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ID: Idaho lawmakers to debate Wolf Depredation Control Board

Idaho lawmakers this year will be asked to vote on two separate bills that would reauthorize the state’s Wolf Depredation Control Board. A third proposal that would continue the board but cut its state funding in half likely won’t get a hearing.

Sean Ellis
Capital Press

BOISE — Two bills have been introduced in the Idaho Legislature that would reauthorize the state’s Wolf Depredation Control Board and continue to provide it $400,000 a year in state funds.

A separate proposed bill that originated from the Governor’s Office would have removed the board’s June 30, 2019, sunset date and permanently reauthorized it, while cutting the amount of state funding for the board from $400,000 to $200,000 annually.

That proposal currently sits in the drawer of Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, chairwoman of the House Agricultural Affairs Committee. She told Capital Press she disagrees with cutting the funding amount and that bill won’t leave her drawer.

Boyle introduced her own bill that extends the authority of the board through fiscal year 2020 and keeps the amount of state funding at $400,000. The one-year extension is needed to avoid a reduction in fiscal 2019 funding for the board because of the way the state’s budget cycle is set up, she said.

The five-member board provides funding to USDA’s Wildlife Services for the lethal control of problem wolves.

It was created in 2014 with a five-year sunset clause. Idaho’s livestock and sportsmen communities each contribute about $110,000 annually to the board and Boyle said they should have a say in whether it’s continued or changed.

“They have to come back and prove what they’ve done,” Boyle, a rancher who supports lethal wolf control efforts, said about the board. “And the producers and sportsmen only agreed to five years so absolutely they should have a say.”

Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, has introduced a bill that would remove the board’s sunset date and continue to provide it $400,000 a year in state funding.

“In my opinion, the wolf board definitely needs to be reauthorized and it needs funding to continue,” he said.

Board member Richard Savage, a Dubois rancher, said the board has been effective in helping control problem wolves.

“We feel like to this point, we’ve been successful in helping producers when their livestock has been depredated,” he said. “We feel very strongly that the program needs to continue.”

Defenders of Wildlife, a pro-wolf group, disagrees with the board’s mandate to fund only lethal control efforts, said Suzanne Stone, the group’s senior representative in the Northwest region.

A long-term study in Blaine County funded by the group has shown that non-lethal methods are more effective than lethal ones in stopping wolves from depredating on livestock, she said.

Based on Wildlife Services’ 2017 performance measurement report, the state is paying $6,129 per livestock to kill wolves in response to each depredation, Stone said.

“Lethal control can cause more livestock losses long-term than using non-lethal control methods,” she said. “If your goal is to minimize livestock depredations, then you need non-lethal methods to do that.”

Boyle said Defenders’ desire to allow the board to fund non-lethal control actions “is absolutely nothing we’re interested in. We are not interested in that in any way, shape or form. When wolves come and kill your livestock, you can’t deal with them with non-lethal methods.”