It’s unsurprising at this stage, but the top Washington wildlife official once again said his agency is ready to take over wolf management statewide.
“The Department finds the USFWS proposal to remove gray wolves from the list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and return management authority in the western two-thirds of Washington to the Department appropriate and timely,” writes WDFW Director Kelly Susewind, words not unlike his two predecessors and others there.
His April 18 letter of support comes as the public comment period on the federal proposal to delist the species in the western two-thirds of Washington and elsewhere in the Lower 48 draws to a close in mid-May.
Some 56,000-plus other comments have been submitted as well, including in support from members of Hunting-Washington and the Washington Farm Bureau, among others, but also plenty of opposition.
Susewind’s letter follows on:
* Former Director Jim Unsworth’s 2015 request to US Rep. Dan Newhouse to spur USFWS towards completing its wolf delisting proposal;
* Former Director WDFW Phil Anderson’s 2014 letter to USFWS that the state “no longer needs federal oversight to recover and manage wolves“;
* WDFW wolf policy manager Donny Martorello’s 2013 comment that that year’s delisting proposal was “timely” (it was ultimately waylaid in court).
* The agency’s 2012 opposition to the cockamamie idea that wolves in the western two-thirds of the state were a different stock from those in the eastern two-thirds, which were Congressionally delisted in 2011.
* And a Fish and Wildlife Commission position statement on wolves, during the development of which then Chair Miranda Wecker said, “Some wolf enthusiasts want wolves to live out their natural lives. That’s not the position of the department. Let me be crystal clear: Wolves will become a game species. They will be managed, and not for maximum population.”
Federal delisting would allow WDFW to use the same management tools in the Cascades and Western Washington as it does in the state’s eastern third.
“This is the right direction for wolf conservation and management in our state,” Susewind said, pointing to the agency’s recovery plan, legislative funding, stakeholder work and efforts to manage wolves in perpetuity.
WDFW has also begun a status review of the state’s population, which at last minimum count stood at 126 wolves in 27 packs and has surely grown since then as pups hit the ground this spring.
Based on that review, WDFW will make a recommendation to the Fish and Wildlife Commission on whether gray wolves’ continued state ESA listing is warranted or not.