Idaho Republicans serving in Congress say that it’s uncertain whether Idaho will regain the authority to manage its gray wolf population this year. All of Idaho’s delegation supports the state’s claims that wolves shouldn’t be protected by the endangered species list, but legislative efforts could run up against the lame duck Congress’s deadline.
“Due to the limited time remaining this year and the number of items that have to be addressed, it is very unlikely that the wolf issue will be brought to the floor during the lame duck session,” Sen. Jim Risch said via e-mail. Earlier this fall, Risch spoke on the Senate floor saying that the federal government has no business dealing with wolves in the state of Idaho, except for the hook of the Endangered Species Act.
Action by Congress could return management of wolves to northern Rockies states. At a meeting Monday, three western governors reportedly agreed with Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar to let Salazar ask Congress to hand the reins on wolves back to the states.
Risch and Sen. Mike Crapo are sponsoring legislation to delist wolves in Idaho, Montana, and parts of Utah, Oregon, and Washington. Montana’s senators, Democrats Max Baucus and Jon Tester, are backing a similar plan that only delists them in Idaho and Montana. Risch said he’d prefer his broader plan, but would support Baucus and Tester if his legislation couldn’t gain approval.
Crapo’s spokesman, Lindsay Nothern, said he wouldn’t rule out legislative action during the lame duck session and said there could be legislative action this week. He said there are currently discussions about whether to keep the wolf management issue as a stand-alone issue or to attach it to other legislation that’s being debated. Nothern said the decision depends on which path would lead to approving a plan that would put Idaho back in charge of wolves.
Rep. Mike Simpson said the August court decision that put wolves in Idaho and Montana back on the endangered species list has led to increasing problems that he’s trying to solve. “I am continuing to work with my colleagues in Congress and in Idaho to find a long-term legislative solution to the problem of wolf management,” Simpson said via e-mail.