Sunday, January 18, 2009

My legislative priorities

Each year I write a letter to my state legislators explaining some of my priorities as a citizen of Idaho. I am a little bit behind this year as the legislative session began last week. Regardless, here it is.

Dear Legislators,

I am writing to you today to highlight some of my priorities as a citizen of your district. I know that many times you receive very specific feedback on specific legislation being considered. I wanted to provide you an overall view of what is important to me as a citizen in the hopes that it will be useful for you in this difficult session. As always, if you have any specific questions regarding this feedback, please feel free to contact me. This letter will also be posted on my blog at Rob's Idaho Perspective -

My priorities for 2009:

1. Environmental Protection - Idaho has tremendous wildlife and wildlands assets which are constantly under attack. In this poor economy there is even greater push to cut corners and further exploit our lands and our environment. What we must keep in perspective is regardless of the economic conditions today, we still have a stewardship responsibility to protect the world for our children, their children, and so on. Decisions made today can have a dramatic effect on the future of our world.

The most significant threat to our environment is Global Warming. While Idaho cannot solve this problem ourselves, there is much we could do to decrease our contribution to it. With the innovation infrastructure within our state, this could also be a major economic initiative. I suggest both increased personal tax credits for individual installing alternative energy devices and R&D tax credits for companies developing alternative energy technologies.

On a more local level, it is critical that we decrease the pollution in our water from agricultural run-off. I understand this is a difficult issue in our political climate, but this is a critical threat to our environment, the wildlife, and ourselves! We should be working to improve our water resources and not just slow the damage.

If you are looking for a place to save money, you might focus on the killing arm of the Idaho Fish and Game department. We are spending tons of money tracking down and killing wildlife which gets mixed up with ineffective and irresponsible livestock operations. The investment is disproportionate to the risk. With less state protection, livestock operations would have to take some responsibility themselves. There are very effective protection mechanism which are used around the world. Idaho operations don't use them because the state will jump in and spend tens of thousands of dollars hunting down and killing any wildlife which "might" have been involved. It's time we put an end to state subsidies for irresponsible businesses of all types.

I have two even more controversial desires for our state. The first is to restore central Idaho to a complete ecosystem. Idaho is one of only a few places in the lower 48 states where this is still possible. A major gap in the ecosystem is the absence of the grizzly bear. I would like to see them re-introduced to central Idaho along with other native species which may now be missing. Additionally, recent research is pointing out the detrimental effect that trophy hunting has on an ecosystem. I would suggest that a portion of our state be set aside for a hunting free zone so that the environment and the wildlife can be preserved in as natural state as possible. This would be a huge attraction for wildlife watchers, photographers, and ecosystem researchers into the state.

2. Education - I was astounded at the governor's suggestion to cut deeply into education in the state. We already rank near the bottom of all states in per capita investment in education. This will further lower Idaho rankings and have a detrimental effect on the future of our citizens. I understand the difficult times, but education is our only way out of these situations. It should be the last item cut in my opinion. The citizen's support increased education investment as was proven out with the vote to fund the College of Western Idaho.

3. Transportation - I do support the governor's proposal to increase registration fees and fuel tax to cover our shortfall in transportation funding, but would not place it higher than education. I have considered the mile traveled tax, but prefer the fuel tax increase as it provides a built in incentive to drive more efficient vehicles.

I also believe it is time to solve the future of public transportation in Idaho. Many will argue not to spend time on this issue in the bad economic climate. The bottom line is that any work on this issue will not likely effect tax dollars for another year or two anyway. Now is the time to set the foundation of this structure in place. First, the state should repeal the constitutional limitation on spending fuel tax dollars on public transportation. Public transportation is a more effective way to relieve congestion than building more and more lanes on overly crowded roads. I also believe that public transportation is a state issue as well as a local issue. I believe it is time for the state to step up to provide some funding for public transportation, possibly through a matching funds arrangement ensuring local commitment to the system before any dollars are spent. Lastly, it is critical that the state allow local options taxation for the purpose of public transportation. I know that you are aware of this, but only 4 states lack state funding of public transportation while also preventing local option funding.

