Idaho Fish and Game Commission suspends 2008-2012 Wolf Management Plan
Directs Department to prepare a new plan consistent with 2002 Legislative Plan.
The IDFG Commission voted unanimously to suspend the 2008-2012 wolf management plan, which maintains a wolf population of 518 wolves in the state of Idaho, and directed the Department to prepare “an appropriate wolf species management plan, consistent with the 2002 Idaho Wolf Conservation and Management Plan approved by the Idaho Legislature and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”
In other words, this means that the IDFG has abandoned all pretense of biological or scientific management of wolves in favor of a politically driven plan which only commits to maintain 10 packs minimum but would institute remedial management measures if the population falls below 15 packs.
IDFG Wolf Motion to suspend 2008 plan
Here is the language of the motion which was unanimously passed:
(1) Continue the pursuit of control actions under 10j for the protection of ungulate herds while wolves remain listed under the Endangered Species Act;
(2) Suspend immediately the 2008-2012 Idaho Wolf Population Management Plan; and
(3) Postpone consideration, until delisting resumes, as to the specifics of day-to-day state wolf management and upon delisting of gray wolves in Idaho; the Commission will direct the Department to prepare an appropriate wolf species management plan, consistent with the 2002 Idaho Wolf Conservation and Management Plan approved by the Idaho Legislature and the u.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Youtube video of the meeting and more comment to come. Watch this space.
Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project. We do not accept unsolicited “guest” authors or advertising.
24 Responses to Idaho Fish and Game Commission suspends 2008-2012 Wolf Management Plan
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We always knew that they would do this. That’s why few believed the Idaho wolf plan which claimed it would allow about 500 wolves. For Butch Otter and crew, it was always 100 wolves, and better none at all.l
It also shows why the lawsuits against delisting (which meant state management) were necessary.
Idaho government never could be trusted to manage wolves above the absolute minimum level.
These Fish and Game commissioners are stuck in the 1890s and there is no reason for any policy toward them except relentless opposition on this issue.
So, they want to kill over 900 wolves. Disgusting bastards they are! They better prepare for many more lawsuits and more public backlash all from all throughout the country. Although I am against all predator hunting, a regulated hunt is better than killing off the majority of the wolf population.
Niwa argues with Butch Otter.
Otter- we didn’t want the dam things here in the first place.
Okay, that’s all 5 of the videos. It seems that the anti wolf crowd wasn’t aware of the meeting with the exception of Lenore Barret. They were trying to recruit people to show up at the mega-loads hearings.
Horrible. This shows what they are made of. Its as if they are lashing out at the wolves in anger!
Ann, it was never about science with these people. It has always been about politics. They don’t want the wolves killing their elk and deer. This is pro-hunter politics at its finest. That is the problem with wildlife management. It is all about satisfying the needs of hunters and non-hunters have no say what so ever.
And no state should have the right to exterminate whichever wildlife they don’t want there.
More proof why wolves need the protection of the ESA! We all knew before today where Idaho stood on wolves. They just aren’t playing pretend anymore. Montana is not any better. Wolves are doomed if they every get turned back over to the states.
It’s like a time warp and we have digressed back to 1926!
This thing gets more screwed up as each day goes by.
Quite honestly it is hard to tell who is at fault. I do believe, however, if this technical DPS legal argument had not been made and won in the trial court, and the plaintiffs had stuck to the science of recovery it would not be in the chaotic state it is today.
Something about winning battles but losing wars comes to mind. Be careful what you wish for.
“…plaintiffs had stuck to the science of recovery…”
The operative term here is “recovery”, and the fundamental issue here is that there is no “science of recovery”. There is science that suggests the population is viable and legislative history that suggests that recovery entails more than population viability. The “big picture” argument is over what constitutes “recovery”–the continuous focus on DPS issue and the population’s viability only detract from this debate and provide both sides with the pretense that science is on their side.
The whole “recovery” thing is kind of a quagmire.
A species is not recovered until it is no longer endangered. A species is endangered if a state has a management plan that is an “inadequate regulatory mechanism.” But to determine if a species can be delisted, that state’s regulatory mechanisms must be evaluated using the “best available scientific data.”
