A wolf sanctuary on Bainbridge Island: sarcasm or microcosm?

If you are reading this article in the Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle, chances are you know somebody who ranches, farms, is an orchardist, raises livestock, or enjoys the outdoors.

In other words, you or someone you know lives a somewhat-rural life compared to our traffic-congested, concrete living, two-bedroom condo with a view-dwelling neighbors on the West side of the state.

As much as I don't tell them how to pave their cities, toll their roads, and reduce congestion on their highways, I really wish they would stop telling us what we can – or can't – do when we encounter problem wolves.

There's been much written recently about legislation I sponsored to create a wolf sanctuary on Bainbridge Island.  Some have called it a messaging bill, or referred to it as a tongue-in-cheek bill.

I suppose all of that is true to some extent, but the real reason I sponsored my bill was because of how the other legislation devalued the lives, livestock and property of my constituents here in Northeast Washington.

If someone who lives safe on an island, who has no chance of coming into contact with a wolf – ever – writes a bill saying that no lethal action can be taken against a wolf in this state – ever – I have a problem with that.

Stakeholders on this issue have put thousands of hours into finding solutions so that ranchers and wolves can find some sort of balance.  Non-lethal measures have been put into place and protocols adopted.  Is it a perfect system?  Not by a longshot.  But it's what we have right now and we're constantly working to make it better.

What doesn't work, is someone with no skin in the game dictating what we can or can't do when faced with repeat wolf depredations.  My first thought when I read the offending bill was, “What if a wolf kills 40 cows and 10 horses?  Or 20 colts?  Or 20 dogs and five cats?  Or, God forbid, three children?”

In essence, what the legislator from Bainbridge Island was saying to me and my constituents, was that their lives, and the lives of their children, are not as valuable – they're not worth as much – as that one wolf.

Not only is that offensive, it is disgusting.

What I've found in my time serving you in the state House, is that if not confronted immediately, and with force of will, falsehoods become truth after a time.  Saying something repeatedly, without any counterpoint or argument, starts to shape the dynamic of right and wrong.

You sent me to Olympia to work hard on your behalf; to fight for you and our shared values, principles, priorities, and our future.

If that means taking some heat for a “messaging” or “tongue-in-cheek” bill now and then to have a conversation about right and wrong, and to push back against ignorant, cavalier attitudes towards rural life, so be it.

There's more on the line here, folks, than just wolves and cattle.  This fight is not just about wolves, it's about our way of life that we all enjoy and have chosen, for various reasons.  If we lose this one, I fear we'll lose the next one…and the next one…and the next one.

So, let's have a wolf sanctuary on Bainbridge Island and see if opinions change when Fifi goes missing and parents are afraid to let their children play outside in the late afternoon dusk.

As the Columbia Basin Herald so eloquently stated in a recent editorial, “If the wolf must be at the door, let it be at the door of those who insisted on inviting it.”

(Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, is the Deputy Leader for House Republicans and serves on the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.)

State Representative Joel Kretz, 7th Legislative District
335A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(564) 888-2361 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000