Saturday, September 6, 2014

A New Low for Idaho: New Idaho board provides $225,000 to control wolves

Sean Ellis

John and Karen Hollingsworth/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
A gray wolf is seen in this file photo. 
Idaho Wildlife Services will receive $225,000 from the new Idaho wolf depredation board this year to help fund its wolf control efforts. The USDA agency has lost about $700,000 in funding since 2009, which has reduced its efforts to control depredating wolves.

BOISE — A newly created wolf depredation control board will provide $225,000 to Idaho Wildlife Services in 2014 to help fund its efforts to control depredating wolves. Wildlife Services is a USDA agency that solves human-animal conflicts. The Idaho division has lost almost $700,000 in funding, most of it federal, since 2009 and that has reduced its ability to control depredating wolves.

State lawmakers this year approved legislation that created the wolf control board, which has $620,000 a year — $400,000 in state money and $220,000 from cattle and sheep groups as well as Idaho sportsmen — to direct toward lethal wolf control efforts. Wyatt Prescott, executive vice president of the Idaho Cattle Association, applauded the five-member board’s quick use of the money as well as its makeup. By statute, it includes the directors of the state’s fish and game and agriculture departments, which are currently Virgil Moore and Celia Gould, respectively.

Cattle rancher and former ICA President Richard Savage represents the livestock industry, which contributes $110,000 annually to the board, and former Idaho Fish and Game Commission member Tony McDermott represents sportsmen, who also contribute $110,000. Carl Rey of Meridian, who represents the general public, is a former graduate of Leadership Idaho Agriculture. “We’re extremely happy with the board,” Prescott said.

Some environmental groups have said the board amounts to a declaration of war on wolves but Savage said the board wants to keep wolf levels at a sustainable level while limiting their impact on society. “It’s not about slaughtering wolves. It’s about management,” he said.

Suzanne Stone, senior Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife, said her group believes non-lethal control is the best way to manage problem wolves and she points to the group’s Wood River Wolf Project as proof.

Started in 2008, the project has used non-lethal means such as guard dogs, range riders, portable electric fencing, starter pistols, flashlights and air horns to keep wolves away from thousands of sheep in the Sawtooth Wilderness area. “We believe lethal control is not the best way to manage wolves in Idaho,” Stone said. “This $400,000 (in state funds) is a waste of money. I see nothing good coming out of this (board).”

Prescott disagreed and said wolves quickly see past non-lethal methods. “I categorically disagree with that statement,” he said. “You can only trick them for so long before they realize these non-lethal methods are false barriers.”

Sen. Bert Brackett, a Republican rancher from Rogerson who sponsored the bill that created the wolf board, said the $620,000 the board has to operate with annually shouldn’t be considered new wolf control money since it’s not even enough to make up for the money Wildlife Services has lost since 2009.

He also said he’s pleased that the board has acted so far. “The governor appointed some really solid, level-headed commissioners,” he said. “My expectation is they will continue with a real conservative, level-headed approach to wolf control and in another year or so, this will be a non-issue.”