January 31, 2007

TIME FOR IDAHO TO TAKE THE LEAD

By Senator Mike Crapo

Idaho and other Mountain West states are home to amazing natural resources. We work hard protecting and conserving these resources, including abundant native wildlife, in correct balance with our livelihood and recreational pursuits. Weâ??re fortunate to have science and technology resources to accomplish the best for wildlife and the people and communities that interact with these animals. Last week, the Fish and Wildlife Service started a 60-day comment period on a proposal to de-list the Gray Wolf, Northern Rocky Mountain Distinct Population Segment. This is the next important step in the journey toward responsible co-existence of wolves and people in todayâ??s Idaho. Idaho is more than ready, willing and able to undertake management of wolves through effective implementation of the state management plan, in a new environment of sensible de-listing.One year ago, in the Advanced Notice for Proposed Rulemaking, the federal government found that the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf population was fully biologically recovered. At that time, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had approved both Idahoâ??s and Montanaâ??s state wolf management plans. In a change from last year, delisting in Idaho and Montana will no longer depend on federal approval of Wyomingâ??s plan. The current 60-day comment period presents a critical opportunity for Idahoans to participate in the decision-making process. The phrase â??speak now or forever hold your peaceâ?? cannot be more appropriate right now; the federal government needs input from Idahoans. Please make your voices heard in a constructive manner. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) recently completed its Fiscal Year 2006 Wolf Activity Report. It reported over 70 packs in Idaho--about 650 adult wolves. There are certainly concerns about wolf predation among ranchers and hunters: the report found that approximately 26 of the packs were involved in livestock predation, and there are ongoing studies about wildlife predation. The most effective management of challenges posed by wolf-human interactions (including the livestock industry and hunting) rests at the state level, especially now that wolves have not only been recovered in Idaho, but are thriving. In fact, when the federal government brought wolves into Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, the final Environmental Impact Statement to Introduce Wolves stated that a â??recovered populationâ?? would be 100 adult wolves in each of the three recovery areas. That number has been greatly exceeded. With over 85 breeding pairs and over 1,200 wolves in the tri-state area, wolves are successful and ready for state management. Idahoans have every right to manage Idaho wildlife and will succeed with continued proper management, implemented by state and local experts. The reintroduction of wolves was, and is, controversial and emotional. When Idaho takes over daily wolf management, people, wolves and other affected species will find the right balance. I, along with the other members of Idahoâ??s Congressional Delegation, asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to evaluate what Idahoans have accomplished regarding the recovery of wolves. Its conclusion: introduction of wolves in Idaho is a biological success. Now, the wolf program must also succeed in the current cultural, political and economic environment. Itâ??s important to continue operating the existing program in a responsible manner for both people and species. As with other wildlife such as deer, elk, mountain lion and black bear, our state is more than capable of handling management of yet another of our prized wildlife resources.Iâ??m confident that the State of Idaho and the Nez Perce Tribe will professionally manage wolves and assure long-term success that has much broader, if not unanimous, public support. To link directly to the comment period information, please go to my website: http://crapo.senate.gov.Comments from the public are encouraged on this proposal to delist the northern Rocky Mountain population of wolves. They can be electronically mailed to NRMGrayWolf@fws.gov; hand-delivered to USFWS, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, MT 59601; or mailed to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wolf Delisting, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, MT 59601. All comments must be received within 60 days of the proposed rule's publication date in the Federal Register. For more information on Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves, visit http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/