Saturday, April 13, 2013

Idaho Gov. Otter vetoes bill to divert funds to wolf control

  Friday, April 12, 2013
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has taken out his veto pen and nixed a pair of bills, including one measure calling on Idaho Fish and Game to divert up to $100,000 to a program aimed at managing the state's wolf population.

The second measure would have given the attorney general power to investigate elected county officials in certain circumstances.

The Republican governor's decision to reject the bills Thursday mark the only two vetoes so far this year and come a week after lawmakers wrapped up the 2013 Legislature.

The bill intended to divert money from Fish and Game was sponsored by Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale. It would have moved funds currently used to improve hunting access for sportsmen to a separate program focused on eliminating wolves that prey on livestock and prized game like elk and deer.

In a letter explaining his decision, Otter cited concerns that Fish and Game and sportsmen didn't have an appropriate chance to weigh in.

Pulling money for hunting access could create a rift between sportsman and livestock producers — two groups he says are vital to controlling predatory wolves.

It could make "a cooperative, long-term solution to wolf depredation costs more difficult to achieve," Otter wrote. "It is important ... that discussions with affected parties be held in earnest so that problems can be solved — not created."

The Idaho House passed the measure on a 45-23 vote in March. The Senate later passed it by a 26-8 margin.

Proponents say the extra dollars would help replace funds lost through federal budget cuts to the depredation program, intended to manage wolves that kill livestock and other wildlife in the state.
But it had detractors, including the Idaho Fish and Game Commission. Last week, chairman Randy Budge sent Otter a letter urging him to veto the bill, saying hunter access programs — which open up both public and private land for sportsmen — are already underfunded.

Mike Keckler, Idaho Fish and Game spokesman, said the Access Yes! program opened up 432,000 private acres to hunters last year, using $340,000 to compensate land owners open to allowing hunting on their property.

Keckler said Otter has directed the department to team up with the state Department of Agriculture to find new solutions that stretch state dollars to protect the interests of both hunters and livestock producers. "We're anxious to find a solution where all sides benefit," he said.

Otter also killed a bill that would have given shifted power to the attorney general.

That legislation would remove the authority of county prosecutors to investigate their own county commissions in instances when those officials are suspected of misconduct — with the goal of ending a potential conflict of interest between county employees.