Scientists’ Recommendations to Washington State Wolf Conservation and Management Plan Disregarded

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   June 2, 2011
Contact:   David G. Graves, Northwest Program Manager, National Parks Conservation Association, (206) 462-0821 or dgraves@npca.org
Jim Davis, Executive Director, North Cascades Conservation Council, (360) 296-5159 or Jimdaviscpc@northcascades.org
John Woolley, President, Olympic Forest Coalition Co-chair, Sierra Club North Olympic Group, (360) 683-0724 or woolley@tfon.com
Tim McNulty, Olympic Park Associates, (360) 681-2480 or mcmorgan@olypen.com


Scientists’ Recommendations to Washington State Wolf Conservation and Management Plan Disregarded

The revised draft gray wolf management plan released by the WA Department of Fish and Wildlife on May 27th fails to improve the state’s plan and disregards changes recommended by a scientific review

Olympia, WA – The WA Department of Fish and Wildlife (the Department) released the revised Wolf Conservation and Management Plan for Washington in a press release on May 27, 2011. This revised plan follows 14 months of analysis by Department staff of the comments received during the public comment period and the results of the blind scientific peer review conducted through the University of Washington. The National Parks Conservation Association, North Cascades Conservation Council, Olympic Park Associates, Olympic Forest Coalition, and the North Olympic Group of the Sierra Club are disappointed in this revised draft plan.

Without regard to recommendations of the scientific peer reviewers, and many of the public comments received, the Department presented a revised draft plan that does not increase the current population goal of 15 breeding pairs, equal to approximately 100 - 150 wolves statewide, for downlisting the gray wolf from state endangered to threatened.

According to the scientific reviewers, 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 another scientific expert put it, “This [population goal] does not flow from wolf population biology . . . it does not flow from the result of scientific evaluation. The conclusion is arbitrary and capricious.”

“We want to make sure this plan will create a viable and self-sustaining wolf population in the state of Washington,” said David G. Graves, Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. “Anonymous scientific peer reviewers have said that 15 breeding pairs will not reach this goal. It is disheartening that the state has disregarded these basic recommendations.”

Changes made to the plan that weaken the possibility of wolf recovery include:

•Allow killing of wolves in the act of attacking livestock by livestock owners on private land regardless of the wolf being listed as endangered, threatened, or sensitive.

•Allow killing of wolves in the act of attacking a domestic dog on private land regardless of the wolf being listed as endangered, threatened, or sensitive.

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.

Without the changes recommended by the peer review, this plan is unlikely to reach the stated goals of the Department of producing a sustainable wolf population and withstanding possible legal challenges. The final plan will be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in August for consideration.

Links to the revised plan and 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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