Idaho’s wolf hunt, the first sanctioned hunt in the lower 48 United States, closed March 31, with hunters killing 186 wolves out of a statewide limit of 220. The future of Idaho’s wolf hunt could be decided by a Montana federal court judge in the next few months. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game, which manages state hunting, and many state lawmakers support the hunt and other wolf management practices that seek to curb the growth of the wolf population.
One of the more active state lawmakers in the arena of wolves and hunting is Sen. Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow, who chairs the Senate Resources and Environment Committee and also owns an animal hide and fur store. Schroeder told IdahoReporter.com that wolves are an important topic to ranchers, hunters, and animal conservationists, and that lawmakers this session worked to protect the interests of the state and its hunters.
Schroeder referred to a blog set up by one wolf hunter, Robert Millage of Kamiah, to document the positive and negative responses he’s gotten. The Legislature approved both measures Schroeder discussed, encouraging cross-state discussion on wolf management and removing hunters’ licenses from the public record.
Schroeder said a decision by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy to put Idaho’s wolves back on the endangered species list would prevent the state from having a wolf hunt next fall and could also limit livestock producers’ ability to protect their animals from wolves.
Some of the 13 groups suing to put wolves back on the endangered species list have said they expect Judge Molloy to rule in their favor, and overturn a decision to delist wolves from the national endangered species list. A decision is expected in the next few months.
Schroeder’s Senate committee also oversees the state parks system. He was very critical of plans to close Dworshak State Park near Orofino, but says he supports the business-like reforms that are coming from Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation Director Nancy Merrill.
Schroeder said that, for the most part, his committee dealt with run-of-the-mill proposals. “When you don’t have a lot of money, things are not as busy,” he said. But he added that the most important piece of legislation that passed through his committee was a plan to create a fund for working lands, which would prevent development on lands used for farming or used by animals.
That proposal passed the Idaho Senate, but didn’t make it out of the House. Schroeder said he’ll work on the working lands fund again next year.