By GOV. C.L. "BUTCH" OTTER
The public hearings are over. But Idahoans who often are drowned out by folks who don't live here can still be heard on removing wolves from the endangered species list.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service extended its public comment period 30 days, until May 9, on the proposed delisting of gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains, including Idaho.
Some of us spend the better part of a lifetime griping about the federal government imposing its will on us or taking us for granted. Here's our chance to make a difference.
Join me in doing more than wishing the feds would get off our backs. Let them hear what you have to say about the delisting of wolves, loud and clear.
About 240 people attended a March 6 public hearing in Boise on delisting. It was the only hearing held in Idaho, and I understand it was the most heavily attended of the six. That's not surprising since Idaho shares with Wyoming and Montana the distinction as habitat for gray wolves reintroduced from Canada in the mid-1990s.
Idaho's federally approved management plan enables the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to employ sportsmen or other appropriate tools to protect private property from the pack predators where consistent patterns of chronic livestock depredation are documented, and where wolves are damaging elk herds.
My comments supporting state management of a fully recovered, stable and thriving wolf population were submitted in Boise. The capital city, however, is a long way to travel for folks ranching in the Lemhi Valley or looking for elk in the Clearwater country.
My hope now is that Idahoans from Porthill to Preston and Gibbonsville to Grand View offer as much firsthand, factual information as possible to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The vast majority of comments so far have been value-based. That's fine, as far as it goes. If more are needed, I have hundreds and hundreds of letters and e-mails sent to my office by individuals from New York to California. Not all are fit to print.
But the agency also needs information on the size of wolf habitat in Idaho and whether Wyoming's participation matters to delisting here. That's where you come in.
Comments and documentation on the delisting proposal, identified as RIN number 1018-AU53, can be submitted via:
1) The Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov.
2). E-mail: WesternGrayWolf@fws.gov. Include "RIN number 1018-AU53" in the subject line of the message.
3) Fax: (406) 449-5339.
4) Mail, hand delivery or courier: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Western Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, MT 59601.
If your comments reflect half of what you tell me, the feds will be hard pressed to ignore it.
Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, a Republican, started his first term in office in January 2007.