After four years of development, extensive public review – and lingering controversy – the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider adopting a plan for managing wolves as they re-establish breeding packs on the east side of the state.
The commission, with seven citizen members, is scheduled to take action on the Fish and Wildlife Department’s recommended Wolf Conservation and Management Plan on Saturday, the second day of a public meeting set for Friday and Saturday in Olympia.
The agenda is posted on the WDFW website, wdfw.wa.gov/.
Key aspects of the proposed wolf plan establish recovery objectives for gray wolves in Washington, along with strategies for addressing their interactions with livestock and wildlife species such as elk and deer.
The plan does not necessarily come with permanent funding to pay for livestock losses or support the wildlife monitoring suggested by the plan.
WDFW began developing the plan in 2007, anticipating that gray wolves would naturally migrate to the state from Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and British Columbia. Since then, five wolf packs have been documented in the state – three in northeastern Washington and two in the north Cascades. Other packs are working along the Idaho-Washington border and at least one also is working along the Oregon-Washington border.
The gray wolf is listed as endangered throughout Washington under state law and as endangered in the western two-thirds of the state under federal law.
Since 2009, WDFW’s proposed plan has been the focus of 19 public meetings, written comments from nearly 65,000 people, a scientific peer review, and recommendations from the 17-member citizen Wolf Working Group, formed in 2007 to advise the department in developing the plan.
The wolf plan calls for allowing 15 breeding wolf packs before taking management measures to limit further growth of the packs. A dissenting faction within the wolf working group recommends about eight wolf packs be tolerated before controlling wolves.