WDFW crafts policy on social pressure alone
The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association has discovered that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has been crafting much of their policy about wolves based simply on social pressure, not on data. This fact, supported by public records requests made by SCCA, shows that WDFW lacks the information and data to properly manage the predator.
“Over the last several months, we have submitted a number of formal requests to WDFW regarding specific data related to the wolf,” said SCCA President Scott Nieslen. “The responses we received show that WDFW has no information on the number of prey animals available for the wolves, they have limited information about the wolf population and have no ability to predict how wolves will affect local communities. This is totally unacceptable.”
Over the last two months, SCCA filed specific Public Records Requests that asked questions like, “What is the current ungulate prey base in Eastern Washington?”, “What is the current predator population?”, “What are the anticipated prey needs for the 8 wolf packs in Eastern Washington?”, and “What are the scientific studies on predator and prey relationships?.”
In response to these questions, WDFW presented some information on cougar populations at a SCCA meeting in December in Colville. However, questions about the wolf and its impacts on the current predator/prey populations or any data related to ungulate populations in the region could not be answered. The WDFW also affirmed their inability to answer the questions in formal public records requests from SCCA.
“We felt it was very important to remove the emotions and politics from the wolf issue and start talking about nuts and bolts,” said Nielsen. “But as we asked those questions about real, tangible data, we have discovered the Department cannot answer these questions.”
The absence of data is disturbing from a department with numerous biologists tasked with monitoring and studying wildlife populations, said Nielsen. More significantly, it shows that the Department plans to continue with its current approach.
“It will be catastrophic for our local communities to have a reactionary response to this issue,” Nielsen noted. “We know that we already have too many wolves in the area and we need to see proactive management of the animal.”
The evidence of wolf saturation in Eastern Washington has already being recognized by nearby communities, as the Colville Confederated Tribe has already approved an open hunting season to remove 9 wolves on the reservation’s 1.4 million acres.
“We don’t have to look any further than our own backyard to see other groups taking proactive actions designed to protect deer and elk populations. We should be doing the same,” said Nielsen.
Treating the wolf as a species that still needs special protections is also denying the data that is available. The recovery of the wolf on a regional level has already been asserted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that declared the wolf as “fully recovered” in the Northern Rocky Mountain Region in a status review in 2012.
A 2012 review of the biological status of the wolf, conducted by USFWS Wolf Management and Science Coordinator Mike Jimenez, stated, ”by every biological measure, the NRM Gray Wolf Distinct Population Segment (DPS) is fully recovered.”
SCCA noted the USFWS data in a formal letter on Dec. 9 asking that the wolf be delisted in the Eastern Washington Region. According to state law, WDFW must deny the request or begin the delisting process within 60 days.