Gov. Butch Otter has vetoed a bill that sought to divert funds from sportsman’s access programs in the state, and to place those funds into other programs that would protect people and property against wild wolves.
“We all recognize that wolves have had extreme impacts on people and livestock in Idaho,” Otter stated in a formal letter to Speaker of the House Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, in announcing his veto of House Bill 278. “Sportsmen and livestock owners share concerns about the significant damage wolves have done to deer, elk, moose, cattle, sheep and other domestic livestock,” he said.
Otter noted that the effort to protect people and property from the threats of wild wolves did not strike a proper balance between sportsmen and livestock owners. “I have deep concerns that H278 would divide sportsmen and livestock owners,” he wrote, “making a cooperative long term solution to wolf depredation costs more difficult to achieve.”
House Bill 278 passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives on a vote of 45 to 23, and in the Senate by a vote of 26 to 8. All Democratic members of the House and Senate voted “no.”
"The funding provided in this bill was not just for protecting against wolves," said Rep. Judy Boylr, R-Midvale, the sponsor of the bill. "This was to address damage done by animal predators, including starlings in cities and at airports, beavers that are blocking culverts, it protects against animal damage, period. The word 'wolves' does not even appear in this legislation, not at all."
“I think Gov. Otter rightly saw this legislation as premature,” Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise, told IdahoReporter.com in response to the veto. “The bill was disadvantageous to sportsmen. Their (sportsmen’s) money that they spend in licensing fees would have been spent on a program that they didn’t have input creating.”
Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, who voted in favor of House Bill 278, saw the matter differently. “I think we need to find a path forward, regardless of whether it is this option or another,” she told IdahoReporter.com. “We need something that is good for both sportsmen and cattle producers, because they are both impacted by the effects of wolf predation. We’ve kicked this can down the road long enough, and we need solutions.”
But one of the Democrats voting against the bill disagrees. “I believe the governor was right to veto this,” Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said. “I voted against the bill in the House because it raided Fish and Game funds to pay for damage caused to agriculture by wolves. Idaho's sportsmen aren't causing the damage and shouldn't be penalized for it."
Otter also stated in his veto announcement that he disapproved of the process with which House Bill 278 was crafted, noting that neither the Idaho Department of Fish and Game nor the Idaho Fish and Game Commission were consulted on the matter.
"The funding in this bill was to have gone to Animal Damage Control (ADC), the agency that deals with animal predators. The ADC is directed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, so I'm not sure why the governor found this to be problematic," said Boyle.