March 22, 2013
Legal letter highlights regulatory failures
The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association(SCCA) has sent a letter to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife(WDFW) highlighting what SCCA calls a “disturbing trend” of the Department not following their own regulations.
The letter, sent March 15 through a Colville-based lawyer, notes that the wolf situation in Eastern Washington and public records requests from SCCA show “a disconcerting pattern of (the Department) having regulations on the books, but the Department and the Commission failing to follow them.”
Among its concerns, SCCA’s letter notes that the Gray Wolf was listed as an Endangered Species in Washington State law in 1980 without any biological evidence. However, in recent requests by local governments and organizations, petitions to delist the wolf have been denied based on a lack of biological evidence.
“It is a terrible irony that neither the Department nor the Commission can produce any evidence for initially listing the Gray Wolf or continuing to list it as an Endangered Species, but demand that the burden of biological evidence be met by the public in order to delist,” the SCCA letter states.
In addition, SCCA highlights that the Department has limited data related to the Gray Wolf and a lack of data affirms the assumption that the wolf is being “socially managed.”
Wolf management has also become a “spontaneous affair” and deviates from the state Wolf Conservation and Management plan that took several years and a public review to complete by creating management methods not in the plan. For instance, Management Contracts that livestock producers must sign in order to receive assistance from WDFW and the hiring of two “conflict management specialists” are not listed as options in the Wolf Conservation and Management plan and are some of the more recent reactionary management strategies.
“If management strategies are going to be a spontaneous affair, then the Wolf Conservation and Management plan is either a document that is so unhelpful to render it useless or it is so flawed that it must be revised,” SCCA asserts in their correspondence.
In light of these shortcomings, SCCA is asking for the Commission to delist the wolf as an endangered species; that the Department commits more time and resources to data collection and to revisit the Wolf Conservation and Management plan.
SCCA President Scott Nielsen said the letter is aimed at creating a better relationship between the public and the Department by ensuring that when regulations are passed or plans are created, they are followed.
“We know that the Department has a huge confidence problem in our area and we want them to better understand why that is. If they want to build a relationship with the community in order to better manage their wildlife, they must recognize that trust and follow-though is a huge part of that,” said Nielsen. “You can’t say one thing and do something else.”
A response from the Department to the letter is required by March 22 in order to avoid “further legal action.”