Gray wolf management could shift to state

OLYMPIA – The management of gray wolves in Washington could soon be exclusively under state control thanks to a proposal announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to end federal protection for the species.

While gray wolves statewide are considered endangered under Washington law, the federal Endangered Species Act protects only those in the western two-thirds of the state.

Seventh District Senator John Smith, R-Colville, said ending federal protections after three decades of nationwide recovery efforts would signal that wolf populations have reached recovery levels. Smith also credited the legislative action taken in Olympia this session as having a significant impact on the Service’s decision to move forward with their proposal.

The proposal is supported by our governor and state Fish and Wildlife Commission with the belief that the state should be responsible for the management of wolves.

“It is a good thing when the federal government can relinquish control back to the authority of the state,” Smith said. “Local is always better in my mind.”

Smith said the proposed federal action is a positive step and would open a more productive discussion about statewide wolf management efforts. It would be significant for eastern Washington where the species has multiplied rapidly and caused turmoil to many ranching operations.

“This proves that the voices and concerns from people in eastern Washington are being heard – not only in Olympia, but in Washington, D.C. as well,” Smith said. “The suffering and loss endured because of wolf recovery has not been in vain. The proposed removal of federal protections moves us in the right direction to find solutions for the future.”

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the public will be able to comment during a 90-day period and a final decision will be made in 2014.