Wolf Working Group Operating Principles
(Approved as of May 10, 2007)

For any collaborative process to operate smoothly, it is helpful for those involved to agree at the outset on the purpose for the process and on the procedures by which the group will govern its discussions, deliberations, and decision-making.

I. Purpose of the Wolf Working Group

In late 2006, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) initiated a process to develop a statewide wolf conservation and management plan. The goal of the plan is to establish the framework and process for wolf recovery, state delisting, and management of wolves if they are delisted in Washington from the Federal Endangered Species Act. The Director of WDFW created the Wolf Working Group (Working Group) to guide the Department in developing a plan for gray wolves, which are expected to make their way to Washington from growing populations in neighboring states and Canada. Eighteen citizens have been selected as members the Working Group. The Working Group will develop recommendations for the Department to consider as the first draft Wolf Conservation and Management Plan is developed. All Working Group products will be conveyed to the Department; however, this does not mean that all recommendations will necessarily be incorporated in the draft or final Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. Ten of the working group members are from eastern Washington, and eight are from the west side of the state. They represent livestock ranching and agriculture, local government, conservation groups, biologists, the timber industry, hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts.

II. Participation

Interests Represented. Working Group members represent interests that would be substantially affected by the development and implementation of a wolf conservation and management plan. The members were chosen because of the variety of their interests, experience with wolf or related natural resource issues, and willingness to work together in a collaborative, consensus process. In order to foster creative problem solving, members are encouraged to voice their individual viewpoints and ideas. In order to broaden and strengthen the chances of success for the anticipated final consensus recommendations, members are expected to bring the perspectives of their constituent groups, as well as others with similar interests, to the Wolf Working Group process.

Attendance at Meetings. Members are expected to make a good faith effort to attend all full meetings. It is expected that the group will only meet six times prior to release of a draft conservation and management plan. As such, if a member misses two meetings (unless unforeseen circumstances arise) they will no longer be considered an active Working Group member and will not be asked to participate in future meetings.

If a member cannot attend, he or she may designate an individual to attend in their place to represent their interests (an alternate). The alternate should be knowledgeable about wolf issues and the topics to be discussed at the meeting. The alternate’s primary responsibility is to inform the member about the deliberations at the conclusion of the meeting; the alternate does not have decision-making authority. It is the responsibility of the member to prepare the alternate for the meeting by sharing background information and an overview of the deliberations leading up to the meeting. Sending an alternate does not substitute for meeting attendance.

The member will strive to provide the name and background of the alternate as soon as possible, and no later than five days, in advance of the meeting. All individuals attending for members are bound by these Operating Principles. The facilitator will work with alternates to assist as needed in making their participation as constructive as possible.

Withdrawal from the Working Group. Any member may withdraw from the Working Group at any time without prejudice. Communication about the reasons for withdrawing, if related to the Working Group process, would be appreciated. Good faith provisions apply to those who withdraw.

The decision to replace a member will depend on factors such as how far along the group is in the process, whether addition of a new member would be disruptive, and whether the loss of the interests represented by the withdrawing member creates a serious imbalance on the Working Group in terms of expertise and/or interests. Authority for decisions about replacing members rests with the WDFW Director.

III. Organizational Structure

Working Group Members. The members are working together to achieve a mutually acceptable outcome that satisfies, to the greatest degree possible, the interests of all participants. In order for a wolf conservation and management plan to be acceptable and implementable, those involved in developing the plan agree to work together to produce recommendations that integrate the mandates, concerns, and ideas of all those significantly affected by the plan. All Working Group members agree to:

  • Attend meetings and follow through on promises and commitments;
  • Bring concerns from their interest group or organization up for discussion at the earliest point in the process;
  • Share all relevant information that will assist the group in achieving its goals;
  • Keep its organization’s decision-makers informed of potential decisions and actions, in order to expedite approval for the final product;
  • Support the eventual product if they have concurred in it; and
  • Concur in decisions about the Working Group process, including overseeing the implementation of the operating principles.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Working Group members recognize that under the WDFW statutes and regulations, final decision-making authority to develop a Wolf Conservation and Management Plan rests in the hands of the Department. The Department is committed to developing a plan that has achieved concurrence and support from the range of stakeholders, to the extent possible. The Department may amend the draft plan before approving it.

WDFW Staff. The Working Group will have assistance from WDFW staff who will attend all meetings to serve as wildlife experts. While WDFW staff may sit at the table and participate in the Working Group deliberations as needed, they are not Working Group members. Harriet Allen, Endangered and Threatened Species Section Manager; Steve Pozzanghera, Deputy Assistant Director, Wildlife Program; Rocky Beach, Wildlife Diversity Division Manager; Donny Martorello, Carnivore Specialist Section Manager; Jerry Nelson, Statewide Manager Deer and Elk; and Madonna Luers, Public Information Officer; will serve as staff to the Working Group. Other WDFW staff will assist as necessary. Legal questions that need to be addressed by the State will go through WDFW staff.

Wolf Technical Advisors. The WDFW will use a small group of five to six technical advisors to provide information and expertise to the Working Group members. These technical experts may be consulted in person, in writing, or via conference call to answer questions about the latest wolf research and management; and they will be asked to participate in a peer review of the plan. Other scientific and technical input will be provided on an “as-needed” basis as agreed upon by the Working Group and WDFW.