4. Human Rights - Lastly, I ask that that you work to add sexual orientation and gender identity to Idaho's Human Rights act. This critical protection is desperately needed to protect the citizens of Idaho. I have had friends, co-workers, and employees who live in a constant state of fear that the wrong person will find out that they are gay. They work to not be seen together in public, they cannot attend employee functions with their families, they are forced out of our supposedly "free" society. It is time that you do what you can to change this to make Idaho a state of opportunity for all of our citizens.

There are many other issues I could bring up, but these are my highest priorities. I wish you luck during this difficult session. Feel free to contact me if you have any issues or questions on this content or on any other matter of interest.

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Anonymous said...

Wolf Delisting Long Overdue
January 20, 2009

Last week, Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett announced the removal of the Idaho population of gray wolves from protection under the Endangered Species Act. The success of gray wolf recovery efforts in these areas has contributed to expanding populations of wolves that no longer require the protection of the Act.
The decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is scheduled to take effect 30 days after the publication of the new rule in the Federal Register. Normally, this is not a big issue, but the incoming administration has the ability to freeze all rules not already effective when it takes office. Reversal of the delisting rule would be travesty for Idaho!
With the delisting of wolves comes Idaho’s ability to control wolf populations for realistic populations. Idaho Fish and Game has already prepared all plans and rules concerning the management of the wolf population. Those plans include using hunting of wolves as a method of population control.
Wolves have caused serious depredation of livestock, family pets, and Idaho’s famous Elk and Deer herds. In 2008 alone, 140 head of cattle, 272 head of sheep, 14 dogs, and 1 foul were all killed by wolves. The Lolo Pass Elk herd is declining because of predator depredation. The Selway Elk herds and numerous deer herds throughout the state have been ravaged by these predators. A very good friend of mine had some 25 lambs and sheep killed over a several day period before the wolf could be stopped. Wolf advocacy groups have long contended that wolves only kill what they eat. Livestock ranchers have first hand proof that is untrue.
According to recent Fish and Game testimony before the Idaho Senate Resource Committee, Idaho now has a population of 700 to 800 wolves, and that count could be low. Agreements among stakeholders have set 400 to 500 wolves as a sustainable population. There are now advocacy groups that would renege on those agreements and want as many as 4000 to 5000 wolves in Idaho. To date, IF&G has set 400 to 500 as the goal.
Unless the Obama administration reverses last week’s rule, Idaho will be holding very region specific controlled hunts to thin out the populations of wolves that have the ability to grow by as much as 40% per year. Unless we remain proactive in population control, our forests will soon be over populated with gray wolves, and we’ll not have sufficient populations of elk and deer in our state.
Governor Otter and this legislature are committed to a viable, self-sustaining population of wolves, which includes hunting seasons on wolves where necessary.

“Wolves have recovered in the Great Lakes and the northern Rocky Mountains because of the hard work, cooperation and flexibility shown by States, tribes, conservation groups, federal agencies and citizens of both regions,” said Scarlett. “We can all be proud of our various roles in saving this icon of the American wilderness.”

The two rules address concerns raised during two separate federal court actions last summer requiring the Service to reinstate Endangered Species Act protections for the two populations. The western Great Lakes population was originally removed from the federal list of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants in March 2007, while the northern Rocky Mountain population was first delisted in February 2008.

