Archive for the ‘The Wedge Pack’ Category

Conservation Northwest’s Role in The Wedge Pack Killing

Last week, the Wedge Pack’s alpha male was shot, bringing an end to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) efforts to break apart the wolf pack. The WDFW made the decision to remove the wolves after they were found to have killed 15 cattle from the Diamond M Ranch in northeast Washington.

On September 21st, the WDFW, Conservation Northwest (CNW) and the Washington Cattlemen’s Association (WCA) issued a joint statement on the decision to kill the Wedge Pack.  Regarding the decision to eliminate the wolves, the statement claimed, “Wolf managers have long recognized that the only way healthy populations of wolves will be sustained is if the problems they cause locally are addressed quickly and effectively. In situations like the one involving the Wedge Pack, experts from across the West agree: Eliminating the pack will help to reset the stage for wolves that are not habituated to livestock to establish themselves in that area.”

While the WDFW has been bearing the brunt of the public’s outrage during and after the elimination of the pack, CNW has also come under fire. On September 25th they issued another statement on their website, discussing their role in the decision. They quoted Carter Niemeyer, a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recreation coordinator, in their defense: “I can assure you form decades of experience – the wolves will again prey on [the rancher’s] cattle when they return,” Niemeyer said, adding, “…a lack of cooperation has been demonstrated by the livestock owner, in this case.” In addition, CNW also quoted Jack Field, the vice president of the WCA, as saying, “…managing and killing wolves that cause problems is an important part of a healthy co-existence.”

In addressing the issue directly, CNW wrote “…the current developments in northeast Washington . . . is not what anyone wanted or expected…” and went on to say in a September 3oth article, “…we thought the decision was premature and overly aggressive, based more on political pressure than the available evidence.”  However, the original statement issued by the WDFW directly references the decision to kill the Wedge Pack. What’s more, CNW failed to include or respond to comments from opposing parties in their their September 25th statement.

The September 30th article more directly addressed CNW’s relationship with ranchers by stating, “We at Conservation Northwest value ranchers in part for the wildlife habitat their property provides, and we work with them to find solutions for wildlife and agriculture.” According to CNW, ranchers have a right to expect the public to understand the economic struggles of ranching, and the challenges ranchers’ lifestyles pose.

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It sounds like CNW is dodging responsibility in its effort to save face. They are letting the WDFW bear the brunt of the public’s retaliation, and are maintaining a “we didn’t know” defense. Their claims to ignorance on September 25th and September 30th contradict the joint statement issued on September 20th, in which elimination of the pack was directly addressed.

Furthermore, CNW’s collaboration with ranchers in this case gives an impression that they are more focused on retaining a relationship with Washington State ranchers than on encouraging support from the general public. Niemeyer’s statement that one rancher’s lack of cooperation was a factor in the decision to eliminate the Wedge Pack raises questions of loyalty. Is Conservation Northwest an environmental steward–but only once rancher’s needs have been met? According to their website, “Conservation Northwest protects wildlife and connects forests and wild areas from the Washington Coast through the Cascades Mountains to the British Columbia Rockies.” But in the case of the Wedge Pack, it sounds like they protected ranchers first and foremost, at the expense of the Wedge Pack.

CNW can count on one thing: the public will be scrutinizing their actions in the coming year. If they maintain their support of ranchers on other inflammatory issues, they can expect to continue to lose the support of the general public. If, however, they take a more neutral stand next year, will their public perception improve? Or is it too little too late–has Conservation Northwest, in its support of the Wedge Pack killing, lost its credibility as a conservation network?








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