Senate and House pass budget bill with wolf delisting rider.

President Obama will sign the bill into law and wolves will no longer enjoy the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

The House and Senate passed a budget bill which included the rider to delist wolves in Idaho, Montana and parts of Oregon, Washington, and Utah but leaves the status of wolves in Wyoming unchanged.  The rider, attached by Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) and Representative Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), mandates that the Secretary of Interior republish the 2009 delisting rule in the Federal Register within 60 days of passage of the bill and restricts the rule from being challenged in court.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill.

The removal of a species from the Endangered Species Act by Congress is an unprecedented move and is likely to be followed by more such moves in the future.  Congress has basically said that if a species becomes too inconvenient to industry then it shouldn’t be allowed protection and management of the species doesn’t have to subject to the best available science.

What comes next is anyone’s guess but surely there will be a great number of wolves killed in Idaho and Montana in areas where their respective game agencies have blamed wolves for declined elk populations. Those killings could begin immediately after the rule is published in the Federal Register and if they occur soon then they will undoubtably end up killing packs of wolves who are near their den sites.  Idaho has committed to maintain only 10-15 breeding pairs or 100-150 wolves in total and they recently passed a wolf disaster declaration which defines a wolf disaster as having any more than 100.  Even though that legislation is now moot because it only applied while wolves were not protected under the ESA, it is a signal of things to come from the legislature next year.

One thing should become abundantly clear.  The livestock industry, with the help of Democrats, did this. If anyone thinks that Democrats represent the interests of wildlife advocates or that the livestock industry presents anything other than a threat to wildlife then they are fooling themselves.  Now that you recognize this what do you do?  Do you hold them accountable?  Do you escape from your codependent behavior that so many of us used to avoid conflict with our families and understand that it is effective politically?  Really, this happened because the anti-wolf crowd was able to rile up people into a fervor using hyperbole and fear that was noticed by politicians who are only worried about their reelection.  That’s how politics works.  The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

At least one group is already blaming the non-settling groups for taking away “leverage to rally senators against Tester and Reid” even though the judge specifically pointed out that he did not have the discretion to “allow what Congress forbids”.  Of course I wasn’t pleased with the settlement deal and I don’t think that it would have provided any more protection than what wolves face today but I also don’t think that it is useful to blame anyone other than the people who orchestrated this gutting of the Endangered Species Act.  We could have that conversation but what purpose does it serve other than to feed one’s ego?

The real focus should be on making sure that wolves remain on the landscape and serve a meaningful role in the ecosystem and not just a token population that exists at artificially low levels.  I suggest that there are a few main targets to make sure this happens.  First, defund the Wildlife Services predator control program, they need to be grounded so that they can’t kill wolves from the air.  Second, conservationists need to recognize that the livestock industry is who orchestrated this and that they will be more scrutinized now that they have done this.  More focus should be placed on public lands ranching that depends so much on the good graces and taxes of the public. And Third, the politicians who take the votes of wildlife advocates need to held to account.  Western Democrats worked hand in hand with Republicans and the livestock industry to get this done.  They need to know that they will face primary challengers who are willing to scuttle their entire candidacy just to make the point.

Does the metaphorical Hayduke live?  I’m not so sure anymore.  Can he be resurrected?  I hope so.  As conservationists we have to give them hell.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s wilderness math doesn’t add up

Idaho’s fact free governor testifies about Idaho Wilderness-

Clement “Butch” Otter has always made his way catering to most backward power groups in his unequal, economically poor, but wilderness rich state.  The poorly paid teachers, educationally deprived students, overflowing prisons, and dispirited population are fine by him, but he has never liked wild backcountry, and especially designated Wilderness, and there is a lot of it in Idaho.  Some of it was protected by Act of Congress during Idaho’s brief green period, 1969-1980.  The rest has been protected by rugged topography and dedicated Idahoans and their allies who have fought long odds ever since.

Otter recently shared his ignorance about Idaho’s Wilderness with a committee in the new Tea Party U. S. House of Representatives. Rocky Barker has a good article on his testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee in today’s Idaho Statesman.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s wilderness math doesn’t add up. “In a fight against more wilderness, Otter may have vastly underestimated the economic impact of what the state already has.” By Rocky Barker. rbarker@idahostatesman.com. Idaho Statesman

Harry Reid gets surprisingly easy victory. Dems keep Senate. GOP wins House big.

Otter reelected Idaho governor-

One tidbit on the wolf issue.  Chet Edwards, a Blue Dog Democrat from Texas, author of the most anti-wolf bill in Congress lost big.  It is doubtful his bill was much of a factor.

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Misc.

Montana ballot initiative I-161 which we discussed for a long time here, passed. It prohibits the current system of outfitter-controlled non-resident hunting licenses.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service takes over wolf management in Idaho

Federal government reassumes Idaho wolf management role-

Though doubtful in the short run, hopefully this will lead to fewer livestock losses, fewer government-killed wolves and less controversy, as it was before Idaho took over wolf management.

Service to Resume Lead for Wolf Management in Idaho as a Result of Governor’s Announcement. USFWS news release. Oct. 21, 2010.

In Wyoming, I can’t fault the continued federal management very much.  Livestock losses are now almost nil (except sheep). Glad Butch Otter threw in the towel. He was just stirring up social conflict.

