The Defenders of Wildlife is marking the one year anniversary of Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson’s budget rider that removed wolves from the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act.
Since Simpson will face Marvin “Chick” Heileson in the Republican Primary May 15, he probably doesn't mind Defenders reminding everyone of one of his major accomplishments this term.
It was May 5 last year that Simpson’s rider returned management of gray wolves in Idaho and Montana to the states. Since then Idaho hunters and trappers shot 375 wolves and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game estimated the population at about 570.
“In the past year, state officials have pursued some of the exact same short-sighted, predator control strategies from the 1800s that put wolves on the endangered species list in the first place,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife and a former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “They’re treating wolves like vermin instead of managing them like valuable native wildlife. That’s not how Idaho manages other species like black bears and mountain lions, and it’s not a responsible way to manage wolves either.”
By the group’s own description, state wildlife managers haven’t “decimated” as Clark suggested, the wolf population any more than wolves are decimating the elk population.
Clark points out that Fish and Game had written a plan in 2009 that set as it goal maintaining 518 to 732 wolves. The estimated population is in that ball park after hunting season.
But what they really don’t like is that Gov. Butch Otter pushed the independent Fish and Game Commission to rescind that plan in part because groups like Defenders said it wasn’t enough. So now the state’s goal is back to somewhere between 150 and 300 wolves to the chagrin of Defenders.
Idaho lawmakers are disappointed that more wolves weren’t killed. Only Simpson’s intervention kept Idaho Republican Sen. Jeff Siddoway from carrying a law to the floor of the Senate that would have made it easier to kill wolves.
“The Obama administration and members of Congress who supported the wolf rider share the blame for stripping vital protections without adequate safeguards in place, and now it’s their job to hold Idaho accountable,” Clark said. “ The question is: How low will Idaho have to go before those responsible for the wolf’s premature delisting do something?”
So don't look for wolf lovers to campaign door-to-door for Obama's re-election.
Clark replaced Roger Schlickeisen as president of Defenders. She’s worked with state leaders in her past role and may have more credibility than Schlickeisen, who more than once ignored past commitments his group had made to westerners when wolves were reintroduced.
Defenders still wants more wolves than Idahoans appear ready to tolerate. But they won’t get any more credibility with “decimate” rhetoric about wolves than anti-wolf groups have with elk.