Tag Archives: wolf advisory group

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.

Hunter Candidates Needed For WDFW Wolf Advisory Group

Hunters are being called on to put in their application to serve on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Wolf Advisory Group.

It’s a key time to join the panel and comes as many Evergreen State sportsmen are also preparing for the opening of rifle deer season this weekend and Eastside elk later in the month.

A LATE-SEASON BLACKTAIL HUNTER LOOKS OVER WESTERN WASHINGTON REPROD. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The three-year term will overlap WDFW’s development of post state delisting wolf management planning, and follows on the WAG’s steady focus on livestock conflicts since it was formed in 2013.

“This group has been extremely helpful in advising the department on the challenging issue of recovering and managing gray wolves in our state,” Director Kelly Susewind said in a press release. “We are looking for candidates who value working cooperatively with others to develop management recommendations to advise the agency.”

WDFW is also looking for representatives from the ranching, environmental and at-large communities to fill out four vacancies.

Around this time last year, when the agency made a similar call as other seats came open, a hunter urged their fellow sportsmen to put in for the WAG.

Applications are being taken through 5 p.m., Nov. 8. To apply or nominate someone, WDFW is asking for:

* The applicant or nominee’s name, address, telephone number, and email address;
* People or groups making nominations must also submit their own names and contact information;
* The candidate’s relevant experience, organizational affiliations, and reasons why they would be an effective advisory group member;
* Familiarity with Washington’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and current wolf recovery status and management issues; and
* Experience in collaborating with people with different values.

Materials should either be emailed to wildthing@dfw.wa.gov or mailed to WDFW, P. O. Box 43200, Olympia, WA 98504-3200.

Washington Governor Asks WDFW For Changes In Wolf Management

Updated 6:30 a.m., Oct. 1, 2019.

For the second time in recent years, Washington Governor Jay Inslee is stepping in state wildlife managers’ wheelhouse on predator management, in 2015 with cougars and this fall over wolves.

He sent WDFW Director Kelly Susewind a letter today that in part asks 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.”

A WASHINGTON WOLF TAKES A LOOK AROUND. (WDFW)

Referring to issues in Ferry and Stevens Counties, Inslee claims that the state wolf plan “does not appear to be working as intended” there and that he believes WDFW “cannot continue using the same management approach on this particular landscape.”

Northeast Washington is not only where the most wolves in the state are and where recovery goals were met long ago but also the sight of the most conflicts with livestock, mostly cattle but some sheep, on federal allotments and private lands.

Even as most Washington wolf packs generally stay out of trouble, there have been chronic depredations in the Kettle Range three of the past four years with the Profanity Peak, Old Profanity Territory, Togo and Sherman Packs coming under WDFW’s gun as livestock pile up and nonlethal tactics fail.

The agency uses a hard-won protocol to detrmine when to remove wolves, with requirements that producers use a set number of conflict prevention measures and that there have been either three confirmed/probable wolf attacks in a month or four confirmed in a year. It was agreed to by WDFW and members of its Wolf Advisory Group, made up of ranchers, hunters, advocates and others from Washington. Ever since it has been in place, out-of-state groups have been trying to blow it up.

Triggered by issues there again this year, wolf advocates, mostly from out of state and now including Wayne Pacelle, formerly of HSUS, have been mounting yet another pressure campaign on the governor.

It also involved a court battle this summer that saw WDFW lethally remove what were believed to be the last four OPT wolves just before a judge ordered them to cease the operation.

“We must find new methods to better support co-existence between Washington’s livestock industry and gray wolves in our state. The status quo of annual lethal removal is simply unacceptable,” writes Inslee.

Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) is right in the thick of things in Northeast Washington and read the letter for the first time this evening.

He reiterated that he supports non-lethal work that is site-specific as well as more innovative local range riding programs, but also said that problem wolves need to be dealt with quickly, effectively and completely to head off more down the road.

He feels that 2018’s and 2019’s OPT Pack was the same as the Profanities that were in the middle of 2016’s end-of-summer nightmare.

Kretz said he prefers working with those invested in the area and claimed groups like Center for Biological Diversity are driven to create conflict for the revenues it brings in rather than the good of the local community.

“I think it’s people from hundreds of miles away throwing hand grenades,” Kretz said.

