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By Cooper Inveen
WNPA Olympia News Bureau 

Legislation pending that could alter state's wolf management efforts

 


As Washington’s gray wolf population continues to grow, so do concerns from those living in the areas of the state most affected by their return.

“There are two sides to this issue, and it kind of boils down to either you like them or you don’t,” said Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, who co-sponsored several wolf-related bills this legislative session.

Seven bills relating to Washington’s gray Wolves have been introduced to the 2015 Legislature, with four surviving for continuing consideration in their respective chamber this week. Together they could have a dramatic effect on Washington’s wolf-recovery policy.

Sen. Brian Dansel, R-Republic, is sponsoring Senate Bill 5583, which would give the Department of Fish and Wildlife the power to declassify an endangered species on a regional level. SB 5583 passed out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and is on the Rules Committee calendar for advancement. An identical bill in the House, co-sponsored by Kretz, died in committee.

Speaking about the distribution of Wolves, Kretz said “I would support them in Seattle particularly.”

No official data exist on how elk and deer populations in the northeastern part of the state have been affected by the rising number of Wolves there. The lack of data has sparked considerable debate between conservationists and hunters who worry that an increased wolf presence could harm game populations.

House Bill 1676 would shine light on that issue. The bill would require the University of Washington’s Predator Ecology Lab to assess and report on the health of hooved animal populations in places with high wolf-recovery rates.

HB 2107 would require the department to amend the 2011 wolf conservation and management plan to better address the uneven distribution. Among other things, the new plan would have to consider reducing or consolidating recovery zones, outline new attack-prevention methods for ranchers, and re-evaluate when lethal force can be used against individual Wolves. It now awaits full House consideration.

 

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