House panel OKs making wolf board permanent

February 14, 2019

BOISE — A bill to make the Wolf Depredation Control Board permanent moved another step closer to becoming law on Wednesday.

The House Resources and Conservation Committee voted to send the bill to the full House. The only “No” votes were from Reps. Mat Erpelding and Rob Mason, both D-Boise.

The bill passed the Senate last week. The board, which is in charge of killing problem wolves that prey on livestock or attack too many deer and elk, will expire on June 30, 2020, without legislative action. The bill also would make permanent the Fish and Game funds and the fees on livestock producers that, along with general fund money, pay for the board’s operations.

Several Republican lawmakers who represent rural districts spoke in support of the measure, saying their constituents have had problems with wolf depredation.

“It is unacceptable,” said Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale. “They never asked for these wolves. The state of Idaho didn’t ask for these wolves.”

Erpelding said he could support the bill if the words “non-lethal” were added, thereby authorizing the board to take part in methods of wolf control other than killing them. Lobbyists for sheep and cattle groups that support the bill said they already take steps to reduce wolf attacks but that there are no other ways to control wolves that are already attacking animals.

“The reality of it is these wolves will just keep coming back,” said Wyatt Prescott, with the Idaho Cattle Association.

The board has received $400,000 a year in general fund money since it was created in 2014, and has a balance of more than $600,000 now, according to a budget presentation earlier this year. Gov. Brad Little is asking for $200,000 in 2019-2020. Board member Carl Rey said that while this will be enough for one year, in the future funding would likely have to go back to $400,000 a year or possibly to something in the $500,000- to $600,000-a-year range. Last year, he said, the board spent more than it took in.

“The trend is clear,” Rey said. “The number of complaints are going up. The number of investigations ... is going up.”