Powerful Washington State legislator criticizes Dept. of Fish and Wildlife for killing off the Wedge Pack
What a difference a state can make-
When you leave Idaho for Oregon, it seems like more Idaho for a long distance. The same is true to a lesser extent in Washington State, but this story certainly shows, politically speaking, for the conservation of a controversial endangered species, Olympia is not like Boise, Idaho; Helena, Montana; or Cheyenne, Wyoming.
NBC news reports that Sen. Kevin Ranker, the chair of the Washington Senate Natural Resources and Marine Waters Committee (the committee that has legislative jurisdiction over Washington’s Department of Fish & Wildlife) told “NBC News that the killing of a gray wolf pack in recent days was ‘inexcusable’ and that he is demanding answers about why the agency thought it was necessary.”
Standard political wisdom is that if wolf conservationists are to make a comeback, they need to profusely thank the Senator, contribute time and money for his political endeavors including his related interests if they can agree they are good ideas.
Here is the full story from NBC News and an on-line poll for those who want to participate in a non-scientific survey. Killing of wolf pack criticized by key Washington state lawmaker. By Miguel Llanos
Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.
56 Responses to Powerful Washington State legislator criticizes Dept. of Fish and Wildlife for killing off the Wedge Pack
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I’m overwhelmed. Thank you, thank you Sen. Ranker!
Where was the senator when the Wedge pack was alive and needed him. Was he on a deserted island somewhere? Even us here in the Northeast were fully aware of the impending slaughter. The senator just wants to “sound” good now. Good PR for him. If he really felt this way, he could have used his power to STOP the slaughter.
But he didn’t. So don’t give him any credit for pretending he cares now. Don’t you know by now how deceiving and manipulative politicians can be. Got to see thru their BS.
Not to defend politicians in general or this person whose record I don’t know, but this story has been short on reliable (common agreed upon) information.
It just kind of oozed slowly into public consciousness. Even now it is isn’t clear that the wolves killed more than 2 head of cattle. Yet ag sources relying on the rancher allow say as many as 17. A prudent politician wouldn’t get involved in this immediately.
With all due respect, he sure could have, and given his own words to NBC, should have gotten involved when the kill orders were issued. He had plenty of time to stop the slaughter.
Like they say, talk is cheap. Especially after the fact.
If it were me, I’d be ashamed to say such a thing AFTER the wolves had been slaughtered. And be down on my knees begging forgiveness for not stopping the slaughter of these beautiful Wolves.
And I must say, it does sound like you’re defending him. On what grounds?
I’m going to answer this which in no way represents what anyone else would have to say about it. I worked as a policy analyst/advisor/ staff while working in on a master’s program on marine science and policy at URI. Quite often the state senators would rely on me and another woman to provide direction and advice in the aftermath or during a conflicted issue relating to marine and estuarine conservation or policy. As Ralph pointed out, it took time to develop a response and then to communicate that to the Senators. While this makes it appear that the Senators were lazy or incompetent they were usually just too busy or inundated to understand and respond immediately to the issues. So the relied on their staff, in this case grad students and other staff. I understand your anger, as I too wish that there had been an official stance against the killing but at least this Senator is asking questions now. I’m not certain but given the right kind of public support it could lead to an investigation and then subsequent reccommendations for legislative initiatives to address the issue. Again, I can’t be certain but this killing might actually backfire and have some positive effect, if there is enough support and pressure. Having provided some defense for the lateness of the reaction, you are also probably correct in that some of the response is politically motivated, there is not much that state legislators do that is not. It would have been dangerous to come out on this issue before seeing some of the public reaction. There are not that many brave politicians. Yet some are truly decent people. I don’t now anything about this Senator except that I am grateful that someone in office is speaking out. Maybe we will see some of the spiral mojo Ralph was referring to in favor of wolves for a change!
sorry for spelling and grammar issues!
First things first. I deserve an apology. Nothing I said indicaed I’m angry. And with all your posting, you should know better than to mis-portray someone as angry in today’s on-line world. I expressed sadness, disgust and disappointment. Not anger. I deserve an apology.
