Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Jamie Henneman
The Davenport Times 

State now managing wolf population


November 26, 2020

COLVILLE — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced in late October that it would be removing endangered species protections for wolves in the lower 48 states, essentially turning management of the predator fully to the state.

The federal agency had listed wolves as endangered in much of Western Washington until the Oct. 29 announcement.

As the state Department of Fish and Wildlife assumes the totality of the responsibility for wolves, with many of its action items seeming to focus on removing cattle instead of wolf management.

In October the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, which sets internal policy for the agency, was considering a measure that set out new guidelines for the 200,000-plus acres where the agency uses cattle grazing as a management tool.

The proposed rule change highlighted the benefits of grazing, including “managing vegetation and habitat to provide food and cover for wildlife, to enhance recreational opportunity, to improve habitat conservation across multiple ownerships on landscape scales through coordinated resource management and to protect community character.”

A variety of tools can be used if wolf versus cattle conflicts occur on agency-managed public land, including temporarily removing cattle or lethally removing wolves.

The state has killed 34 wolves in Eastern Washington since 2012, including three this summer from the Wedge pack.

However, the new proposed rule language says wolves will be prioritized.

“Although livestock grazing may continue to be permitted in these and other areas potentially used by wolves, WDFW prioritizes wolf conservation on its lands due to its mission and the funding sources used to purchase lands,” the document notes.

Agency Lands Division Manager Cynthia Wilkerson said while grazing is a tool, it is not the department’s role to ensure grazing continues.

“Grazing is a management tool we use, but we are not responsible for perpetuating it,” Wilkerson said.

“Really, it is not our role to make sure we are grazing our lands.”

Signs go up

In an effort to reduce wolf-livestock conflicts, state Fish and Wildlife coordinated with federal Colville National Forest to put up signs encouraging the public to call if they saw cows there after Nov. 1.

For many producers who seasonally graze the national forest via an allotment, November is the deadline to have cattle removed for that year’s grazing season. The grazing is managed via a permit, but the grazing rights, also known as allotments, are held by individual producers as a kind of property right on the national forest, not unlike water rights or mineral rights.

Cattlemen throughout Eastern Washington, including those in Lincoln and Adams counties, have allotments in Colville National Forest and rely on it for seasonal grazing from June to November.

Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Staci Lehman said putting up signs asking the public to report cows after Nov. 1 has one goal for the state agency.

“By removing as many cattle from the range as possible, we will be able to decrease the likelihood of wolf-livestock conflict,” she said.

State Wolf Policy Lead Donny Martorello said the signs put up with approval from Colville National Forest officials are aimed at helping cattle and wolves to “co-exist.”

“In the spirit of working together, we are encouraging hunters or cross country skiers to call and report the cattle so we can help the producer,” Montorello said.

“We want the community to work together and are not trying to be adversarial to producers in any way.”

However, the stance the agency is taking does not sit well with cattlemen working to keep ranches in business and cattle out of the stomachs of the state’s 26 wolf packs.

Scott Nielsen, the grant manager for Cattle Producers of Washington, said Fish and Wildlife has over stepped its bounds.

“It is not appropriate for Fish and Wildlife to be making agreements with the Colville National Forest and putting their number on the signs for people to call,” Nielsen said. “If people see cows, they can call the national forest and those folks can notify the producer.”

Nielsen disagreed with the methods used to create the process.

“I don’t like how this was done,” he said. “It was cryptic and seems to be asking people to report cows as if they are a negative or a problem on the landscape.”

Nielsen and the other members of Cattle Producers of Washington have been working to get more cowboys onto the landscape to aid producers in spotting and identifying wolf kills or problems.

“Wolf monitors” with cattle producers work directly with ranchers and local law enforcement to identify problematic wolf activity.

Policy review

While the signs asking the public to report cows have already gone up on the Colville National Forest, Fish and Wildlife has yet to approve the changes to their grazing policy.

The proposal is set for review at the commission’s January meeting.

Author Bio

Jamie Henneman, Davenport Times Editor

Jamie Henneman is and editor with Free Press Publishing. She is the editor of the Davenport Times, based in Davenport, Wash.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 15097250101
Contact Jamie Henneman


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