By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- A bill passed by Idaho lawmakers this year declares the state's primacy over the federal government when it comes to endangered or threatened species and makes it a violation of state policy to introduce federally listed species into Idaho without state approval.
The idea is to have the federal government work more closely with the state on activities related to the introduction of threatened or endangered species, said Sen. Bert Brackett, the Republican rancher from Rogerson who introduced the bill.
"We can't force them to but it strongly encourages that they do," Brackett said. "It's not a guarantee they will work with the state but it's a good starting point."
The bill, which passed the Idaho Legislature by a combined vote of 88-14, was signed into law by Gov. Butch Otter on March 22 and becomes effective July 1.
The bill gives the state precedence over its fish and wildlife and makes it a violation of state policy to introduce or reintroduce any federally listed species onto state lands or into state waters without state consultation and approval.
"It reinforces that the state asserts its primacy on fish and wildlife issues and makes a policy statement to the feds," said Brackett, a former president of the Idaho Cattle Association.
Idaho ranchers could be impacted by several animal and plant species that are candidates for Endangered Species Act listings, including sage grouse, slickspot peppergrass, woodland caribou and pigmy rabbits.
The bill is important given the large list of species that are candidates for an ESA listing, ICA Executive Vice President Wyatt Prescott said.
"It gives the state a little more control when the feds want to introduce or reintroduce a plant or animal species into Idaho," he said. "We all know the regulatory and litigation nightmare that comes with endangered and threatened species."
The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation supports the premise of the legislation, said spokesman John Thompson.
"We would like the state to have some say on these issues rather than just being told how it's going to be," he said.
In theory, the bill gives the state final say on whether or how endangered or threatened plants and animals are introduced in the state.
Reality could be different, though, and in instances where the federal government ignores the state, the legislation gives Idaho ammunition to push back through the administrative appeals process or federal court if necessary, Brackett said.