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Otter to feds: Idaho will back out of wolf management, starting today

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has notified Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that the state is terminating its "designated agent status" for wolf management - meaning the state no longer will be in charge of wolf management, turning that back over to the federal government. "I join many Idahoans in questioning whether there is any benefit to being a designated agent without the flexibility of a public hunt," Otter wrote in a letter to Salazar today.

It's an abrupt turnaround from the direction the state Fish & Game Commission endorsed earlier, of remaining active in wolf management despite a federal court having restored the endangered status of wolves due to litigation over wolf management in Wyoming. Otter wrote in his letter that the state "stands ready to manage wolves when the species is once again delisted." He said he was concerned that if the state were to continue management now, the Department of Interior wouldn't adequately fund it, leaving open the possibility that Idaho sportsman fees that fund the state's Fish & Game Department could be tapped. Otter also decried the original reintroduction of wolves to the state in 1994. "Idahoans have suffered this intolerable situation for too long, but starting today at least the State no longer will be complicit," he wrote. You can read Otter's full letter here, and click below to read his full press release announcing the move.

C.L. “Butch” Otter

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                                                 
October 18, 2010                                                                  


            (BOISE) – Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter notified Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today that Idaho no longer will act as the federal government’s “designated agent,” managing wolves imposed on the state under the Endangered Species Act.

            Instead, the Governor directed the Idaho Fish and Game Commission to immediately refocus its efforts on protecting Idaho’s deer, elk and moose, and said the Idaho Department of Fish and Game will be submitting applications to the Interior Department for additional flexibility in addressing wolf depredation issues “so we can exercise our sovereign right to protect our wildlife.”

            “This directive preserves an individual’s right to kill a wolf in self defense or in the defense of another person. It does not jeopardize the existing flexibility landowners and permittees have to protect their livestock and pets from wolves,” Governor Otter wrote in a letter to Salazar. “Additionally, this approach does not ask Idahoans who continue suffering wolves – especially sportsmen – to subsidize any part of this federal program or bear the risk or burden of inadequate federal funding in the future.”

            In his letter, the Governor reiterated that the State of Idaho has consistently proven itself to be a responsible steward of all wildlife – “including your wolves.”

            “We also showed that we could successfully manage a hunting season for wolves as we do for other species,” he said. “The State managed wolves as part of the ecosystem, in concert with other species and needs, which was ironically decried by environmentalists who seemingly want wolves to benefit at the expense of other wild and domestic species.”

            “I am still committed to finding a path forward for delisting. My goal remains restoring State management under our approved plan as quickly as possible, if for no other reason than to fulfill the promise of our State law that all wildlife within our borders will be managed by the State. To that end, I am encouraged by the efforts of representatives from the three legislatures (Idaho, Montana and Wyoming) to see if there is a path forward for delisting and state management,” Governor Otter wrote to Salazar. “Although we could not agree during the course of our negotiations, I share your commitment to delist the species and restore state management as quickly as possible. It is truly frustrating that we cannot accomplish that shared goal today.”


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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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