Friday, May 19, 2006

Gillett pledges he'll rid Idaho of wolves

Anti-wolf founder promises his initiative will be on 2008 ballot

by STEVE BENSON

Ron Gillett is determined to rid Idaho of wolves, and he's pledged that he won't quit until he's accomplished that goal. Gillett, the president of the Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition, unsuccessfully tried to place the issue on the November 2006 ballot. To do so he needed 47,881 signatures from registered Idaho voters. He claims he collected about 40,000 signatures, but only about 13,500 were from registered voters.

"On this first go-around we didn't tell anybody we were going to get the signatures, we said we'll try," Gillette said. "Mark my word, on this second go-around we will get it, no question."

Gillett, who lives in Stanley and owns the Triangle C Ranch lodge, said wolves are the "most cruel, vicious predators in North America," and that he's concerned about the safety of his grandchildren. He added that wolves depredate livestock and are decimating elk herds, which is ruining his livelihood.

Wolves are responsible for about 1 percent of livestock depredations every year, said Steve Nadeau, Idaho Fish and Game's large carnivore manager and supervisor of the states wolf management program. He said that 26 of the states 29 elk populations are meeting management objectives, and that wolves are generally not responsible for those populations that are suffering.

Gillett disagrees, and claims wolves have thinned elk herds to a point that hunters have stopped flocking to the Stanley area. "I only had four out of state hunters stay in (the Triangle C) last season," he said. "I usually have between 60 and 80 hunters." "If this isn't brought under control, people are going to start getting mean."

Jon Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds Project, said it would actually be "beneficial to wolves" if Idaho's voters did some day pass Gillett's initiative. "Because then the feds would have to take over," Marvel said.

Wolves are managed by Idaho Fish and Game but are still federally protected by the Endangered Species Act. Even if they are delisted, which is a goal of Idaho Fish and Game, Nadeau said they will forever be protected under a federal blanket. If Gillett's initiative ever passed, "that would cause a relisting of the animal," Nadeau said. The state must forever maintain a minimum population of 15 packs.

"The best course of action would be for people just to get used to wolves," Nadeau said. "They are here to stay. Like the other animals in the state getting used to the new predators, I think the citizens have to as well."

  • Idaho Mountain Express