That said, use all the words you want to defend the senator. The fact remains, all had sufficient warning about the slaughter (one admirable note for the FWS dept). If the senator truly felt in his heart what he says now, he had plenty of time to at least delay the killng of the Wolves. But he didn’t.
Too little too late. He should be asking forgiveness for not assessing the situation quickly enough to save the lives of the Wolves he now laments.
As for this website, I now see yours and Mr. Maughan’s real agenda.
I look forward to your apology.
I’m wondering why you think I should apologize for writing a perfectly reasonable response to you. If I mischaracterized your emotions then I’ll apologize for that but it seems silly. You said you now see what my agenda is, thats a little dramatic if not comical. I am probably one of the most outspoken wolf & wildlife advocates on this site, or pretty much anywhere. I too was sad, disillusioned, and I admit to being extremely angry but not at the one legislator who is actually demanding an investigation and recourse to the decision to kill the wolves. I hope you’ll rethink your position on this and send this Senator a big thank you and contribution unless you can be damn sure the person you plan on voting for has a very positive stance on wolves and living with wolves. You’re lucky to have him speak out about the killing. I say don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. And don’t try and penalize the person who is trying to challenge the status quo. If you have any doubts about my position on wolves, look back through some of these posts and see some of the beatings I’ve taken! You could not pay for the kind of exposure this issue is getting because he is speaking out.
I know, I know – but this is very positive, and I’m hoping for the best. I agree with CodyCoyote’s post below.
I’m going to have to agree with David on this one. Where was senator Ranker when the wegde pack wolves were alive and ready to be gunned down? I don’t know if senator Ranker really cares about wolves or not or if he is finally speaking up so he can get some pro-wolf people to vote for him in his upcoming election.
Just a queston,Wouldn’t it be the Governor be the one to tell or give the orders to halt the killing of the wolves?
And, I bet Governor Chris, or her staff, was consulted before WDFW went off the deep end with this. She is a good governor, by the way.
The senator does have the power of the purse for WDFW, however, or at least thinks he does.
I am in total agreement. The government representative is full of crap acting like he did not know what was happening in Washington. I live in Washington and this person is up for re-election so he has to make himself look good for now and act like he is all grieving and upset about what has happenend and declare his innocence in all of it. A bunch of BS and continuing lying from government officials. He has lost alot of votes due to his slow acting response and wringing his hands and declaring how angry he is will not bring back the Wedgepack he allowed to have slaughtered. People from Africa were asking me about it…yet he swears he didn’t know? Bullshit. Another lie from a government official trying to cover up his huge boo-boo now that he realizes what effect it has had.
sheila sutteron and david forjan,
Of course, office seekers will highlight their positions when they are running for election or reelection. He was quite specific compared to the wispy and misleading rhetoric we hear from most politicians on most issues. Given the small support wolf conservationists have received so far in state legislatures, it is not wise to criticize a sudden statement of support for their position, especially from a person who heads up the most important committee.
The true status of the Wedge Pack was not easy to see. Now, with Carter Niemeyer only finding two clear cases of attack by one or members of this defunct pack do we see that almost all of the “howling” about this “horrible” wolf pack came from one recalcitrant rancher. Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife is learning how to deal with wolf issue. There are not many experts there yet. I think they did get pressured into killing this pack, and pressure from the other side such as from this legislator is badly needed, even if you think it is late.
You can morn the loss of this pack, but the area will repopulate. Think about the future.
You’re correct. It’s refreshing to hear someone who sees thru the politicians’ BS. They change their opinions like we change underwear. For political opportunity. Mr. Maughan and Ms. Kane want to put their faith in such changelings. They are quick to defend the politicians. And hope, a helpless emotion, hope the politicians really mean what they say, this time. Like I said earlier, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results”. The politicians involved now will not help the Wolves. They’ll just pretend when it’s advantageous.
So we have to remember, we tell them what to do. Period. We animal lovers merely have to learn to speak in numbers and in unison.
I admire your savvy, Sheila.
When you get a chance, look me up and send me a message via FB, David Forjan, born in Brownsville NY.
