Two Conservation Groups Have Filed A Lawsuit Against Washington Wildlife Officials After They Gave Orders To Kill A Wolf Pack

Two conservation groups filed an emergency lawsuit earlier this week seeking a temporary restraining order to stop Washington wildlife officials from carrying out a kill order for the Togo wolf pack in Ferry County. The deplorable decision orders the death of the collared, black-male adult from the pack and holds open the possibility for killing additional pack members. The Togo pack consists of only two confirmed adults plus an unknown number of pups.

This week’s suit was filed on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands. It asserts that the agency’s order to kill wolves from the Togo pack in northeastern Washington relied upon a faulty protocol and failed to undergo required environmental analysis. The suit was filed in Superior Court of Washington for Thurston County.

“It’s outrageous that Washington wildlife officials want to kill more wolves from the state’s small and recovering wolf population,” said Amaroq Weiss, the Center’s West Coast wolf advocate. “Washingtonians overwhelmingly want wolves recovered, and current science says that killing wolves to prevent conflict is counterproductive. This isn’t the Old West anymore.”

Since 2012, the state has killed 18 state-endangered wolves, nearly 15% of the state’s current confirmed population of 122. Of those, 15 were killed for the same livestock owner. Those kills have now led to the eradication of three entire wolf packs, including the Sherman pack last year, Profanity Peak pack in 2016 and Wedge pack in 2012.

“The state should not take actions against the public’s wildlife that are counter to best available science, nor should it be violating state laws to craft protocols giving itself permission to take these ill-advised actions,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “Wolves are part of Washington’s wildlife heritage, and agency management of these magnificent animals should be based on science, follow the law and allow for full public input.”

In June 2017 state Fish and Wildlife officials adopted a revised “wolf-livestock interaction protocol” for determining when to kill wolves in response to livestock conflicts. The protocol allowed the state to kill wolves more quickly than in prior years. It was adopted without any public input or environmental review, in violation of the state’s Environmental Policy and Administrative Procedure acts. That summer and fall, the department issued kill orders on the Smackout and Sherman packs and killed wolves from both packs. The Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands sued the state in September over its kill operation on the Sherman pack.

A May 2018 court ruling held that the 2017 lawsuit was questionable because the court had already destroyed the Sherman pack, so the court could not provide plaintiffs with a remedy. However, in its ruling, the court also noted that the plaintiffs’ issues were of significant public interest and required the department to provide eight hours’ public notice of the intention to start any new kill operation. This notice requirement was meant to allow plaintiffs or any other members of the public sufficient time to seek a temporary restraining order to prevent future kill operations.

Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900’s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. The animals began to return from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000’s, and their population had grown to 22 confirmed packs by the end of 2017.

But wolf recovery in Washington is still a work in progress. Wolves remain absent from large areas of the state, and although the population has been growing, it remains small and vulnerable.

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