Reports out of Idaho are surfacing that say that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game intends to ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for permission to kill wolves that are destroying elk and deer populations in the Lolo Zone of North Central Idaho. Fish and Game Director Cal Groen says they have the proof that this is happening.
What is also being said is that this plan to ask the Feds to kill wolves is a contingency plan just in case the new Obama administration decides not to proceed with wolf delisting.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the state of Idaho should not be sitting on their hands hoping they can fall back on this plan. It is my understanding that the freeze President Obama put on the wolf delisting process is in effect for 120 days. That would take us into as late as mid-May and if Obama agrees to proceed, another 30 days would be necessary only after a Final Rule is published. 60 days thereafter the lawsuits would begin.
Here’s part of the problem. If the state of Idaho is still operating under the Amended 10j Rule, here’s the process the state must undergo BEFORE the USFWS would grant this killing of wolves in the Lolo.
Options for ungulate management in amended 10j rule
(v) Take in response to wild ungulate impacts. If wolf predation is having an unacceptable impact on wild ungulate populations (deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, antelope, or bison) as determined by the respective State or Tribe, a State or Tribe may lethally remove the wolves in question.
(A) In order for this provision to apply, the State or Tribes must prepare a science-based document that:
(1) Describes the basis of ungulate population or herd management objectives, what data indicate that the ungulate population or herd is below management objectives, what data indicate that wolves are a major cause of the unacceptable impact to the ungulate population or herd, why wolf removal is a warranted solution to help restore the ungulate population or herd to State or Tribal management objectives, the level and duration of wolf removal being proposed, and how ungulate population or herd response to wolf removal will be measured and control actions adjusted for effectiveness;
(2) Demonstrates that attempts were and are being made to address other identified major causes of ungulate herd or population declines or the State or Tribe commits to implement possible remedies or conservation measures in addition to wolf removal; and
(3) Provides an opportunity for peer review and public comment on their proposal prior to submitting it to the Service for written concurrence. The State or Tribe must:
(i) Conduct the peer review process in conformance with the Office of Management and Budget’s Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review (70 FR 2664, January 14, 2005) and include in their proposal an explanation of how the bulletin’s standards were considered and satisfied; and
(ii) Obtain at least five independent peer reviews from individuals with relevant expertise other than staff employed by a State, Tribal, or Federal agency directly or indirectly involved with predator control or ungulate management in Idaho, Montana, or Wyoming.
(B) Before we authorize lethal removal, we must determine that an unacceptable impact to wild ungulate populations or herds has occurred. We also must determine that the proposed lethal removal is science-based, will not contribute to reducing the wolf population in the State below 20 breeding pairs and 200 wolves, and will not impede wolf recovery.
I have no idea at what point the IDFG is at in complying with this Amended 10j but it is obvious this will take time. If the state waits until after President Obama has made a decision, at what point will the elk and deer populations be? We have already heard one report that elk numbers are dangerously low.
It would seem in the best interest of all the citizens of Idaho if the IDFG proceeded immediately through the process to protect the elk and deer and not wait. Another full winter of wolf predation on already dangerously low elk and deer herd numbers could run the risk of reaching levels too low to recover.