I won’t be back at this site anymore. The dealers are dealing from the bottom of the deck.
Be well Sheila.
wow no one has ever accused me of being quick to defend politicians over the interests of wildlife and especially wolves – or of dealing from the bottom of the deck. You’ve certainly got a lot of passion!
Having a vocal critique of wolf control in a position of high import is a serious strategic advantage. It appears Mr. Forjan has more passion than common sense.
We will miss your sage political advice. 😉
close to 103,000 people taking the poll, 72% voting no the wolf pack should not be killed!
There is a commission meeting next Friday. It seems imperative that wolf conservationists attend.
The more that the alleged wolf depredations on this big rancher’s property and public grazing allotment are examined, the more they seem to mostly evaporate — no real evidence for more than 2 actual wolf attacks with most of the rest of the documented “attacks” really mild injuries that could have come from abandoned fences and even insect bites. The area has bear and cougar,observed there recently. Attacks might have come from them as likely as wolves.
Carter Niemeyer, late on in the controversy, did identify the two clear wolf attacks.
The good state senator is asking the right questions rather than repeating the media.
It seems to me now that most of howling was the rancher, but it was loud and long enough that that a sufficient number believed “the man who cried wolf.”
Senator Ranker lives on the west side of the state, and represents Orcas Island (part of the San Juan Islands), home of alot of rich folks with idle time on their hands, or aging hippies. I can’t say I know much about him, or does anyone outside his district, which includes Bellingham, home to Western WA State U, and the Huxley Environmental College (where the Dean of that school also serves as a recent appointee to the WA DFW Commission, and hasn’t a clue about wolves). Bellingham ( 60 miles N of Seattle) is the home offices of Conservation Northwest (which also has a member of its staff on the WDFW Commission – but that guy is from Colville on the east side of the state, near to the hot seat where this wolf pack is making a living for now.
This is every bit the spin that the anti’s have going, wherever the political clout can be mustered.
What is so interesting is that this guy is sort of the flip side of the redneck rancher. He has a BS from that fourth tier college and esteemed bastion of learning, Evergreen State College. Now, he is telling WDFW scientistist and administrators how to do their jobs. Turnabout is fairplahy in politics, I guess.
Thanks for info about the good state senator. Here are a few thoughts.
I don’t think it is right to call a large rancher a redneck, though the term’s meaning is changing. Traditionally, rednecks are lower class whites who work outdoors (so they get red necks from working in the sun). It originally had quite a southern connotation too. The ranch hands might be rednecks though they would probably rather be called cowboys or some variation.
Big ranchers are rural elites just as surely as some of out business and investment elites live on Orcas Island. The fact that they are in conflict means to me there is still hope for democracy in this country. Once they are unified, it is all over for most of us . . . actually for all of us because the economy will implode when products are made but only a small per cent can afford to buy them.
“Now, he is telling WDFW scientistist and administrators how to do their jobs. Turnabout is fairplahy in politics, I guess.”
I did not think he was telling anyone how to do their jobs just asking the right questions and demanding accountability. There are plenty of other legislators telling wildlife officials how to kill wolves (or to do their jobs) its good to hear one voice from the other side.
Ranker is a Democrat. No surprise there, but one eyebrow went up when I read he is running for reelection in this November election cycle.
Can you imagine how a Dem running for reelection who has brass enough to openly and severely question the killing of wolves by an agency would play in the Northern Rockies’ media tourney ? Imagine those words coming out of John tester’s mouth … he could kiss his US Senate seat goodbye for that one utterance.
Some food for thought
Perhaps there is a bit of the self fulfilling prophecy at work in RM state politics. I know that sentiments about wolves are red hot in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming but I wonder if a politician were to challenge the status quo how that might work out. The comments that I’ve read indicate that despite the bluster and hate there are a good number of people who live in these areas that do not like the wolf killing and are appalled by the policies. There is a strange phenomenon that I notice when it comes to policy. The ugliest and most vocal that express the most outrageous ideas often get what they want, even if a minority. Then people become afraid to challenge the policy and instead may hop on board. Has anyone ever run for office in Idaho or Montana on another platform, one that accomodates wildlife and wolves? Just asking
if Tester did not throw the wolves well…to the wolves would his campaign have been any harder? It was an especially transparent and sleazy move by Tester and the Dems and did it really get him anywhere?
