Western governors could ask Congress to settle the wolves issue
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and his counterparts in two neighboring states could be joining the U.S. Department of the Interior in asking Congress to change the endangered species list to let states manage their wolf populations.
Otter met with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, and Wyoming Gov.-elect Matt Mead on Monday to discuss wolf management issues.
Schweitzer told Montana Watchdog that Salazar and the governors agreed that wolves are now fully recovered in all three states and should be removed from the endangered species list, with states resuming management of the animals. Montana Watchdog is also reporting that Congress could be the best way to resolve the issue, with Salazar asking for permission from the governors to talk to federal lawmakers.
Otter’s spokesman, Jon Hanian, said he hadn’t talked to the governor about the Monday meeting. Hanian did say that Otter has talked with Idaho’s members of Congress about gray wolves. All four Idahoans currently serving in Congress have supported Otter’s stance opposing an August federal district court decision that ended wolf hunts and management plans in Idaho and Montana.
Hanian said a legislative solution in Congress is in the mix for wolves. “The goalposts on this issue keep moving, and they’re moving in the courts,” Hanian said. “It’s hard to come up with workable solutions if every time you think you have a plan … there’s a suit and a judge makes a ruling that changes everything. It’s hard to govern that way.”
Congress could be another area where elected officials in Idaho join with their counterparts in other northern Rockies states. Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson has asked for public comment on a plan from Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg that would exclude wolves in both states from the endangered species list.
In the Senate, Idaho’s Jim Risch and Mike Crapo are backing a similar plan to delist wolves in parts of Washington, Oregon, and Utah, as well. Montana’s senators, Jon Tester and Max Baucus, are sponsoring a comparable plan that would restore wolf management to the state governments in Idaho and Montana.