State congressman applauds vote to remove federal protections for wolves

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Congress is considering removing gray wolves from the federal list of endangered and threatened species, potentially opening them up to more hunting outside of Washington state.

House Bill 6784, known as the "Manage Our Wolves Act," would push wolves off the Endangered Species Act. It would remove certain habitat protections and open them up to hunting.

The bill passed out of the House Committee on Natural Resources Wednesday.

Congressman Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, praised the move, saying delisting wolves would give management back to the states.

"The best-available science used by the U.S. Department of Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that the gray wolf has recovered and is no longer endangered," Newhouse said.

Wolves were listed on the endangered species act in 1974 following a federal program to eradicate them from the country. First retntroduced in Yellowstone and re-entereing on their own in Montana, biologists believe there are now more than 5,000 wolves in the country.

There are 22 confirmed wolf packs in Washington state, with more than 100 wolves.

Eric Gardner, an assistant director of wildlife programs with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said regardless of what happened federally, the wolves would remain on the state's endangered species list. He said it may be easier for the state to manage wolves under a single system, versus the patchwork of the two endangered species regulations they have now.

"Delisting would give us a consistent approach across the state," Gardner said.

Hunting would not even be considered in the state until they were removed from the state's endangered species list, Gardner said.

But wildlife advocates say the science does not support removing the wolves from federal protections. Rob Krehbiel with Defenders of Wildlife said special interest groups and politics lead to these proposals.

"We've seen congressmen and women over the past several years try to strip protections for gray wolves for no reason other than this deep-seated hatred for the animal," Krehbiel said.

Washington state officials have determined that wolves from a pack in northeast Washington have injured five additional calves, and they continue efforts to kill some pack members.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife said Tuesday the attacks occurred in Ferry County and were conducted by wolves from the Old Profanity Territory pack.

The agency has already killed one member of the pack, and says it will continue efforts to kill more to stop the depredations.