I think you are on the mark here. Both Dr. Bruskotter and myself have mentioned the public opinion theory called the “Spiral of Silence” a number of times. This theory is, I think, overstated by its author, but in general people tend to support the view (the opinions) they think are the more popular among those around them, especially if their original opinion was weak. So public officials all taking the same view in a state causes their favored opinion to grow and the other to shrink. Take a different set of officials but with the same facts on the ground, and the opinion of the public would be the opposite.
Objective data will have almost no effect on this opinion making process.
Its a similar phenomenon that causes people to vote against their best interests. I have read thousands of comments in many states and they are not in general in favor of the massacre that is taking place now. I’d love to see someone with some spine stand up and run for office on a wildlife friendly campaign. I think some surprising number of voters might come out of the woodwork in support. of course its hard to tell with the mind boggling amount of money that is now poured into campaigns by special interest money.
thanks for naming this. In politics it could be named spiral of sleaziness. When one politician does something sleazy many of them are emboldened and bring something even sleazier to the table. Tester and delisting… and state legislators and wildlife managers emboldened to follow with sleazier still legislation and management plans. Still freaked out it was the Democrats who started this particular spiral. Am not advocating for a rep ticket just enraged by the democrats handling of this and Obama’s appointment of Salazar. A rant for those ready to call it one.
“Tester and delisting” was sleazy?
While I would have preferred the matter not go the legislative route (it was a procedural practice which Congress engages in frequently with riders), it was merely codification of a statute that was previously a duly adopted regulation of FWS (which Judge Molloy found unlawful, but on the basis of faulty data presented to him in court on the one hand, and on the other a federal law that said the Service could not break up a DPS even though the part not delisted would have been at a higher protected status). Hardly sleazy, just a practical way around a badly crafted ESA law, and a Judge who was not in possession of facts on genetic connectivity when he made an earlier legal decision.
It’s sleazy. Barring judicial challenge was sleazy. It’s not based on science but on the wishes of their constituents, and politics. Yes, we know quite well that legislation by rider is very common – but never before have they removed an animal from the Endangered Species list, deciding the fate of a living species, and it sets a terrible precedent for other endangered species. The judge felt it to be unconstitutional. It reeks of sleaze. If the ESA is a poorly crafted law, fix it above board, not by a sneaky 11th hour rider. Delisting and initiating hunting immediately would seem to be two different things.
It is only sleezy if it concerns an issue that is important to you. The Not subject to judicial review has been used many time over the last 225 years, until now, concerning the wolves, I don’t remember anyone ever objecting to the use of this clause.
WM it was sleazy and I stand by that. I’d love to see a rider that prevents riders. The worst of them seem to be sneaky 11th hour attempts to circumvent judicial or public scrutiny and worse yet they often threaten environmental protections. As for the ESA, its certainly flawed, one of the worst flaws was allowing economics to trump science and allowing wolves to be killed to placate ranchers. That was not the intent. The wolf recovery plan was also a mess and now we are dealing with that. 150 wolves in each state, BS BS BS that pisses me off.
the 150 population figure has no bearing on Washington State, the plan is to delist wolves when they reach 15-18 breeding pairs. The State will have far more than 150 wolves.
bret, do you have any idea how many wolves 15-18 breeding pairs would result in?
I think FWS director Dan Ashe said it best (paraphrasing here). The ESA is designed to prevent species extinction (and protect the habit upon which those species rely). It is not a wildlife protection/proliferation act. That is a distinction some here don’t get.
And as for fixing the flaws, now is not the time. WA R Congressional Representative Doc Hastings heads the House Nat. Resources Committee. He would gut the ESA in a heartbeat, and if the R’s keep the House and flip the Senate things will not be good for environmental protection.
