Legislation to carry out Gov. Butch Otter’s proposal for a new $2 million state wolf control fund and oversight board was introduced in the House Resources Committee this afternoon but only on a close, 9-8 vote after lots of questions. The bill, brought by Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, and Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, would have the state set up a new control board not to make payments to livestock owners who lose animals to wolves, but to fund wolf-control efforts designed to control the state’s wolf population for which federal funds have fallen. “There are no new ways to control wolves being projected or being created by this bill,” Gibbs said. “They are simply subject to the tools we have today, which is sport hunting, trapping and aerial gunning.”
The livestock industry and hunting license fees would be tapped for yearly payments of up to $110,000 each to replenish the fund, which the governor wants to start with a $2 million one-time state appropriation.
New state Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, asked, “How is this a more cost-effective approach, to start a new board, than to put a little more money into Idaho Fish & Game so that they would be able to approach this problem within their existing framework?” Gibbs responded, “To me the importance of having a separate board of control is it gives the board the flexibility to work with anyone they need to in order to get their objectives.” He said, “The intent of this control board is not to eliminate wolves. The last thing that anybody I know of in the state of Idaho wants to see is to have to have discussions about putting wolves back on the endangered species list. That is not the intent of this bill. This bill is to manage wolves where there are conflicts with other industries and they’re socially unacceptable.”
The bill says the new five-member board would consist of the directors of the state departments of Agriculture and Fish & Game, and three gubernatorial appointees, one from a sportsmen’s group, one from the livestock industry, and one from the public at large.
Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star, said he was concerned about the cost of setting up the new board, as opposed to using existing boards. “We’d have more money on the ground for dealing with the wolves,” he said. Asked how many wolves the fund would try to remove, Gibbs said it would follow the state’s wolf management plan, calling for a minimum wolf population of about 150. Rubel said that would require removing about 500 wolves, and at $2 million, would cost $4,000 a wolf.
Opponents of introducing the bill came from both parties and didn’t break down along party lines; the motion initially appeared to have failed on a tied vote, but then Gibbs noted that he hadn’t voted, and his “yes” vote provided the one-vote majority to introduce the measure.