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Few fear the big, bad wolf

If wolves stand at the door of the Olympic Peninsula, open it wide, more than a score of residents have told the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Testifying at a public hearing in Sequim on Thursday, Nov. 5, most speakers said they want wolves here as soon and in as large numbers as possible.

Only a few said the wolves posed threats to livestock, people and pets - and one Jefferson County rancher countered that she protected her animals quite well with fences and trained dogs.

The hearing - the only one of 12 such meetings to be held on the peninsula - sought comment on the state's draft environmental impact statement for managing wolves in Washington.

Two mating pairs and perhaps a third already are in the state's eastern regions, having crossed from Canada or Idaho.

An endangered species on both federal and state registers, they must be protected until they flourish to the point of sustaining themselves throughout their range.

Eventually, wolves will populate the Cascade Mountains. Whether they can cross the Interstate 5 corridor and make their way into the Olympics is doubtful - and thereby hung most speakers' testimony.

The state initially offered two alternatives for moving wolves that already had wandered into Washington across a wider range. Both combine the peninsula with the southern Cascades.

Scoping meetings on the draft EIS (environmental impact statement) earlier this year, however, led officials to add a third option: a coastal region split off by the Interstate 5 corridor.

Of the 120 people attending the hearing in the Guy Cole Convention Center at Carrie Blake Park, 30 spoke. Of those, 24 pleaded for the coastal alternative and six opposed placing wolves on the peninsula at all.

Bruce Moorhead of Port Angeles, a retired Olympic National Park biologist, said, "Translocating them here as fast as you can would be a very wise move."

The draft EIS will remain open for public comment until Jan. 8, 2010, after which it faces continued scientific scrutiny in a double-blind review supervised by the University of Washington.

The 343- page document can be viewed and downloaded from http://wdfw.wa.gov and following links that begin with Wolf Management at the top of the page.

It will be at least 10 years, officials said, before wolves would walk on the peninsula under the most optimistic conditions.

For most of the people at the public hearing, it will be a long wait.



Jim Casey is the editor of the Sequim Gazette.

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