On Sept. 30, Governor Jay Inslee sent a letter to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind stating “I write to ask that you make changes in the gray wolf recovery program to further increase the reliance on non-lethal methods, and to significantly reduce the need for lethal removal of this species.”
Based upon the department’s own count, the number of wolves in our state increased by four individuals last year from 122 to 126. Yet this year, the department has already killed nine wolves with more kill orders from Director Susewind still outstanding. Being made aware of this, the Governor wrote: “The status quo of annual lethal removal is simply unacceptable.”
The department is guided by its Wolf-Livestock Interaction Protocol. This document is deeply flawed and promotes the killing of wolves to the exclusion of other remedies that would be more effective such as changing ranching activities to avoid conflict situations.
Here is a brief history of one ranch with repeated problems:
The year was 2012, the family was called the Wedge Pack, its seven members were exterminated by Director Phil Anderson and the offending ranch was Diamond M.
The year was 2016, the family was called the Profanity Peak Pack, its seven members were exterminated by Director Jim Unsworth and the offending ranch was Diamond M.
The year was 2019, the family was called the OPT Pack, its eight members were exterminated by Director Kelly Susewind and the offending ranch was Diamond M.
What is the common element in each of these depredations? You guessed it; Diamond M ranch created the situations which resulted in each of these mass killings. Further to the point, 26 of the 31 wolves killed by the Department since 2012 have been caused by Diamond M ranch.
The Kettle River Range where this brutal killing is carried out is prime wolf habitat but only marginal grazing land for cattle. In fact, it is so rugged that the killing must be done from a helicopter. That an injured calf can survive for more than one week without being discovered by Diamond M speaks volumes about their lack of oversight and diligence. This is mountainous territory and cows and their calves should not be turned loose there. The department must make changes in its protocol to deal with the problem and not simply to continue to attack the symptoms.
Turning to a more specific situation:
On Aug. 16, the department killed the remaining four members of the OPT family, just hours before Judge McHale ruled in favor of an injunction to stop the killing. The ruling held that there was sufficient reason to hear the merits of the case in court and that the remaining wolves should not be killed. Knowing that they would likely lose this case, the department moved quickly to eliminate the last members of the OPT family and render the ruling moot. That this was done to circumvent the legal system leaves an indelible stain on the department that will last far beyond this director and this commission. By this action, the department has said to those of us who do care about our environment and our wildlife that we don’t matter and that our views are unimportant to them.
In closing his letter, Governor Inslee wrote to Director Susewind: “Please provide me with an update on the above requests and statutory requirements, along with any recommendations for additional action, by December 1, 2019.”
Thank you, Governor, for listening to your constituents.