How the hell do you evaluate the adequacy of a regulatory scheme with scientific data? It’s a legal question, and a value-laden one at that. Science can tell you if you’re clearly wrong based on empirical data, but when you add laws, human implementation and chaos into the mix you need a crystal ball (or a bias) to guide you. You can’t take clear pictures of fuzzy objects, but that’s what the law demands.
Technically, Wyoming could meet FWS’s recovery plan goals by keeping 150 wolves on display at Cabela’s in chemically induced comas (so long as the occasional female is artificially inseminated with outside genetic stock). But that kind of ignores the spirit and purpose of the ESA.
Of course, that probably depends on who you ask.
there can be ways to evaluate the adequacy of a regulatory scheme … for example, many environmental laws at the federal level (NEPA, ESA, FLPMA, NFMA) employ regulatory mechanisms that ensure lawful administration and mechanisms that protect the public interest/values. Each of the laws provide for public oversight via a suite of administrative requirements (public comment periods, administrative protest &/or appeal opportunities, and public enforcement via citizen-suit provisions granting public the ability to petition their grievance to courts, providing for objective judicial ‘check’ ~ enforceability from outside to keep decision-makers honest in the event that other remedies are exhausted).
Political science includes a variety of objective disciplines which describe mechanisms that provide for the assurance of protected values. The U.S. Constitution is perhaps the best known example of such. Checks & balances, bill of rights etc. etc. etc. = regulatory mechanisms. Their efficacy can often be measured via empirical inquiry ~ the discipline of political science does that.
All states have state statutes that provide for such “regulatory mechanisms” for a variety of public (& private) interests that could be reasonably inferred to provide assurances that a given value shall be protected. That’s what the law does. Why not determine and describe the adequacy of those mechanisms for wolves ? That’s what the ESA says needs to be present to pass management on to the states !
For the environment in general, California has a SEPA (state environmental policy act), Washington has a SEPA (both of the two also have state-level endangered species statutes) – and Montana has a MEPA (Montana environmental policy act). Many states have such with respect to the environment. Each of these statutes in these state have provisions providing for public oversight – including legitimate public involvement and access to administrative remedy (some better than others), judicial oversight (even by way of citizen access to courts !) to ensure that statutes are properly administered & enforced ~ values protected …
Idaho has statutes that protect regulatory mechanisms ensuring a variety of public and private values.
However – Idaho DOES NOT have statutes which employ those basic administrative, judicial, regulatory mechanisms of protection for wolves. If the public has a grievance with the way IDFG manages wolves – tough… it’ll probably take a petition to the federal government to do anything about it. Public comments hit the trash can – there is no legitimate/enforceable mechanism ensuring meaningful public oversight of wolf management provided by any of the proposed/passed wolf management plans. The IDFG isn’t even really independent (politically insulated) from the will of the governor … etc. etc. etc. and the game commission’s action today employed NO public comment, NO access to administrative adjudication/remedy (let alone judicial !) of any grievance. etc. etc. etc. there’s no accountability.
We know what regulatory mechanism are … we know how to describe which ones might be more successful and where within the state’s management.
With wolves — we can objectively say that state management plans flagrantly OMMIT most of them (certainly the effective ones) — and we can point to decisions like the commissioners made today and say “see, this administrative body just evaporated any pretense of scientific management within the course of an hour on a Wednesday morning conference call.”
That vulnerability for wolves exists, and would still exist – even with state management.
That’s NOT a governing system that demonstrates adequate regulatory mechanisms to ensure recovery – particularly in a political atmosphere as openly hostile to wolves as exists in this state !
I mean – this state has spited most meaningful provisions of the ESA … we might debate a clear reading of the statute regarding DPS, maybe debate the biology, perhaps the regulatory mechanisms … so many ways that the USFWS has failed in holding the states accountable – so many ways that the states have fallen short with respect to the statute …
the confusion comes when people respond out of fear, and would have wolf advocates bend over at each controversial headline or with the political wind.
we need to not confuse a feeble spine for an able mind, carry our facts with conviction, and stand tall.
I wasn’t saying that there aren’t procedural/regulatory standards or enforcement mechanisms designed to prevent arbitrary decisions. Rather, I was saying that they aren’t always meaningful, well designed, or faithfully applied.
Scientific data and legal standards may be objective on their faces, but the decisions that underlie their application are largely discretionary. The devil lies in the large adjectives. How do you convince a judge that something is/is not arbitrary if he disagrees with your reasoning? How reasonable is reasonable? How adequate is adequate, and to what degree of certainty?
