Rural communities can coexist with wolves. Here’s how.

Because wolves are prolific breeders and able to adapt to a range of habitats, they do fine, so long as they’re not poisoned, trapped or profusely shot. The key to a future for wolves is retaining public support by minimizing conflict. That means finding ways for wolves and ranchers to coexist.

Washington has forged a model for building coexistence based on bringing stakeholders together through respect, dialogue and a search for common ground. This year, nearly 100 Washington ranchers and farmers signed agreements to employ deterrence measures, from range riding to guard dogs, to prevent or reduce conflicts with wolves.

While some conservation groups cling to the idea that firing off press releases and lawsuits will win the day for wolves, the progress in Washington demonstrates that cooperation and compromise offer a better path to the long-term future of wolves.

This transformation through collaboration does more than protect wolves; it shows respect for rural communities. It demonstrates that cooperation rather than culture war can lead to practical solutions in some of the reddest counties in the West.

The alternative approach is seen in Montana, Idaho and especially Wyoming, where more than 20 percent of the population — literally hundreds of wolves — is killed annually. You don’t hear about these deaths because they’re so common. In Washington, wolf kills are rare enough that some activists name each dead animal.

In Washington, key conservation groups, ranchers, hunters and other interests have enough integrity to stand together and oversee the implementation of policies they helped craft. That’s something special in today’s divided West.

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