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States fight to manage their wildlife

Published on October 29, 2010 3:01AM

Last changed on November 26, 2010 7:20AM

Photo illustration 
A lone wolf can disperse up to 500 miles, looking for space that does not have an existing wolf pack.

Photo illustration A lone wolf can disperse up to 500 miles, looking for space that does not have an existing wolf pack.


Good for Idaho and its governor, C.L. "Butch" Otter. Instead of cowering under the threats of federal operatives to take over management of wolves in his state, Otter told them exactly what they could do with their wolves.

Idaho's action, long overdue, demonstrates that the federal judiciary -- and federal wildlife managers -- have little interest in wolves. The main interest they seem to have is yielding to environmental extremists, whose apparent goal is putting a wolf on every doorstep.

The backstory of this saga is enlightening. If one expects a series of reasonable actions from the judiciary and the federal government, turn the page, because you won't believe what you are about to read.

Idaho was doing a good job of managing the 850 wolves within its borders. As the wolf population ballooned, the animal was taken off the federal endangered species list, and Idaho and Montana put together wolf management plans, which the federal government approved.

However, the federal government rejected Wyoming's wolf management plan. This in turn caused environmental groups to appeal to an eager-beaver federal judge, who ruled in August that, under the flawed Endangered Species Act, Idaho and Montana wolves must again be listed as endangered and could not be under state control while Wyoming wolves remained under federal control.

Despite the disconnect between logic and the ruling, Otter and Idaho wildlife managers did everything they could to meet the federal requirements of managing the wolves. As part of the management plan, Idaho managers wanted to schedule a wolf hunt similar to the one held last year.

But the federal government said Idaho and Montana must abandon their plans because the wolves are legally -- but not really -- endangered.

That in turn led Otter to refuse to allow Idaho hunters' fees to subsidize the federal wolf protection program, which would happen if the state continued to manage the wolves.

"We're no longer going to spend any sportsmen's dollars in Idaho to enforce the Endangered Species Act as it relates to the experimental project of wolves," he told The Associated Press.

Idaho will manage its other wildlife, but the federal government will have to take care of the wolves, he rightly said.

Some see Otter's move as political grandstanding. With only a few days left before the gubernatorial election, he's just playing to the electorate, they say.

It's interesting to note, however, that his Democratic opponent, Keith Allred, agrees that wolves should be delisted. He just wants the state to work with the federal government to do that.

That is exactly what Otter was doing, until the judge's ruling opened the door to putting wolves back on the endangered species list and derailed everything.

What the judge and the federal managers don't seem to understand is that the "endangered" wolves in Idaho will continue to decimate wildlife, including game animals such as elk. At the same time, livestock will increasingly fall prey to marauding wolves.

And it's all because of Wyoming's wolf management plan?

This clearly demonstrates how the wolf issue really isn't about returning a species to viability. It's about how environmental extremists continue to use the poorly written federal Endangered Species Act to achieve their goals.

In the meantime, an estimated 1,620 wolves will continue to roam Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, where the only thing that's endangered is the right of those states to manage their wildlife.


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