Yesterday, the Idaho legislature passed a bill creating a new "Wolf Depredation Control Board" which would administer funds for the widespread killing of wolves -- allowing for the once-endangered species' numbers to be reduced from 650 wolves, to as little as 150 in the entire state.
While the bill has yet to be signed into law by Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter, few are expecting him to show opposition. In 2007, Otter stated publicly that he would like to be the first person to kill a wolf once they were delisted under the Endangered Species Act.
In 2011, the U.S. Congress did strip federal protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana. As a result, more than 1,500 wolves have been legally killed in those states so far.
For conservationists, the new bill represents a new war on wolves, reminiscent of the government-backed extermination policy that eliminated virtually all wolves in the western United States by the early part of the last century.
"Political leaders in Idaho would love nothing more than to eradicate Idaho's wolves and return to a century-old mindset where big predators are viewed as evil and expendable," says Amaroq Weiss from the Center for Biological Diversity.
"The new state wolf board, sadly, reflects that attitude. The legislature couldn't even bring itself to put a single conservationist on the board, so the outcome is predictable: Many more wolves will die."
Thanks to the work of conservationists, wolves have slowly begun to return to their native range in the northern Rocky Mountain range since the 1980s. But Weiss fears that a single stroke of a pen can reverse a recovery which has taken decades to achieve.
"Yet again, Idaho has put a black eye on decades of tireless work to return wolves to the American landscape," said Weiss. "This bill sets aside $400,000 in state funds to wipe out as many wolves as legally possible in Idaho. Reducing these wolf populations to below even the absolute bare minimum sets a dangerous precedent and ensures that true wolf recovery will be little more than a pipedream in Idaho."