By Zack Budryk
Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) this week signed a measure that would eliminate most limits on hunting wolves in the state.
Under the law, which will take effect in the months ahead, private contractors and hunters in the state will be authorized to kill more than 90 percent of wolves in Idaho. The measure also nearly triples the budget for the state Wolf Depredation Control Board from $110,000 to $300,000.
The bill passed the GOP-dominated state legislature largely along party lines. Under a 2002 conservation agreement, the state is required to allow at least 150 wolves and 15 packs to live in the state. The current number of wolves is estimated at around 1,500. Wolves were delisted from the state’s endangered species list in 2011.
State House Majority Leader Mike Moyle (R), a co-sponsor of the bill, called the measure necessary for preventing wolves from having a detrimental effect on other wildlife in the state.
“We have areas of the state where the wolves are having a real detrimental impact on our wildlife,” he said in April, according to The Associated Press. “They are hurting the herds, elk and deer. This allows the Wolf (Depredation) Control Board and others to control them, also, which we have not done in the past.”
Environmental groups have blasted the decision and called for Little to veto it before he signed it Wednesday.
“Backed by an array of misinformation and fearmongering, the state legislature stepped over experts at the Idaho Fish and Game Department and rushed to pass this horrific wolf-killing bill,” Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.
“And Republican lawmakers have promised that this is just the beginning, even though the new measure would doom 90% of Idaho’s wolves. We’re disappointed that Gov. Little signed such a cruel and ill-conceived bill into law.”
Amanda Wight, program manager of wildlife protection for the Humane Society of the United States, called the bill “a death warrant for hundreds of Idaho’s iconic and beloved wolves.”
“This bill, which has no grounding in science or public values, demonstrates that Idaho can no longer responsibly manage its wolves,” Wight told The Hill in a statement. “The time has come for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to step in and abide by their obligations to review and relist these imperiled animals under the Endangered Species Act now that Idaho is allowing unlimited killing.”
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has also spoken out against the measure, saying it could undermine the commission’s authority, according to the AP.
Updated: 2:08 p.m.