If it’s June, Washington’s wolf world is heating up once again — this week on multiple fronts.
Following a calf attack earlier this month – and the seventh in a 10-month window – WDFW brass is continuing to mull possible next lethal steps with the Togo Pack as it also prepares for a court hearing in Seattle on an extinct pack’s removal, and a new lawsuit has been filed in a federal court in Spokane today.
Let’s take these back to front.
Earlier today Wildearth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project and the Kettle Range Conservation Group filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for Eastern Washington against the Forest Service, saying that the Colville National Forest’s revised forest plan from last year violates environmental laws because it didn’t consider livestock grazing impacts on wolves in the area.
It also goes after Colville managers for authorizing the Diamond M Ranch to graze cattle on several allotments in the heart of the Kettle Range, contending that a biological assessment should have been performed.
Wolves have long since been declared federally recovered in this part of Washington, and it remains home to most in the state, but wolf advocates have also long had issues with the Diamond M, blaming the cattle operation for the removal of multiple packs and more than a dozen wolves since 2012.
Previously they’ve focused on taking WDFW to court over its lethal removal protocols, and court is where some of the aforementioned parties will also be this coming Monday, June 22.
A King County Superior Court judge will hold a hearing that is essentially a continuation of a case from last summer.
Judge John McHale had initially reaffirmed WDFW did not need to run its wolf removal protocols through the State Environmental Policy Act, just as a Thurston County Superior Court had also determined in yet another lawsuit, but in February announced he was willing to reconsider it in a different context.
The hearing will be held in Seattle with an option for WDFW staffers to attend via Zoom due to social distancing concerns, according to agency spokeswoman Staci Lehman in Spokane.
She also states that the last word on a decision on what’s next with the Togo Pack of northern Ferry County could come today or tomorrow.
Meanwhile, state and NGO range riders are in the hills there and elsewhere trying to head off wolf-livestock conflicts and WDFW is looking to fill a vacant conflict specialist position in Northeast Washington, Lehman says.
The state Attorney General’s Office is also still reviewing a memorandum of understanding that would allow a Stevens County wildlife deputy to trap and collar wolves, she adds.