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Pro-wolf groups ask Gregoire to stop plan to kill wolves

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  Seven conservation organizations sent a letter today calling on Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and state agencies to rescind a state Department of Fish and Wildlife plan to thwart attacks on cattle by killing up to four wolves in the Wedge Pack in northeastern Washington.

WDFW officials announced last week that up to four wolves may be killed in the Stevens County area near the Canada border after the latest in a series of wolf attacks that had injured six cattle and killed two. 

The state killed a wolf in that area on Aug. 7 in response to a series of attacks in July. That was “lethal removal” mission the agency has launched under its 2011 wolf management plan.

The conservation groups contend the WDFW field analysis of the Diamond M Ranch's livestock was flawed and the cattle may not have been killed by wolves.

The letter was directed to WDFW Director Phil Anderson from the Western Environmental Law Center and forwarded to Gov. Gregoire and other state lawmakers.

Contacted today, WDFW regional manager Steve Pozzanghera said the department stands by its detailed field investigations that confirmed the attacks were by wolves. 

He said that while agency staff have been working in the area between the Columbia and Kettle Rivers all week, no wolves have yet been trapped and fitted with radio collars and none has been killed.

Read on for the media release the seven conservation groups issued today announcing their letter to Gregoire and their complaints.

Conservation groups urge feds to keep wolves protected in Pacific NW

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  Contacts for 24 conservation organizations say they sent a letter to President Barack Obama today asking for continued Endangered Species Act protection for wolves in the Pacific Northwest.

Although federal protection on gray wolves in most of Eastern Washington was lifted at the same time wolves were delisted in  Idaho and Montana, wolves remain protected by state endangered species laws.

Wolves setting up housekeeping from the east flanks of the Cascades and into Western Washington would enjoy federal and state endangered species protection.

But groups, including Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, National Resource Defense Council, Oregon Wild, Sierra Club and others sent the letter, noting that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is moving toward a decision on whether wolves in the Northwest and other areas will retain protection. 

  • Just for balance, I'm going to throw in a few observations to the points the groups make in a joint media release.

“Wolves are only just beginning to recover in the Pacific Northwest and need the continued protections of the Endangered Species Act,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolves once roamed across most of the Pacific Northwest, but today they occupy just a fraction of their former range.”

  • Wolves  have just begun to work on game herds and kill livestock in Oregon and Washington.

About 100 wolves are dispersed among AT LEAST five Oregon packs and eight in Washington. All but two of these packs — the Lookout and Teanaway packs — lost federal protection along with the northern Rocky Mountains population, delisted by an act of Congress. The conservation groups are asking the administration to retain protection for these two packs and to develop a recovery plan for wolves in the Pacific Northwest, including in western Washington and Oregon and parts of California. 

“Wolves called the Pacific Northwest home for 10,000 years,” said Jasmine Minbashian of Conservation Northwest. “The fact that they are returning to the Cascades on their own is a good sign, but if we want them to survive and fully recover they will need our help.”

  • Efforts should start now to translocate wolves from Eastern Washington to the Mount St. Helens and Olympics areas to let Western Washington share the diversity/benefits/burden of having wolves. This would speed up recovery and expedite delisting of wolves in the region.

The need for continued protection of wolves in the Pacific Northwest was driven home when the Lookout Pack — the first breeding pack to be confirmed in Washington in more than 70 years — was decimated by poaching. The poachers were fortunately caught and prosecuted under the Endangered Species Act.

Since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho research has shown that by forcing elk to move more, wolves have allowed streamside vegetation to recover, benefitting songbirds and beavers. Studies also show that wolves provide benefits to scavenging animals such as weasels, eagles, wolverines and bears, and help increase numbers of foxes and pronghorns by controlling coyotes, which wolves regard as competitors. Thousands of visitors to the park have been thrilled to see wolves in their natural habitat.

  • True, but wolves had the room to work freely and naturally in Yellowstone. They don't have that room or prey base in Stevens or Pend Oreille counties, and it's certainly not clear that any sort of public majority wants them on the Olympic Peninsula. Elk herds are not out of balance in Eastern Washington with the single exception of Turnbull Wildlife Refuge, where hunting appears to be a workable solution.

Read on for more from the media release by the 24 conservation groups.