BOISE — A proposal to use $2 million in state money to create a wolf control fund narrowly avoided defeat during a committee hearing Jan. 27.
Members of the House Resources and Conservation Committee voted 9-8 to print the bill and give it a public hearing. A tie vote would have meant a defeat for one of Gov. Butch Otter’s signature proposals this year.
Under Otter’s plan, the state’s cattle and sheep industries would contribute a total of $110,000 annually to the fund, which would be used solely to fund wolf control efforts. Sportsmen have agreed to match whatever the livestock industry generates, up to $110,000.
The plan would generate about $620,000 a year to control problem wolves.
Several lawmakers who voted against the legislation supported wolf control efforts but were opposed to creating a new five-member board to manage the funds.
Federal funding for Idaho Wildlife Services’ predator control efforts in Idaho has shrunk by about $620,000 since 2010 and finding more money to control wolves is one of the livestock industry’s main goals.
The bill’s narrow survival was a concern to the state’s livestock industry.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Idaho Cattle Association Executive Vice President Wyatt Prescott said immediately after the vote. “We need this legislation to help control these wolves.”
An advisory committee that included sportsmen and livestock industry representatives worked out the plan to raise $620,000 a year for wolf control efforts but a new board to manage the funds was not part of that discussion, said Rep. Judy Boyle, a Republican rancher from Midvale.
“There was nothing about a separate board using any of these precious dollars,” said Boyle, who said that creating a board to manage the funds would be a breach of faith from what the committee intended.
Boyle said the committee wanted the money to go to Wildlife Services, the USDA agency that manages human-animal conflicts.
Rep. Mike Moyle, a Republican farmer and rancher from Star, was also concerned about the cost of a new board.
“Creating a new board, I really have a hard time with that,” said Moyle, the House majority leader.
Sen. Bert Brackett, a Republican rancher from Rogerson who will carry the bill in the Senate, said Wildlife Services is charged with controlling all predators, including coyotes, starlings, ravens, mountain lions and wolves.
The board would use the money only to control wolves, he said.
“This board is for the sole purpose of managing and controlling wolves. I think that’s an important point to make,” he said.
Responding to Boyle’s concern, Brackett said, “We see the issue similarly but we see the solution differently.”
Gibbs said the cost of creating and maintaining the board would be minimal.
He said the board would have the flexibility to work with anyone, not just Wildlife Services, to control wolves, which would enable it to use the money to “put the pressure where it will do the most good.”