Pacelle’s Maryland-based Center for a Humane Economy bought a full-page ad in The Seattle Times this summer and reintroduced former WSU professor Rob Wielgus, now in Oregon, back into the fray. A Spokane-based group also put a message on a video billboard along I-5 for a couple week.

WDFW wasn’t expected to have a comment until Tuesday.

The letter to Susewind and cc’ed to Fish and Wildlife Commission Chairman Larry Carpenter comes not long after the director authorized incremental removals on the Grouse Flats Pack in the Blue Mountains and as there is an ongoing operation on the Togo Pack, and WDFW sent Inslee a request to include $26 million from the state General Fund in its supplemental budget next legislative session.

It arrives as the federal grazing season wraps up.

And it comes as WDFW’s post wolf delisting planning stage kicked off earlier in September.

“I believe the Canadian Gray wolf population within Washington’s borders has reached a population level that warrants delisting by the Fish and Wildlife Commission,” Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen), chairman of the House natural resources committee which WDFW legislation goes through, said Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, Inslee is asking the agency to fast track an ongoing lethal management guidelines update and work with the Forest Service, which is in charge of grazing on national forest lands.

And he gave them a Dec. 1 deadline for a progress report on his requests.

WDFW Releases More Details On New Commissioners; Holzmiller Thanked

THE FOLLOWING ARE A PRESS RELEASE AND A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Editor’s note: For our story last Sunday breaking this news, go here.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday appointed two new members to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission: Jim Anderson, and Molly Linville.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission is a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Both new members began their appointments on July 24, 2019, with terms ending December 31, 2024.

James R. Anderson is an active sportsman residing in Pierce County, who has fished and hunted across most of Washington. Anderson brings habitat restoration and extensive policy experience to the table, having spent more than 20 years in the executive management, fisheries and natural resource fields.

JIM ANDERSON. (WDFW)

“Jim brings with him knowledge around salmon and Washington’s fishery management complexities. These topics are some of the commission’s highest priorities and his expertise will be a welcome addition as we consider some near- and long-term challenges,” said Commission Chair Larry Carpenter.

Molly Linville is a cattle rancher out of Douglas County, a member of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association, and grew up hunting and fishing in Washington. For four years, Linville has been active on the WDFW Wolf Advisory Group, where a diverse array of stakeholders advise the agency on wolf management implementation. Linville is also a former wildlife biologist with experience working on federally threatened and endangered wildlife species issues.

MOLLY LINVILLE. (WDFW)

“We have valued Molly’s service to our Department for her measured, rational voice,” Carpenter said. “She’s engaged and works to connect with citizens and her communities. These are all characteristics that will be assets in her role as a Commissioner and I work forward to working with her.”

Anderson graduated from Washington State University with master’s degrees in environmental science. Linville graduated from the University of Montana with a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology.

Outgoing commission member, Jay Holzmiller, of Asotin County, has served as a valued and engaged member of the commission since June of 2013.

“I want to thank Jay for his service. The days are long, the pay is essentially nil, and the issues are challenging,” said Carpenter. “When you dedicate yourself to this role it’s done out of a deep and abiding commitment to public service. Jay brought that plus a lot more to the table throughout the full course of his term.”

FORMER WDFW FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSIONER JAY HOLZMILLER (SEATED AT RIGHT) SPEAKS ON WOLVES, COUGARS AND NORTHEAST WASHINGTON UNGULATES DURING THE MARCH 1-2 MEETING IN SPOKANE. “PREDATOR MANAGEMENT ISN’T SEEING HOW MANY DAMN PREDATORS WE CAN RAISE, AND THAT’S WHAT WE’VE BEEN IN THAT MODE,” HE SAID DURING PUBLIC COMMENT DOMINATED BY LOCAL RESIDENTS’ CONCERNS. (WDFW)

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is comprised of nine citizen members, each appointed by the governor. The second appointment fills a previously vacant position.

Commission appointees are subject to confirmation by the state Senate, which will reconvene in January 2020. However, members are official upon appointment and serve as voting members while awaiting Senate confirmation.

