Washington wolf populations have increased and met recovery goals in the eastern portion of the state. These wolves have naturally dispersed and repopulated the area without any reintroduction efforts. Currently, surveys show that two of the three recovery areas meet the 2011 recovery goals, with 19 breeding pairs counted during the 2021 survey. Now that healthy populations exist, wolves must be managed by the state.
A bi-partison effort is being led by State Representative Joel Kretz to give the state authority and direction to manage wolves in areas where they have been verified to meet recovery goals. House Bill 1698 is supported by Republicans and Democrats from both urban and rural communities. Representative Debra Lekanoff is an Alaskan Native, and half of the bill sponsors are from districts in the Seattle and Tacoma areas. Clearly, the diversity of supporters demonstrates that the people of Washington want to have wolves managed in the state.
However, Washington state law does not allow for wolves to be separated and managed in individual recovery areas. Currently, they can only be delisted statewide and then managed. The South Cascades and Northwest Coast Zone currently only have two wolves documented, and only recently were they “designated” a pack. These zones are separated by hundreds of miles, watersheds, and mountain ranges. HB1698 would recognize these confines and allow the management of wolves at a much more local level, incorporating local, state, and tribal agencies.
House Bill 1968 needs support to pass the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and be brought to the floor for a vote and passage.
This article gives a good overview of the history of wolves, their recovery, and their current status. It also provides key information on why wolves need to be managed at these local levels and the conflicts that recovered populations have with livestock. Being informed on these statistics and understanding why this issue needs to be addressed now in this manner.
CONTACT: The Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee to pass HB 1698.