Almost two weeks after the deadline that Gov. Butch Otter set for a wolf management agreement, the governor is making good on his threat to withdraw state support for federal management efforts.
"The State will not manage wolves as the designated agent of the federal government," Otter wrote in an Oct. 18 letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. "I am directing the Idaho Fish and Game Commission to immediately refocus its efforts on protecting our ungulate herds."
Otter's threats to withdraw state support have been called a "political move" by wolf advocates, who state that Otter is using wolf management as a tool late in an election year.
"This defiant move is exactly the kind of Wild West political chicanery that will appeal a broad population base right before an election," said Garrick Dutcher, spokesman for Ketchum-based advocacy group Living with Wolves.
The language in Otter's letter consistently refers to "enumerated powers" and the "sovereign right" of the state to protect wildlife. It opens by using wolves as an example of what Otter said has gone wrong with the federal government.
"Wolves serve as a constant reminder of how far we have strayed from the Founding Fathers' original intent of a national government with limited, enumerated powers bestowed by the States," the letter reads.
The governor stated in September that if Idaho, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Interior Department could not agree on a plan for wolf management by Oct. 7, the state would not support federal management efforts. The state previously provided monitoring of wolves, law enforcement support and investigation of wolf deaths.
These responsibilities were undertaken by the state in 2006, though the formal agreement with the federal government ended when the northern Rocky Mountain wolves were taken off the endangered species list in February 2008. Wolf management then became wholly a state, rather than a federal, responsibility. In August, a federal district court ordered the relisting of wolves for protections under the Endangered Species Act.
Now that the state has declined management, another organization will be chosen to act as the federal government's agent in the area. The Nez Perce tribe held that position from 1995 until 2003, when the state shouldered some responsibility.
The governor has said that the state will manage wolves if the species is delisted again. Several bills are currently in development that would exclude wolves from ESA protections.
Katherine Wutz: firstname.lastname@example.org