House considering disaster declaration on wolves
Idaho lawmakers are considering a plan that would encourage Gov. Butch Otter to declare a disaster emergency due to the state’s wolf population. House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, is sponsoring the plan that was introduced Friday in the House Ways and Means Committee.
If the legislation is approved and the governor follows through with the declaration, it could let the governor’s Office of Species Conservation issue orders to prevent or avoid any immediate danger posed by wolves. Such orders could include steps to reduce Idaho’s wolf population.
Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, backed the plan in the House committee. She said wolves are making her and others feel unsafe when venturing into the wilderness. “People are now being threatened, both physically and mentally,” she said.
Boyle has a list of 59 Republican lawmakers signed on as sponsors to the plan. Rep. Brian Cronin, D-Boise, opposed introducing the plan.
Otter’s office had no comment on the legislation or any plans to declare a disaster related to wolves.
Boyle said the declaration could make it easier for the state or local officials to contract with federal officials to shoot wolves that are preying on animals or threatening people. She said current protections make it difficult to remove problematic wolves.
Idaho’s wolves are currently federally protected by the endangered species act, though some conservation groups and the federal government have agreed to a plan that could delist wolves. That plan requires approval from U.S. District Judge Donald Malloy, who last August put the state’s wolf population back on the protected list.
Under current state law, the governor can declare an emergency to prevent any imminent threat, including natural disasters or terrorist or military attacks. The legislation would expand that declaration of emergency to include having more than 100 gray wolves in the state or any conflict between wolves and humans, livestock or big game animals.
Idaho had at least 705 wolves last year according to a recent federal study, which was an apparent decline of almost 20 percent. It’s still well above the 100 wolf target mentioned in the legislation and original federal wolf recovery goals.
The legislation also mentions several findings of fact, including that wolves are a clear and present danger to humans and that they’ve made activities including walking, hunting, picnicking, and berry picking less safe for people.
Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, said one of the risks to humans and animals is cysts that can be transmitted from wolves. An Idaho Department of Fish and Game website says potential of human exposure to the parasite that causes the cysts is relatively low.
The legislation now faces a full hearing in the House.
Note: IdahoReporter.com is published by the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which contributed to the drafting of this legislation.