LEWISTON – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service won’t be able to respond to Idaho’s petition to kill wolves in the upper Clearwater River Basin as soon as hoped, an agency official says.
Brian Kelly, director of the federal agency’s office in Boise, said he recently learned the agency has to conduct a National Environmental Policy Act review of the petition before making a decision.
“We are working as expeditiously as possible,” Kelly told the Lewiston Tribune.
“The intent is to make a decision so the state can do it at a time of year it is more effective to do it.”
Idaho officials submitted the petition in August to kill up to 50 wolves in the Lolo Zone with the goal of boosting elk populations. States are allowed to remove wolves if they are harming deer or elk herds.
But the state must prove the action is warranted and win approval from the federal government. Idaho submitted the petition after a federal judge restored Endangered Species Act protections to wolves, precluding an Idaho wolf hunting season.
When wolves were under state management, more than 180 were killed in Idaho during a hunting season, but only 13 were from the Lolo Zone.
The state wants to kill 40 to 50 wolves in the Lolo Zone and then keep the population at 20 to 30 wolves for five years.