The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is considering a proposal to remove any livestock grazing from their lands if wolves are present. The policy would affect over 1 million acres of land in Washington State.
In response, SCCA recently submitted these comments:
The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association is submitting comment in opposition to the adoption of a guidance document change that would prioritize wolf habitat above livestock grazing on WDFW lands.
Although WDFW admits in their guidance document that grazing has multiple benefits including managing vegetation and habitat; enhancing recreational opportunity; improving habitat conservation and preserving open space, it is quick to dismiss these benefits if wolves are present.
As an association whose members have absorbed the brunt of wolf attacks since 2009, we know that adopting a policy that abandons wolf management, essentially saying all other activities must stop in the presence of wolves, is unacceptable.
Simply removing livestock grazing from WDFW lands will not stop livestock depredations, as wolves will bleed out from those areas to the private property surrounding WDFW lands. In addition, the lost benefits of grazing will create environmental challenges that are not easy to overcome. Allowing vegetation to grow unchecked will create a tinderbox for devastating wildfires. Failing to use seasonal grazing to enhance recreational opportunities will result in more costly maintenance of those areas. Open space will quickly be closed in by vegetation overgrowth, doghair stands of timber and other ecological changes that create negative impacts for wildlife.
What this policy change would do is set a dangerous precedent for state and federal abandoning predator management if it becomes inconvenient.
Wolf management in this state is slow to come to the reality that wolf pack sizes MUST be managed and allowing the population to grow unchecked is a disaster. Washington is a densely populated state with 103 people per square mile. Unmanaged predator issues on public land quickly become private property problems.
In addition, the taxpayers of Washington should not be funding an agency that intends to acquire land simply to turn it into predator havens or wildlife preserves.
We are completely opposed to this change. Seasonal livestock grazing is a highly beneficial tool for managing state land and should not be trashed due to lack of management of a highly invasive predator.
More information on the WDFW proposal can be found here: https://wdfw.wa.gov/news/wdfw-invites-public-input-grazing-department-lands