Governor vetoes bill to help fund predator control efforts
By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has vetoed a bill that could have provided more money for wolf control efforts in Idaho.
Because two other attempts to raise money for predator control efforts also failed, Idaho's livestock industry left the 2013 Idaho Legislature with no additional funding for wolf control.
The bill Otter vetoed would have tapped into Idaho Fish and Game Department's big game depredation fund to make some money available to help fund Idaho Wildlife Services' animal damage control program.
Wildlife Services is a USDA agency that solves human-animal conflicts.
The amount of money would have fluctuated annually and it would have come at the expense of IFGD's popular Access Yes program, which provides money to landowners who agree to allow sportsmen access to their land.
The bill, which was opposed by IFGD officials and some sportsmen, passed the House 45-23 and the Senate 26-8.
In an April 11 letter hand-delivered to fellow rancher and House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, Otter said sportsmen and livestock owners share concerns about wolf damage and he was concerned the bill "would divide sportsmen and livestock owners, making a cooperative, long-term solution to wolf depredation costs more difficult to achieve."
Idaho Wildlife Services lost $247,000 in federal funding two years ago when a tri-state wolf control fund was discontinued and faces another big reduction in federal funding this year, said Todd Grimm, the agency's state director.
Allocations haven't come in yet but "we know it's going to be significantly less," he said.
The group's total 2012 budget is $2.6 million.
The agency has lost seven employees due to budget constraints the last few years and is down to 23 employees. All of the positions cut were field employees.
The agency only has two field employees to cover the area from McCall north, which includes a big chunk of the state.
"That's a lot of area for two guys to cover," Grimm said.
Lawmakers rejected a bill that would have increased the price of wolf tags by $4 and used the money to raise about $180,000 annually to help fund wolf control efforts in Idaho.
The Idaho Cattle Association backed unsuccessful legislation that would have given industry authority to raise a 5-cents-a-head fee collected during brand inspection by as much as 25 cents a head, with any additional money raised going to Wildlife Services.
Lawmakers who opposed that bill said they didn't want to punish the victim, but with no additional wolf control funding created this year, that's exactly what has happened, ICA Executive Vice President Wyatt Prescott said.
"Nobody wanted to punish the industry ... but without that funding, we're suffering more due to a lack of predator control efforts," he said.
Otter said he has asked the IDFG and Idaho State Department of Agriculture directors to convene an advisory committee to discuss the funding issue "and to arrive at a collaborative solution."