Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Controversial wolf rule could be revised

Change would give Idaho and Montana more flexibility in wolf management

Express Staff Writer

Proposed changes in a federal rule would expand the situations in which wolves can be killed for depredations and to achieve wildlife management objectives.

The rule that governs management of wolves in portions of the northern Rockies under the federal Endangered Species Act is in the process of being rewritten, Idaho Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Bureau Chief Jim Unsworth said in Sun Valley on Thursday. Unsworth was speaking to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission during its quarterly meeting, held over a three-day period last week.

The changes mentioned by Unsworth are proposed for the federal 10(j) rule, which allows wolves attacking livestock and herding and guarding animals to be killed under certain circumstances. The existing rule was published in the Federal Register in 2005 and applies to areas south of U.S. Interstate 90 in Idaho and Montana.

Under the proposed changes—which the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming have submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—the rule would further allow the killing of wolves in areas where ungulate populations are not meeting the state's management objectives. The rule change would also allow the shooting of wolves that attack dogs on public land.

Another possibility under the proposed revision would give the states the ability to designate which agents take part in wolf control actions, Unsworth said.

"That could include hunters," he said.

Questioned by the Fish and Game Commission, Unsworth said that under the revised 10(j) rule Idaho would have about as much management control as it would if the federal government's decision to delist wolves proceeds as planned.

The possible 10(j) rule revisions, which the state of Wyoming first proposed, will likely be published in the Federal Register as early as sometime later this summer, Idaho Department of Fish and Game Large Carnivore Manager Steve Nadeau said in an interview.

The revision will initiate a public comment period, Nadeau said.

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