Gray wolves were previously listed as endangered in the lower 48 states, except in Minnesota where they were listed as threatened. The Service oversees three separate recovery programs for the gray wolf; each has its own recovery plan and recovery goals based on the unique characteristics of wolf populations in each geographic area. Wolves in other parts of the 48 states, including the Southwest wolf population, remain endangered and are not affected by the actions taken today.
Northern Rocky Mountain wolves
The northern Rocky Mountain Distinct Population Segment includes all of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon, and a small part of north-central Utah. The minimum recovery goal for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains is at least 30 breeding pairs and at least 300 wolves for at least three consecutive years, a goal that was attained in 2002 and has been exceeded every year since. There are currently about 100 breeding pairs and 1,500 wolves in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. The Service believes that with approved state management plans in place in Montana and Idaho, all threats to the wolf population will be sufficiently reduced or eliminated in those states. Montana and Idaho will always manage for over 15 breeding pairs and 150 wolves per State and their target population level is about 400 wolves in Montana and 500 in Idaho.
As a result of a Montana United States District Court decision on July 18, 2008, the Service reexamined Wyoming law, its management plans and implementing regulations. While the Service has approved wolf management plans in Montana and Idaho, it has determined that Wyoming’s state law and wolf management plan are not sufficient to conserve Wyoming’s portion of a recovered northern Rocky Mountain wolf population. Therefore, even though Wyoming is included in the northern Rocky Mountain DPS, the subpopulation of gray wolves in Wyoming is not being removed from protection of the Endangered Species Act. Continued management under the Endangered Species Act by the Service will ensure that the recovery goal of 300 wolves in Wyoming is sustained.
Acting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Rowan Gould said the Service will continue to work with the State of Wyoming in developing its state regulatory framework so that the state can continue to maintain and share a recovered northern Rocky Mountain population. Once adequate regulatory mechanisms are in place, the Service could propose removing the Act’s protections for wolves in Wyoming. National parks and the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming already have adequate regulatory mechanisms in place to conserve wolves. However, at this time, wolves will remain protected as a nonessential, experimental population under the ESA throughout the state, including within the boundaries of the Wind River Reservation and national park units.

wolf21m said...

Anonymous, Thanks for taking the time to post a comment here. I am confused a bit by the date. I assume that you published this article in some other place before pasting it into my comments section. I also must assume that it is your writing and you have full copyright ownership in order to post it here.

I think you make some good points, but there are numerous falicies and omissions in your post as I am quite sure there are in mine. Here are a few perspectives which I disagree with:
1. What is a realistic number of wolves. The State of Idaho has no scientific idea! They have a political idea, but no scientific one.
2. Regarding the depredations, how many of those occurred on private land? People have full rights to protect their livestock on private land. I can only assume that they are too lazy to do so, or these occurred on public land. Our land. As a partial owner of this land, I have no problem with wolves killing a few cattle or a few sheep on it.
3. Regarding Lolo pass, it is interesting that has become the often cited example. People leave out the fact that the Lolo herd was in trouble BEFORE wolves were re-introduced. That herd is not in trouble because of wolves, that herd is in trouble because of man's actions and the failure of the Fish and Game to manage the situation. The reservoir which took the prime elk habitat and our failed fire policy probably being the top two reasons. Add on the fact that Fish and Game insists on allowing hunting to continue there after knowing 30 years ago that this herd was in trouble. Hmm. Who really is to blame here?
4. 4000-5000 wolves. Where did that number come from? I would like to hear from any real biologist who believes that the carrying capacity of Idaho will support that. The fact is that Idaho's wolf population growth rate is slowing significantly. Even if you ignore the fact that we are killing more than ever, it is still slowing. As population dynamic do, and wolf population dynamics have done in other areas, this will slow, then drop, then oscillate around the carrying capacity. I'd put my money on the table that the population in Idaho will never reach 1200.
4. 40% per year growth rate? Also a media hype number put out by those who want to incite fear. This population growth rate hasn't been seen since the first few years. The reality is that the current growth rate is in the single digits - 7%.
I know I won't convince you as you won't convince me, but I felt compelled to point out my disagreement with your points to my other readers. I am also glad that Obama put a hold on the delisting. I would like to see wolves delisted, but only with a responsible plan in place. Idaho's is getting closer.