When it rains wolf news in Washington, it pours like one of fall’s atmospheric rivers coming in off the Pacific.
A day that started out with A) news that WDFW is going to try and kill a wolf in a chronically depredating pack, B) word the agency has been unable in a month to take out a member of a different livestock-killing group of wolves nearby but they haven’t hit any more calves either, and C) out-of-state advocates requesting that Governor Inslee reverse a Fish and Wildlife Commission decision that didn’t go their way, wraps up this afternoon with D) a judge in Seattle firmly denying two court appeals related to state wolf removals.
Two King County residents and one from Ferry County had challenged WDFW’s summer 2019 Old Profanity Territory Pack kill order and development of the agency’s guiding Wolf-Livestock Protocols, saying it should have undergone State Environmental Policy Act review.
But that’s not how King County Superior Court Judge John F. McHale saw it. Again.
“The record before the Court does not establish that the 2017 Wolf-Livestock Interaction Protocol establishes a program or policy to further, as Petitioners assert, an unstated goal of killing wolves. Rather, the evidence presented indicates that WDFW’s effort to restore the wolf population in Washington through the 2011 Wolf Plan and the 2017 Wolf-Livestock Interaction Protocol uses lethal action as a last resort, after careful case-by-case analysis, in an attempt to balance the interests of those living in rural communities who depend on livestock to earn a living with the important interest in wolf population restoration supported under the law and by all who appreciate wolves and the many positive aspects of their impact on the environment,” he wrote in a 40-page decision out today.
Running the protocols through SEPA would have been a lengthy process that would have tied WDFW’s hands on removals.
McHale’s ruling follows his January findings on the matter, but in February he said he would entertain John Huskinson, Genevieve Jaquez-Schumacher and Tim Coleman’s appeal to reconsider his dismissal of their SEPA claims from a different angle.
They felt he’d ruled “on findings of fact that are contrary to the allegations in the Petition, which were therefore inappropriate to make in a ruling on a motion for judgment.”
On June 22, both sides argued their cases before the court.
Ultimately, McHale denied the request for injunctive relief on the Old Profanity Territory Pack lethal removal authorization from Director Kelly Susewind and instead affirmed it, and he also ruled WDFW did not violate SEPA in coming up with the conflict protocols.
As is now typical with wolf matters, WDFW’s response to the ruling was subdued, an attempt to keep an already bubbling pot from boiling over.
“The Department thanks Judge McHale for his time and close scrutiny in this case,” said Donny Martorello, WDFW’s Wolf Policy Lead. “We know this was a complex situation and not a simple decision to make and we respect the time he took to study the materials. We understand this is not the outcome that the petitioners, and likely other individuals, were hoping for. The Department remains committed to working with a diversity of Washington citizens on ways to address wolf-livestock conflict and ultimately reduce the loss of wolves and livestock.”