As of Thursday, March 10, 2016
TOPPENISH The state’s embattled wolf conflict mediator will attempt to sell her ideas to Yakima County Farm Bureau board members tonight during a private dinner at the Toppenish Eagles Aerie.
Board member Don Young of Sunnyside said the Farm Bureau is interested in hearing what she has to say about bridging the gap between farmers and ranchers and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the environmental lobby.
“Nobody has heard her,” Young said, noting the board session is at 5 p.m. “We’re interested in what she’s going to present.”
Madden, who lives in Washington, D.C., is being paid $850,000 over the next two years under a Fish and Wildlife contract.
The agency hired her to settle what she has called a war between ranchers and the state agency over the exploding wolf population and efforts to protect livestock, pets and families from ever-increasing wolf depredations.
Young said Farm Bureau members have done extensive research on the issue and the problems plaguing the state agency’s Wolf Advisory Board.
“Our cattlemen may not even come, they’re so disgusted,” Young said. “As far as I’m concerned, she’s already hung.”
Madden has been under fire since winning the lucrative contract at a time ranchers struggle to get reimbursed for wolf-related livestock losses. And during her time trying to negotiate a truce between producers and wolf advocates, several ranchers and cattlemen have walked away from the table due to what they perceive as failed wolf management practices and a waste of time and money.
Last October, Madden downplayed that perception, declaring herself “third-party neutral” during a cattlemen’s dinner in Omak. But Madden has yet to build trust with ranchers or rural Eastern Washington residents living in what is quickly becoming wolf country.
Madden conceded that fact last fall.
“We’re getting nowhere with the WAG (Wolf Advisory Group),” she said.
Since then, Madden has faced an even tougher battle for the trust of producers in the wake of U.S. District Court Judge Robert Bryan of Tacoma halting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services from killing problem wolves that have attack livestock and pets and state Fish and Wildlife Commission Chairman Brad Smith’s comments deriding rural residents for their concerns about wolves.
Furthermore, Stevens County rancher Dave Dashiell, who represented Cattle Producers of Washington, and other ranchers signed a letter to drop out of the Wolf Advisory Group in November.
The rural Hunters resident estimates more than 300 of his sheep have been killed by wolves in the last two years.
Young said he understands the issues, even though there haven’t been any known depredations in Yakima County.
“We’re trying to get ahead of this,” he said, of the board’s decision to host Madden. “And we do have fellows here who run (cattle) in the Cascade Range.”
Young said the Farm Bureau has also taken notice of a new push by environmentalists to introduce another predator into the Cascades.
“Now, there is talk of the grizzly bear,” he said. “They are just adding fuel to the fire.”