Governor tells Fish and Game to make preparations


Capital Press

Wildlife and agriculture officials say a rider attached to a congressional budget bill that requires wolves to be removed from the endangered species list in Idaho has cleared the way for a wolf hunt there this year.

"I think it's the real deal," Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner Tony McDermott says of the bill, which delists wolves in Idaho, Montana, eastern Oregon, eastern Washington and north-central Utah and returns return wolf management to those states.

The provision, which was signed into law April 15 by President Obama, also prevents legal action from overturning the decision.

McDermott says farmers, ranchers and sportsmen are starting to get excited about the possibility of a hunt now that they realize the bill is law and there's theoretically nothing environmental groups can do to stop delisting.

"All the sportsmen are pretty happy that it appears to be a resolution of this issue," he says. "They understand the impact wolves are having on our elk, deer and moose populations and they want them managed and managed now."

A trailer to the budget bill that was added by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., overturns an August 2010 district court decision to return wolves in those states to the endangered species list.

It orders the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reissue its 2009 order that delisted the animals from the Endangered Species Act and it specifically states the provision shall not be subject to judicial review.

It could take up to 90 days before wolves are removed from the list, but Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is trying to expedite the process and has directed Fish and Game to begin preparations for a wolf hunt as soon as possible.

"It's safe to say we expect to hunt wolves this fall," says IFG spokesman Mike Keckler.

Ranchers and farmers celebrated the development.

The hunt is sorely needed to manage wolves and at least stabilize the impact they are having on livestock, says Stan Boyd, executive director of the Idaho Wool Growers Association.

Boyd said wolves killed 500 sheep in Idaho in 2007, 700 in 2008 and 1,200 in 2009. The kill total stabilized in 2010 following the state's first wolf hunt, he added.

"That's a pretty sharp curve," he said. "We're anxious to get back to the management of these animals."

Keckler said it will be up to Fish and Game commissioners to decide what the wolf quota will be and what tools hunters will be allowed to use. McDermott said all legal tools should be used to control the animals, which he blames for severely impacting the state's elk, deer and moose herds.

Hunting tools such as baiting and electronic calls were not allowed during Idaho's first wolf hunt in 2009, when the wolf quota was 220 and hunters killed only 188 of the animals despite the season being extended three months.

McDermott says Idaho might use other tools like trapping and predator control actions, in addition to the hunt, to manage wolves.

"Every legal method that aids in controlling the wolf population has to be in our wolf plan," he says. "Hunters alone will not do it; hunting will just help keep the population stable. It's going to take trapping and other control actions."

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