The Daily Howler: Olympia Beat (1-24-13)

The wolf beat has picked up in recent days, with stories on bills in Olympia and rumblings in North-central and Northeast Washington.

There’s some interesting fallout from Rep. Joel Kretz’s translocation bill, HB 1258, from both sides of the fence.

According to a Capital Press article, Conservation Northwest has been trying to work legislators to push a “bipartisan bill to direct the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to move wolves from northeast Washington to the southern Cascade,” but the Bodie Mountain Republican’s bill “filled the room with a bad odor,” said the Bellingham-based organization’s executive director Mitch Friedman.

“This is Mr. Kretz having fun making a political statement at a time I wish he was trying to more seriously address the issues,” Friedman said.

Jack Field, executive vice president of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association, said he doesn’t want to relocate wolves. While he doesn’t think one area should be held “hostage” with an “explosion of wolves,” he also knows ranchers would also be on the receiving end of any relocation.

“I know they wouldn’t be doing backflips saying, ‘Oh yeah, bring wolves in to the South Cascades,'” he said.

Field would prefer a focus on ensuring the state and ranchers have the proper management tools, applying lessons learned with the Wedge Wolf pack on the Diamond M Ranch in Laurier, Wash., much more quickly.

“Perhaps if we could have taken out two or three wolves three months earlier, we could have turned the pack and saved the rest of them,” he said.

Field went on to explain of Kretz’s legislation:

“The bill simply outlines the fact that if it’s great to have wolves in northeast Washington, it should be great to have them throughout Washington,” Field said. “The folks that want to oppose the bill are going to have to come up with some pretty interesting reasons why it’s not a good idea to have wolves in other portions of the state.”

Head’s up, hunters, this is a Catch-22: Moving wolves to the South Cascades would put them in the grazing grounds of Washington’s two largest elk herds, Yakima and St. Helens, but probably get us to the current recovery goals for delisting from state protections that much faster.

For previous discussion of translocation, see this blog.

Another Kretz bill, HB 1337, would bar “the fish and wildlife commission from classifying, or maintaining a classification for, the gray wolf as endangered or threatened in any area of the state where a similar listing is not simultaneously in effect for the same species under the federal endangered species act.”

In other words, wolves in the eastern third of Washington would be delisted since that’s the part of the state where they’re currently off the Fed’s ESA list.

SB 5188 would bypass the Department of Fish & Wildlife’s wildlife management authority and “(authorize) a county legislative authority to: (1) Declare that an imminent threat to commercial livestock, caused by wolves, exists under certain circumstances; and (2) Authorize the lethal removal of wolves by the county sheriff or an agent of the county without a permit or other form of permission from the department of fish and wildlife in order to abate the imminent threat.”

On a related note, in an article outlining rising angst in Okanogan County — where a trail cam snapped a pic of a gray and a black wolf “within 15 miles of Tonasket” in early December and a recent Facebook post of the photo got widespread attention — Wenatchee World reporter KC Mahaffey writes that WDFW wolf managers are “(encouraging) county sheriffs to join Fish and Wildlife officers investigate livestock that may have been killed by a wolf, and plans to offer training in the next few months.”

“The local sheriffs have a good rapport with the local public, so if they understand what it is we’re going to be looking for, they can help protect the site and make sure that an investigation can occur,” (Game Division manager Dave Ware said, Mahaffey writes.

SB 5187 takes 5188 a step further, “requiring that rules established by the fish and wildlife commission allow an owner of livestock to kill a mammalian predator, regardless of state classification, without a permit or other form of permission.”

It would be effective wherever an attack occurs, on public or private lands.

KING 5’s wolf-beat reporter Gary Chittim adds that, “On the other side of the issue, State Senator Kevin Ranker will drop a bill that would require ranchers to comply with proven wolf deterrent methods before they could graze on public lands.”

Several of the bills have been scheduled for public hearings; for more see the links above.

Also of note, Pend Oreille County commissioners have signed a wolf delisting petition, reports the Newport Miner.

Already getting a public hearing, SB 5037, which addresses seafood labeling requirements and stiffens penalties for those trying to mislead the public.

“The most I could do for a first-time offender — regardless of the scale of fraud — would be to write them up for $200,” WDFW deputy chief of law enforcement Mike Cenci told radio reporter Tom Banse of the Northwest News Network. “That person is laughing all the way to the bank.”

HB 1199, the bill that would bar kids under eight from attending Hunter ed or getting a hunting license, charge up to $20 for the class course, and require those under fourteen to be accompanied by a licensed adult, now has a Senate-side companion bill, SB 5213.

And just-dropped HB 1384 appears to try and streamline natural resource agencies.

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