Approach shifts as feds delist wolves
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has taken a number of actions that are emphasizing the removal of cows and grazing to solve wolf problems at the same time the federal government has decided the predator no longer needs to be protected.
In an effort to avoid having to deal with the ongoing conflicts caused by an explosive wolf population, WDFW is looking for a way to remove cows from the landscape instead of managing wolves, according to the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association.
“There are a number of actions that show the agency favors the politically convenient option of removing cows when wolves start eating them instead of realizing wolf removal is necessary in many cases and is our current reality,” said SCCA President Scott Nielsen. “The federal government has recognized that wolves have fully recovered and no longer need special protections. The state should do likewise.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed endangered species protections for the Grey Wolf on Oct. 29.
Despite this development, WDFW continues to take actions that do not recognize that wolf populations now need to be controlled, not encouraged.
Two developments that have riled SCCA members include placing signs on the Colville National Forest asking the public to report cows they see after Nov. 1. November is typically the deadline to have cows that seasonally graze the forest removed until the following season.
“WDFW has no business interfering in the public lands management of another agency,” Nielsen said. “Asking people to report cow sightings is like asking them to report a fire, illegal campers or other undesirable activities. Cattle provided a needed service on the CNF by keeping vegetation and fuel for wildfires low. They are a desirable feature on the landscape and save taxpayers money.”
Nielsen said SCCA is also concerned about a policy proposal that would plan to grazing cattle from WDFW lands if wolves started attacking them. WDFW currently grazes some of the 1 million acres of land they own in the state.
“In our history with the agency, we know they are more inclined to take the livestock off the landscape if that looks expedient,” Nielsen said. “While we appreciate that they have removed some wolves, they often take out too few and wait until the situation is critical.”
Taking a more realistic approach to wolf management is needed, Nielsen said.
“We can see from the evidence in other states that wolf populations only continue to grow, they do not flatline,” Nielsen said. “We need a state management plan that recognizes this and aims to limit wolf numbers on an annual basis. We need a targeted plan to limit pack sizes before they get out of control.”