at wolf plan
By GREG STAHL
and the ASSOCIATED PRESS
Idaho lawmakers sparred this week
over a proposal from Gov. Dirk Kempthorne that would delineate
management responsibilities over Idaho’s reintroduced gray wolves and
give some management authority to the Nez Perce Tribe.
A Tuesday afternoon meeting of the
House Resources Committee quickly ended when committee Chairman Bert
Stevenson banged his gavel down to end the heated discussion.
Conservative members of the
committee grilled Jim Caswell, the administrator of the Governor’s
Office of Species Conservation, accusing him of negotiating with the Nez
Perce Tribe behind closed doors.
The tribe is contracted by the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to oversee gray wolf recovery in Idaho.
Wolves, listed as an endangered species, were reintroduced to Idaho in
1995 and 1996. There are estimated to be 370 wolves in the state.
Earlier this month, Caswell’s
office released a memorandum of agreement, to be presented to the Nez
Perce Tribe, outlining a collaborative process of future wolf
management. The agreement would allow the state to begin sharing wolf
management activities more quickly than if it waited for the animals to
be removed from the Endangered Species Act. It would also allow the
tribe to remain involved after the wolves are removed from the list.
Committee members smarted at the
idea, partly because they said they were unaware of the agreement and
partly because they said they believed it compromises the state’s
post-listing position with the tribe.
During the Tuesday hearing, Rep.
Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, who lives in one of the state’s hotbeds of
wolf controversy, threw her pencil and argued with Stevenson at the end
of the committee table.
During previous sessions, Barrett
suggested the only kind of wolf management Idaho should entertain is
extermination. Barrett was angry with Caswell’s work, pointing to a
legislative statement passed in 2001 that called for the unequivocal
removal of wolves from the state.
Barrett said Caswell’s office was
given authority to "talk or consult" with the tribes and federal
"That’s not the same as making an
agreement with them," she said.
Republican Rep. Lawerence Denney
of Midvale, the House majority leader, tried to ease the tension.
"You’re hearing the frustration of
the committee," he said. "Nobody anticipated an expanded role for the
tribes. And this was a secret until about a week ago."
Barrett, frustrated after 90
minutes of questioning, intended to ask the committee for a vote against
Stevenson said he suspected
something was amiss when he noticed Barrett having pages find fellow
conservative members to bring them back to the hearing room for a vote.
Before she was able to ask for the vote, Stevenson gaveled the meeting
closed. Barrett threw her pencil.
"You didn’t allow me to have a
say," protested loudly.
"I don’t allow you to make that
kind of motion," Stevenson said. "I expected the courtesy of you telling
me what the game plan was."
Caswell said members of the
committee have a misconception that the tribe would be out of the wolf
management business after the species is removed for the ESA. Rather,
the tribe would undoubtedly be a part of the management plan for years
to come whether or not the state ultimately signs the agreement, he