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Ranchers worried budget crisis will limit payments in wolf plan

Idaho Fish and Game
Washington's wolf plan looks great on paper, ranchers say, but they worry the state budget crisis will hamper payments for livestock killed by wolves.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington ranchers would get full compensation for confirmed wolf kills of their livestock under a new state wolf management plan. That proposal got its first public airing in Olympia Thursday.

Just as in neighboring Oregon, ranchers are uneasy about how the payments will work in reality.

Washington is taking the same approach as other western states in its aim to ease concerns in the livestock industry about wolf recovery. Washington's new state wolf plan calls for taxpayers to reimburse livestock owners at current market value when a wolf kills a cow or sheep.

That's for a verified, confirmed kill. Wolf depredations judged "probable" would be paid at 50% market value.

Washington Cattlemen's Association director Jack Field says the plan "looks great" on paper, but he realizes the state is short on cash.

"Our state is facing some significant challenges, and unfortunately I don't believe livestock depredation is going to rise to the same level as public service infrastructure, schools, roads, etc," Field says.

Idaho has gradually developed a more generous compensation program than its western neighbors. This year, Idaho plans to pay ranchers even for unverified losses if there's money left in its wolf fund at the end of the grazing season.

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Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

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