WDFW cancels in-person, wolf open houses

Staff Writer

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has canceled a series of 17 in-person wolf post-recovery planning open houses and will schedule online, interactive webinars in September and October.
Meetings were planned from 6-8 p.m. on Sept.3 at Spokane Community College and 6-8 p.m. on Sept. 4 at the Agriculture and Trade Center in Colville.
“We’ve seen incredible intensity around wolf issues this summer, on both sides of the issue. For outreach to be meaningful, our meetings have to be productive. Unfortunately, we’ve received some information that indicates to us that the meetings could be disrupted, possibly creating an unsafe meeting environment for the public participating,” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind.
“Based on our initial outreach to stakeholders, we think digital open houses and a robust survey will be our most productive means of gathering feedback on this initial scoping effort.”
The open houses were aimed at helping to inform the State Environmental Policy Act be used to develop a post-recovery plan. The first step in the SEPA process involves scoping.
Scoping helps us determine proposed actions, alternatives, and impacts to be considered in the post-recovery wolf plan,” said Julia Smith, WDFW wolf coordinator. “The scoping process is intended to improve decisions, find early resolutions to potential conflicts, and frame the relevant issues. We want this to be a thoughtful and constructive process for all involved.”
In lieu of the public open houses, the department will hold three live webinars open to all, where participants can receive information, ask questions, and learn how to provide input.
The dates for these digital open houses will be announced soon. The department’s work to develop this plan is a multi-year effort. As wolf management options begin to take shape, there will be further opportunities to engage with agency staff.
The public scoping comment period will remain open until Nov. 1 and the Department is encouraging interested parties to provide input on the scope of the future wolf plan. The Department is accepting comments vi online survey a and in writing.
“We will schedule additional in-person engagement opportunities later in the process, once we have a draft plan and are requesting comments. We will do our best to ensure that those meetings will be productive and safe.” Susewind added.
Washington’s wolf population has been growing since 2008. WDFW proposes to develop a post-recovery conservation and management plan to guide long-term wolf conservation and management under state authority.
More information and the survey on wolf post-recovery planning can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/at-risk/species-recovery/gray-wolf/....
Live webinar dates will be posted there as soon as they are announced.
Written comments can be mailed to WDFW SEPA/NEPA Coordinator Lisa Wood, PO Box 43200, Olympia WA 98504-3200.