Gov. Phil Batt says he sees no reason why the federal government should push grizzly bears on Idaho.
“We are doing just fine without grizzly bears,” the governor wrote Wednesday in an editorial released to Idaho news outlets.
“They are not in danger of extinction. So why should we ask to move them further into Idaho?”
Batt said he and many others are concerned that if grizzly bears are reintroduced in the state, restrictions will follow.
The federal government has proposed introducing grizzlies in northcentral Idaho’s Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area, under direction of a citizen committee.
“It seems to me that we are borrowing trouble if we welcome these fearsome creatures to Idaho,” the governor said. “Outfitters and guides are opposed, because, in order to guarantee their clients’ safety, they would have to abandon areas frequented by grizzly bears.
“Nine people have been killed by bears in Montana’s Glacier Park since 1913,” he said. “Eight more visitors met their demise in the Yellowstone area. These are not cuddly creatures.”
Batt said hunters and other backcountry adventurers fear that road closures would increase, because it’s already happened in the Idaho Panhandle.
Cattle and sheep grazers suspect their activities would also be affected, Batt said, and although the proposed area does not allow commercial grazing, regulations could expand to other federally owned land.
“One hundred and three thousand Idahoans live in the grizzly bear ‘primary analysis’ area,” the governor said. “Most see a negative impact on their jobs.”
Batt said Idaho residents are struggling to adapt to life under the Endangered Species Act and its protections for spotted owls, salmon, bull trout and endangered snails.
“Many of those changes are sensible and probably overdue,” he said. “Yet, it doesn’t seem wise that we should ask for another serious complication limiting our ability to enjoy our magnificent wilderness.”