Commission members

James R Anderson

(At-large position, Pierce County)
Occupation: Retired Administrator
Current Term: 07/24/2019 – 12/31/2024

Jim Anderson is a life-long resident of the state, and lives near Buckley in rural Pierce County, very close to land his grandparents bought in 1912 and that is still in the family today.  He graduated from Washington State University in 1974 with a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Science and Masters of Science in Environmental Science (Rural and Regional Planning option) in 1978.  He worked 35 years in professional natural resource management.  He was the Executive Director of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission from 1985 to 2005, before retiring in 2010.

Commissioner Anderson has been and continues to be an active fisher, hunter and outdoor recreationalist.  He started fishing when he was 4, and hunted since he was 10, and has had fishing and hunting licenses every year since. He is an avid backpacker, having hiked all of the 508 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington.  A former mountaineer, he has climbed all the major volcanoes in the state numerous times, as well as many other mountains.

He has served on numerous boards and committees at local, state and federal levels.  He has been Secretary of the Board of the Puget Sound Restoration Fund and the Washington Water Trust for many years.  He was a member of the US Fish and Wildlife Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council.  He served for over two decades on the Enumclaw Regional /St Elizabeth Hospital Board.  He has worked with many federal, state and local agencies and understands our governing laws, including treaty rights.  He is well connected to tribal communities and values the work they do and the roles they have played in our state.  He was a key participant and leader at the Timber-Fish-Wildlife Process, the Chelan Water Agreement, Shared Salmon Strategy, Hatchery Reform Coordinating Committee, and many other efforts.

He and his wife, Dianne Meserve have two children, Katie and Erik.

(The following are excerpts from Molly Linville’s application packet to join the commission)

“I am the fifth generation raised on my family’s wheat and barley farm near Reardan, Washington in Lincoln County. I graduated with 34 other students, most of whom were also farm kids and attended Kindergarten through 12th grade together.

“I attended the University of Montana where I completed a Bachelor of Science degree in wildlife biology. My mom jokes around that I’ve been a wildlife biologist since I was two when I was catching salamanders in the creek that ran through our farm.

“In 2000, I began working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a wildlife biologist and a wildlife refuge manager … I had completed all my (masters degree) course work at WSU and was beginning my thesis when my father-in-law unexpectedly passed away and left us [she and husband David] his 100 year-old, 6,000-acre cattle ranch, near Wenatchee, WA. I literally had to quit school and we both had to quit our jobs overnight to take care of the ranch. However, I immediately caught the ranching bug and have been running the cow/calf and haying operation since 2011. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else, it’s like running my own personal wildlife refuge.

“I am active in my community and care deeply about issues that negatively impact rural/agricultural communities. Some of the topics I’ve been working with state legislators on are: fire suppression in communities not served by a fire district, fire impacts on rangeland, environmental laws that have become too cumbersome for small fmaily farms, the mental health crisis in farming communities and predator/livestock conflicts.

“I am a member of the State’s Wolf Advisory Group (WAG), which I find both challenging and rewarding. I serve as a Planning Commissioner for Douglas County and I’m on the school board for our nearby two room school that serves 25 students in Palisades. I enjoy visiting rural high schools as a guest lecturer and often give presentations on the return of wolves to Washington. I was awarded the 2018 Redd Fund Award from the Society of Range Management for excellence in range management for my work in creating on creating a curriculum on the importance of range land that is taught at fire refreshers across the State of Washington and parts of Oregon.

“My roots run deep in the State and I’ve spent a career serving the beautiful landscapes and wildlife populations found here. I would be proud to continue working towards conserving fish and wildlife populations for future generations by serving on the Fish and Wildlife Commission.”

Hunters Urged To Apply For Washington Wolf Advisory Group Seats

The next few years could be crucial ones in Washington’s wolf world, and with the Department of Fish and Wildlife putting out the call for nominations to its Wolf Advisory Group, one sportsman says they hope that “thoughtful, respectful and vocal hunters apply.”

A WASHINGTON WOLF TAKES A LOOK AROUND. (WDFW)

The individual didn’t wish to be named, but says that having sat in on numerous WAG meetings in recent years, as wolves close in on state recovery goals it’s more important than ever for hunters to participate more.

Among the discussions likely to occur is planning for the postdelisting period, how wolves may be managed in terms of impacts on big game species and possibly even through hunting.

