Feds, state both have plans in place to deal with gray wolves in Idaho
The on again, off again saga of listing, delisting gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act is on again, at both the federal level and, as a backup, in the state of Idaho as well.
On May 4 Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that gray wolves would be taken off the endangered and threatened wildlife list in Idaho, Montana, and parts of Oregon, Washington and Utah. His action came in response to a bill that passed Congress requiring that gray wolves be delisted.
“This is a tremendous success story for the Endangered Species Act,” said Salazar in announcing the delisting. “It was just 16 years ago that gray wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone, and now populations in the Northern Rockies and Western Great Lakes are biologically recovered,” adding “It’s time to return their management to the states that are prepared to manage them.”
Following the 2011 legislative session, Gov. Butch Otter signed House Bill 343, an emergency clause bill that would give the governor executive power for the state to declare gray wolves a problem thus enabling the state to take action against wolves. Otter was encouraged to sign the bill as insurance in case the federal delisting was challenged or, in fact, overturned.
Three conservationist groups, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater, and WildEarth Guardians have in fact filed suit in federal court in Montana asking that the delisting be reversed.
Michael Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, believes Congress overstepped its authority saying, “Congress has never before delisted species from the Endangered Species list. There is a well-established legal process that applies to every other species. Congress simply should not get into the business of making decisions over which of our nation’s imperiled animals and plants will and will not get protection.”
Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, is relieved the governor signed H 343. “That’s why this bill (H 343) was passed so that the governor could react to it (potential problems with delisting of wolves).”
Rep. Phil Hart, R-Hayden, supports the decision to delist gray wolves and feels it was long overdue. “I’m glad to see it happen. I think it was overdue but that’s what typically happens in politics. It takes a long time to get things done,” he said.
Sen. Pearce applauds the decision and said it gives partial power back to the states. As a rancher whose livestock can be in danger from wolves, Pearce has strong feelings on the issue. “Well, it gives us partial control and we hope the Fish and Game gets serious. We (the state) made a deal with the federal government to have a hundred wolves here. Then, to make sure we never fell under a hundred we said ‘OK 150.’ Well now they’re trying to get us to 500, they’re trying to get us to 5,000. It’s ridiculous. Our original deal was a hundred wolves and we need to go back to that.”
Pearce believes that wolves are a danger to livestock, pets, children, and families. “These wolves are a menace … If they were killing your dog and your cats, scaring your kids where you couldn’t let them go to the next door neighbor’s house without you having to go with them. That’s what’s happening in north Idaho.”
Pearce also says that having too many wolves in the northern part of the state hurts local economies as well. “It just isn’t right and there is nothing being gained. They (environmentalists) used the spotted owl to close out timber and logging in the Northwest here and so these communities like New Meadows and Challis, and all these areas got to depend on the wildlife to generate some income. Then we bring the wolves in and they destroy the elk herds and so the hunters don’t want to come up anymore.”
According to Pearce, a local rancher in his area documented the loss of his cattle before the growth of the wolf population and after the growth when the cattle were turned loose for open range grazing. “He would lose .09, or nearly 1 percent of his cattle would be lost up the mountain, they just wouldn’t come home. Now, over the last five years he shows a loss of around 5 percent. Well, let’s say you have 400 cattle, and take the price of $1,000 an animal, that’s a loss of around $20,000.”
The Idaho Fish and Game Department has taken control of wolf management and has posted a statement on its website that in part reads, “Idaho Fish and Game has taken over management under the 2002 wolf management plan. Wolves will be managed as big game animals, similar to black bears and mountain lions. Hunting seasons will be set by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.”
Fish and Game began selling wolf tags on May 5. Cost is $11.50 for a resident, $186 for a non-resident.
Photo Courtesy of www.sxc.com