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Wolf de-listing bill on fast-track in DC

ENDANGERED SPECIES -- Congressman Mike Simpson fast-tracked wolf delisting legislation Monday by tacking language onto a federal budget bill that would strip Endangered Species Act protection from wolves.

An Associated Press story origining from Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune says Simpson’s measure would reinstate a 2009 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule that removed wolves in Idaho, Montana and portions of eastern Oregon, eastern Washington and northern Utah from the list of federally protected species.

It would not be subject to judicial review that has twice overturned wolf delisting rules in the region.

“It makes no sense to call wolves in Idaho and Montana an endangered species. Not only do wolf populations far exceed recovery goals, but without proper management, those populations have grown to the point where they are adversely impacting other wildlife populations in the region and wreaking havoc for ranchers, hunters and public land users in Idaho,” said Simpson, R-Idaho

Read on for more details.

The budget measure that will carry the language, known as a continuing resolution, would fund the federal government through September. If it fails to pass, the government would shut down. That means those who oppose wolf delisting would have to strip the language from the bill or stop the bill and shut down the government. A companion bill would also have to pass in the Senate. Montana senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester have introduced similar legislation in a stand-alone bill.

A number of others, such as Sen. Orin Hatch of Utah and Rep. Denny Rehberg of Montana, have introduced bills that would strip ESA protections from wolves across the entire nation.

Idaho’s delegation has split on whether wolf delisting should be done regionally or nationally. Last fall, senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch introduced a bill that would strip protections from wolves in Idaho and Montana. But they later backed a national delisting bill that was defeated in the waning hours of the last congressional session. Rep. Raul Labrador has backed a pair of bills that include both regional and national delisting plans.

Crapo spokesman Lindsay Nothern said the senator supports any bill that will return management of wolves to Idaho. He said Crapo is working to build support for wolf legislation in the Senate, where it is much easier for one senator to stop a piece of legislation by placing a hold on it.

“It just really comes down to what can pass and how easily it can pass,” he said.

Mike Leahy, regional director of the Defenders of Wildlife at Bozeman, Mont., said wolves should be delisted through a process outlined in the ESA. He said his group remains opposed to the minimum wolf population number of 150 per state contained in the 2009 rule.

“There was no science behind the 100 to 150 wolves per state in the original recovery goals, so we want the best available science applied and this legislation doesn’t do that.”

When wolves were reintroduced to the Northern Rockies, the recovery planned called for delisting to occur after their numbers grew to include 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs in each state for three consecutive years. Wolf management plans approved in Idaho and Montana called for the states to maintain at least 150 wolves each.

There are now believed to be more than 1,600 wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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