COLVILLE, Wash. (CN) – Seven environmental groups say the Washington state government has not proved that gray wolves killed livestock on a ranch, and urged the state not to kill the endangered species.
In an open letter to state officials, the Western Environmental Law Center and others say the state has not conclusively proven that the endangered gray wolves were responsible for cattle deaths.
Government-sponsored wolf kills are a contentious issue in the rural West.
The wolf pack at issue in Washington is called the “Wedge Pack.” It roams the northeast part of the state near the Canadian border.
Washington Fish and Wildlife officials blame wolves in Wedge Pack for killing or injuring eight cattle on a ranch in recent months.
Washington Fish and Wildlife last year adopted a conservation plan that outlined specific conditions under which the government could kill wolves that repeatedly killed livestock.
The state must prove four factors before authorizing the kills: that the livestock deaths are clearly documented as being the work of wolves; that nonlethal methods have failed; that the deaths are likely to continue; and that there is no evidence that the livestock’s owner attracted the wolves intentionally.
The environmental groups say the state is ignoring its own requirements and is putting “as many as four wolves in the crosshairs.”
“The standard for killing this iconic species in Washington is specific and establishes a high burden of proof that must be met by WDFW: documented evidence that livestock have clearly been killed by wolves,” the letter states.
“If there is any such evidence here, it is buried in the WDFW files and has not been offered as evidence that WDFW’s decision meets the dictates of the plan.”
The groups ask the government to make available all of its records related to the plans to kill members of the Wedge Pack and “immediately recall its sharpshooters from the field.”
They claim killing the wolves would violate the state’s Administrative Procedures Act,
“The conservation community has worked hard with WDFW and other stakeholders to shape a wolf management plan that balances wolf recovery with the needs of our agricultural community,” the letter states. “That good work, developed over multiple years of negotiation, is now at risk due to WDFW’s decision to kill four wolves in contravention of the agreed plan.”
The letter is endorsed by the Western Environmental Law Center, the Humane Society, the Sierra Club of Washington, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Wolf Haven International, and Cascadia Wildlands.
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