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Posted: 3/7/2002 2:15:42 PM EDT
March 6, 2002 BOISE, Idaho (AP) - A compromise wolf management plan won unanimous approval in the Idaho Senate on Wednesday after earning the support of ranchers and environmentalists. Meanwhile, the House approved a state management plan aimed at convincing federal authorities to take grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas off the endangered species list. The wolf management plan was essentially the 19th version of the plan. It establishes state control of the predators once they are removed from the endangered species list. The deal was brokered by conservative Sen. Stan Hawkins of Ucon, a longtime opponent of wolf reintroduction, and was endorsed by the Idaho Conservation League, which has been at odds with Hawkins for years. Idaho, Montana and Wyoming each must have state management plans acceptable to federal wildlife managers before wolves can be removed from federal protection. The plans give landowners and others an opportunity to control the wolves' range and numbers while assuring they will not be eradicated again. "This will not stop the conflict we are going to see in the next year or two," Hawkins said. "But this plan will guide us to deal with the conflict that will (be) sure to come." Wolf opponents predict they will be challenged in court, further delaying delisting, but advocates think the endorsement of cattlemen and the Idaho Conservation League gives them an edge in defending it. The House on Wednesday voted 56-7 for a memorial affirming the state's sovereign right to remove or determine the method of managing wolves at federal expense. The measure was forwarded to the Senate. After starting with fewer than three dozen transplanted Canadian wolves in the mid-1990s, the central Idaho wilderness now has more than 260 wolves. There are an estimated 400 to 600 grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem, double or triple the population since they were granted federal protection in 1975. Lawmakers said 27 years was more than enough for residents to live with land-use restrictions that the state management plan is aimed at easing. "The issue isn't whether we want grizzly bears. They're there. We have them. What we need to do is get them delisted," said Republican Rep. Dell Raybould of Rexburg, who ranches on property abutting the Yellowstone grizzly management area. The plan was developed by a diverse panel of ranchers, hunters, farmers and environmentalists, then vetted by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission and finally by a House Resources and Conservation subcommittee. "It was a pretty decent process and a pretty decent product," House Republican Caucus Chairman Dan Mader of Genesee said. Resources and Conservation Chairman Cameron Wheeler of Ririe said the effect would be to restore local control of land use. The state would be in control of the bears as their population expands beyond the park and surrounding areas. Once federal protection is lifted, the plan would allow the state to kill grizzlies that kill livestock or threaten people. It also could authorize a hunting season for surplus or problem bears. The plan was approved on a 64-5 vote and forwarded to the Senate. There was no opposition to a separate bill declaring that the plan would be implemented "only upon the availability of adequate and continuous federal funding for management purposes."
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