BOISE – Idaho lawmakers on Tuesday backed spending another $400,000 to kill problem wolves next year – the third straight year of such expenditures – even though much of the previously allocated money remains unspent.
The Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee voted 15-5 to allocate the money to the state Wolf Depredation Control Board. Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, led an unsuccessful move to give the board $110,000, saying with the board’s existing unspent funds, that would fully cover its estimated expenses for next year.
“To me, that’s appropriate budgeting,” Schmidt said. “I understand that we want to cut back on the number of depredating wolves, but I think that’s the right amount.” In addition to the $400,000 in annual state payments, the board is receiving $110,000 in matching funds from both the livestock industry and from sportsmen through the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
Rep. Van Burtenshaw, R-Terreton, argued for giving the wolf board the full $400,000 next year.
“I know it sounds like a lot of money, but you get in a helicopter in the air to hunt these wolves and it’s expensive,” Burtenshaw told the committee.
In February, the wolf board contracted with USDA Wildlife Services to shoot 20 wolves in the Lolo elk zone in North Idaho in an aerial operation. In 2015, the board killed 72 wolves. Its mission is to kill problem wolves that are preying on livestock or wildlife.
“The depredation is ongoing, it’s devastating, and if we don’t turn it back it will have a devastating effect on all our livestock and our wild game animals in the state of Idaho,” Burtenshaw told the committee.
Schmidt, however, said the wolf board hadn’t spent what the state had already allocated. “We ought to be a little more responsible in how we budget,” he said. “Why give people money that they aren’t spending?”
The $400,000 appropriation still needs House and Senate approval and the governor’s signature to become law, but budget bills rarely change after they’re set by the joint committee.
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