Wolf proponents pack Sequim meeting hall
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Steve Pozzanghera of the state Fish and Wildlife Department, holding microphone, addresses about 85 people Tuesday night on the state wolf management plan being drafted now. Behind him is Sequim City Councilman Don Hall, who heard from Fish and Wildlife officials that wolves would not decimate the Dungeness elk. -- Photo by Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News

By Diane Urbani de la Paz, Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM - A crowd of North Olympic Peninsula residents told state Department of Fish and Wildlife officials that gray wolves belong in Washington state - maybe even on the Peninsula.

"I want a bumper sticker that says 'Wolves NOW,'" said Dennis Murray of Sequim, one of some 85 people who attended Fish and Wildlife's Tuesday night "public scoping meeting" in Sequim on the drafting of a gray wolf management plan for Washington.

The discussion at Guy Cole Convention Center was one of seven held around the state this month.

In 1999, public outcry quashed plans to reintroduce wolves into Olympic National Park.

Tuesday night's talk centered on the need for wolves to bring Washington's ecosystems into balance again.

Today, neither the state nor the federal government have any plans whatsoever to reintroduce wolves anywhere in the state.

But they are coming anyway, moving into the northeast corner of the state from British Columbia and Idaho, said Harriet Allen, Fish and Wildlife's threatened and endangered species manager.

"It's just a matter of where and when," she said, adding that a wolf was sighted recently in Pend Oreille County, on the other side of the state from Jefferson and Clallam counties.

Bill Liggett of Eatonville in Pierce County came to hear about Washington's wolf management plan because he "wanted to be part of something good."

He touted reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park, saying it "enhanced the ecosystem" by bringing a native species back into the food chain.

Elk and wolves
By the 1930s, wolves were largely eradicated from the Peninsula by hunters.

Sequim City Councilman Don Hall asked whether wolves - if they were on the Peninsula - would destroy the Dungeness elk herd.

He was promptly told that when wolves were abundant here, elk were also.

Elk and wolves coexist well, said Fish and Wildlife manager Jack Smith.

Several attendees were inflamed by the photo of a snarling wolf on the front page of Monday's Peninsula Daily News.

"That was a very poor choice. This image is not representative of normal wolf behavior," said Robert Whitney, a wildlife photographer from Port Townsend.

Sequim author and naturalist Tim McNulty noted that in 1999, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study found that restoring wolves to the Olympic Mountains was biologically feasible, and that the likelihood of their coming into contact with humans, pets and livestock would be insignificant.

Willie Nelson, a Peninsula tour operator, said he's always in favor of "giving an opportunity for native populations to return" to places such as Olympic National Park.

In an interview, park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said there are no plans to bring wolves into the Olympics.

"Part of our mission is restoration of natural ecosystems . . . but we have other priorities," such as the Elwha River restoration project, which will restore salmon habitat by removing two dams on the Elwha River.

Wolf Working Team
Though still on the endangered species list, wolves have recovered across Idaho, Wyoming and Montana since their reintroduction in the mid-1990s.

Their numbers now top 1,200 in those states.

Such recovery - and the sighting of gray wolves making forays into northeastern Washington- drove state wildlife officials to convene a Wolf Working Team, which will present a draft management plan by December.

More public meetings, to get a cross-section of opinion statewide, will be held before the final plan is released next July.

Tuesday night's Sequim meeting was the only session planned for Jefferson and Clallam counties.

Meantime, the wolf plan is being developed under the State Environmental Policy Act, and comments may be e-mailed to SEPAdesk@dfw.wa.gov by Aug. 31.

More information about the plan is at http:/wdfw.wa.gov.

Wolves are likely to come, Allen added, "into southeastern Washington, northeastern Washington, and down into the North Cascades from Canada."

All of the locations are hundreds of miles from the North Olympic Peninsula.

"We know we have animals knocking on the door," added Pozzanghera. "We're satisfied to say, 'Let's let it happen.'"

________
Sequim Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-681-2391 or diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 21. 2007 9:00PM
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