Push for more wolves on the ground at higher density and I don’t think any of us on this forum would like the result. Acts of Congress can be passed and they can also be changed – Twenty some years of operating history since the last modification of the ESA after course after course of litigation, blocking projects, increasing costs to government (states/local government as well as the feds) has laid the groundwork for groups like the Chambers of Commerce, big industry and the like to muster the votes to push aside environmental protections, despite what the lay public wants.
If I recall correctly 15-18 breeding pairs in WA (with its fragmented habitat and required translocation) translates to as many as 360 wolves.
I predict it will never happen, without a great deal of tension – and likely require changes in the Plan approved in Dec. of last year.
350-450, 2011 Interagency Annual Report 1,774 wolves in 109 BP, so about 16.3/ BP 15-18 BP = 244-293, then add 40 for wolves that den in border regions of the state, in the state but not counted. population counts are minimum and are often 20-25% under count, add in dispersers as well. It will take time for wolves to make it to the Peninsula before state wide delisting.
Just curious. Are you with an agency or an NGO? You seem to always have good authoritative facts at hand, and an excellent grasp of the issues as they develop. I would certainly understand if you are reluctant to say.
No, I’m a business owner, lifelong resident of Eastern WA, farmer, and outdoorsman.
I have been following the wolf issue since early stages of development in the wolf plan.
I believe many people, not familiar with Washington see the figure of 73% wolf approval number and think That it is a slam dunk, I have little doubt that it will get very contentious before an equilibrium I reached.
Good luck Bret,
We have not reached it here in Montana.
++Ranker is a Democrat.++
Indeed he is, and running in a WA state legislative district that bleeds blue. He doesn’t need the publicity on this particular issue. Maybe because of his position of Committee leadership he feels compelled to jump in, probably with a push from the D party.
Where he lives on Orcas Island hasn’t seen a predator, well, maybe ever. It is an isolated island, largest of the San Juans, with pastoral countrysides of grassy meadows, often filled with sheep, horses and cows. Deer in abundance, but not over-eating their habitat, because hunting is allowed (shotgun I think). Back to the lack of predators – no coyotes, bobcat, cougar, bears (or wolves) at all.
And, I can’t say for sure because I haven’t looked into the science of it, but from many trips there over the years, the terrestrial ecosystem seems to be doing fine there. Now there is adjacent Lopez Island, which has a rabbit problem from all the little bunnies that residents let loose over the years, and no predator except the occasional dog to trim the population, or the occasional resident/hunter who wants a little Italian rabbit ragu, or rabbit stew.
Ratings for Kevin Ranker by some different Washington groups: http://votesmart.org/candidate/evaluations/93902/kevin-ranker
Very interesting ratings
high marks by environmental groups, labor and children and family rated low by business and agriculture. Hmmm
Not surprising given the interests of Ranker’s constituency in his district. No terrestrial agriculture to speak of (land as opposed to limited ocean based aquaculture: be interesting to know his views on pen raised salmon and oyster farming) in his district, except maybe a few tulip and berry farms. Some business mostly tourism, and, of course, a 4 year state college. This is solid west side D country, so who could give a rusty toot about those guys on the east side of the state. The point is, WA is not a homogenous state – people on the west side of the Cascades, while most of the agriculture and a good share of the better deer and elk hunting is on the east. West siders have been making policy for the east siders for decades, without experiencing their economic problems first hand.
I went to a presentation last week at a wildlife conference in Colorado that speaks to the east-west divide WM mentions. Here’s the abstract for those interested:
“In this theory, we assert that a significant amount of social conflict inherent to wildlife issues is rooted in contrasting wildlife value orientations among different people; that these wildlife value orientations reflect guiding ideological positions that explain individual variation in attitudes and behaviors toward wildlife; and that a population-level shift from domination to mutualism wildlife value orientations is occurring in the U.S. as a result of modernization”
Interesting theory JB. Sums up what a lot of us feel or have felt for awhile, til we “bang heads” with the domination crowd, who unfortunately have had their way for a century (or more) when it comes to wildlife value.
Wyoming Game and Fish , its Governor , other state leaders et al do not even try to hide the fact that a very large component of their Large Carnivore management policy is driven by ” social concerns”. Those political winds blow hard.
