any time but that the eight-hour notice is a “courtesy” for people to get their “legal ducks in a row” before WDFW takes action.

Appealing for a restraining order is the same play that the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands made last August after the Togo Pack had attacked three times in 30 days and Susewind OKed killing one or two to try and head off more problems.

A Thurston County Superior Court judge initially granted the out-of-state groups a TRO, but it was lifted about 10 days later by another judge because it didn’t meet a legal benchmark to be able to move forward, and one Togo wolf was ultimately taken out.

In this latest lawsuit threat, the parties are taking issue with WDFW for removing wolves depredating on Diamond M Ranch cattle on federal grazing allotments and trying to draw attention to the livestock producers’ alleged “needlessly provocative actions.”

Meanwhile, they’re also taking their own — attempting to break the fragile peace that is wolf management in Washington, just as the Arizona- and Oregon-based organizations before them.

They’ve taken out a full-page ad in The Seattle Times in recent weeks and reintroduced Rob Wielgus into the fray, he of the 2016’s incendiary comments about the Diamond M and where they allegedly turned their cows out — and which led to a sharp rebuke from the university where he worked at the time.

Yesterday, WDFW also announced that a Togo Pack wolf had been shot by a rancher as it chased a calf and that the pack had three attacks within the past 30 days. The agency also alerted the public a week or so ago the Grouse Flats Pack had three in the past 10 months.

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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?

Instate Wolf Advocates Blast Out-of-staters’ Court Moves Against WDFW

An instate organization deeply involved in Washington wolf issues over the past decade is blasting two out-of-state environmental groups whose legal moves have initially blocked WDFW from targeting a pack to head off further livestock depredations.

Yes, you read that correctly.

A MEMBER OF CENTRAL WASHINGTON’S TEANAWAY PACK, WHICH ROAMS THE PART OF THE STATE WHERE WOLVES ARE STILL FEDERALLY LISTED, STANDS IN A FOREST. (BEN MALETZKE, WDFW)

“Lawsuits and polarization haven’t worked out well for wolves elsewhere, so we see little upside in spreading those tactics to Washington, where wolf recovery is going relatively well overall” said Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest, in a statement this morning. “Instead of polarization, our focus is on collaboration and long-term coexistence.”

CNW is a member of WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group which helped craft a set of lethal removal protocols that the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands are now contesting in court.

On Monday, they got Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Lanese to issue a temporary restraining order against Director Kelly Susewind’s kill authorization for one or more members of northern Ferry County’s Togo Pack, implicated in six attacks on cows and calves on private and public land since last November, including three in a recent 30-day period.

The two groups, based in Arizona and Oregon and neither of which are on the WAG, claim that the protocol is “faulty” and should have been subject to an environmental review.

While CBD stresses that Washington’s wolf population is still “small” and uses its own faulty math to make it appear that a higher percentage of wolves have been lethally removed than in any single year, CNW says recovery is actually going better in the Evergreen State compared to the Northern Rockies.

CNW calls the lethal removal protocol a “deliberate approach” and one that the state’s packs “can easily withstand the current level of impact.”

And it says that working with others rather than going to court is the key.

“We think the collaborative work of the WAG is leading to less social conflict concerning wolves and more willingness of ranchers to embrace proactive techniques to lower both wolf-livestock conflict and the use of lethal removal. This is real progress towards the long-term recovery and public acceptance of wolves alongside thriving local communities in our state, and an important model for coexistence between people and wildlife,” the organization said.

A WDFW DOCUMENT DETAILING DEPREDATIONS OF THE TOGO PACK HIGHLIGHTS BITE MARKS AND OTHER EVIDENCE ON THE CARCASS OF A COW THAT WAS CONFIRMED TO HAVE BEEN ATTACKED BY WOLVES. (WDFW)

This is not the first rodeo for the local and out-of-state advocates.

Last fall, Conservation Northwest said it was “disappointed” with the Center’s filing of a lawsuit to get ahold of public records related to previous removals and a ranchhand’s caught-in-the-act shooting of a wolf that June.

“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,” a CNW spokesman said at the time.

Editor’s notes: For reactions from state lawmakers about the lawsuit, see Rep. Joel Kretz‘s and Rep. JT Wilcox’s comments.

Judge Temporarily Blocks WDFW From Lethally Removing Member(s) Of Togo Pack

A Westside judge has issued a temporary restraining order that bars WDFW from beginning the lethal removal of one or more wolves from a pack that’s been depredating Ferry County cattle since last November.

TOGO WOLF. (WDFW)

The state agency had announced early this morning that it would start operations after 5 p.m. today, but two out-of-state animal rights groups went to Thurston County Superior Court to block it and Judge Chris Lanese granted it based on the suit meeting procedural criteria.

A preliminary injunction hearing has been scheduled for late next week.

The Togo Pack has struck six times in the past 10 months, including three times in the last 30 days. In five of those cases, livestock producers had been using measures to prevent wolf-cattle conflicts, according to WDFW.

But the 71-page petition filed by Center for Biological Diversity of Arizona and Cascadia Wildlands calls WDFW’s plan “arbitrary and capricious” and alleges various environmental procedural errors.

The groups had sued last year over the Sherman Pack but earlier this year that lawsuit was dismissed as moot because the pack no longer existed.

However, WDFW agreed to give a notice of one business day notice before future lethal removals.

A 7:30 a.m. press release from the state this morning set the clock ticking.

The judge’s order is specific to Director Kelly Susewind’s kill authorization but does not impact local ranchers’ ability to shoot up to one wolf caught in the act of attacking livestock.

The Aug. 31 hearing will determine whether the temporary restraining order should be replaced with a longer one or not, according to WDFW.

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.”

A PEELED TREE IN THE TIGER MOUNTAIN STATE FOREST EARLIER THIS SPRING. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

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.