A recently-passed piece of legislation makes it legal for professional hunters to track and kill 90% of Idaho’s wolf population. The Western Watersheds Project strongly opposed the new law and expressed their belief that the law was not based in any science and instead was politically motivated. This law has major implications for Idaho’s environment and the survival of wolves not only in the state but in the whole country.
The bill came to be over concerns of the wolves’ predator status against livestock and other farm animals. The lawmakers made arguments about the impact of wolves on wild elk populations and the state’s ecology. Many of the claims that the wolves were causing elk populations are untrue, according to available data.
Environmental groups around the state are speaking up against this new law and calling on Idaho’s governor, Brad Little, to veto the bill. The Idaho Fish and Game Commision opposes the bill because it puts the environment management decisions in the hands of politicians over wildlife specialists. The Defenders of Wildlife Group do not like the inaccurate image of the wolf as a ruthless predator when in reality, they help maintain a healthy balance in the ecosystem. The Western Watersheds Project, too, spoke up against the portrayal of wolves and called the legislation a power grab.
Other groups like the Idaho Cattle Association support the bill. The bill would add more protection to the farmers’ animals and allow the free-market to work, with the government hiring contractors to kill the wolves. It seems, however, that the opposition has a louder voice. The lawmakers who drafted the bill had the ranchers and farmers in mind, yet they did not appear to consider finding any common ground with environmental agencies and groups.
The wolf population has just recently recovered to keep it off the endangered species list. This legislation would quickly bring populations back down to an endangered level. While the wolf population in Idaho is roughly 1,500, their threat to livestock has not increased. The new law is a controversial decision that ultimately leaves the power of wildlife management in the hands of politicians instead of the people and groups who are experts in the area.
We will have to keep an eye on Idaho’s wolves as this law will likely continue to face opposition. At this time, it is unclear if Governor Little plans to reverse the decision or uphold the law.