Elected officials at the state and federal level are expressing concern over the cost of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan to put 200 wolves in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho by 2002.
The first 29 gray wolves from Canada were released in the park and Idaho earlier this month and Fish and Wildlife Service officials said the cost for the project to that point, including years of environmental reviews and project preparation, totaled about $6.7 million.
The rest of the project is expected to cost another $6.8 million, said Sharon Rose, a spokeswoman for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Denver.
The cost was criticized by Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer, who earlier this month asked the Fish and Wildlife Service to hold off on the release of the wolves in Yellowstone.
“I don’t know of a single child in America that gets that much financial attention,” he said.
Geringer said the effort to restore wolves in Yellowstone and Idaho is a violation of states’ rights and added he was offended that Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt helped carry wolves into Yellowstone without contacting the state’s elected officials.
U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, also questioned the cost of the project.
“I’ve been a skeptic of this process all along and am not going to be a party to sticking the taxpayer with that bill,” he said.
The reintroduction project was the subject of a hearing before the U.S. House Resource Committee Thursday that was chaired by U.S. Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo.
Meanwhile, Rose said the Fish and Wildlife Service is worried that Congress will not provide money for the remainder of the project.
Several private organizations, including the Wolf Education and Research Center in Ketchum, Idaho, are raising money to help finance the project in case Congress does not provide the funding.
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