Idaho Fish and Game will immediately work to transfer wolf management to federal government

New news story has an important change-

Unlike the original story today on Otter’s decision, the story late tonight (Oct. 18) says “Idaho Fish and Game conservation officers will continue to collect information about illegal wolf kills, as they would for any endangered species and transfer it to federal law enforcement officials.” [emphasis mine]

Idaho Fish and Game will immediately work to transfer wolf management to federal government. By Roger Phillips. Idaho Statesman.

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Opinion from the Idaho Statesman. Our View: Wyoming has earned Gov. Butch Otter’s ire, not the feds.  My view is you won’t win votes bashing Wyoming. That’s what the governor figures.

Otter takes Idaho out of wolf management

State will not manage wolves nor control poaching-

Idaho won’t manage wolves under ESA – John Miller, AP

“After talks with the federal government collapsed, Gov. C.L. ‘Butch’ Otter ordered Idaho wildlife managers Monday to relinquish their duty to arrest poachers or to even investigate when wolves are killed illegally.”

From his first day in office, Butch Otter has made wolves his signature issue even as the state of Idaho has drifted and floundered. Otter single-handedly destroyed the grudging acceptance wolf conservation groups were granting the Idaho and Montana wolf management plans.  His threats to kill the first wolf in an Idaho wolf hunt, and bring their numbers down to the bare minimum . . . maybe kill them all . . . are real root of the current antagonism and anger that permeates the region.

When people point fingers about conservationists bringing lawsuits, they don’t need to look much beyond Butch Otter, who made it clear from start he would not listen to them, didn’t care, and wanted trouble.

Now it is up to the federal government to cave to Otter, manage the wolves, or redesignate someone like the Nez Perce Tribe to manage wolves in Idaho. The Tribe did an excellent job, and most of Idaho and Montana’s original wolf mangers were trained with the Tribe and moved into state roles when the states took over. The Tribe is not jumping at the chance to take up wolf management again. Rocky Barker:  Nez Perce Tribe prefers to dodge Idaho wolf job. Idaho Statesman.

Because Idaho is no longer going to arrest poachers and it is currently the hunting season, a slaughter of wolves might be in order unless the federal government quickly brings in law enforcement. Because Idaho is no longer managing wolves, Wildlife Services, which is a federal agency though they rarely act like it, should no longer be killing wolves.

We have to wonder if Idaho Fish and Game will now let the radio frequencies of wolves fall into the hands of the poachers.

We think that gubernatorial politics also figures in this. Otter is facing a stiff Challenger from Keith Allred, a Democrat who is getting support from many Republicans who sense an extremism as well as lack of an economic plan in Otter’s administration. We note the Otter had to bring in Mitt Romney to campaign for him, most likely because Otter is weak with the LDS (Mormon) voters of Eastern Idaho. We don’t seem to see much more than a pro forma Otter campaign in Eastern Idaho. Otter’s opponent Keith Allred, is not a wolf supporter, but is not campaigning as a hothead.

This is a classic political stunt for a politician with a poor record fighting a tough campaign — pick a fight, especially one with a lot of emotion, but one which won’t cost the state money.

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Otter’s News Release

(BOISE) – Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter notified Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today that Idaho no longer will act as the federal government’s “designated agent,” managing wolves imposed on the state under the Endangered Species Act.

Instead, the Governor directed the Idaho Fish and Game Commission to immediately refocus its efforts on protecting Idaho’s deer, elk and moose, and said the Idaho Department of Fish and Game will be submitting applications to the Interior Department for additional flexibility in addressing wolf depredation issues “so we can exercise our sovereign right to protect our wildlife.”

“This directive preserves an individual’s right to kill a wolf in self defense or in the defense of another person. It does not jeopardize the existing flexibility landowners and permittees have to protect their livestock and pets from wolves,” Governor Otter wrote in a letter to Salazar. “Additionally, this approach does not ask Idahoans who continue suffering wolves – especially sportsmen – to subsidize any part of this federal program or bear the risk or burden of inadequate federal funding in the future.”

In his letter, the Governor reiterated that the State of Idaho has consistently proven itself to be a responsible steward of all wildlife – “including your wolves.”

“We also showed that we could successfully manage a hunting season for wolves as we do for other species,” he said. “The State managed wolves as part of the ecosystem, in concert with other species and needs, which was ironically decried by environmentalists who seemingly want wolves to benefit at the expense of other wild and domestic species.”

“I am still committed to finding a path forward for delisting. My goal remains restoring State management under our approved plan as quickly as possible, if for no other reason than to fulfill the promise of our State law that all wildlife within our borders will be managed by the State. To that end, I am encouraged by the efforts of representatives from the three legislatures (Idaho, Montana and Wyoming) to see if there is a path forward for delisting and state management,” Governor Otter wrote to Salazar. “Although we could not agree during the course of our negotiations, I share your commitment to delist the species and restore state management as quickly as possible. It is truly frustrating that we cannot accomplish that shared goal today.”

Highway 12 promise to become industrial highway found hidden in Korean!

Promises to Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil to use scenic Highway 12 to haul huge oil modules for a decade discovered hidden on Korean, not in plain English-

Talk about lack of transparency in Montana and Idaho state governments!  It’s good this was revealed just before Butch Otter has to face reelection as governor of Idaho.

Korean Documents Show 10-Year Promise for Highway 12. Public News Service.

The first pieces of the Korean equipment are now sitting in Lewiston, Idaho, ready to haul up through the Lolo country on Highway 12 and over to Montana.

Cocker drum ready to go in Lewiston. Photo from Conoco-Philips