Facilitator. Working Group meetings will be facilitated by RESOLVE. The facilitator will not take positions on the issues before the Working Group. The facilitator will work to ensure that the process runs smoothly. The facilitator’s role usually includes developing draft agendas, distributing meeting materials, facilitating meetings, working to resolve any impasse that may arise, preparing meeting summaries, and other tasks as requested. The facilitator will keep confidential information disclosed in confidence. The facilitator will serve at the will of the Working Group and may be replaced as agreed upon by the members in consultation with WDFW.

Sub-Groups. As necessary, the Working Group may choose to form sub-groups. The Working Group will designate sub-group members as needed for the anticipated tasks and outcomes. At the direction of the Working Group, sub-group members may develop draft products and make recommendations to the Working Group. Sub-groups will not make decisions on behalf of the Working Group. Any Working Group member can be a member of a sub-group.

IV. Meetings

Open to the Public. All Working Group meetings will be open to the public. However, the WDFW expects that the range of public perspectives will be included in the Working Group process primarily through the involvement of the 18 Working Group members. As such, there will only be a 15 minute period for public comment at the end of each Working Group meeting. Members of the public are encouraged to submit written comments (forms will be provided at each meeting) on the work of the Working Group which will then be distributed to all members for consideration.

Agendas. Proposed meeting agendas will be drafted by the facilitator in consultation with Working Group members, circulated in advance of meetings, and approved or revised at the beginning of each meeting.

Action Item Memos. In order to assist the Working Group in documenting its progress and activities, within five days of each meeting RESOLVE will prepare and distribute an action items memo. These memos will convey major decisions and ensure that timelines for completing agreed upon actions are clear to all participants. These will be distributed to WDFW staff and all Working Group members for review prior to public distribution.

Breaks and Caucuses. Meetings may be suspended at any time at the request of any member to allow consultation among Working Group members. Requests should be respectful of all members’ time. If the use of caucuses becomes disruptive, the Working Group will revisit the process.

V. Decision-Making and Commitments

Consensus. The Working Group will strive to operate by consensus. Consensus is defined as all Working Group members can live with the recommendation or decision. All recommendations and materials will be reviewed and discussed by the Working Group before being forwarded to the Department for their consideration.

Decision Making. Decisions will be made by consensus of those Working Group members present at a meeting, except for concurrence on major products, where consensus will be sought from all Working Group members. Major products include any final recommendations regarding the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. If the members present at a meeting reach consensus on a major product, the facilitator will convey the results to those absent from the meeting and assess their ability to agree. Full consensus will not be achieved until all members have confirmed agreement.

Absence of Consensus. If full consensus cannot be reached the Working Group may choose to either articulate areas of agreement and disagreement and the reasons why differences continue to exist, or communicate separate sets of recommendations (i.e., majority and minority reports).

If the Working Group chooses to articulate areas of agreement and disagreement, members representing the different perspectives on specific issues will be asked to prepare language reflecting their views. The language should clearly identify the issues and information needs and uncertainties. In addition, those members that support each perspective will be identified.

If separate sets of recommendations (i.e., majority and minority reports) are conveyed to the Department, members representing the minority point of view will be asked to prepare a communication reflecting their views.

VI. Safeguards for the Members

Good Faith. All members agree to act in good faith in all aspects of the collaborative effort. As such, members will consider the input and viewpoint of other participants and conduct themselves in a manner that promotes joint problem solving and collaboration.

Acting in good faith also requires that specific proposals made in open and frank problem solving conversations not be used against any other member in the future; personal attacks and prejudiced statements are not acceptable; negative generalizations are not productive and have the potential to impede the ability of the Working Group to reach consensus; individuals not represent their personal or organization’s views as views of the Working Group, and that they express consistent views and opinions in the Working Group and in other forums, including in press contacts.

Should a Working Group member be found to be acting in bad faith the facilitator will be asked to talk with the individual(s) about the situation. A variety of approaches will be explored, accordingly, to redress the concerns. The authority to replace and/or remove a member from the Working Group rests with the WDFW Director.

Rights in Other Forums. Participation in the Working Group process does not limit the rights of any member. Members will make a good faith effort to notify one another in advance, if another action outside the process will be initiated or pursued, which will affect the terms of proposals, recommendations, or agreements being discussed.

Press. All Working Group members agree to refrain from making negative comments about or characterizing the views of other Working Group members in contacts with the press. They also agree not to knowingly mischaracterize the positions and views of any other party, nor their own, in public forums.

VII. Process Suggestions/Ground Rules

Working Group members agree to consider and apply the following process suggestions and ground rules:

  • Seek to learn and understand each other’s perspective.
  • Encourage respectful, candid, and constructive discussions.
  • Provide balance of speaking time.
  • Seek to resolve differences and reach consensus.
  • As appropriate, discuss topics together rather than in isolation.
  • Make every effort to avoid surprises.
  • Limit sidebars.
  • Turn off cell phones or put them in the non-ring mode during formal meeting sessions.

VIII. Schedule

In developing its initial recommendations, the Working Group will meet six times, approximately every other month, beginning in late February 2007 and ending in December 2007. Exact dates will be determined by WDFW in consultation with working group members. WDFW staff will also be holding public scoping meetings during preparation of the draft plan. The Department is scheduled to complete its initial draft Wolf Conservation and Management Plan by December 31, 2007. The initial draft will then be peer reviewed and comments received will be addressed by WDFW as appropriate and proposed plan revisions will be shared with the Working Group. Upon completion of the draft plan, WDFW will release the plan for a 90-day public review process.

The Working Group will meet once more in the spring of 2008 to consider the results of the public review process and determine whether additional recommendations are needed. Final approval of a Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, by the Department, is expected by June 30, 2008.