OLYMPIA — A bill before the Washington Legislature will offer flexibility for the department of fish and wildlife to collaborate with local governments in the management of gray wolves.
“All we’re asking for is some localized, specific planning that engages local law enforcement, local officials, tribes, and the local communities that are being impacted,” said Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda), a primary sponsor of the bill. “The top-down approach to wolf management is not working for the people of Northeast Washington. We need a localized wolf management plan in certain counties that is not dominated by Seattle politicians and activists.”
House Bill 1699, which was referred to the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, is also sponsored by Representatives Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles), Debra Lekanoff (D-Anacortes), Tom Dent (R-Moses Lake), Jacquelin Maycumber (R-Republic), Larry Springer (D-Kirkland), Melanie Morgan (D-Parkland), Carolyn Eslick (R-Sultan).
According to a release by Kretz’s office, the legislation would direct the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to work with local officials to create localized wolf management plans in counties where wolf population goals have already been met.
The release also states that Kretz has acknowledged that gray wolves are in Washington to stay and that ranchers, cattlemen, wolves and families living in rural areas can indeed coexist but more needs to be done for those who bear the brunt of the wolf repopulation efforts.
“If you look at the density of wolves in Northeast Washington compared to the rest of the state, you can see we have enough wolves in just a few counties to meet the statewide delisting criteria,” said Kretz. “But there is a strong desire by some on the west side of the state to keep the gray wolves under ‘endangered’ status, despite what that means for ranchers, cattlemen, and families in my district.”