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Fish and game commission backs challenge to wolf ruling

Fish and game commission backs challenge to wolf ruling

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
August 18, 2010

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission wants the state to take all legal options to win back full authority to manage wolves, including through a regulated hunting season.

The commission met Monday to discuss gray wolves in Idaho.  Commissioners were scheduled to set the quota for this winter’s wolf hunt, but a U.S. district judge’s ruling earlier this month halted Idaho’s hunt.  The commission ended up unanimously approving a resolution calling for the state to appeal the judge’s ruling and “pursue all legal options to restore full state authority” to handling wolves.

“We confronted the difficult choice of either having full responsibility for wolf management with little authority to address conflicts, or leaving entirely in the hands of our federal government the fate of our ranchers, pet owners, sportsmen, and others who are hurt by the decline in elk and other wildlife caused by wolf predation,” the resolution said.

The decision to appeal the court ruling will come from the federal government, not the state, according to Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) spokesman Ed Mitchell.  The judge’s ruling was against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is part of the Department of Interior, the agency that will decide the next legal step.  Mitchell said a top official was at the commission’s meeting Monday and said they’re in discussions on what will come next.

The state commission also gave the go ahead for a plan to reduce the wolf population by up to 80 wolves in the Lolo elk zone in north Idaho.  That plan from IDFG is still open to public comment.  The commission’s plan said that experimental studies show that predators such as wolves, not a shrinking habitat, have the largest effect on Lolo elk.  The elk population peaked in 1989, and wolves were re-introduced to Idaho and Wyoming in 1995 and 1996.

Mitchell said more than 900 people have already commented on the proposal.  “Most of the people that are writing into the Fish and Game website are in favor of some action to save elk,” he said.

If the department ends up approving the plan, federal officials could rule on it within two months.  That means Idaho could start hiring contractors to kill the wolves later this year.

Mitchell said the department wouldn’t specify the contractors’ methods of harvesting wolves.  “Wolves are not that easy to kill, even from aircraft,” Mitchell said.

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