OLYMPIA, Wash.— Thurston County Superior Court will hear arguments tomorrow in a case challenging the killing of endangered wolves by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The case is being brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands.
“We’re hopeful the court will protect Washington’s endangered wolves from the state’s reckless killing program,” said Amaroq Weiss, the Center’s senior West Coast wolf advocate. “The majority of Washingtonians want these magnificent animals to recover and thrive, not be gunned down for the private, for-profit livestock industry.”
What: Hearing in Center for Biological Diversity et al. v Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife et al. (No. 18-2-05620-34), a case challenging the department’s killing of state-endangered wolves in violation of state law
When: 9 a.m., Friday Nov. 1.
Where: Thurston County Superior Court, 2000 Lakeridge Drive SW, Building 3, Olympia, WA 98502, courtroom for the Honorable John C. Skinder.
The plaintiffs are represented in the case by the law firm of Animal & Earth Advocates PLLC. The Center’s lawyer and a Center representative will be available after the hearing for questions.
Since 2012 the state has killed 31 state-endangered wolves, nearly 25 percent of the state’s confirmed population of 126. Of those 26 were killed on behalf of the same livestock owner. Those kills have now led to the eradication of four entire wolf packs, including the OPT pack this year, the Sherman pack in 2017, Profanity Peak pack in 2016 and Wedge pack in 2012.
In 2017 and 2018, the plaintiffs — the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands — filed several lawsuits challenging the state’s wolf-killing program. The 2017 case was declared moot after the state destroyed the pack at issue, but the court has since required the department to provide eight hours’ public notice of any new kill operation, to allow plaintiffs or other members of the public time to seek a temporary restraining order.
In late summer and fall of 2018, the state agency issued new kill orders for members of the Togo, OPT and Smackout packs. A lawsuit was filed by the Center and Cascadia in November 2018 to challenge the kill orders on all three packs, and it is this lawsuit the court will hear arguments on tomorrow.
The court will decide whether to dismiss claims brought under Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act. That law requires analysis of, and public involvement in, any state actions that may harm the environment. The wildlife advocates argue that the department has failed to do this required analysis.
Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. The animals began to return from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s, and their population had grown to 27 confirmed packs by the end of 2018.
But wolf recovery in Washington is still a work in progress. Wolves remain absent from large areas of the state, and although the population has been growing, it remains small and vulnerable.