February 23, 2005

Delegation, Governor Say Wolf Actions Could Benefit Idaho Management Plan

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Director says he will support Idaho management if consistent with law

Washington, DC - Idahoâ??s Congressional Delegation and Governor Kempthorne said an announcement today that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service plans to reclassify many reintroduced wolf populations could have a silver lining for Idaho, even though the actions affect only wolves north of Interstate 90. The silver lining comes in the form of separate comments from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Director during a hearing on Capitol Hill.During a Senate subcommittee hearing chaired by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, USFWS Director Steve Williams said he is â??comfortableâ?? with Idahoâ??s management program â??as long as itâ??s consistent with the law.â?? If that remains the case, Williams told Crapo, he will be â??supportive of what Idaho wants to do.â??Idaho wants to take over control of wolves from the federal government, but to date has had to wait while neighboring Montana and Wyoming approve a state management plan. In responding to Crapoâ??s questioning during a hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Endangered Species Act, Williams indicated he was not aware of any problems with how Idaho has proposed to manage wolves so far and saw no reason the state would not take over management barring legal challenges. "I appreciate the leadership of Senator Crapo and the testimony today by Director Williams affirming that the goal of the Fish and Wildlife Service is state management of gray wolves," Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne said. "In my continuing discussions with Interior Secretary Gale Norton, I am pleased that the federal agencies are taking the first steps towards statemanagement and delisting the wolf in Idaho." "Today's announcement by the Fish and Wildlife Service is a step in the right direction toward the delisting of wolves," Senator Craig said. "However, I continue to feel that the federal government is a step behind in recognizing that Idaho's wolf population is much more prosperous than the definition of 'threatened species' allows."â??Making the Endangered Species Act work requires collaboration and local input. With the growing number of wolves now in Idaho and the stateâ??s management plan getting federal support, Idaho should soon be able to manage wolves within its borders. That is what we hoped to hear today from Director Williams and it appears he supports Idahoâ??s efforts,â?? Senator Crapo said."I'm encouraged that the Fish and Wildlife Service is working with stakeholders on a plan to move towards delisting. It is important that FWS continue to work with private land owners and ranchers as the wolf population continues to increase. Unfortunately, this decision will not affect the experimental population in my district including areas like Challis and Salmon. I am hopeful the Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to move towards delisting Idaho's experimental population," Congressman Simpson said. Congressman Otter said, "I'm encouraged that residents in at least one area of my district will have more flexibility in dealing with problem wolves as the number of these predators throughout Idaho continues to grow. I'd like to think this move by the Fish and Wildlife Service is a prelude to delisting the gray wolf, and an indication that it will defer to the state on wolf management issues as those plans are finalized. Time will tell." # # #