House passes Kretz bill requiring statewide wolf review and more resources for conflict management

'Wolf recovery in Washington has been one of the largest unfunded mandates in recent memory,' says Kretz

The Washington State House of Representatives passed legislation this week that would require the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct a review of gray wolves throughout the state. It would also direct more resources in Ferry and Stevens counties for ongoing conflicts between wolves and livestock.

Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda and sponsor of House Bill 2097, said the action by the state House was a long time in coming, but also potentially heads off disastrous consequences between wolf advocates and ranchers.

“We need the department to take this step to officially document how the wolves are faring,” said Kretz. “I know how my ranchers and communities are faring, and it's not good. Despite honest efforts on both sides of this issue, folks back in my district are desperate. The state needs to show that it's listening, it hears them, and is going to start taking their concerns to heart. If the state fails to do that, more and more citizens are going to start taking matters into their own hands.”

Kretz's bill requires the department to determine if Washington's wolf population is no longer in danger of failing, declining, or no longer vulnerable to limited numbers, disease, predation or habitat loss. The review “must be based solely on the numerical biological status and preponderance of scientific data available.”

“We know the wolf recovery in my district is well ahead of plan,” said Kretz. “But we need a statewide analysis to give perspective and to provide factual data – not just anecdotal – so we can possibly provide some measure of relief to residents in northeast Washington who fear for the safety of their livestock and their livelihoods.”

Kretz's bill also creates the northeast Washington wolf-livestock management grant within the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Funds from the grant program must be used in “any Washington county east of the crest of the Cascade mountain range that shares a border with Canada.”

“We often talk about unfunded mandates in the Legislature, where legislative actions have a cost associated with them that is then passed down to someone else,” said Kretz. “Wolf recovery in Washington has been one of the largest unfunded mandates in recent memory. It's threatening to destroy an entire industry and has already led to the closure of numerous ranching operations, some which were third- and fourth-generation ranches.

“In many ways, the state has drug its feet in addressing my constituents' concerns regarding the wolf issue,” said Kretz. “The state needs to step up financially and assist with the problems it has created, or at the very least, neglected.”

House Bill 2097 passed the House unanimously and now heads to the state Senate for further consideration.

The 105-day 2019 legislative session is scheduled to end April 28.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov