Boise, Idaho (AP) — Idaho wildlife officials say they are
prepared to manage gray wolves and open the state’s first hunting
season on the predators as early as next fall.
But they are also skeptical they’ll get the chance any time soon
considering the threat of potential lawsuits and next week’s shift
in presidential power.
The federal Interior Department announced Wednesday that the
wolves would be removed from the endangered species list in Idaho
and Montana. The decision gives those states the responsibility for
managing wolves under plans already approved by the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, starting in mid-February.
Jim Unsworth, deputy director of the Idaho Department of Fish
and Game, said he expects the government’s latest attempt to remove
federal protection from the wolves will be stalled by more legal
wrangling in the federal courts.
Unsworth, speaking Wednesday to the state Senate Resources and
Environment Committee, said the ruling could also be suspended when
President-elect Barack Obama takes over later this month.
“We’ve got a new administration and a lot of lawsuits in front
of us,” Nate Fisher, administrator for the state Office of Species
Conservation, told lawmakers.
The federal government has tried previously to remove wolves in
the region from the endangered list and turn management authority
over to the states. But the efforts have been overruled by
About 1,500 wolves in the Northern Rockies were taken off the
list in February 2008. But a federal judge nullified the move in
July, saying state management plans could not guarantee their
recovery was sustainable.
The Northern Rockies wolf population includes all of Montana,
Idaho and Wyoming, the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon,
and a small part of north-central Utah. The federal decision
supports removing wolves in Montana and Idaho, but not Wyoming,
from the endangered species list.
Still, Idaho’s wolf management plan is not without critics.
Suzanne Stone, spokeswoman for Defenders of Wildlife, said the
state plan doesn’t provide enough guarantees to keep the population
stable. State wildlife officials estimate Idaho has about 700
“I think if they’re going to push forward the same rule as last
time then I see this going back to court,” Stone said.
But Fisher contends Idaho has a robust wolf population,
estimated at more than five times the national requirement for
taking an animal off the endangered species list, and more than
enough protections to keep that population healthy.
“As a state, we believe for the most part wolf recovery is
done,” Fisher said.
Unsworth also told lawmakers that the state still intends to
manage wolf numbers through hunting.
The rules drafted for a 2008 wolf hunt established a season from
Sept. 15 to Dec. 31.
The number of wolves to be killed would depend on the population
in each region and the number of wolves killed for interacting with
livestock. In 2008, as many as 350 wolves were eligible to be