Washington Holds First Wolf Plan Group Meeting

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The 18-member citizen group formed to help the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) develop a plan for wolf conservation and management will hold its first meeting Feb. 28 and March 1 in Ellensburg.

The two-day meeting is open to the public for observation, but only working group members will participate in discussions. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Feb. 28 in the conference center at the Ellensburg Inn, 1700 Canyon Rd., and is scheduled continue at 8 a.m. March 1.

The working group includes citizens from both eastern and western Washington who represent livestock ranching and agriculture, local government, conservation groups, biologists, the timber industry, hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts.

The group will meet approximately every other month over the coming year to provide recommendations for the department to consider in developing a draft plan. A draft plan is scheduled for completion by Dec. 30, and will be followed by a public review period. The final plan is expected by June 30, 2008.

Although gray wolves were largely eradicated in Washington by the 1930s, sightings have increased here following federal wolf-recovery efforts began in Idaho and Montana in the mid-1990s. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed removing gray wolf populations from the federal list of endangered species in three states and parts of four other states, including Washington.

The gray wolf is listed as a state endangered species and — as with all state endangered and threatened species — a plan must be developed to identify target population objectives and appropriate conservation and management strategies. Additionally, the plan will address wolf management in the state after the species is removed from the federal list of endangered species.

A separate technical advisory group of biologists from state and federal agencies will provide information and expertise to the citizen working group.