On Tuesday, Gov. Butch Otter signed a bill that would essentially allow him to declare a disaster due to the state’s wolf population, even as the animals are in the process from being removed the endangered species list.
The fight over wolves and their spot on the endangered species list took an interesting turn a few weeks ago when Rep. Mike Simpson inserted language to de-list the animals into a spending bill. While this subject has been the subject of a lengthy court battle, the language Simpson inserted into the federal appropriation is not subject to judicial review, meaning that de-listing is almost guaranteed.
At least one conservation group, Defenders of Wildlife, opposed Simpson’s move and said that it’s an example of lawmakers playing politics with wolf populations.
The main backer of the state bill that Otter signed, Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, says the disaster declaration bill is still relevant because the state will be on probation for wolf management for the five years after de-listing. She also said that congressional uncertainty creates the need for the bill.
“What one Congress gives, one Congress can take away,” warned Boyle. ”We never know what the federal government will do and it’s notorious for going back on its word.”
The Midvale Republican says that the state could still lose its authority to oversee wolves if the federal government feels mistakes are made in the process.
Boyle sees the law as one that will promote state sovereignty and help the governor push back against the federal government when necessary. “I’m thrilled he signed it,” Boyle exclaimed. “This gives the governor the power to do as he sees fit without having to worry about the federal government.”
In his press release about the bill signing, Otter didn’t sound too thrilled about approving the measure. He expressed concern that the measure is unneeded because the governor is already allowed to declare disasters when he deems it appropriate.
He also said that the bill does nothing to change the wolf situation for Idaho residents. “Idahoans should know they have always been able to kill a wolf in self defense or in the defense of other humans,” said Otter in the statement. “That has not changed, nor is this legislation or a disaster declaration necessary for anyone to protect themselves or other people from wolves in any part of the state.”
Even with a reluctant governor signing off on the bill, Boyle is happy with the approval. “This is putting people above species,” she concluded.