Washington wolf managers have asked a U.S. Congressman to spur federal officials into delisting the species across the state.
In a late April letter, WDFW’s new director, Jim Unsworth, told Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Central Washington) the agency would “appreciate your assistance to encourage the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to complete the delisting of the gray wolf and remove it from federal protections under the Endangered Species Act.”
Noting that the state is expected to reach recovery goals in six years, Unsworth says WDFW wants “to have consistent management of wolves across the state.”
Currently, wolves are federally delisted in the eastern third of the state, which is where most of Washington’s packs are, but recently at least two individuals have been roaming the Cascades west of the crest.
If required, WDFW can lethally remove problem wolves east of Highways 97,17 and 395, as it has with the Wedge and Huckleberry Packs, but west of that line can’t, though that hasn’t been a problem, perhaps in part due to strong range-riding efforts.
The day after Unsworth sent his letter, Newhouse was among three dozen Congressmen who wrote to Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and USFWS Director Dan Ashe to say they “are very concerned with the lack of progress USFWS and DOI have made on” delisting, originally proposed by the feds back in June 2013.
It was signed by fellow Eastside Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers as well as Eastern Oregon Rep. Greg Walden. Both are Republicans.
In January, when asked about a timeframe for a final decision on delisting, a USFWS spokesman in Portland told Northwest Sportsman, “At this point, we are not committing to a specific time frame. We had 1.6 million comments (more than anything else we’ve ever done by a huge margin) — all of which have to be read and addressed where appropriate.”
A week before he sent his letter to Jewell and Ashe, Newhouse introduced legislation to delist wolves throughout the Northwest, the third such bill this year addressing the species somewhere in the country.
“The bills to delist wolves in Congress appear to represent significant frustration with continued legal challenges to USFWS decisions and the stalemate that has created,” noted WDFW wolf policy lead Dave Ware last week. “Wolves continue to recover in Washington, and we are confident federal delisting would not undermine wolf recovery in Washington. We are fully committed to, and capable of, managing a viable wolf population within our current authority and funding under the terms of the Wolf Plan.”