- Associated Press - Thursday, March 27, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has signed a bill to create a state board that will work to control the growth of wolf populations in the state.

The Republican signed the bill on Wednesday, despite opposition from conservation groups.

The bill, which passed on the final day of the recent legislative session, creates a $400,000 fund and establishes a five-member board whose job is to authorize the killing of wolves that come into conflict with wildlife or livestock. Otter had requested $2 million for the wolf fund.

The money comes from the state’s general fund.

Congress in 2011 stripped Endangered Species Act protection from wolves in Idaho and Montana. Since then, nearly 1,600 wolves have been killed in those states.

Wolves are a hot topic in Idaho, where many residents are opposed to the re-establishment of the species.

“Idaho wants to manage our wolves, and we want to manage them to a reasonable number so that the species don’t get endangered again and the feds don’t come in and take it over again,” Otter said after the bill passed last week.

Conservation groups opposed the bill, saying it will lead to the killing of hundreds of wolves. Defenders of Wildlife said Thursday the bill would ultimately drive the Idaho wolf population down to around 150 animals.

The money will be used exclusively to kill wolves, Defenders of Wildlife said in a news release. Non-lethal methods like fencing and range riders will not be used even though they are more effective and less expensive, the group said.

“Idaho’s elected officials and state agencies have declared a war on wolves,” said Nancy Gloman, of Defenders of Wildlife. “When Congress handed wolf management over to Idaho in 2011, they said they would manage wolves like other valued species. But they’re blowing it.”

The board, to be appointed by Otter, will include representatives of the agricultural, livestock and hunting communities. The bill does not require any members of the board to represent the wolf-conservation groups.

Defenders of Wildlife said wolf numbers in Idaho peaked at about 1,000 animals in 2009, and they have dropped to between 500 and 600 since they were delisted.

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