Objective Scientific Review Suggests Washington Wolf Population Goals Too Low

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   March 18, 2010
Contact:   David G. Graves, NPCA Northwest Field Representative, (206) 903-1444, ext. 25 or dgraves@npca.org


Objective Scientific Review Suggests Washington Wolf Population Goals Too Low

Independent scientists recommend Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife use science-based wolf population numbers as it finalizes the state's plan

Olympia, WA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has released a blind scientific peer review of the draft Wolf Conservation and Management plan. Concerns expressed by the reviewers mirror those of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and nearly 2000 members of the public who commented on the plan. In particular, reviewers expressed concern that the wolf population goals are too low and will not ensure a self-sustaining and viable wolf population.

“The majority of the scientific reviewers agree with NPCA that a higher number of breeding pairs is needed to produce a sustainable wolf population in Washington,” said David G. Graves, Northwest field representative for the National Parks Conservation Association.

According to the scientists, the population recommendations in the draft plan are not biologically defensible and will not ensure the ‘reestablishment of a self-sustaining population of gray wolves in Washington.’ As one reviewer puts it, the current population goal of 15 breeding pairs “does not flow from the result of scientific evaluation.”  A second reviewer states, “…we might anticipate that the state should support somewhere between 320 and 668 wolves.” Finally, a third reviewer says, “Wolf populations currently living in Wisconsin and Michigan are at levels of 626+ and 580+ wolves (winter 2009) respectively, in states that have human population densities similar to Washington…”

The reviewers state that an adjustment of the population goals and other minor changes (such as addressing how interaction with other wolf populations will be maintained or restored) can result in a scientifically defensible plan. NPCA recommends that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife revise the population goals to produce a sound plan.

“The blind scientific peer review is vitally important and should be closely considered in crafting the final version of the wolf plan for the state of Washington,” said Graves.

Research indicates that healthy wolf populations can benefit local communities. The University of Montana recently estimated that Yellowstone National Park wolves generate $35 million in economic benefits every year for local communities. This money comes from tourist spending directly related to wolves, including wolf tours and related services, such as lodging and meals.

Scientists also believe the return of the gray wolf to the Olympic peninsula will lead to cleaner water and healthier ungulate populations. In Olympic National Park, stream and river habitat has been damaged from elk overgrazing. This damage is limited in other parks, such as Yellowstone, where wolves are present to control and manage the elk population.

In January, members of the Washington State Legislature and local Washington community leaders sent a letter to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) urging it to restore a healthy and vibrant wolf population to Washington State. The letter included five members of the state Senate, 15 members of the state House of Representatives and 13 community leaders, including Paula L. Houston, Executive Director of the Mathews East Madison YMCA, Bob Kelly, Policy Director for the Nooksack Indian Tribe, and Peter Jackson of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation.

The full letter can be found here: http://www.npca.org/media_center/pdf/Wolf_Support_Letter_2010.pdf

The blind peer review can be found here: http://wdfw.wa.gov/wildlife/management/gray_wolf/draft_plan/march2010_wolf_deis_peer_review.pdf

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