Wolf plan meetings canceled because of threats of violence

SPOKANE — The state has canceled a series of wolf-related meetings, including one set in Port Angeles in October, saying it fears they might be accompanied by violence.

The state Department of Fish & Wildlife announced the cancellations at a Wolf Advisory Group meeting in Spokane on Tuesday.

The department is planning for a time when wolves are no longer a protected species, and public input is necessary for that process.

But the agency said it cannot assure the safety of the public or its staff if the meetings are held.

The return of wolves to the state from surrounding areas in 2008 has led to numerous conflicts between the animals and livestock producers, especially in northeastern Washington state.

Agency officials told The Spokesman-Review they started to see Facebook posts threatening violence.

The public scoping comment period opened Aug. 1 and will continue through Nov. 1.

Of the 14 meetings that had been scheduled, the only one set on the North Olympic Peninsula was in Port Angeles at Peninsula College’s House of Learning on Oct. 29.

Instead of attending meetings, comments can be made online at tinyurl.com/PDN-wolfplan.

A webinar will be available for those who are interested, the agency said; a date and time for it will be announced later.

Since 2008, the state’s wolf population has grown an average of 28 percent per year. Fish & Wildlife documented a minimum of 126 individuals, 27 packs and 15 successful breeding pairs during the last annual population survey.

The plan under development now will guide long-term wolf conservation and management.

The present plan, which was adopted in 2011, was developed to guide wolf recovery in the state while wolves are considered threatened or endangered. The new plan will focus on how the department will conserve and manage wolves after their recovery.”

As part of the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) process, Fish & Wildlife will prepare a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will evaluate actions, alternatives and impacts related to long-term wolf conservation and management. The department will develop the draft EIS based on feedback, and the public can review and comment on the draft once it is complete.

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