Idaho congressman welcomes wolf decision

Sep 11, 2009
Idaho congressman welcomes wolf decision

U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-ID, discussed wolf management with new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (US- FWS) Director Sam D.

Hamilton last week on the same day U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy ruled in Missoula, MT, that gray wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana can continue.

Simpson said he was impressed by Hamilton and welcomed Molloy’s muchanticipated ruling which denied an injunction request by environmentalists and animal rights activists to halt the hunts in the Northern Rockies.

“It was nice to meet Mr. Hamilton. We discussed a variety of issues,” Simpson said. “My first impression is he will make a good director of Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Hamilton had previously said his greatest challenge is to bring conservationists, hunters, anglers, land owners, state and federal agencies, and business people together to conserve and enhance treasured wildlife resources.

In 1995, USFWS reintroduced wolves to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming at an estimated cost of $30 million. The approximately 1,650 wolves in the region are five times the original goal set 14 years ago.

Last May, after the wolves were delisted as endangered species in Montana and Idaho, both states initiated gray wolf hunts, limiting kills to 220 in Idaho (25 percent) and 75 in Montana (15 percent).

Under existing management plans, the states technically can kill all but 150 wolves in each state.

Molloy decided killing more than 20 percent of the estimated 1,350 wolves in the two states would not cause long-term harm to the species. He said a hunting harvest exceeding 30 percent could be sustained without jeopardizing the wolves.

“I think the overwhelming majority of Idahoans support this and realize hunting is a management tool and necessary,” Simpson said. “Some don’t like any hunting at all.” Molloy, however, said USFWS appeared to have violated the Endangered Species Act when it removed Wyoming from its decision to lift protections for the Northern Rockies wolves in Idaho and Montana, leaving open the possibility the wolves could be re-listed as endangered.

There are about 300 wolves in Wyoming.

Simpson said Molloy appears to question whether the delisting was done properly by excluding Wyoming, doing it by state rather than geographic boundaries.

Wyoming wolves remain under federal protection because a federal court previously ruled that the state’s wolf management plan put the animals in “serious jeopardy.”

Referring to his meeting with Hamilton, Simpson said that he again “expressed my support for the decision to delist the wolves and put management in the hand of capable state agencies.”

The Idaho Republican commended Idaho hunters for acting responsibly “in the face of uninformed and undeserved criticism,” he said. “I also want to commend Gov. Otter for setting reasonable limits in order to manage these animals effectively.”

Simpson explained that Molloy recognizes Idaho is taking great care to properly maintain its wolf population.

He said it should come as no surprise that when wolves are reintroduced into the wild and attain sustainable numbers, they must be managed like other wild game with hunts.

Simpson also criticized the New York Times for endorsing a call by Friends of Animals to boycott Idaho potatoes in retaliation for the state’s wolf hunt.

“They’re not asking to boycott hamburger products in Alaska,” he remarked.

Some people in Washington, D.C., think Idahoans want to eliminate all wolves, but that would put them back on the Endangered Species List, which would then prohibit hunting, Simpson said. “There’s some argument wolves will be more likely to stay away from domestic herds because, as they are hunted, they will become more elusive.” U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo, R-ID, and Jim Risch, R-ID, are also endorsing Molloy’s decision to allow the wolf hunts to continue in Idaho and Montana.

“Idaho has thoroughly traveled the path toward delisting wolves. The state has a plan that is acceptable to the federal government, and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is already demonstrating its capability of managing the wolves in an effective and sustainable way,” Crapo said.

Risch stated: “I am pleased that the judge has allowed wolf hunting in Idaho to continue, and I hope this brings an end to lawsuits opposing the hunt. Wolf numbers have far exceeded the recovery goals set when they were introduced into the state.

It is time to let Idaho’s game managers do their job and manage wolves just as they do bears, cats and other species.” — Mark Mendiola, WLJ Correspondent