Friday, August 27, 2010

Senators: Wolf decision ignores Idaho’s success

Crapo and Risch call for appeal

Express Staff Writer

An Idaho wolf peers over a sagebrush-covered hillside. Courtesy photo

Idaho's senators, citing the state's success in wolf management, issued a call Tuesday for an appeal of a court decision to relist Idaho wolves under the Endangered Species Act.

The call came in the form of a letter from Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, asking him to appeal Federal District Judge Donald Molloy's Aug. 5 decision that species cannot be listed or delisted according to state lines.

The letter refers to Idaho's successful management of the state's wolf population, which has boosted numerical recovery since 1999. There are currently an estimated 835 wolves in Idaho, well over the federally required minimum.

"These levels of success were at one time considered unattainable, but our state, through close work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, showed otherwise," the letter states. "This ruling entirely ignores the successful recovery of the gray wolf in Idaho."

Salazar was a defendant in the initial case, and therefore can appeal the judge's decision while the senators cannot.

The senators' voices join those of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, which called for an appeal of the decision last Monday during its scheduled meeting.

Like the senators, the commission cannot launch an appeal on its own, but it can support an appeal from one of the case's defendants, likely the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Neither Salazar nor the Fish and Wildlife Service have stated publicly whether they will file an appeal.

Molloy's decision earlier this month placed wolves back under federal protection and effectively canceled Idaho's 2010-11 wolf-hunting season.

The decision to relist the entire Rocky Mountain wolf population, which inhabits Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, was based in part on Wyoming's failure to develop an approved wolf management plan.

Idaho and Montana have been managing wolves according to approved state plans since the species' most recent delisting in 2009.

Idaho and Montana's plans were deemed sufficient to ensure that the wolf population would remain recovered, but Wyoming's plan classified wolves as vermin in part of the state, allowing them to be shot on sight. The plan was ruled incompatible with wolf recovery.

Katherine Wutz:

Wolf advocates end compensation trust

Defenders of Wildlife announced last week that the nonprofit conservation organization will disband its Wolf Compensation Trust, which has paid more than $1.4 million to livestock owners for predatory losses over 23 years.

Defenders of Wildlife said the trust has been disbanded because of new legislation that provides federal funds to states for livestock compensation, negating the need for the organization's trust.

The legislation is part of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, and provides up to $140,000 in federal funds to states to help compensate for livestock losses and also to prevent wolf-livestock conflicts.

The federal funds require a state match of 50 percent. Compensation payments already made to Idaho ranchers by Defenders of Wildlife are being counted as part of Idaho's required match.

According to the organization, ending the trust will allow it to focus resources on the Wolf Coexistence Partnership, which strives to prevent wolves from preying on livestock.

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