After many years of effort, a diverse working group of conservationists, state officials, the Farm Bureau and others is nearing completion on a state management plan for the wolf. Although not perfect, the plan is likely to be a step forward for wolves.
But instead of this work -- now culminating in a better future for wolves -- anti-wolf advocates are currently proposing extreme and unnecessary bills that will gut wolf protections. If passed, the bills would make an end run around this long and extensive public process to develop the state's wolf conservation and management plan, and they’d represent an extreme minority view that should not be made into law. In fact, most citizens want wolves: A 2008 poll found that 75 percent of Washington residents supported restoring wolves, including a majority of rural residents.
Unfortunately, House Bill 1109, proposed by Representatives Taylor, Kretz and others, would require the legislature to sign off on a final wolf plan. Never in history has the state legislature been required to approve a recovery plan for an endangered species. House Bill 1109 would allow politics to interfere with sound science and collaborative decision-making.
In further bad proposed legislation, House Bill 1108 makes the entirely false and outrageous claim that wolves are having a negative impact on deer and elk populations in Washington without any factual evidence to back it up. Big-game populations (and hunter success rates) in Washington are as high as ever. In neighboring Idaho -- where there are hundreds of wolves -- deer and elk populations are doing well with the exception of a few isolated areas.
Finally, one of the biggest challenges to wolf recovery in our state is that there’s a serious poaching problem. At least two wolves -- and likely more -- have been killed by poachers in Washington in the past two years. House Bill 1108 would make it illegal to prosecute wolf poachers, removing an important deterrent to killing wolves and impeding the safe recovery of wolves in Washington.