Maybe that’s too cynical, but it seems to happen fairly often.
i think you’re probably right … the threshold for whether a reg. mechanism is adequate is largely unclear … it might take a demonstration of inadequacy (i.e. the slaughter of wolves below “recovery” levels) to compel a judge to act on such a legal standard …
I think it is crystal clear. Idaho’s state government never intended to honor their wolf management plan. It was created simply so USFWS would give them wolf management authority. They intended to abolish their state plan ASAP.
Because DOI apparently did not agree to seek a congressional delisting of wolves in the just failed negotiations, Idaho negotiators walked.
If Idaho got or gets a congressional delisting of wolves, they will kill them all. Now, the federal government is again managing wolves in Idaho and Idaho has said they won’t. They abolished the state wolf plan just like they had intended. They just did it soon then they had planned.
It’s back to 1995 – 2003 in Idaho. That time was just fine in my opinion.
If it was left and stayed the way it was with the Hunt last year would you have agreed with that Ralph? I think everything simmered down and hunters were happy, some pro-wolf agreed or went along! Now it’s screwed and I don’t think it is going to make things better, I think it’s going to get a lot worse.
All said and done, I think the wolf status as of March 2010 was OK. The hunt did not decimate the wolf population, and it, and probably other things, stopped the wolf population from growing.
I think most folks could have adjusted to that. However, Butch Otter and the Commission could not leave well enough along. The greatly increased the take for hunt that would begin in the fall of 2010, starting talking about denning and poison, and pretty much scaring the hell out of folks on the pro-wolf recovery side.
So Ralph, where do we go from here? Idaho clearly wants to kill 900 plus wolves. We all know this isn’t based on science and rather politics.
I agree with you but did not know or hear of any greater kill rate or other tacics to decimate wolves! I did not read or was ignorant to the information on those options until I read things on this site,(denning and poison) never seen anything on that. That’s why I read your site to have actual info on all things going on, not just one side and I thank you for it!
Just my thought, I think this is going to more harm than good! If this stays tied up in court, I really think most ranchers ect are going to just kill wolves on site! And now with the F&G outta the way there is know way in hell the feds could possibly take care of inforcement. I do not in any way condone the poaching of wolves, but I gurantee it is going to become a major proplem. This is the last straw and shit gonna hit the fan, our Gov’t is so inept of solving anything anymore it is beyond ridiculous! This is not a good thing for Wolves or any Wildlife it’s going to become a bad example of things to come!
I see a parallel or two with the state-federal relationship over subsistence management in Alaska. ANILCA, passed by Congress in 1980, required a “rural priority” for access to fish and wildlife on federal lands. Initially, it looked like the state (which has “subsistence” as a priority in law) was going to be able to manage in compliance with federal law and it didn’t seem to be like any big deal in the news. However, a few who were unhappy with the idea challenged it, and the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution does not allow discrimination based on where you live, so the state could not comply. Then there followed a move for a vote to amend the state constitution so the state could comply. But opposition in urban areas began to build and found traction with politicians who repeatedly blocked putting it to a vote.
Finally, after numerous warnings and reprieves, the Feds moved in 2 decades ago and set up a shadow fish and wildlife system that deals with subsistence by federally qualified residents on federal land and waters and has authority to restrict other users. Opponents of a rural priority said the only remedy was to challenge the federal law (exemplified in the Katie John case) all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But Governor Knowles declined to pursue the case after losing in the 9th Circuit, which pleased the Alaska native community but I believe was a mistake because it left unsettled forever in the minds of opponents a burning example of betrayal of states rights (and also may have cost him a later shot at that U.S. Senate).
So now, like the wolf issue, there is a very politically strong, resolute consensus in much of the urban and railbelt hunting community against a rural preference, and it continues to feed into anti-federal sentiment. On the other side of the issue, rather than environmentalists is mostly the statewide native community.
Although the feds made a few ham-fisted moves at first, my impression is that federal and state agencies have tried to make the confused, redundant system work as well as possible, although it is not a shining example of government efficiency. However, one fairly direct effect of having run out of options to challenge the big-gorilla federal wildlife law requiring a rural preference was that opponents turned their focus to pushing through a big-gorilla state law that officially designates “human consumptive use” as the highest and best use of most of the moose, caribou and deer populations in the state and requires implementation of an intensive management plan for any population falling below a level able to support a target level of harvest specified in law. If you can’t have an equal access right at all times and places with federally eligible rural residents, you can at least make sure you have legal priority over predators.
