BOISE – Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has signed into law a measure to allow the state to declare a disaster due to wolves and take emergency measures to combat the animals.
Otter said Tuesday that he signed House Bill 343 despite deep concerns about the constitutionality of the bill, which he detailed in a two-page signing letter.
“My concerns with the legislation are not whether it is an appropriate response to the devastation that wolves have caused,” Otter wrote. “I understand and share the frustration of Idahoans over the impact wolves have had across our state in the past 16 years. However, I am concerned that H 343 is largely unnecessary, and it unintentionally infringes on the statutory authority of the governor to declare disasters.”
Nevertheless, he signed it into law. Otter said in his letter that the Legislature “has agreed to work with me next session to fix the provisions that infringe on the authority vested in the governor to declare disasters,” and, he said, “portions of this bill may prove useful in the future if state management is revoked or the species is relisted under the Endangered Species Act.”
Under a rider in a major congressional budget law authored in part by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and signed into law by President Barack Obama last week, wolves are being removed from endangered species protection in Idaho.
Otter said he’s asked the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to “focus on resuming state management of wolves pursuant to our state management plan.”
Otter said the bill he’s now signed into law provides no additional protections for Idaho citizens against wolves. “Idahoans should know they have always been able to kill a wolf in self-defense or in the defense of other humans. That has not changed, nor is this legislation or a disaster declaration necessary for anyone to protect themselves or other people from wolves in any part of the state,” he said.
When Idaho last controlled management of the gray wolf, it held its first state-sanctioned wolf hunt. The state hopes to do that again in the fall.