The Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife this week released the costs of the controversial removal of the Wedge Pack of Wolves from the Colville National Forest. Here is a breakdown of the costs or killing the wolves compared to other factors of this still unfolding story.
In 2012 the state spent $376,000 on wolf management. Removing the Wedge Pack accounted to about 20% of that amount.
The wolves were removed because of continued predation of livestock belonging to the Diamond M Ranch, which leases National Forest Land for cattle grazing.
The National Forest Service reports that Diamond pays $1,034 per year for that lease. That works out to about $1.35 per animal. Using those numbers, it would take the Diamond M 73 years of lease payments to equal the amount paid by taxpayers to remove the wolves.
The cost to the public for an all access pass to National Forest land is $80. The Diamond M can raise 60 cows for the cost of a single pass.
But the State Cattlemen's Association correctly points out there are several much larger costs ranchers pay associated with the federal leases. They are required to spend their own money to fence off and protect sensitive areas and they must address any and all soil or water damages caused by the cattle.
Executive Vice-President Jack Field said those costs often equal or exceed the lease costs. And, he pointed out several benefits from having cattle on public lands. He said the cowboys on patrol often identify and report crimes such as poaching of animals and plants. He said they also maintain roads and trails that hikers, hunters and campers use.