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Idaho lawmakers receive threatening letters over support of controversial wolf bill

Idaho lawmakers receive threatening letters over support of controversial wolf bill

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Wolf

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game captured this wolf on a game camera in July 2019 during a population survey of the animals.

BOISE — Anonymous letters have been sent to a number of Idaho lawmakers in recent weeks, threatening retribution for their votes on a wolf management bill.

The letter describe lawmakers as “nothing more than a sellout to the Cattle Association and that pitiful minority of cattle producers that seemingly dictate how our wildlife lives and dies.”

“You are not a friend of mine, nor are you a friend of nature’s,” the letter continues. “Just as the wolf went from predator to prey, so shall you. It is not your place to play God, but if you will, then so shall I.”

It’s unclear how many lawmakers received the letters, but some found them disturbing enough to forward them to the Idaho State Police.

ISP did not immediately return phone calls Tuesday about the issue. However, House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said he knows of at least a handful of lawmakers who got the letters. That in itself is unusual.

“It doesn’t happen often, where there have been threats to multiple individuals,” he said. “We all get a lot of snarky emails and texts, but we don’t turn them into ISP or the Attorney General’s Office.”

The letters don’t cite any specific legislation, but they appear to be prompted by Senate Bill 1211, which expanded the opportunity for Idaho hunters and landowners to kill wolves.

For example, the bill removed all bag limits on the number of wolves that can be killed by hunting, trapping or snaring, and allows wolves to be trapped year-round on private property.

The measure also increased the annual appropriation to the Wolf Depradation Control Board by $190,000, and gives the board the authority to hire private contractors to exterminate wolves.

Sponsors said they want to reduce Idaho’s wolf population to 15 packs, or about 150 wolves. That would be about a 90% reduction compared to the current population.

The measure passed the Senate on a 26-7 party-line vote. It passed the House 58-11, with only one Democrat in support and no Republicans in opposition.

Rep. Caroline Troy, R-Genesee, and Sen. Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston, both received copies of the letter. Johnson noted that the envelope had a Sacramento post mark, with the Statehouse in Boise listed on the return address.

“It’s OK for people to disagree with my votes or my bills, but some comments cross the line,” he said. “I think this letter comes close to the line, if not stepping over it.”

Troy said the letter was dirty and had apparently been smeared with something. It also had several drawings on it, possibly depicting a tree and some geometric shapes.

“The whole thing was odd,” she said. “I understand that people feel strongly about wolves — I do, too — but I think Idaho is better than this.”

Ten conservation groups filed a notice of intent to sue in July, saying the expanded trapping provisions under the new law pose a threat to other endangered species, such as lynx and grizzly bears. The state has 60 days to respond.

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