Friday, September 27, 2013

State doles out funds for wolf losses

Express Staff Writer

    The Idaho State Wolf Depredation Compensation Board on Wednesday distributed $72,000 in federal funds to ranchers who had sustained livestock losses due to wolf depredation in 2012. Two ranchers who graze sheep in Blaine County were among those awarded the money.
    The eight-member board is composed of county representatives and is part of the Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation.
    Office Administrator Dustin Miller said the “confirmed and probable” losses verified by the federal Wildlife Services agency totaled 12 cows, 44 calves, 138 ewes, 66 lambs, two rams and one dog.
    Those numbers included 25 ewes and 12 lambs lost at the Flat Top Ranch near Carey, as well as 18 ewes and 18 lambs lost by the Faulkner Sheep Co., which is based in Lincoln County but grazes animals on federal land in Blaine County.
    The compensation money came from legislation passed by Congress in 2009 creating the Wolf Livestock Loss Demonstration Project. The bill provided states and Indian tribes with $1 million annually for five years, divided equally between compensation funds and money to help ranchers undertake non-lethal prevention activities. The funds were appropriated in 2010 and 2012, but not for 2011 or 2013.
    Miller said those gaps came as a surprise to Idaho officials, who had expected the funding to be for five consecutive years.
    According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the 2012 funds were distributed to 10 states and to the San Carlos Apache Tribe.
    Miller said distribution of the 2012 funds was delayed by the federal sequestration and was reduced to $850,000. He said Idaho received $80,000 for loss compensation claims and $50,000 for prevention projects.
    Miller said the board received only $72,000 in loss claims for 2012, but he thinks that figure was lower than actual losses and many ranchers did not file applications because they thought there would be no money available.
    Miller added that he was disappointed by the small sum of $50,000 made available for non-lethal deterrent activities.
    “In our opinion, it’s not going to do much to reduce wolf-livestock conflicts—it’s just not enough funding,” he said.
    Miller said the board will decide how to spend that money at a later meeting.
    Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen is not a board member but said he was invited to attend the Wednesday meeting due to his experience with the Wood River Wolf Project, which helps ranchers with deterrent activities. He said that effort alone spends about $50,000 annually. But despite the small sum, he said, he is pleased that the state is beginning to distribute money for non-lethal deterrence. He said he feels confident that the board will spend it wisely.
    “I think deterrence is an excellent strategy and we’ve proven that it works,” he said. “It’s time for the Idaho Legislature to take deterrence seriously.”
Greg Moore:

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