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Friday, October 30, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

House passes wolf fund bill; reps compare wolves to gangs, ‘cobra snakes’

The House has voted 64-6 in favor of HB 538, legislation from Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, to extend the state Wolf Depredation Control Board, which is charged with contracting to have problem wolves exterminated, for another year. Her bill would continue the board, and the assessments on livestock raisers and sportsmen that help support it, for one more year; it had been scheduled to expire after this year. Gov. Butch Otter had proposed making the board permanent but dropping the amount the state contributes toward the effort in future years from the current $400,000 a year to $220,000; Boyle’s bill would just keep the current arrangement for another year, which she said is necessary to fulfill the initial five-year commitment.

Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, one of the half-dozen to vote against the bill, said it’s “using state money to hire federal shooters and to have a board that we really don’t need.” Instead, he said, “Let’s give the hunters free tags and set some limits on it and save the money and use it somewhere else.”

Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, said, “This is the hardest animal to hunt in North America. Your typical hunter isn’t going to get ‘em.”

Rep. Van Burtenshaw, R-Terreton, spoke out in favor of the bill. “The stockmen didn’t ask for the wolves,” and now they have to pay to help shoot them. “We need help,” he said. “The sportsmen have put up $100,000. The cattlemen and sheep people have put up $100,000, the state puts up $400,000, and it's a costly project. You can’t scare a wolf away once he finds a meal. Sen. Siddoway lost in one night 200 head of sheep over a cliff because the wolves got into ‘em.” He said, “Would you guys be opposed to having us bring cobra snakes and let’s turn ‘em loose in the Boise Valley and then have you abate ‘em and pay for that. It’s the same type of thing, it’s like moving a gang into neighborhood. That’s why we need this legislation. … It’s a small amount compared to the damage there’s been to the stockmen and the growers in the state of Idaho.”

Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, said the fund currently has a balance of $1.4 million, and he questioned the need to put any more money into it. “That seems to me not to be a prudent expenditure,” he said.

House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, spoke in favor of the bill. “I will oppose the appropriation when the time comes, because I do believe that there is enough resources in this account for now, however I think that increasing the sunset and allowing for the continued assessment of the ranchers is perfectly appropriate, given that they do have depredation issues.”

Boyle said, “None of us asked for these animals. This is a federal government thing that happened in a prior administration. So I would just ask for your support to fulfill this promise that was made.”

The six “no” votes came from Reps. Giddings, Harris, King, Luker, Rubel, and Wintrow.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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