Why it Matters: The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Commission denied a petition to initiate rulemaking around wolf-livestock conflict at their meeting on October 28, 2023. Since that decision, petitioners filed an appeal with Governor Jay Inslee requesting that he overturn the commission’s decision by directing WDFW to initiate rulemaking. This exact process played out in 2019 on a similar rulemaking petition by these same wolf protection organizations. Both WDFW and the Commission have stated that these rules will not prove beneficial to wolf recovery in Washington State.
- As a member of the WDFW Wolf Advisory Group (WAG),the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) testified against this petition and supported efforts to protect and maintain current protocols in Washington State through their advisory role.
- Wolf protection organizations have filed an appeal with the Governor’s office trying to influence wolf management for a second time.
- WDFW biologists and the WDFW commission have spoken out in opposition to these actions multiple times since 2019.
As reported previously, on September 15, 2023, a rulemaking petition was filed with the WDFW commission on behalf of eleven wolf protection groups. This petition sought to introduce and codify more restrictive standards relating to the use of lethal and non-lethal methods of addressing wolf conflicts. During the October Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting, WDFW recommended denying the rulemaking petition and the Commission agreed with the department’s assessment.
However, on Monday November 27, 2023, the petitioners filed an appeal with Governor Jay Inslee’s office requesting that he direct WDFW to codify wolf-livestock protocols. As guided in RCW 34.05.330 the Governor has 45 days to respond to that appeal.
This is not the first time that these petitioners have asked Governor Inslee to step in and influence rulemaking on wolf management in Washington State. In 2019 the WDFW Commission denied a similar petition from wolf protection organizations. The petitioners then appealed to Governor Inslee who wrote a letter to WDFW stating that “the status quo of lethal removals is simply unacceptable.” The Governor’s letter kicked off a two-year effort by WDFW in collaboration with department staff, the Wolf Advisory Group (WAG), and the public to create rules around wolf-livestock conflict. On July 8, 2022, the rule proposal was presented to the WDFW commission who declined to adopt the new wolf management rule in response to public comment and existing policy.
Despite the petitioner’s claims, Washington State has been successful at managing wolf-livestock conflict when compared to other Pacific Coast states. Washington has a higher wolf population than neighbors California and Oregon combined, and yet they have fewer livestock conflicts and lethal removals each year. Honoring the petition as presented would not improve wolf recovery, nor reduce conflict. It would instead serve as a vehicle for future lawsuits to block necessary lethal removals, potentially leading to habituation and increased conflict.
This political tennis match around Washington’s wolf-livestock protocol runs counter to the North American Model of Wildlife Management. It would limit WDFW’s ability to adjust based on scientific data from department biologists, which would hinder current ESA recovery efforts. CSF’s Senior Coordinator for the Northwestern States, Marie Neumiller, has been actively engaging on this issue on behalf of sportsmen’s interests through her position on the WAG, and through testimony at Commission meetings. CSF will be following the Governor’s response closely and collaborating with partners on the Washington Fish and Wildlife Conservation Partnership and the Washington State Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus to ensure that responsible management prevails.