It will mark a sharp shift in the WAG’s workload, which so far has primarily focused on dealing with wolf-livestock conflicts, a multiyear effort that was led by an outside facilitator who has since departed.

The tug-of-war between livestock producers and predator advocates led to a consensus that stressed nonlethal preventative measures and established a clearer structure for WDFW to lethally remove problem animals.

That protocol has survived two years of outsiders’ objections and this summer a judge twice shot down efforts to halt kill authorizations, though it will still have its day in court.

But it’s also meant that the conversation about wolves in Washington has been “stuck on yesterday’s cattle conflicts,” according to the observer, “with far too little attention given to tomorrow’s wolf management, the needs and values of hunters as wildlife stakeholders, and the importance of the game species we pursue.”

HUNTERS DISCUSS THE DAY AROUND A CAMPFIRE IN THE OKANOGAN-WENATCHEE NATIONAL FOREST. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

No matter your opinion on wolves — good, bad or indifferent — they’re here to stay, so it behooves hunters to be involved in the process.

“We have to be at the table, and we have to speak up once there.”

WAG has 18 positions for those in the hunting, ranching, rural and environmental communities, and members serve staggered terms. Four current members do represent sportsman interests.

The plan is for WDFW Director Kelly Susewind to plug in new advisors as seats become available, starting with the one open now by next February.

“We are looking for candidates who can work cooperatively with others to develop management recommendations that reflect a diversity of perspectives,” Susewind said in a press release.

The group generally holds four two-day meetings each year at different locations across the state.

In their applications, prospective members are asked to address several items, including their knowledge of the state wolf plan and how they’ve worked collaboratively with those of different viewpoints.

Forms can either be emailed to Donny.martorello@dfw.wa.gov or mailed to WDFW Wolf Policy Lead Donny Martorello, WDFW, PO Box 43200, Olympia, WA 98504-3200.

Deadline is 5 p.m., Nov. 30.

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?

Washington Looks At Quicker Wolf Removals To Save More Livestock, Wolves

Washington wolf managers could move faster to head off depredations, saving more cattle, sheep and other stock as well as wolves, under new policies recommended by an advisory group.

Instead of waiting for four confirmed depredations before taking lethal action, WDFW could move if three occur in a 30-day rolling window, including one probable, if the agency adopts the policy.

“When conflict happens, we could act earlier to reduce the number of deaths to wolves and livestock,” says Donny Martorello.

At least one of the three would still need to be a confirmed kill, while the other could be an injury.

The current protocol requires four confirmed depredations in a calendar year, along with prevention measures.

The new policy came out of the Wolf Advisory Group, made up of livestock producers, hunters, wolf advocates and others. It does require ranchers to be meeting expectations to use at least two deterrence measures tailored to their operation.

Indeed, the overarching goal in Washington remains to recover wolves while working with cattlemen and shepherds to prevent conflicts in the first place.

Martorello says it’s about “doing our best to influence wolf behavior before conflict.”

For packs that may get in trouble and are hazed away before meeting the standards for “acute” conflict but then attack stock months later, WAG also recommended a “chronic” category with a 10-month rolling window and threshold of four depredations, one of which can be a probable, along with proactive prevention measures, to trigger the possibility of lethal removals.

Martorello said there had been “a lot of energy and synergy” between the many stakeholders in crafting the new guidelines, giving everyone involved a “sense of ownership.”

He says that wide involvement is important to the agency, and that he’s been pleased to work with everyone.

It all may give sportsmen cause to roll their eyes, but it appears to be working. Lowering thresholds for removals demonstrates a trust throughout Washington’s wolf world. While you and I would likely consider a probable depredation in the middle of a string of confirmed attacks to be a confirmed, it’s good to see wolf advocates appear to agree. The more people on board, the lower the tensions around an animal that generates a lot of angst.

WDFW also plans to change how it communicates its wolf activities to the public. Mostly, the agency puts out news when conflicts are ramping up, giving the public a head’s up about what’s going on, but Martorello says they’d like to put out monthly reports on the nonlethal things they’re doing.

And when situations are building to a head, he’d like to provide more of a narrative about the events than a few words in a field in a PDF.

For more details, see the Capital Press story.