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SB 1247: Establishing Wolf-Free Zones — 2020

Summary: SB 1247 would establish wolf-free zones where hunters or trappers could take wolves year-round, in an effort to eliminate wolves from a broad portion of their range in Idaho.

ICL's position: Oppose

Current Bill Status: Senate Committee

Issue Areas: Fish and Wildlife

Official Legislative Site

UPDATE: The Idaho Fish and Game Commission voted on February 20 to expand wolf hunting year-round in many units, largely mirroring the proposal from Sen. Brackett. As a result, SB 1247 is effectively dead.

Sen. Bert Brackett (R-Rogerson) introduced SB 1247 in the Senate Resources and Environment Committee. The bill seeks to establish “wolf free-zones” in hunting units 28, 40, 41, 42, 46, 47, 53, 54, 55, 56 and 57, where killing wolves would be allowed year-round. 

The bill also would authorize year-round hunting in at least 19 additional  units. These units are where at least 1 head of cattle, sheep or other livestock animal has been confirmed to be a wolf-kill in 4 of the preceding 5 years.

Idaho already has liberal hunting and trapping seasons. Existing guidelines allow for up to 20 wolves (10 by hunting and 10 by trapping) to be taken each season by an individual, depending on the hunting zone.

The bill also discounts the fact that wolves can be shot anytime they are attacking, threatening or harassing livestock on both private and public lands. Further, the bill would target wolves in the recently designated Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness area, where livestock allotments were recently retired.

What’s more, Idaho’s 1938 citizens’ initiative, establishing the Fish and Game Commission, was developed to ensure that wildlife decisions were guided by an independent board. Over 76% of Idahoans agreed that all wildlife, including wild animals, birds and fish were the property of the state and its people. They further declared that decisions about fish and wildlife management should be entrusted to an independent commission, free from political influence.

If the Idaho legislature grabs the steering wheel on wolves, this takes the authority away from the independent Fish and Game Commission making wildlife management a political issue, and could upend management of other species we care about. If the legislature decides to micromanage wolves, what about sage-grouse, cutthroat trout or elk?

Finally, the delisting of wolves from the list of endangered species and endorsement of the Idaho Wolf Plan (2002) was based upon a number of stipulations, including the Idaho Fish and Game Commission’s retention of authority for management decisions, wolves classified as a big game species, wolves able to interact with other wolf populations in neighboring state,s and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s application of scientific principles to wildlife management.

This bill would upend how we manage big game, overturn how the Idaho Department of Fish and Game manages public resources, and undo the trust that Idahoans have forged by working together. Passage of SB 1247 threatens to return wolves to the protections of the Endangered Species Act.