Rep. Joel Kretz | Sincere efforts of the many, undermined by the ideology of one

I've met and heard from many of you regarding wolves over the last decade.  As we've worked to restore balance and fairness to the wolf/livestock equation, I've asked you to stick with me.

I've asked you to be patient as we tried to bring good, honest people from all walks of life to the table to find equitable solutions to the ongoing conflicts that each of us live out every day.

While I may not agree with them on all matters, or agree with every decision they've made, they have willingly laid down some of their preconceived notions and prejudices to try and work together honestly and in good faith.  It hasn't been easy, but it's been a work in progress that has produced some benefit.

Even with my own skepticism and criticism, I've asked you to trust the process as the Wolf Advisory Group (WAG) formed.  They built trust with each other throughout the years and embarked on a give-and-take process that neither side fully loved, nor hated, but they did make some progress.

While we have many disagreements, most of the local conservation groups have tried – in good faith – to balance the needs of the ranching community as we go through the process of wolf recovery.

I've asked you to wait for just “one more legislative session” to push common sense legislation through the process or to try and fight back legislative attacks from the Puget Sound region.

Today, without being completely fatalistic, I'm not sure I can look you in the eye and tell you with certainty that solutions from the state are forthcoming.  Because the sincere efforts of many appear to have been undone by the ideology of one.

For years, many ranchers and conservation partners in Washington have applied preventative deterrence methods.  We know wolves are here to stay.  But as wolf recovery plays itself out in rural Washington, there must be an acknowledgement of the financial and emotional hardship this places on ranching families suffering the brunt of repeated livestock killings.

We've worked hard to bring about fair compensation from the state when wolves kill livestock.  We've also worked just as hard to bring about an open, fair process to determine when the state needs to eliminate problem wolves.  Again, neither side is completely happy about the final outcome.  But both sides have shown a willingness to work together to try and figure out the best solution to keep ranchers whole and wolf recovery on track.

However, all the work done over the past few years and the trust built between the ranching and conservation communities was upended last fall.  It was then that Gov. Jay Inslee overruled the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission when he ordered the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to draft new rules governing the lethal removal of wolves which repeatedly attack livestock.  This, despite the commission having previously rejected the proposed rule changes.

His directive caught many by surprise, even those on the conservation side of things.  Why is the governor inserting himself into something he knows nothing about?  Why is he interfering in an on-going process that has yielded cooperation and collaboration?  Why is he meddling in the development of 'best practices' that have been forged through years of both sides working together in good faith?

It seems the governor, whether through his continued interest in running for higher office or through his extremist environmental associations, got word from on high that he needed to step in and take charge of the wolf recovery efforts.

In a textbook example of abuse of power, the governor swooped in an undid years' worth of work and trust.  His new mandates when it comes to the lethal removal of wolves is straight from the playbook of out-of-state extremists which believe a wolf should never be killed under any circumstances.

So now we have Washington state wolf recovery efforts being driven by out-of-state animal rights lawyers with no regard, no knowledge, and no empathy for Washington ranching families and rural traditions.  This isn't a recipe for success, folks.

I will continue to work in good faith with anybody willing to find fair, equitable solutions to living with wolves in ranching country.  We've tried to honor the people and the process, even when we haven't always agreed.  However, the governor's intrusion into this issue threatens the work done, the trust built, and the honest collaboration between two passionate sides.

His meddling has left me to wonder, how can I ask you to trust the process when the process is upended by politics and special interest groups from out of state?  How can I ask you to trust the relationships being built when the governor puts new people in the mix with obvious agendas?  How can I ask you to wait one more year to find an equitable solution when you continue to have dead cattle, dead calves, and dead horses?

I know rural Washington, and I know the ranching community.  We are problem solvers by nature.  As many times as I've asked you to stick with me, I've also warned others that unless things change, it could get real western in rural Washington.

As it is, the governor's actions are a severe setback that threaten the survival of a process that was making headway without him. 

(Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, is the Deputy Leader for the Washington State House Republicans and raises horses on his ranch in the Okanogan Highlands.)

State Representative Joel Kretz, 7th Legislative District
425A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7988 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000