Stevens County ranchers respond to Washington Gov. Inslee's new wolf plan

RaeLynn Ricarte

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's intent to reduce the killing of gray wolves for repeated depredations on livestock seems more focused on changing ranching behavior than that of predators, says Scott Nielsen.
He is the president of the Stevens County Cattlemen's Association and Cattle Producers of Washington, which recently received a $144,000 state grant to hire two more conflict management specialists to respond to wolf attacks on cattle.
“I have yet to see livestock killing wolves,” he said. “Our ranchers are doing everything they can, but they don't manage wolves, they manage cattle.”
The Center for Biological Diversity praised Inslee and said that his direction “is a huge step forward for the protection of Washington's wolves.”
“After years of unscientific, unethical wolf killing by state wildlife offices, it is a relief to have Gov. Inslee calling for reforms,” said Amaroq Weiss, senior West Coast wolf advocate for the Center.
“Most Washington residents support wolves and wolf recovery. We're grateful that the governor has stepped in to do what's right.”
Nielsen said there are couple of areas that ranchers and Inslee agree on: The state's management of the apex predators isn't working; and, changes need to be made.
Where they differ, he said, is the approach to curb livestock kills that necessitate lethal removal of wolves.
He gave a simple example to show how Inslee's approach fails.
“If you have a puppy in your house peeing on the carpet, you don't address the problem by just changing out the carpet and letting the puppy's behavior continue, do you?” asked Nielsen.
In an Oct. 1 letter to Kelly Susewind, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Inslee asked for more non-lethal methods of wolf control to “significantly reduce” the need for lethal removal of the species.
He wrote: “As you know, wolves were extirpated in the state by the 1930s on behalf of livestock interests,” stated Inslee.
“The animals started migrating back to the state in 2008 from surrounding areas. Most of the wolves live in the northeastern corner of the state and their territories have high overlap with federal public lands.
“For reasons that are not entirely clear, numerous conflicts with livestock producers have occurred in a handful of federal grazing allotments.”
“Chronic livestock depredations and annual lethal removal of wolves in the Kettle River Range in Ferry County have resulted in public concern and outrage over lethal management actions taken by the department.”
Nielsen said Inslee's suggestions about how to deal with lethal management are very concerning.

Find more on this story in the Oct. 9 issue of The Statesman-Examiner.