BOISE — A bill has been introduced to make Idaho’s Wolf Depredation Control Board permanent.

The board, which is in charge of killing wolves that kill livestock or kill too many deer and elk, was founded in 2014 and will be dissolved on June 30, 2020 unless the Legislature acts. Board member Carl Rey said the board is asking to be made permanent this year, rather than waiting until next year’s session, so its existence isn’t up in the air and they can make a 2020-2021 budget request next year.

As well as reauthorizing the board, the bill would make permanent the Fish and Game funds and fees on livestock producers that, along with some general fund money, pays for the board’s operations.

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The Senate Resources and Environment Committee voted without any “No” votes to introduce the bill, paving the way for a full hearing later. However, Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, asked several questions about the board’s funding and operation.

Gov. Brad Little has asked for $200,000 from the general fund this year to fund the board, compared to $400,000 Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter had asked for in past years. However, the fund has built up big surpluses over the years, and has a balance of more than $600,000 now, the Idaho Press reported two weeks ago.

Rey said he suspects Little requested $200,000 this year due to the state’s revenue shortfall, and that it would be enough this year. However, he said this won’t be sustainable in the future, since the number of wolf complaints has been going up. Rey said the board spent $136,000 more last year than it took in.

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A wolf is caught on a remote camera set up by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Wolf kills of livestock reached record numbers in the first half of 2018, officials said.

“The trends are pretty clear,” Rey said. “We see an increasing need to fund a higher level of complaints and activities surrounding those complaints.”

Stennett also asked why the board doesn’t engage in any non-lethal methods of wolf control.

“Since we’re going in and delving (in) and making this forever, why wouldn’t we entertain all means of managing wolves?” she asked.

Rey said some herders have started using guard dogs or different herding methods, but that the wolf control board’s job is to kill problem wolves, not to manage wolves in general.

“It’s outside of the scope of the board because our mandate is very clear,” he said. “We only deal with the problem packs.”

The committee also voted on three appointments to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission and three to the Idaho Water Resource Board. All six were approved unanimously, including the re-appointment of Lane Clezie of Pocatello to another four-year term on the Fish and Game Commission and Jeffrey Raybould of St. Anthony to four more years on the Water Resource Board.

The appointments now go to the full Senate for approval.

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.

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