July 21, 2018
In a County Commissioners’ deposition, the Okanogan Sheriffs Office told the rescued employee to stay at Omak airport until the deputies arrived in order to interview her. Before the deputies arrived at the airport, a USFS vehicle arrived at Omak airport and took the employee away. She has not been seen or heard from since the incident.
Introduction by Editor
The Republican candidate for Washington’s State Public Lands Commissioner, Steve McLaughlin, has been chasing facts related to last week’s incident in which a wolf pack forced a Forest Service employee into a tree. The woman subsequently had to be rescued by a Washington Department of Natural Resources helicopter crew after failing to scare the predators away with bear spray and yelling. Having access to dispatch tapes recorded during the incident, McLaughlin praises the actions of the DNR helicopter crew, but has also revealed some disturbing omissions on the parts of officials involved in the wolf incident. In his analysis he calls for transparency on the parts of wildlife officials who appear to be selectively withholding critical information from the public. On July 18 he posted this follow-up to the incident on his Facebook page:
July 18, 2018
Wolf rescue incident #3:DISTURBING ISSUES REMAIN AFTER THE TIFFANY SPRINGS WOLF INCIDENT – USFS, USFWS AND WDFW – IT’S TIME TO COME OUT INTO THE LIGHT OF DAY!
On 12 July, a young USFS (According to a Capital Press article released today, we don’t really even know who she’s working for) employee was rescued by a Washington Department of Natural Resources Flight Crew. I spent time yesterday reviewing the dispatch tapes from the incident and I would personally like to commend Jill at NEWICC, the Okanogan County 911 Dispatcher, and the DNR flight crew! Their decision to go ahead with the rescue in spite of pushback from the wildlife agencies resulted in a speedy rescue. As we used to say in the Navy for a job well done, BRAVO ZULU!
But, the tapes reveal some interesting questions about the wildlife agencies and the Forest Service! New facts are emerging and these take up from where I left off in my previous postings.
1. During the 6 taped dialogs between the Okanogan Dispatcher and NEWICC (Jill), there was a specific time when Jill told the Okanogan Dispatcher that WDFW said the incident was a “Wildlife issue and not a Search and Rescue (SAR).
2. A joint statement by WDFW and USFWS public information officers (PIO’s) indicated that human life takes precedence over wildlife.
3. Outside stories said the USFS employee was conducting a salmon study in the area. According to sources, there are no salmon in that area.
4. According to comments made during the rescue, the USFS employee was seen in the tree holding some telemetry equipment.
5. In a County Commissioners deposition, the Okanogan Sheriffs Office told the rescued employee to stay at Omak airport until the deputies arrived in order to interview her.
6. Before the deputies arrived at the airport, a USFS vehicle arrived at Omak airport and took the employee away. She has not been seen or heard from since the incident.
7. The Tonasket Ranger District has not deployed any USFS employees to the field since this incident occurred.
8. WDFW and/or USFWS trappers are operating in the area of the Loup loup wolfpack.
1. WDFW DID try to shut down the DNR and OCSO rescue operation so they could affect the rescue. In the dispatch tapes, NEWICC (Jill) clearly states she was told this was a wildlife issue and not a SAR. This action runs contrary to what the joint WDFW/USFWS PIO statement suggests. What are these agencies hiding? Was this order given by WDFW Officer Troutman?
2. WDFW in cooperation with the USFWS and likely with the University of Washington are conducting an ungulate study throughout known wolf populated areas in Washington. In earlier field research I am conducting in other counties, I was told that a significant portion of the UW work may be occurring in the Northern Cascade ecosystem (the rescue scene is in the NC ecosystem). Is this what the employee was really doing? Where are the salmon streams in the Tiffany Springs area? The actions and activities of the WDFW, USFWS and USFS in this area requires more investigation and these agencies should come into the light of day.
3. The USFS for some reason did not want the rescued employee to speak with deputies. However, the deputies investigating the rescue told the employee to stay at the airport so they could interview her. By her leaving, she and those who took her away from the airport could face criminal charges for impeding an official investigation. Why did the USFS not allow the rescued person to speak with deputies?
4. There are only two reasons why the Tonasket Ranger District would be keeping employees close to home; the first and preferred reason would be in order to conduct a safety stand down and revise work protocols in areas where there are known apex predators. However, given the past conduct of the USFS District Ranger over his career, it seems more likely the employees are being directed on what to say about the rescue situation and about the operations surrounding studies in the Tiffany Springs and other areas of the county.
5. It should be reiterated that the sheriff has full authority over ALL law activities in his/her county over all other agencies. While many sheriff’s choose to cooperate with state and federal agencies, the sheriff has the right and duty to act when these agencies get out of hand.
1. So, the plot thickens! What is really going on in the region near the rescue site? Salmon? I doubt it.
2. Back in the 1980’s a U.S. Navy ship came across a load of Vietnamese boat people who were in poor health and in bad condition on the high seas. The ship’s commanding officer ordered his crew to give the people water and food, but to not embark them onboard as the ship was on a timeline to make it to an exercise. The commanding officer was relieved of his duties for his failing to rescue those in peril. FOR AN OFFICER OF ANY LOCAL, STATE OR FEDERAL AGENCY TO STATE THE ISSUE WAS A WILDLIFE ISSUE and NOT a SAR ISSUE IS BEHAVING IN THE SAME MANNER as the ship’s commanding officer. Yet WDFW, USFS and USFWS is covering up something the public has the right to know and the need to know about in the interest of public safety!
3. For too long, these agencies have gotten away with shell games, lies, moving the goalposts and treating American citizens with disdain. ITS TIME TO CLEAN IT UP!
Captial Press has done some excellent reporting on the incident and a July 18 article by Don Jenkins in Capital Press indicates some contradictions:
The employee, whose name has not been released, was from a Utah-based unit and doing a stream survey. She didn’t check in with the ranger district before going to a remote area in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, forest spokeswoman Debbie Kelly said Tuesday.
Kelly said she didn’t know whether the woman could have learned about the den’s whereabouts if she had checked in. The district would not have had the latest GPS data from collared wolves, she said.
“We didn’t have that information to share, that specificity,” Kelly said. “To the best of my knowledge, no, she did not know” about the den.
The confrontation Thursday between the woman and two collared wolves in the Loup Loup pack took place .6 miles from the pack’s den. State Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists visited the scene Friday and determined the pack was using it as a rendezvous site.
Washington’s wolf policy coordinator Donny Martorello said the department had told the Forest Service about the den’s location. The department generally withholds collar data between June 1 and July 15 to protect pups in dens.
There are more wolves in the Colville National Forest in northeast Washington than in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Colville spokesman Franklin Pemberton said forest managers sought access to the collar data several years ago, but were denied.
“We don’t have that data,” he said. “We just let it lie.”
It’s probably safe to assume that both federal and Washington State wildlife officials are invested in the “success” of their wolf introduction programs, and appearances matter greatly to them. Incidents like this one, which can be portrayed more-or-less as a wolf attack on a human, undoubtedly harm the image they hope to render of the benevolent, ecologically-necessary wolf.