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Friday, October 30, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Commission meeting hints at wolf plan disagreements

ENDANGERED SPECIES -- The audio recording of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission's Wednesday teleconference is available online, giving us insight to the panels take on the Washington Wolf Working Group's recent effort to hash out a revised Wolf Management Plan.

Check it out.

Or, you might want to read on to see the notes on the commission conference call taken by Jasmine Minbashian, Special Projects director for Conservation Northwest.

Meantime, public input on the wolf plan will be heard at the August Commission meeting. Public meetings likely will be scheduled around the state this fall.

All commissioners were present.

  1. Nate Pamplin provided an overview of the working group meeting on June 7-8th:
    1. Though we haven’t provided you yet with a thorough overview of plan, here are concerns we heard:
  2. Conservation side of plan: concerns raised by some members who signed the minority report that delisting objective is still too high, we reminded the group of process we used and how we addressed that issue in the EIS.  We also walked the group through the population persistence modeling.
  3. Concern about assigning floater packs to specific recovery zones, after discussion of why these changes were needed, folks understand the need to assign packs.  Question turned to whether they were allocated properly.
  4. Concern raised about not having a “cap”, and wolves growing beyond 15 breeding pairs during 3 year waiting period.
  5. Concerns raised about habitat suitability modeling and some of the models.
  6. Concern about increase management flexibility all listing phases
  7. Concern about how translocation was being portrayed in the plan, that it was downplayed.  Translocation had strong support from all sides in the working group.  We heard that individuals wanted us to conduct a feasibility analysis sooner and not wait until it was needed to jump start the process.
  8. Concern that livestock owners would be allowed to use lethal take through permits, instead of govt agents having that responsibility.
  9. Concern about “caught in the act” provisions being applied too broadly and need to define which domestic animals would be covered under this clause.
  10. Concern about the definition of “at risk” ungulate population.  What does “historic levels” mean?  Please define.
  11. Need better estimate of anticipated costsas wolves recover in the landscape and where money would come from.
  12. WWG group members asked to submit further comments by June 23rd.
  13. Towards end of meeting, some constituents said that they could not endorse the plan after talking to their constituents because of lack of cap, funding, management options, and flexibility not specific and difficult to implement.  “As we went around the room, the majority of the attendees also recognized that they had some specific concerns about the plan and they were sharing some specific areas they would like to see amended but they acknowledged that having a state wolf conservation and management plan in place would put the state in a better position than having no plan at all and thus were in support of going forward with a plan.”
  14. In closing, this was the 10th meeting of the WWG, I was impressed with how knowledgeable they have become on this issue and how well they listen to each other.  While we didn’t have consensus, I did talk to them about how to characterize this process and they all agreed that it was valuable and successful.
  15. Douvia: If we can incorporate those comments and questions into our draft somehow, it would show how we are addressing those issues.  Wants a copy of the concerns to understand what kind of issues we are looking at.
  16. Schmitten: Nate and his team did a very good job.  Issues boiled down into 6-7 issues that we are all familiar with.  New to me was introduction of a cap, getting at the issue of what 15 breeding pairs really mean in the future. Majority side primarily conservation community raising eastside pack numbers as an issue – too many? They also recommended dropping provision of domestic dogs caught in the act but may be reconsidering that. Forestry industry had some specific issues regarding class 4 special rules.
  17. Commissioner Brad Smith: What was overall tone of meeting?
  18. Commissioner Schmitten: a lot of tension, but very professional interaction.  Minority group was dogmatic about the numbers and felt it’s the Achilles of the plan, but overall it was cordial.
  19. Commissioner Perry: Extremely civil, despite the tension. That said, minority group 6 of the 17 felt like WDFW is not listening to them.  Not sure that is true, but meeting was civil, well-conducted, all points were written down and discussed.  Ended on a note that minority group didn’t feel like made much progress.
  20. Director Phil Anderson: Attended first day and went out to dinner with group.  Perry and Schmitten characterized the meeting well. Did spend a lot of time during breaks during minority group who had concerns about numbers, but also had concerns that plan accurately and fairly characterized impact on our ungulate populations and were concerned that that part of the plan could be strngethened.  In terms of the numbers, while we’ve focused on the numbers their concern is the total number of wolves in the long run.  That’s were the idea of a cap came in, and we’ll discussed that further, but that would be  a unique and strange thing to do, given that this is focused on recovery.  But my conversation offline revealed that the issue is more about how many wolves we’ll have in the future and the distribution than the numbers for delisting.
  21. Commissioner Jennings:  Forestry concerns are probably related to closing of areas near active den sites when pups are young.
  22. Commissioner Perry: industry fearful that whole areas will be closed down once this thing gets going.  Hasn’t happened in other states, and even though wolf plan doesn’t say that, but they still have concerns.
  23. Commissioner Douvia: Another positive step, hopefully we’ll come up with right wolf plan.  Probably won’t have consensus in the end, but do our best to represent all interests and have a biodiversity approach and ecosystem approach and to expand our conservation mission.  Keep compiling info and move forward.
  24. Commissioner Perry: After talking to a number of people at the meeting, we’re embarking on this project and doing it involving the public as best we can, but it’s clear that a small portion of the public will have significant impact from our decision on this plan, and some will have no impact other than enjoyment of the animal.  How to balance that?  Not sure but we talk about it all the time.
  25. Commissioner Wecker: Want to hear a bit more from staff on August meeting
  26. Nate Pamplin: Staff we’ll be providing an overview on the plan and working group members invited to attend.  Working group members invited to provide public testimony if they choose, but no special time given to them we would just thank them.  Majority of time would be WDFW presenting to the commission.
  27. Director Anderson: You are correct.  They would not as a group provide testimony but would feel free to do so as individuals.
  28. Commissioner Wecker: Also interested in discussion about endorsement.  You said no consensus.  But majority wants a plan.   Commission is going to struggle with all the issues you brought up.   We all share the tension and angst at the meeting, specificity will be difficult.  At risk ungulates: how to do this?  Are there any listed ungulates?
  29. Nate: Columbian white tailed deer and caribou.
  30. Wecker: Will be challenging to satisfy all these concerns. Commission should feel free to reveal what kinds of debates we are engaged in.  I can tell staff is doing a good job.  Not surprised that everyone is saying they have appreciated the process. Huge part of whether this will be successful. Kudos.


