January 24, 2011

Time For State To Resume Wolf Management

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch

Idahoans deserve a timely, lasting solution to the wolf issue that returns management of wolves back to the state, which has proven it can effectively manage the species. When the wolf was listed as endangered in 1974, it was almost extinct in the continental United States. In the 1990s, the federal government introduced 34 wolves to the Northern Rockies. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) Environmental Impact Statement stated that a fully recovered Idaho wolf population would need to be approximately one hundred adult wolves. Since then, the wolf population in Idaho has grown to more than eight times that amount.

The good work of state wildlife managers, the Nez Perce Tribe, scientists and local communities made sustainable wolf populations possible. The Department of the Interior's decision to delist the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in Idaho recognized this success. Unfortunately, the U.S. District Court reversed course and ordered the wolf relisted under the ESA for procedural reasons, restricting state management and entirely ignoring Idaho's wolf population success and the state's strong wolf management plan. This unfortunate decision eliminates certainty for states, undermines state and local confidence in collaborative species efforts and allows the problem to worsen without an effective solution.

Last fall, we introduced legislation to implement the FWS's wolf delisting rule, removing the Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf from the Endangered Species List in Idaho and Montana, as well as the relevant portions of Washington, Oregon and Utah. The purpose of the legislation was to acknowledge the reality in Idaho and throughout the Northern Rockies-sustainable wolf populations have been achieved, and we must be able to manage them. A number of other bills were also introduced by our colleagues in Congress to address this situation in Idaho and other states.

Due to the increasing need for relief, prior to the adjournment of the 111th Congress, we joined Senate colleagues from Wyoming and Utah in seeking unanimous consent to call up and pass legislation introduced by Senator Orin Hatch (R-Utah) to remove the wolf from the list of threatened species or the list of endangered species. Unfortunately, an objection by one Senator ended consideration of the bill, but we are not deterred.

The longer this issue goes unresolved, the more difficult it will become to convince states and their citizens to work with the federal government to reach sustainable populations of threatened and endangered species. In Idaho, wolf populations are growing at a rate of approximately 20 percent annually, harming big game herds and impacting the livelihoods of Idaho families. More than 2,000 head of cattle, sheep and dogs in Idaho have been confirmed killed or injured by wolves since 2003. Idaho should be permitted to manage its wildlife populations, including sport harvest of wolves. The best solutions to natural resource concerns are often obtained by those closest to the issue. We will continue to work collaboratively with Idahoans, the state, tribes, federal government and our colleagues in Congress for a locally-driven solution that returns management to the state.

You may access the Senators' websites through the following links: http://crapo.senate.gov/ and http://risch.senate.gov/.

# # #

Word Count: 504