To: Washington State University administration.
Re: WSU press release:
This overly-harsh and under-informative press release takes a side in an emotional battle, rather than attempting to bring forward a reasonable dialogue.
The "facts of the case" are not the simple findings that the WSU administration seems to want them to be; rather, they're complex interpretations of human interactions with the natural world and the political environment.
For example, the statement to the media by professor Wielgus:
And the reaction of the WSU administration:
In this exchange of statements, professor Wielgus exaggerated for rhetorical effect, using the phrase "directly on top of their den site." Readers took that as a metaphor, that the operator had neglected to put reasonable space between the livestock and the hunting territory of the predators at a critical point in the predators' annual cycle. That action by the operator was either foolishly, biologically inadvisable, or intentionally, politically provocative, or both. A wildlife expert with years of experience and accumulated frustration with this type of behavior by livestock operators might well be expected to express some of that frustration in a phrase that's more immediately understood by his readers: "directly on top of their den site."
For its part, the WSU administration failed to understand the biological thresholds that were crossed in this case. A distance of four miles between a Gray Wolf den site and the introduction point of a herd of cattle does not necessarily constitute a barrier between the wolves and the cattle. Duh. If the Annual Operating Instructions (AOI) don't cover such a case, then they're in need of improvement.
Likewise, the exchange of statements of what the livestock operator has and has not done, in the past and in this case, failed to engage with one another or with the complexities of this situation.
I'm very disappointed by this heavy-handed and counterproductive lack of effort (and in its place, a reliance on empty "authority") by the WSU administration. Professor Wielgus does good and important work that reflects well on WSU and the State of Washington. In this case, the opposite cannot be said to be true.