Three things for our new life with wolves

Three things for our new life with wolves

Conservation Northwest / Jan 29, 2013 / Wolves

Mitch Friedman appeared before Washington State’s Senate Natural Resources and Park Committee today, regarding several wolf bills. Below are his comments.

I’m Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest. We have staff and directors in Colville, Orient, Twisp, Omak, and other communities affected by wolves.

Change can be disruptive; and after a 70 year absence, wolves are certainly a change. But after a period of drama, and at times trauma, we will adjust and wolves will no longer feel so new and upsetting.

These wolves result from deliberate policy and actions in the Rockies that lead to natural recolonization here. Our state was prepared. The wolf conservation and management plan anticipated the drama, and is up to the task. We should stay the course and let our quality plan guide us as designed, maintaining strong protections until recovery is achieved.

I want to highlight three things to help us through the period of change:

  1. invest in conflict avoidance;
  2. consider translocation, as it can shorten the recovery period; and
  3. focus on mutual respect and empathy.

With wolves, conflict will occur but can be minimized. Wolves are neither angels nor devils, and will respond favorably to better livestock management.

Conflict avoidance. Conservation Northwest has invested heavily in finding and spreading solutions. Among our many efforts, we hosted a workshop in Colville early last year that offered cattlemen the cost-free opportunity to learn from people experienced with ranching around wolves. Among the ranchers who actually boycotted that workshop was the family that later had so much trouble with the Wedge Pack. Among those who participated was a family that, with our assistance, employed a range rider through the summer to keep their herd safe from the Smackout Pack. That family had its hands full, as wolves will test and adapt continually. But the cattle came down from the high country fat and all accounted for. We plan to expand and share these efforts this year and beyond.

Translocation would boost wolf recovery in the southern Cascades and possibly Olympics. These are places with exceptional year-round habitat and prey on expansive public lands, and fewer livestock. Recovery depends on packs being established in this geography, which is a long way from BC or Idaho. We can wait for wolves to get there or we can help the process along.

Civil discourse. Lastly, I wish we could all walk a mile in one another’s shoes. 75% of Washington citizens – not all of them urban westsiders – support wolves. I got to watch my daughters delight at the howls of the Lookout Pack before they were silenced by poachers. But I also know how hard ranching families work and how tight their budgets are. Ranchers can appreciate the values of their fellow citizens even if they don’t share them. Likewise, we who love wolves–but don’t have to adjust our lives to them–can help those who don’t have that luxury.

There is much we don’t know about wolves. Their behavior is complex, as are their interactions with prey populations and their environment. One thing I do know: Wolves are amazing. Let’s remember that there is more to this than drama and trauma.