Budgets cuts are going to hit sacred cows across the nation and in Idaho the cows came home early.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services agency took deep cuts this year including $247,000 out of its $1.7 million Idaho budget. That cut prompted the agency to back off helicopter hunting of wolves for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game last summer to help elk herds.
That’s because the agency knows where its bread is buttered. It was established to control predators and other wildlife that caused problems for ranchers and farmers, not hunters.
It also wasn’t set up to enhance wildlife. So now that it is obvious that money is not coming back, where do they go to make up the difference?
In the old days, the livestock industry would simply go to Congress and ask that its agency be protected from budget cuts. And if that didn’t work the industry would turn to state legislatures who were dominated by agricultural interests.
But today, the livestock industry faces the same realities everyone else does. Even good programs with universal support are facing cuts. Programs that have critics, like Wildlife Services does, have even less chance of holding the line.
So the Idaho Cattle Association has set up a task force to explore other funding options. That has been interpreted by some as simply going to the state with their hands out.
But Cattle Association Executive Director Wyatt Prescott said it simply isn’t true. The task force is looking at how it can place assessments on various facets of the cattle industry to make up the federal budget cuts.
“We know the state doesn’t have the money to do that so were just looking at ways the industry can fund it,” Prescott said.
They still would have to go to the Idaho Legislature perhaps to get the assessments into law to ensure everyone paid.
If they simply are looking to spend the money on killing predators they are likely missing a funding source and a way to reach out to wildlife groups to help them reduce their problems. There are good researchers, ranchers and groups working on non-lethal methods of reducing predator problems.
They are costly, but so is killing predators.
Imagine if the task force went to Defenders of Wildlife for funds for non-lethal programs to help offset the loss of federal funds. Who knows what would happen.