New Legislation Requires WDFW and the Colville Tribes to Coordinate on Wolf Management

New Legislation Requires WDFW and the Colville Tribes to Coordinate on Wolf Management

Conservation Northwest / Mar 27, 2024 / Legislation, WDFW, Wolves

Conservation Northwest today expressed qualified support for Governor Jay Inslee signing House Bill 2424. The bill requires the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to work with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation to coordinate gray wolf and other wildlife management in the so-called “North Half” lands in northeast Washington that were part of the original Colville Reservation and on which the Tribes continue to have certain rights.

Conservation Northwest respects the Tribes’ sovereign right to set management policy on certain lands according to their objectives and processes. But where policy is set by the state, we expect transparency in objectives and in the research data that informs management decisions.

“We support the intent of this bill to improve communication and coordination between the Tribes and the WDFW,” said CNW’s Senior Policy Director, Paula Swedeen, Ph.D.

The bill stems from the legislature’s recognition that the Colville Reservation has an abundance of both wolves and their ungulate prey (deer, elk, and moose), and apparently also a relatively low amount of wolf depredation on livestock. Tribal policy allows for unlimited hunting and trapping of wolves by tribal members.

The bill’s sponsor asserted there is a relationship between Tribal wolf management and ungulate populations and livestock conflict.  We think these relationships are complex and require years of research to establish in any particular setting.

Conservation Northwest’s experience in northeast Washington is that where livestock and wolves are both numerous, diligent use of proactive deterrence methods such as range riding is needed to minimize livestock loss and lethal control of wolves. On the other hand, research findings to date do not support the notion that the general hunting of wolves can reduce conflict with livestock.

With respect to wolf impacts on ungulates, research indicates that these relationships are complex. In many cases, wolves have not been found to decrease ungulate populations. Habitat quality is a key factor that might best explain differences in ungulate abundance.

“We encourage all parties to continue using non-lethal deterrents in the North Half. We hope the learning and coordination include improving proactive methods to allow wolves, livestock, and people to coexist,” said Swedeen.


Six wolves on a forest road in northeast Washington in 2019. Photo: WDFW