-Connie Mahnken was reappointed to the commission

-Cougar Forum: Douvia wanted update on the meeting: who and the purpose.  Director Phil Anderson said we are having a meeting tomorrow, came out of a conversation between Joel Kretz and Mitch Friedman, discussion resulted an express a desire to bring interests to the table and hear from the science community on the use of hounds and discussion of cougar management in general.  Name of 3 panelists, one is Donny Marterello.   Diverse group which includes certain legislators.  Kretz and Blake, Dunshee are planning on attending.  Morton appreciated the invite but cant attend.  Won’t project outcome, but hoping at conclusion there will be a better understanding of science around cougar management. There may be a next step id by the group on where they go from here but wont prejudge the outcome of the meeting.  An opportunity to bring interests together.

-Commisioner Douvia: will help with cougar situation, but could help with wolf situation as well. Looking forward to the notes.

-Anderson: We convened the meeting at the request of Kretz and Friedman but have someone else facilitating the meeting not a WDFW employee

-Wecker: We received a letter from governor’s office expressing appreciation for the work we have done.   Was sent to other commissions too.  Expressed a desire for boards to conduct in ethical ways and has offered training sessions to focus their role.  She makes several points about what she expects of commission members and more specifically natl resource issues that are. Disappointed that natl resource consolidation did not happen.  Wecker says we should look for ways to make commission more effective and efficient.  We’re open to ideas.  Upcoming Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) meeting July 15-20th in Montana is an example. In the past haven’t sent people because of budget. But this time meeting is important. A number of topics including wolf recovery to be discussed, which would benefit from discussions with other commissions like Idaho and Montana on wolf recovery.  Look at costs at what we propose to do and look at costs.

Director Phil Anderson is going to WAFWA meeting, so is Mike Cenci, Dave Britell, Bob Everett and a few others.  There is a commissioners retreat, a director’s retreat. A joint meeting of directors and commissioners.  Suggested commissioners to go for fewer days to save money.  Might drive and could take a commissioner along.

Much discussion followed about the letter, how the commission is addressing the governor’s points and the future of the commission. 

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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