Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wolf project gains county support

Compensation is only caveat

Express Staff Writer

The Wood River Wolf Project got a boost Tuesday when Blaine County commissioners signed a letter of support stating that they want the program to continue for a fourth year.

"[The program] has proven effective in minimizing and nearly eliminating wolf depredation on sheep in these allotments," the letter reads, referring to public grazing lands north of Ketchum where non-lethal wolf management is practiced.

The letter was sent to Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation group that oversees and helps fund the program. Suzanne Stone, spokesman for the group, said she was happy to have the county's official support.

"It's always good to have support on a community level like this," Stone said.

She added that written support will help the group apply for grants to fund the program and its possible expansion.

The letter was drafted after discussion that centered on Defenders of Wildlife's discontinuation of its depredation compensation program. The program, which ended in September, provided payments for livestock producers who lost animals to wolves.

The letter includes a paragraph urging the organization to continue its compensation program.

"Compensation is rightfully a part of any wolf management program and is central to conflict-reduced coexistence," the letter reads.

However, Stone said continuation of the organization's program was "not going to happen."

The program was set to end when wolves were delisted in 2008, but Stone said the organization continued giving payments through 2010 because there was nothing to take the program's place.

Since then, a federal depredation compensation program has been formed that granted the state of Idaho with $140,000 in funding. Stone said that eliminated the need for the organization's program.

In an interview, Schoen argued that county livestock producers have not been satisfied with the amount of funding available.

"There is some money available, but the question is, is that enough?" he said. "If the federal money is inadequate, then it's not a true compensation program."

Stone said her organization's focus is on "coexistence now, rather than compensation."

"Wolves and livestock can coexist, even on public lands, and it's more important than ever to show that that's possible," she said.

Katherine Wutz:

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