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CNN reveals an alleged Saudi connection to the killing of a Washington Post columnist. Also on the Wednesday rundown: Early voting starts today in some states; poverty rates remain steady but many in New Jersey in need; and cautious praise for the feds proposal on drug ads.

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West Coast Groups Form New "Pack" for Wolf Protection

PHOTO: This female gray wolf is a resident of Wolf Haven International, an animal sanctuary near Tenino, Washington. Courtesy of WHI.
PHOTO: This female gray wolf is a resident of Wolf Haven International, an animal sanctuary near Tenino, Washington. Courtesy of WHI.
December 24, 2012

TENINO, Wash. - Public interest and controversy about wolf reintroduction in the West has prompted 25 groups to form a new Pacific Wolf Coalition, to share information and advocate for responsible wolf recovery in the West Coast states. Diane Gallegos, executive director of the wildlife sanctuary Wolf Haven International near Tenino, says bringing all the groups together with a common voice and message can have a big impact - and they are committed to working with livestock owners, she adds.

"I think that this is a coalition of people that want to see wolves recovered in historic ranges where possible, with all those ecological benefits, while also allowing ranchers to survive in their business."

This fall, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department was widely criticized for using sharpshooters to eliminate a wolf pack in northeastern Washington that it said was preying on cattle. The department since then has urged ranchers to use non-lethal methods to keep wolves away from cattle and sheep.

State policies about how to deal with wolves are all over the map, from encouraging their recovery as an endangered species to hunting them. Rob Klavins, wildlife advocate with Oregon Wild, says the coalition's goal is to ensure that wolf reintroduction is ultimately a success story.

"We're continuing to learn more and more about wolves and how we can prevent conflict. But the reality is that wolves are back on the landscape. They have a rightful place; they're not a threat to people. We think we can do better in the states on the West Coast than we've seen with the conflict and controversy in places like Wyoming and Idaho."

In the New Year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering ending federal protections for wolves. There are at least eight confirmed wolf packs in Washington and six in Oregon, but only one wolf has been sighted in California since the 1920s - the famous "Journey," named for his wide-ranging trek from northeastern Oregon that brought him into California a year ago this week.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA