right-of-way to wildlife
Proposal raises Washington rancher-legislatorís hackles
more Wildlands articles and information)
idiocy" are two of the words Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, uses
to describe a bill that calls for Washington state to be
involved in a wildlife corridor extending from the Yukon to
the Yellowstone Rocky Mountains.
Under SSB5318, Washington would participate in managing the
state's portion of an almost 2,000-mile-long swath extending
from Canada to Yellowstone National Park. Dubbed the Y2Y
corridor, it would provide wildlife such as grizzly bears and
wolves with a network of wildlife cores, movement corridors
and transition areas throughout the corridor.
Ranging from 125 to 500 miles in width, the corridor includes
the entire northeast corner of Washington, most of Idaho and
much of Montana.
As the largest city in the U.S. portion of the corridor,
Spokane would be recognized as the national capital of Y2Y.
For Kretz, who raises cattle, horses and timber, the plan is
akin to auctioning off the entire 7th District.
"It would devastate my district," he said. "Property taxes
would plummet, and dangerous wildlife would be free to attack
children, pets and livestock. Folks who own their land would
basically be renting it from an out-of-town environmental
He bristled at the thought of the support the bill has from
urban legislators. And he posed this question: "What would the
reaction be if the Legislature created an urban Washington
wildlife corridor to make sure that grizzlies and other
dangerous wildlife could roam free from British Columbia to
The bill - which won Senate support last year but didn't make
it into law - was reintroduced and retained in its current
status this session.
On Feb. 13, it passed out of the Senate with a 30-to-19 vote
and was sent to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources
Kretz said the Nature Conservancy - working with several other
environmental groups - was in Olympia this session asking for
$5.5 million to buy land in the Okanogan-Similkameen area of
Okanogan County, which Kretz described as "one of two parts in
the effort to turn the 7th District into one big wildlife
According to the information provided to the lawmakers, the
funding would begin the work "to secure an ecologically viable
wildlife corridor, linking the North Cascades with the
Okanogan Highlands and the Selkirk Mountains through
conservation easement and acquisition."
As such, it would help secure 10,000 acres of the 80,000-acre
corridor and provide long-term protection for threatened and
endangered species, among them wide-ranging carnivores and 24
In a telephone interview with Capital Press the evening of
Feb. 18, Kretz said ranchers have enough predator problems
with cougars as it is.
Having grizzly bears and wolves roaming the area would make it
even harder to raise livestock.
"It favors predators over livestock," he said. "It's just a
recipe for more regulations."
Land-use practices are another concern. One of Kretz's fears
is that the corridor will morph into a situation for
agriculture similar to the spotted-owl protections that hit
the timber industry so hard.
Kretz is also concerned about the possible effect the wildlife
corridor would have on the proposed reservoir at Shankers Bend
on the Similkameen River.
The Similkameen, which runs through southern British Columbia,
empties into the Okanogan River, which flows into the Columbia
In 2007, Washington state taxpayers paid $300,000 to Okanogan
Public Utility District to study a proposal for a new dam at
The water in the dam would be used for irrigation and to
benefit fish down the Columbia. In the upper watershed, it
would provide new water for the Okanogan Valley.
Kretz said letters and e-mails "are flying in from his
district" about the proposed corridor bill and warned that
people in his district "will push back."
Under the bill, the state's Fish and Wildlife Department is
directed to involve local governments, landowners and local
conservation organizations in the initiative when it has
identified priority species, habitats or landscapes within
During public testimony on the original bill, department
officials said that even without the bill, the department
intends to work to participate in the ecoregional work Y2Y
performs that involves Washington state.
Staff writer Cookson Beecher is based in Sedro-Woolley, Wash.