Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Idaho anti-wolf initiative may not make the ballot

By Michelle Dunlop - Times-News writer

TWIN FALLS -- Shortly before the 5 p.m. deadline Monday, Ron Gillett rushed from county to county submitting signatures for his anti-wolf initiative. "It's just been overwhelming -- the support for this," Gillett said. But, the support may not be enough to get Gillett's initiative on the November ballot.

For more than a decade, Gillett has been an outspoken opponent of the 1995 reintroduction of gray wolves in Idaho. This year, the Stanley outfitter's Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition wanted to have voters decide whether the federal government should remove wolves from the state. Monday afternoon, Gillett's group didn't appear to have the required 47,881 signatures from registered voters necessary to get their initiative on the ballot.

Gillett estimated the coalition had gathered about 38,000 signatures. However, they realized many of the signatures came from unregistered voters bringing the total down to about 12,000. An official count of registered voter signatures won't be available until the end of June.

Idaho's Department of Fish and Game has taken over the primary management role for the more than 500 wolves living in the state. However, the species remains on the endangered species list due to concerns from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over neighboring Wyoming's strategy for controlling wolves. Neither Fish and Game nor other groups like Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife support the initiative, maintaining that it would only prolong delisting of wolves in Idaho.

In mid-April, Salmon outfitter John Cranney camped out in Twin Falls for a week collecting signatures. Cranney and his wife, Cathy, say that wolves have decimated elk herds, hurting hunters and small businesses like theirs. While Cathy Cranney called it a "learning experience," she found the initiative's failure disappointing. "It doesn't look like we're going to make it," she said. "It's a pretty bitter pill to swallow."

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