BOISE • A bill designed to reduce Idaho’s wolf population by killing almost 500 animals breezed Friday through the Idaho House.
State representatives voted 49-16, with all of the House’s Democrats and five Republicans in opposition.
“Anytime you mention wolves in the Idaho Legislature, you draw attention” said state Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, the legislation’s House sponsor.
The proposed legislation — which includes a sunset clause to retire in 2019 — calls for a five-member oversight board made up of directors from the state Department of Fish and Game and Department of Agriculture, as well representatives from livestock industry, public at large and sportsmen.
The board would be tasked with overseeing a proposed $2 million wolf depopulation effort, amid complaints from farmers that wolves are preying on livestock.
Many of the legislation’s supporters expressed displeasure with the creation of another regulatory body.
But the state was left with little choice because of federal inaction, supporters said.
“I don’t like anything about this bill, but I’m going to have to vote for it,” said state Rep. Joan Wood, R-Rigby. “It’s going on my calendar as one of the worst bills I’ve ever had to vote for.”
Repeating a proposal he made during the bill’s hearing, state Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, said that he would like to see a the wolf population fenced inside Yellowstone National Park.
“The more I think about it,” he said, before voting in favor of the bill. “The more I think this could work. … We could probably get funding from all over the world.”
State Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, said creating a new board was fiscally irresponsible.
“When will this stop?” Rubel asked. “Will we need a new board for mountain lions? This bill takes away two teachers per school district to save one cow per legislative district.”
State Rep. Cindy Agidus, R-Moscow, said the board was another layer of unnecessary government. She suggested putting a bounty on wolves to reduce the population.
“I feel like we have gone from one extreme to the next,” she said.
The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it’s carried by Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson.