WASHINGTON, DC, May 18, 2017 –
Washington’s largest cattle rancher has been wreaking havoc on gray wolves in violation of his U.S. Forest Service grazing permit and agency wildlife protection policies, according to a complaint filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The group is pressing to rescind or restrict grazing permits on public land within Colville National Forest to reduce wildlife losses.
The complaint targets the Diamond M Ranch for its actions on two Forest Service grazing allotments that have resulted in the eradication of nearly 15% of all gray wolves within Washington. This ranch single-handedly accounts for two-thirds of all state-sponsored lethal control events since the return of gray wolves to the state in 2008. The McIrvin family, which operates the ranch, has refused to participate in a state-funded program that has shown consistent success in avoiding livestock-wolf conflicts.
Instead, the McIrvins have undertaken actions, such as grazing cattle and placing salt block attractants near a known wolf den, that have provoked predation and triggered “lethal removal” by the state of two separate wolf packs in eastern Washington, including the Profanity Peak pack last summer.
“What happened at Profanity Peak was a travesty,” stated PEER Staff Counsel Adam Carlesco pointing to footage posted on the group’s website documenting the proximity of the Diamond M cows to the pack’s den. “The Profanity Peak lethal removal alone cost Washington taxpayers $135,000, an expense that was both needless and deplorable. It is also significantly more than all state payments combined to cooperating ranchers for wolf-related livestock losses.”
The PEER complaint is directed to the U.S. Regional Forester for the Pacific Northwest, a region that includes Colville. It cites several agency rules the Diamond M Ranch appears to contravene, including:
- Policies protecting sensitive species, such as the gray wolf, and requirements that grazing be managed “to maintain viable populations” of wildlife;
- Prohibitions against actions resulting in cumulative adverse impacts on forest wildlife; and
- A condition of the Diamond M Ranch’s grazing permits forbidding placement of salt blocks near or along roadsides and trailheads. At Profanity Peak the salt blocks were placed approximately 25 feet from a road.
The PEER complaint cites the Forest Service’s legal responsibility to prevent these conflicts and urges the agency to exercise its prerogative to restrict or revoke the Diamond M grazing permits altogether.
“Grazing on our national forests is a privilege, not a right. In this case, that privilege has been abused,” added Carlesco, noting that if the gray wolf populations are further destabilized the population in eastern Washington will again need to be listed as federally “endangered” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). “PEER is currently consulting about the need to relist these wolves, and if that occurs the broader ranching community loses as well.”