Washington Governor Jay Inslee Orders New Rules Drafted By Fish & Wildlife To Prioritize Nonlethal Methods Over Killing Wolves

In a win for wolves, Governor Jay Inslee directed the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to draft new rules regarding conflict with livestock and prioritize using nonlethal methods of conflict deterrence over killing wolves.

Friday’s action reverses the commission’s denial of a petition filed by wolf advocates in September that called for reforms to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s lethal wolf management policies.

“This victory holds so much promise for Washington’s wolves and it should change the state’s outdated focus on managing wolves instead of conserving them,” said Amaroq Weiss, a senior wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The science tells us that killing wolves doesn’t decrease conflict. Shooting wolves can actually increase conflict while making people more hostile to these awe-inspiring and ecologically important animals.”

Since 2012, 53 state endangered wolves have been killed in Washington for actual or claimed conflicts. Of those killed, 75% have been killed by the state on behalf of the same livestock-owning family, which has failed to take adequate steps to protect its cattle. Of those wolves, 75% have been shot for conflicts that occurred on public lands. Sixteen wolves have been shot in just the past three years.

Wolf advocacy groups proposed amending an existing rule to better protect wolves and provide clarity for livestock operators. Proposed changes include requiring livestock operators to use adequate nonlethal conflict prevention methods like effective range riding and scare devices before the state could consider killing wolves. It also asked that the state develop mitigation plans for areas with chronic conflict and set limits on the number of wolves that could be killed.

After the Fish and Wildlife Commission denied the petition last September, the advocacy groups appealed to the governor in November. Last week’s decision marks the second time that advocates have had to file an appeal with the governor’s office and the third time the governor has ordered the commission and the department to rework how livestock-wolf conflicts are addressed, after the commission denied past wolf rule making petitions.

A similar petition was filed by conservation groups in 2020 after the agency ignored Gov. Inslee’s 2019 request to “significantly reduce the need for lethal removal of this species.” When the commission denied the 2020 petition, Gov. Inslee again directed state wildlife managers to amend their rules when he granted an appeal filed by wildlife conservationists at that time.

“Third time’s the charm, and I hope that this time the state will listen to the science and adopt rules that will reduce wolf killing and lessen livestock losses,” said Weiss. “Commonsense measures like the ones we proposed will set Washington on track to truly coexist with wolves.”

The decision was the result of a petition and appeal filed by The Center for Biological Diversity, Washington Wildlife First, Cascadia Wildlands, Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, Kettle Range Conservation Group, Northwest Animal Rights Network, Animal Wellness Action/Center for a Humane Economy, Endangered Species Coalition, Coexisting with Cougars in Klickitat County and Predator Defense.

Governor Inslee’s decision requires the commission to start a formal rulemaking process, which includes giving notice to the public and creating an opportunity to comment on proposed rules.

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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