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Retired Spokane-area coach, teacher joins wolf advisory group

Bill Kemp, a former cross country coach at Riverside, is the newest member of Washington's Wolf Advisory Group. (Bill Kemp)
Bill Kemp, a former cross country coach at Riverside, is the newest member of Washington's Wolf Advisory Group. (Bill Kemp)

A well-known Spokane-area cross country coach is the newest member of a group tasked with guiding and directing wolf policy in Washington.

Bill Kemp hopes to represent “the small forest landowner” and the career teacher and coach worries that as Washington’s wolf population grows, people will be endangered.

“My kids grew up going out into woods,” he said. “But now with the advent of the wolf, I’m hesitant to let my grandkids go into the woods by themselves.”

Kemp is the newest member of the Wolf Advisory Group, an 18-person voluntary group tasked with representing the interests of environmentalists, hunters and livestock ranchers. There are four openings on the WAG.

Kemp coached cross country at Riverside in Chattaroy for three decades, for which he was inducted into Washington State Cross Country Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame in 2012. The Spokane native graduated from North Central in 1964.

Kemp started studying wildlife management at the University of Idaho, but “went a different direction with Vietnam.”

Since retiring from teaching and coaching, he said that interest in wildlife management has returned. As the owner of 300 acres of land in the Carpenter Ridge wolf pack range, he feels he’s well situated to represent the average citizen in the wolf debate.

Unlike many on the WAG, he doesn’t own livestock and he’s not a “member of any wolf society.”

“I can see all the different perspectives on the issue,” he said.

In particular, he said he has concerns about human safety. As a lifelong hunter, he said he’s seen more cougars in the past decade than ever before. He believes wolves will follow the same course.

“My wife carries bear spray and a gun when walking in the woods,” he said.

That’s despite the fact that wolf attacks on humans are exceedingly rare. Still, Kemp referenced an August attack in Canada. In that instance, a wolf attacked a family while it slept in its tent. Attacks, he fears, will become more common as the wolf population grows.

“I just think a matter of time before we have a wolf attack in this state,” he said.

Kemp said he’d like to revisit the wolf plan, particularly the state delisting requirements. He’d like to “delist this side of the state.”

Wolves are protected by state endangered species rules in the eastern third of the state and remain federally protected in the western two-thirds of the state. According to the state’s wolf recovery plan, wolves can be delisted after 15 successful breeding pairs are documented for three consecutive years or after officials document 18 breeding pairs in one year.

Under either scenario, the pairs have to be distributed evenly throughout the state’s three wolf management areas.

Kemp attended his first WAG meeting on Aug. 28 in Moses Lake. He said what he saw there was hopeful.

“Every one of those people there … were polite, respectful and listening to the other side,” he said.

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