- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2003

DENVER — The Canadian gray wolf’s rapid recovery has been hailed as one of the Endangered Species Act’s biggest success stories, but some argue that it has been too successful.

In central Idaho, critics say the fast-breeding wolf is gnawing through the state’s big-game herds at an alarming rate, prompting concerns that the wolf could endanger those who depend on the elk and bighorn sheep for their livelihoods.

“These wolves are populating like rabbits in Australia,” said Ron Gillett, a hunting guide and outfitter based in Stanley, Idaho. “They only eat meat and they hunt 365 days a year. The U.S. government dumped these wolves on us, and they’re destroying our big-game herds and wildlife.

“If you like wolves, then you don’t like wildlife,” he said.

Eight years after the Fish and Wildlife Service began reintroducing wolves to the Rocky Mountain West, Mr. Gillett is leading a rural revolt to chase them out. For almost a year, the Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition, which he leads, has been holding rallies in small communities aimed at raising funds for a class-action lawsuit that would force the federal government to eliminate wolves from Idaho.

In the process, the coalition has whipped up antiwolf sentiment among the ranchers, outfitters and hunting guides who make their living alongside the predators. The group also has supporters in Wyoming and Montana who are considering joining the lawsuit.

At an Aug. 22 rally in Nampa, Idaho, the group raised $50,000, a significant sum in a small rural community, and drew 10 state legislators. Their final rally is planned for January in Idaho Falls, where the group hopes to raise $70,000, enough to cover legal fees for the lawsuit.

“The response we’re getting from people at rallies is overwhelming,” said Idaho state Rep. Lenore Barrett, a Republican who supports the lawsuit plan.

“People are rightfully concerned about the decimation of the state’s wildlife.”

But critics of the wolf-recovery plan say the effort may be too little, too late. After eight years, most people have resigned themselves to living with the wolf, including most lawmakers in Boise.

Last year, the Legislature approved a wolf-management plan, which the Fish and Wildlife Service requires before the animal can be delisted and turned over to the state for protection. By approving the plan, Mrs. Barrett said, the Legislature effectively gave its approval to wolf recovery.

“I didn’t vote for it because I think that it validates the federal policy,” she said. “My argument was, we’re giving in, and if we’re giving in, we’ve given up.”

At the same time, legislators hedged their bets by incorporating into the plan the wording of House Joint Resolution 5, the 2001 resolution sponsored by Mrs. Barrett that calls for the wolves to be removed “by whatever means necessary.”

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