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Wolf reintroduction idea to draw opinions

News Release

January 11, 1999 Share This!

Forks, Wash. — Olympic Peninsula residents will have the chance to push their views on the possible reintroduction of the gray wolf, but they won't be doing it vocally. They'll be using buttons on electronic voting devices at town meetings in Shelton, Hoquiam and Forks this month. (See attached schedule.)

These meetings are one of the first steps in determining whether Congress will fund further studies regarding the feasibility of reintroducing wolves to Olympic National Park.

Congress has mandated that people potentially affected by reintroduction will have a chance to express their views. Social scientists and environmental policy experts at Battelle and Elway Research of Seattle have crafted a unique public involvement approach. Battelle is conducting town meetings for the Olympic Natural Resources Center in Forks, in cooperation with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, which Battelle operates for the Department of Energy.

"We're not trying to answer the question of whether wolves should be reintroduced, rather we're investigating the range of opinions on what people on the peninsula believe need to be taken into account in deciding the question," said Brian Boyle, leader of the Northwest Natural Resources Initiative at PNNL. Boyle is the former commissioner of public lands for Washington state.

In a strategy to keep the fur from flying, organizers are using an approach where the public pushes buttons on electronic handsets to react to various statements representing diverse aspects of the wolf reintroduction issue. Representatives of various groups, including environmental, timber, tourism, Native Americans, wildlife advocates and economic development organizations, were interviewed to collect the statements.

There will be approximately 60 issues and concerns regarding wolf reintroduction presented. Participants will express their reaction to those issues and concerns using a technology called EGIS, or Electronic Group Interactive System, an interactive polling system developed by Elway Research. The tabulated responses will appear on a view screen immediately so the participants and audience can see the results.

"This approach gives people a level of confidentiality," said Todd Peterson, a researcher with Battelle in Seattle. "We favor this method because, when faced with a very controversial subject, it can be intimidating to stand up and give a statement in front of a crowd."

"Any resident in the four county area surrounding the park is invited to attend the meeting and share their views, but it won't be a free-for-all," said John Calhoun, director of the ONRC. "With a moderator from Battelle and the EGIS technology, it will be very objective and give a fair hearing to everyone."

Following the three town meetings, Battelle and ONRC staff will analyze the public input and prepare a report for Congress and federal agencies. Lawmakers also will review two biological studies being conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Those studies are looking at whether there will be enough prey for the wolves and habitat issues. After reviewing these reports, Congress will decide whether to fund additional studies on reintroducing wolves to an area where they once roamed.

Facilitating this kind of decision-making process is what PNNL's Natural Resources Initiative is designed to do. It puts the laboratory's comprehensive scientific and public involvement capabilities to work helping agencies, industrial organizations, agricultural and forest landowners and Native American tribes resolve natural resource problems, reduce gridlock and avoid lawsuits.

The ONRC is part of the University of Washington's College of Forest Resources. Elway Research is an opinion research firm. PNNL is one of nine DOE national, multiprogram laboratories. The laboratory employs about 3,400 staff and has an annual budget of more than $500 million. In addition to its main Richland complex, PNNL operates a marine sciences laboratory in Sequim, Wash. Battelle, of Columbus, Ohio, has managed the lab for the federal government since its inception in 1965.


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