The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is looking for public input while they revise their grazing guidelines on state Wildlife Areas. Comments are due on THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 24.
WDFW has 50 permittees statewide that graze approximately 110,000 acres of state land within Wildlife Areas. Nearly 40 percent of this land overlaps with known wolf habitat. WDFW’s mission is to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities. We need to make sure they know that this means putting wildlife over livestock.
If you need ideas or guidance please consider the following points:
1. WDFW needs to evaluate whether livestock grazing can possibly support its mission.
There is a substantial body of research that describes the detrimental impacts from livestock grazing on fish, wildlife, and vegetation. It is important that WDFW prioritizes uses of Wildlife Areas that support fish, wildlife, and habitat and only allows livestock grazing in cases where it is compatible with maximizing wildlife benefit from these lands. Active and consistent monitoring of livestock grazing allotments is key to ensuring fish, wildlife, and habitat resources are not damaged. Removal of livestock from an allotment must be a readily considered default option to protect wildlife areas.
2. WDFW needs to clarify what a temporary grazing permit is and how/why one might be used.
In numerous places throughout the grazing guidance document, temporary grazing permits are mentioned. However, this use is not adequately described. WDFW must disclose why a temporary grazing permit would be issued, and ensure that any temporary permits are compatible with maintaining maximum wildlife habitat values. Temporary grazing permits should not be issued on lands that have not undergone environmental review. Temporary grazing permits should include stringent forage allocation standards. Temporary grazing permits should not be issued in sensitive riparian or wetland areas.
3. WDFW should include a public comment period during the grazing permit renewal process.
The livestock grazing permit renewal process has little to no public transparency. Yet, this action is occurring on public lands and should thus require input from the public. When preparing to renew a permit WDFW should make monitoring and compliance information for the permit publicly available on their website. Once this is available, the public should be notified and should have 30-45 days to provide input on the renewal of the permit. This should include an opportunity for members of the public to submit information that they have about the ecological integrity of the allotment, or any additional expert information.
4. WDFW should continue to prioritize wolf recovery over livestock grazing
We appreciate that the WDFW Lands Division recognizes the importance of wolf recovery in Washington and is committed to wolf recovery on Department grazing lands. Wolf recovery must take precedence over livestock grazing.
Requiring nonlethal deterrence measures on every permit is excellent, however human presence should be a required tool on all allotments that are in known wolf territory. WWP does not support the killing of wolves for conflict with livestock under any circumstances, and this unnecessary and damaging practice should not be listed as a “necessary tool” for managing a state endangered species. It is especially important that WDFW does not kill wolves for conflicts if nonlethal techniques were not properly deployed by a permittee.
When looking for an alternative pasture following wolf activity, it cannot be a pasture that isn’t currently grazed or has not undergone environmental review. Finally, if a WDFW alternative pasture is not available the document currently states that WDFW retains the ultimate decision to not move livestock and, “accept the risk of wolf-livestock conflict.” This is unacceptable. If any triggers are met under the high risk criteria and no alternative pasture can be found, livestock must be sent home.
Thank you for standing up for Washington wildlife and please don’t hesitate to reach out to WA Director Jocelyn Leroux (email@example.com) with any questions.