Like the western wolf issue, my feelings about a rural subsistence priority are not completely clear-cut on one side or another. It’s clear to me that each situation has a best overall solution that usually falls in between having a complete over-riding local priority and allowing none. A rural priority may constitute dreaded “zip code discrimination” but that’s a lot easier for an unhappy individual to do something about compared with racial discrimination which many Alaska natives would have preferred (but was traded away under ANCSA for land and money) and which prevails in wildlife management in Canada. One guy who took a teaching job at Anaktuvuk Pass has written a number of articles in outdoor magazines about his exclusive Dall sheep hunting in Gates of the Arctic Park, and a hard core hunter or two have retired to qualified towns around Wrangell-St. Elias expressly for legal access to the largest Dall rams in the world that live in the upper Chitina River and can only be legally accessed for “federal subsistence purposes” by foot or small boat, not airplane. It’s not entirely discrimination, but partly choice.
On the other hand, an absolute rural priority for a certain group to take as much as they want before anybody else has any access has serious problems because it promotes complacency and waste, which certainly does occur in some rural areas as ELK275 pointed out in another post. Managing for stable access to important local resources should be a high priority, but everybody should also have some stake as much of the time as possible — even if it’s a low-odds draw for a very small number of permits — above a population level that provides minimal subsistence needs.
When you leave dueling federal and state laws to decide things, you can end up with unintended consequences. One is that about the only subsistence priority that has passed muster in under the state system is Tier II, which awards points and allocates permits based on an individual’s historical use (including animals taken in the past by other hunters in a household). That quickly translates into something resembling private property rights that can practically be passed down from generation to generation. It gets a bit ridiculous when somebody is driving 2 days each way from Anchorage to their old home in the Chilkat Valley to exercise their subsistence right to a moose, an animal that might tide a small family over multiple years, when somebody who has lived continuously in the valley for 10 years may never get enough points to be allowed to hunt. In response to this complaint, the Board of Game in the past year attempted a new approach to allocate a portion of Nelchina caribou permits to be distributed within small local communities and put the rest up for drawing with the caveat that only one permit is allowed per household and you cannot hunt moose or caribou in the same year in any other unit (meaning if you are a globetrotting hunter it is not subsistence). Unfortunately, that attempt at fairness and reason was successfully challenged by a hunter who wanted to keep his exclusive annual right, and has so far been shot down in state court.
In any case, I think state politicians and governments in the NRM may be making a big mistake in putting their eggs in a single legislative solution basket and refusing to participate in managing wolves. In two decades, they could still be in indefinite stalemate just like we are with subsistence. They may prove to have been their own worst enemy, and that of their state in general, by amplifying the views of an extreme base. That’s not to say there’s a shining alternative example, because Great Lakes wolves have been persistently impossible to delist over a longer period under considerably more favorable social and biological conditions. Looking for something positive, I guess one potential benefit (although unwelcome by many and dependent on the level of mortality from poaching, wildlife services, etc.) of a state-imposed stalemate would be to allow more time to actually examine how a less-exploited wolf population (in combination with other predators) affects various ungulate prey populations — as opposed to states’ apparent intended early and broad application of the “precautionary principle”(apologies to conservation biologists) in suppressing wolves to protect prey. More information is usually good.
Your last paragraph sums up the risks pretty well. Seeking a legislative solution (definitely not a sure thing) to fix what states perceive as the problem, won’t mean they just wait around and do nothing in the interim.
There will undoubtedly be escalated efforts to pursue legal 109(j) reductions of wolves in certain areas, and if those are not granted by way of FWS denials of actions or continued litigation on the issue, there will likely be some self-help. It will be, as it has already shaped up in ID, no expenditure of state resources to investigate and prosecute wolf killings. Butch has already said that. FWS does not have the resources to do the job, and will likely not get them even if they plead. So, there will be self-help. Count on it. Whether it will suppress numbers of wolves, affecting density or distribution in range, is anyone’s guess.
My next questions – What will MT do and when?
Idaho legislature’s temper-tantrum-mentality has worked so well for them in the past, why stop now? It doesn’t require much in the way of intelligence or factual and objective reasoning.