BOISE – Idaho would spend more than $2 million to eliminate problem wolves and set up a new state board to oversee the effort, under legislation that cleared the Idaho House on Friday.
“We must maintain the pressure we have put on wolves just to maintain the population we do have,” said Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, sponsor of House Bill 470. The measure, first proposed by Gov. Butch Otter in his State of the State address to lawmakers this year, would target areas where there are problems with wolves preying on wildlife or livestock.
Opponents said Idaho’s wolf population is dropping now, even without spending the money. The state allows wolf hunting along with other control efforts managed by the Idaho Fish and Game Department.
Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, called the move “fiscally irresponsible,” saying, “That’s basically two teachers per school district in Idaho that could be paid for, or we can use it to eradicate somewhere between 300 and 400 wolves.”
Other opponents objected to setting up a new state board. “We have created enough boards in this body to build an ark,” said Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis.
The bill still needs Senate passage and the governor’s signature to become law. It calls for a one-time infusion of $2 million in state general tax funds for the new board, plus annual contributions of $110,000 each from the livestock industry and from hunting license funds.
Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, called for building a fence around Yellowstone National Park and putting all the wolves in there. “We could see how nature takes care of its own, and the more I think about it the more I think we should do this,” he told the House. “I think we would have donations from all over the United States and the world to build this fence.”