Idaho defies wolf management

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Idaho Gov. Butch Otter announced

Monday that his state will no longer act as the federal

government’s “designated agent” for wolf management.

The

Republican contends that wolves have been “devastating” deer, elk

and moose populations and the state has a “sovereign right” to

protect its big game populations. 

“Idahoans have suffered from this intolerable situation for too

long, but starting today at least the state will no longer be

complicit,” Otter wrote. “As you know, Idaho stands ready to manage

wolves when the species is once again delisted. Until then, the

state will not manage wolves as the designated agent of the federal

government. 

“That means that Idaho Department of Fish and Game will not perform

statewide monitoring for wolves, conduct investigations into

illegal killings, provide state law enforcement in response to

illegal takings or implement the livestock depredation response

program.”

Otter said he is instead directing Fish and Game to concentrate on

protecting ungulate herds from wolves, using experienced volunteers

to act as “special agents” in carrying out “control actions” in

certain areas where wolf impacts on elk, in particular, have been

documented.

In

a statement released Monday afternoon from Washington, D.C., a

Department of Interior press secretary said sport hunting for

wolves cannot legally resume, despite Idaho’s action.

“In

light of the federal court ruling, the wolf is again on the

Endangered Species list and therefore we cannot currently authorize

the resumption of sport hunting of wolves,” stated Kendra Barkoff.

“Up to this point, we appreciate the states of Idaho and Montana

who have been working responsibly to manage wolves; nonetheless, we

must follow the court’s ruling.”

It’s unclear what impact Idaho’s new policy towards wolves will

have on Montana, which is currently pursuing a multi-pronged

approach to restore a managed wolf hunt. Montana Fish, Wildlife and

Parks Director Joe Maurier and Carolyn Sime, the state’s wolf

management coordinator, could not be reached for comment.

Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg recently told the Inter Lake that in his

conversations with Otter, the governor said his new approach toward

wolves is similar to declaring Idaho a “sanctuary state.” That term

is typically applied to cities and states that refuse to take on

any role in enforcing federal immigration laws.

Otter wrote another letter to Salazar in August stating the Idaho

Fish and Game Commission had recommended that the state remain in a

lead management role for wolves, and asking to negotiate a new

memorandum of understanding for that to happen.

But

Otter warned that he would be seeking a “provision for public

hunting” in the agreement, despite the ruling from U.S. District

Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula earlier this year that restored

Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana,

effectively ending managed wolf hunts in both states.

Montana and Idaho both assumed lead management roles around 2006,

using federal funding to carry out a variety of wolf-related

duties. Otter noted that Idaho eagerly accepted its new role to

show that the state could manage wolves in a manner similar to the

way other predator species are managed.

“We

showed, during delisting, that we are responsible stewards of all

our wildlife, including your wolves,” Otter states in his latest

letter to Salazar. “Today I join many Idahoans in questioning

whether there is any benefit to being a designated agent without

the flexibility of a public hunt, which has been denied.”

Otter concluded by saying he is “committed to finding a path

forward for delisting” wolves and restoring the state’s authority

to manage the species.

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Reporter Jim Mann may be reached at 758-4407 or by e-mail at

jmann@dailyinterlake.com

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