How they keep their Stetsons on their ossified craniums in such gale force bluster is beyond me…
All wildlife management is driven by social concerns. We introduced pheasant because some consider them fun to hunt (and tasty); we stock fish for the same reason. We protect T&E species because people value them; we kill “nuisance” animals because they pose a disease risk, or because they cause damage to private property or crops; we kill and remove non-native species because society generally values native species more.
The fact that large carnivore management is driven by social concerns does not differentiate it from any other form of wildlife management.
(I do like your metaphors though.) 🙂
This is probably a good example of what the states of Washington & Oregon will have to amass in the coming years re: wolves.
Its a long read, for a species that at one time, had no problem just existing til “dominance/ hence management” came into play, by mankind:
– – – –
Note: I shortened this link because it was so long, but it is an interesting link. You might get a warning from your browser, but it is a safe link to use. Webmaster.
None of this has been very informative. If the wolves were eating beef (highly likely and probable from the my Western Washington ignorant point of view), they were a problem–especially since other game should have been available in the summer. I don’t like it, but I get why the Wedge pack was killed. I heard one news comment on the radio regarding steps ranchers could take to protect their herds that may have not actually been done. I would like to hear what ranchers are doing to successfully protect their herds and what should be done. What is working? We should be looking for the best possible outcome, not grandstanding or manipulating news to look good/bad. I would like some actual information.
A story from our Canadian neighbors to the north of the Wedge pack territory. The cattle folks want their wolves thinnned.
Large packs of wolves are feasting on the province’s cattle in alarming numbers, according to ranchers, who claim that mortality rates of cows and calves have doubled over the past year.
same BS same whining same call for killing
Amazing how all of the complaints are surfacing now. Talk about long-suffering! Also no facts to back any of the claims up.
I am deeply concerned on this topic….. People yelling and screaming about killing the wolf’s or allowing them to grow in numbers…. Let me ask a question, How many of you live in wolf Territory? Any of you seen one? Been around one? They are a predator which means they hunt! and kill. Either wild or farmed. If you increase the number of wolfs you HAVE to decrease the number of other animales!!!! None of you have a clue whats going on. What are the facts??? whats really going on??? complain all you want, yell and scream, your showing how stoopid you really are. We humans are populating more and more of the forest so there for we are taking there home and other wild animales homes away but yet you want them to live together in peace? None of you have common since!!
I do not agree with the way the “Government” is taking care of them. with that said I have no other comment because I do not know the facts of what REALLY is going on and neither do you. Voice your opinion and SHUT UP!
So this “Jon,” not the same as the other “jon,” thinks we are all “stoopid” and lack “common since.” Worse still, we have never seen “wolfs.”
Most serious, I suppose, is that we can spell and punctuate.
“ENDANGERED SPECIES — Former Spokane County Commissioner (and current candidate) John Roskelley of Spokane claims the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was not being genuine with the public in its handling of the summer wolf attacks in northern Stevens County and ultimately the elimination of the Wedge Pack. Here’s Roskelley’s take, as posted on my Facebook page:
The WDFW rushed this decision to exterminate the Wedge Pack to avoid having to deal with the public or legislators like Sen. Rankin. I stopped at the meeting in Colville Thursday night; the WDFW got their nose bloodied by McIrvin and other Stevens County ranchers; the agency decided on a quick and dirty fix; provided the news media with their excuses for their action; used Conservation Northwest and the Cattlemen’s Association as justified supporters; pretended to hunt the wolves by foot; and then proceeded to do what they intended all along – wipe the wolves out quickly via helicopter and sharpshooters before the public woke up and some organization filed an injunction to get it stopped. The WDFW agency people had their mind made up weeks ago, but they knew better than to let the public in on something this controversial before it was a done deal.”
Interesting political take on the WDFW “facts” leading up to the decision to terminate the pack, how and when. Conservation Northwest has been a strong advocate and supporter of wolves in WA. They even have an employee on the FW Commission. Short sighted or longer vision for wolf acceptance and repopulation in WA?
Can you say political “spin?”
…and that would be Senator Ranker, not Rankin.