Ranchers happy with governor’s wolf control plan
BOISE — Members of Idaho’s cattle industry were thrilled when Gov. Butch Otter requested $2 million to help fund wolf control efforts in Idaho during his recent state of the state address.
“We’re trying to lessen our losses from wolves,” said Idaho Cattle Association Executive Vice President Wyatt Prescott. “It’s going to be a huge help in controlling wolves and slowing down those losses, not only on livestock but on wildlife as well.”
Richard Savage, a rancher from the Dubois area, said the losses from wolves “have started adding up and they are pretty significant in some areas. It’s a problem we’ve got to get control of.
“They’re at the top of the food chain and without something to control them, their populations will keep going up.”
If the legislature agrees to fund the governor’s request, the money would be used to create a wolf control fund and a five-member state board to manage it.
The sole responsibility of the board would be to allocate the money for wolf control, said Sen. Bert Brackett, a Republican rancher from Rogerson who will sponsor legislation seeking the funding on the Senate side.
“It needs to be understood this money is not compensation for depredation,” he said. “This is just to control wolves and wolf numbers.”
The governor’s plan is contingent on contributions by the state’s beef cattle and sheep industries.
Idaho’s cattle industry has already agreed to a proposal that would raise the state brand renewal fee from $100 to $125 every five years, which would raise about $100,000 annually.
Sheep growers have agreed to increase their wool assessment fee from 3 cents to 5 cents per pound, which would raise about $25,000 a year.
The governor’s plan conservatively estimates that those two industries’ proposals will raise $110,000 a year.
Sportsmen have agreed to match their contributions, which means ranchers and sportsmen would contribute a total of $220,000 a year.
Idaho Wildlife Services, the USDA agency responsible for managing animal-human conflicts, has lost almost $700,000 in annual funding since 2009, most of it federal money, which has reduced its ability to control problem wolves.
“Losing all that money has had a huge impact on their ability to control problem wolves,” Prescott said.
Otter’s plan seeks to replace much of that funding.
While the cattle and sheep industries were aware the plan was being formulated, Otter’s mention of it during his Jan. 6 state of the state address was the general public’s first exposure to the proposal.
Prescott said he’s confident that Idaho lawmakers and citizens understand the issue and will support the proposal. Legislators also have to approve the brand renewal and sheep assessment fee increases.
“We feel Idaho’s citizens know that we need to control these wolves and that the legislature’s decisions will reflect that,” Prescott said.