Wolf management unlikely to change
Hunts are out, but compensation plan for lost livestock remains in place
By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
Federal officials say they have resumed management of wolves in Idaho so no gaps in information or coverage are created.
Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter earlier this month handed wolf management back to the federal government after a judge in Montana relisted them under the Endangered Species Act.
"Someday we will delist wolves, and we'll set (management) up as least disruptive, as it is now," said Brian Kelley, Idaho field supervisor for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Now that the state has put the ball back in the federal government's court, the agency is trying to figure out how to manage wolves with a seamless transition.
"We want to monitor with no gaps (in information) to be able to go forward when it's resolved," he said.
Hunts are off, but wolves that impact ungulates can still be removed, he said.
Since Defenders of Wildlife ended its depredation compensation program in September, the cost falls entirely to the state, said Dustin Miller of the Idaho Office of Species Conservation.
The state will cover more than the Defenders did. In addition to paying for verified losses, the state has the ability to compensate for unverified losses -- livestock that go missing. Livestock owners still have the ability to shoot wolves they find attacking or harassing livestock.
The state has appealed U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy's ruling to reinstate federal protection for wolves, said Tom Perry, legal counsel for Idaho Office of Species Conservation. He anticipates briefings to begin early next year, and any ruling would be at least a year and a half away.
"The governor will not settle with the plaintiffs," he said. "When we've gone all these years with the federal government, for them to cut a deal with the plaintiffs is unthinkable."
Wolves were delisted in Idaho and Montana, both of which had a federally approved plan. They weren't delisted in Wyoming because Fish and Wildlife rejected that state's plan. In August, Molloy ruled the wolf population must be managed as a whole.
"The bottom line is, even if Wyoming were to change, the federal government has to propose a rule and finalize a rule to get (wolves) off the list," Perry said.
Jim Magagma, executive vice president of Wyoming Stockgrowers Association, said that isn't going to happen, and Wyoming is done playing ball with Fish and Wildlife.
"It's an ever-moving target from what we've seen with Fish and Wildlife. We're not going to change a plan that's working for Wyoming," he said.
Wyoming has gotten a bad rap for its position, but the state met every requirement of the agency, he said.
The agency approved its plan in 2007 only to have a new agency director decide in 2009 the state was still falling short.
"If we mollify Fish and Wildlife Service, what assurance do we have they'd stand up and defend it?" he asked.