Resentment over the federal wolf transplant project boiled up in the Idaho House on Wednesday as legislators rejected a state wolf management plan.
Unless the state Legislature comes up with something different, that apparently means the Idaho phase of the wolf reintroduction project will go ahead without state participation.
Nineteen Canadian gray wolves have been transplanted into a central Idaho mountain area in recent weeks over the protests of the Idaho livestock industry. And legislators complained the project has been planned and carried out without state involvement.
At issue was a state management plan that federal officials have said wouldn’t be acceptable. It would have required the federal government to pay for any livestock losses caused by the transplanted wolves and pay for any legal costs involved. It was defeated Wednesday on a 45-24 vote.
“This is not a brilliant idea that was conceived by the federal government,” said state Rep. Jim Stoicheff, D-Sandpoint. “They did not come to us.”
Stoicheff was stoic about the defeat.
“Now they’ll know that we tried to be reasonable.”
Most North Idaho lawmakers voted against the bill.
“Since the federal government is forcing us to take care of the wolves they should provide the day care for them,” said freshman Rep. Tom Dorr, R-Coeur d’Alene. “This has little to do with wolves and lots to do with state sovereignty.”
Several rural lawmakers said they didn’t dare vote for anything connected with the wolf project because their constituents are so strongly opposed.
Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, called the wolves “uninvited, unappreciated and unacceptable.” And Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby, who represents the same legislative district, said, “I don’t think my folks at home would understand why I would vote yes on any wolf plan.
“I’m dead at the border when I go home, I’m deader than the wolf,” she said.
Rep. James Lucas, R-Moscow, suggested a state law making it illegal to kill wolves, but setting the penalty at $1.
Lucas said he was aware that rejecting the wolf plan means Idaho is out of the process but called its requirements “a dream that is not going to come true.”
Lucas, a retired veterinarian, said the federal government made a major mistake when it transplanted 14 wolves into Yellowstone National Park for release later. He said there is a serious threat the animals will carry brucellosis from park animals.
“We can expect an enormous amount of damage to our biggest livestock industry,” he said.
Rep. Ken Robison, D-Boise, urged support for the wolf project. He said fear of wolves was based more on attitudes than reality. He said there are 2,000 cougars in the state, and they kill livestock and big game animals, yet people don’t worry about them.
“Cougars are more aggressive than wolves. If we are so upset about wolves, why don’t we try to remove the cougars?” he said.
The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Associated Press Staff writer Joe Relk contributed to this report.