After two and a half hours of impassioned testimony on both sides, the House Resources Committee has voted 14-4 in favor of HB 470, the $2 million wolf control fund bill. Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, said she wasn’t so sure about setting up another board, as “the state has boards up the kabotch.” But, she said, “Right now I have deer in my background, the town of Challis is covered with deer. … They’re there because the wolves have driven them into town.” She said, “All in all, I think we’d better do this.”
Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, spoke against the bill. “We only have one pot of money that we pay for everything out of,” she said, noting the number of school districts “that can’t keep the lights on five days a week.” Rubel said she wondered “whether this is really a $2 million problem,” and noted that an advisory committee called for $400,000 in state funding next year. “When we asked why this bill was proposing five times that expenditure, the answer was, hey, we have a surplus this year, so let’s go for it,” Rubel said. “Is this the very best way we can spend that surplus? … The number of wolves has dropped every year since 2009. … Our taxpayer money could be spent much better in other areas.”
Rep JoAn Wood, R-Rigby, said the ranchers who want help with wolf depredation are part of the “bedrock economy in our state.” She said, “These people who are asking us for help here are the people who pay the taxes for our schools, and who are wanting to stay in business in our state. … I’m not thrilled about all parts of this legislation, but I don’t think I have anything better to offer.”
Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, said, “I just don’t see an end to this. We have people who love the wolves and think nature should take its course. We have people whose private property is being impacted.” Andrus said, “I would rather see this money go toward starting to build a predator-type fence around Yellowstone National Park … and put the wolves in there and let the nature lovers and the people who love wolves, let ‘em do their thing, and I don’t care what happens.”
Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, said, “I would recommend that JFAC only fund the $400,000 every year instead of the $2 million this year, but I’m not on JFAC.” Vander Woude said after two and a half hours of hearing testimony on the bill, he was ready to support it. The bill, which now moves to the full House, drew opposition from just one Republican on the panel, Rep. Steven Miller, R-Fairfield, and all three of the committee’s minority Democrats; all other GOP members supported it.