Washington Wildlife Commissioners Vote Against Wolf-Livestock Rule


Washington will not implement wolf-livestock rules two years after Gov. Jay Inslee asked state wildlife managers to reduce the number of wolves killed.

The nine-person commission voted 5-4 to not adopt the rule Friday morning.

With that vote, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will continue to manage wolves under the wolf-livestock protocols which have been developed in the 14 years since wolves naturally returned to the state.

"I think a strict rule at this time would be counterproductive. I think it would be an economic hardship," Commissioner James Anderson said. "And frankly, I think it's not really necessary. Rules just for the sake of rules don't make any sense. It's not what governance should be."

Commissioners who voted against the rule implementation were Donald McIsaac, Molly Linville, Barbara Baker, Kim Thorburn of Spokane and Anderson.

Commissioners Tim Ragen, Melanie Rowland, Lorna Smith and John Lehmkuhl voted for some sort of rule.

"I think we're at the beginning of a really large natural experiment with wolves," Ragan said. "I think eventually they are going to colonize all the wildlands of the state.

"I think we're going to have lots of challenges ahead. I really do think we need more structure for our own sake."

The rule proposed that before WDFW could kill wolves that attacked livestock, agency staff would need to confirm that livestock owners had implemented appropriate nonlethal deterrents. The proposal would also create Chronic Conflict Zones within the state. These zones would have area-specific criteria for the use of nonlethal and lethal measures.

The proposed rules do not explicitly state which nonlethal measures are considered appropriate. Chronic Conflict Zones would have more detailed conflict management plans.

Much of the proposed rule, aside from the Chronic Conflict Zones, was already WDFW policy.

WDFW Director Kelly Susewind addressed the commission, noting  the agency will continue to refine and improve its wolf-livestock interaction protocols.

"The status quo does not mean we're done and what we have today is the end of the story," he said.

In an interview before the vote, Susewind said he hoped the commission would not adopt any rule, noting that wolf attacks on livestock are always different and don't lend themselves to rigid rule making.

"I just think it's the wrong way to go," he said. "It puts up barriers. It puts up restrictions."

Before the vote was taken, commission chair Barbara Baker addressed the commissioners and told them that she would start ending meetings if the discourse became uncivil. Members of the public had contacted her, she said, concerned about recent public acrimony amongst the commissioners.

"When our public starts talking about our behavior instead of our positions, I think it's time to step in and ratchet it down a bit," Baker said.

The commission also announced its August meeting location was changed to Clarkston.