While I was working late into the evening on Wednesday, April 11, 2018, I received a call at my office and it showed “U. S. Government” on the phone screen. Upon answering, a pleasant voice invited me to participate in a telephone Town Hall Meeting with Congressional Representative, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, from the 5th District. At first I thought it was a scam. But, as the call progressed, it was legitimate.
After Representative McMorris Rodgers gave a state of her Congressional District report, she invited participants to dial *3 to get in line for presenting a question to her. I dialed that sequence and was pleasantly greeted by a screener, who asked me what question I had. I told him and he complimented me saying, “Those are very good questions.” I was instructed to stay on the line and heard three or four other callers present their questions. I was impressed by how thoughtful and personable Representative McMorris Rodgers was to each and every individual, as well as their concerns. When my turn came, I asked her a two-part question about local wildlife conservation at the Federal level.
First, I told her that I was concerned about the dwindling elk population in North Washington. As I have spoken with other hunters and outdoor enthusiasts, they confirmed my conclusion that elk numbers have plummeted, especially in the last three to five years. In the last three years that I have hunted elk, I have seen no elk whatsoever in the woods. Everyone I have spoken to is reporting either visual contact with timber wolves, large quantities of sign, or howling. My question to Representative McMorris Rodgers was, in light of dwindling elk numbers, what is she doing at the Federal Government level to address the wolf problem. The Congresswoman acknowledged that wolves were a concern and she assured me that she is working hard to have the wolves delisted as an endangered species. That would remove unnecessary protection and permit active management by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife through established hunting seasons and issuance of permits, if necessary. I was satisfied with that answer. I have personally seen wolves in Spokane County and Pend Oreille County, the most chilling was in 2011. Then, there were five wolves sitting in a field about a mile from my home and just 8 miles from Spokane City limits.
If you Google, “Gray Wolf Conservation and Management” on the Washington State website, here is what comes up:
“Status of the Gray Wolf in Washington Under Federal Law
The gray wolf is federally listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the western two-thirds of Washington. Within this area, it is fully protected by the ESA, which is administered and enforced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). On May 5, 2011, wolves were federally delisted in the eastern one-third of Washington (east of State Route 97 from the Canadian border to Highway 17, east of Highway 17 to State Route 395, and east of State Route 395 to the Oregon border). This means that the USFWS has the lead responsibility for wolf management in the western two-thirds of Washington.
For species listed under the federal ESA, activities that may result in “take” of endangered species are generally prohibited. The definition of “take” includes to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or attempt to engage in any such conduct. Penalties for violations of the ESA include fines of up to $100,000, with a maximum prison term of one year in jail.
For more information see: US Fish and Wildlife 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation – Lower 48-State and Mexico Gray wolf (Canis lupus), February 2012.
Status of the Gray Wolf Under Washington State Law
The gray wolf was listed as endangered by the State of Washington (WAC 232.12.014) in 1980 and receives protection under state law (RCW 77.15.120) from hunting, possession, malicious harassment, and killing. It was listed because of its historical occurrence in the state, near elimination from the state, and existing status as endangered under the federal ESA. State law specifies that when species are federally listed, the WDFW will recommend that they be added to the state’s list. Penalties for illegally killing a state endangered species range up to $5,000 and/or one year in jail. Because wolves have been federally delisted in the eastern one-third of Washington, WDFW has management authority over the species in this part of the state.
Wolf-dog hybrids have no federal or state legal status.”
Second, I shared with the Congresswoman that in light of everyone’s genuine concern to preserve salmon and steelhead fish populations and migration in the Columbia River and its tributaries, over-fishing, migration obstacles by dams, pollution of waterways and other issues, why isn’t anyone apparently concerned about the danger of salmon and steelhead smolts becoming prey to the large population of extremely aggressive Walleye Pike, which inhabit the lower reaches of the Columbia River? I even suggested a method for controlling that walleye population be opening a fresh water fishery for commercial catch of that species. Representative McMorris Rodgers said that she is working with and supports legislation proposed by a Representative from Vancouver, Washington (not sure if it is Vicki Kraft or Liz Pike) Federal who is lobbying for delisting of seals and sea lions to permit killing of those animals who are feeding on large numbers of salmon in the lower fresh water reaches of the Columbia River. Currently, seals and sea lions are protected under the United States Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), which was enacted on October 21, 1972. However, there are exceptions for some indigenous people in areas of Alaska, who may harvest seals and sea lions for food subsistence. The Congresswoman did not directly answer my question and include walleye pike predation on bait-size fish in her response. Nevertheless, given her direct and personable approach to all the other questions in general, I think that was probably based on a lack of knowledge about Walleye and their habits, rather than being evasive. I trust that she is now well aware of the issue.
All in all, I very much appreciated Representative McMorris Rodgers’ personal invitation for me to participate in the Town Hall Meeting. It did not feel staged. It did not feel rushed. She expressed genuine constituent-centered concern and empathy, and I like her. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers has my vote in her run for re-election to Congress. This article is not intended to be legal advice, nor a political message, but is provided for general information purposes only.