Bills would provide money for wolf control, compensation
By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- Two bills that would make more money available to control wolves and compensate producers in Idaho who have lost cattle to the predators are moving through the Idaho Legislature.
One is on the verge of passing while the other is under the gun with the session set to end March 29.
A bill introduced March 25 by Rep. Judy Boyle, a Republican rancher from Midvale, would increase the price of wolf tags in Idaho by $4 and use the money to create a fund that would compensate producers for losses suffered to wolf depredation.
Boyle expects the fund would raise about $175,000 annually. Wolf tags are currently $9.75.
Her legislation would also direct the Idaho Fish and Game Department to use $4 from every wolf tag sold to control wolf depredation on both livestock and wildlife.
"Any time you kill a wolf, you have helped a producer and you've helped the wildlife," Boyle said.
While that bill is under a time constraint with the session nearing conclusion, a separate bill by Boyle that could provide money to help control wolf damage in Idaho was sent to the full Senate with a do-pass recommendation March 25.
That bill, which was passed by the House 45-23 on March 21, could make up to $100,000 a year from Fish and Game's big game depredation fund available for Wildlife Services, a USDA agency that controls predators in Idaho.
The agency will receive $235,000 less in federal funding this year and will also lose about $80,000 because of the sequester budget cuts, said Stan Boyd, who is supporting the bill on behalf of the Idaho Cattle Association and Idaho Wool Growers Association.
Before wolves were introduced into Idaho in the mid-1990s, Wildlife Services didn't respond to any complaints about wolf depredation, "but today it's their No. 1 complaint," Boyd said.
"We think the federal government should pay for this, but the bottom line is, they are not, and the funding is drying up," he said.
Some lawmakers were concerned about taking money from Fish and Game that comes from sportsmen and using it for predator control, but Boyd and other lawmakers said those efforts help both livestock producers and Idaho's big-game populations that are being harmed by wolves.
While some lawmakers were not comfortable with using Fish and Game money for that purpose, others had no problem, including Sen. Jeff Siddoway, a Republican sheep rancher from Terreton.
"I have to declare a conflict of interest because I hate wolves ... and this bill could be beneficial to my operation," he said tongue-in-cheek.
Boyle said her bills are an effort to raise a little more money for predator control.
"We've been talking about this for years and years and years and I thought it was time to do something about it," she said.