The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation has asked the state attorney general's office whether Fish and Game Director Jerry Conley can legally serve on a federal panel studying wolf reintroduction.
It's the latest attack on the newly formed, congressionally mandated Wolf Management Committee. The panel, appointed Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Interior, is to come up with a plan to reintroduce and manage the endangered gray wolf in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho.The 10-member panel, which has until May 15 to come up with a plan, is the latest attempt to come up with a compromise on the issue.
If the Farm Bureau files for an injunction, it will cite a 1988 state law prohibiting Fish and Game from entering wolf recovery agreements with other agencies, or spending money on wolf management.
Rayola Jacobsen, a Farm Bureau research analyst in Boise, said Attorney General Jim Jones' office was asked for a legal opinion on the issue Thursday. Officials considered going to court to seek an injunction, but decided to put off any legal action until hearing from Jones.
"We have a law on the books that precludes Fish and Game from doing this," Jacobsen said. "We've talked to our attorneys and we're investigating our options, but we're not doing anything rash right now."
In July, farm bureaus in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming filed petitions with the federal government to remove the wolf from the endangered species list. They contend the animal has interbred with coyotes and dogs and no longer exists in its natural state.
Meanwhile, Conley said Wednesday that he had asked Fish and Game attorneys for an opinion but maintains state law would allow him to serve on the wolf committee.
Conley is the only Idahoan on the committee, which also includes fish and game directors from Wyoming and Montana; representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and National Park Service; two representatives of livestock and hunting groups; and two representatives of environmental groups.
Sen. Steve Symms, Sen.-elect Larry Craig, both R-Idaho, the Idaho Cattle Association, Idaho Conservation League and the Idaho Wool Growers Association all have said Idaho was slighted.
"We're outraged," Cattle Association President Bert Brackett said. "All Idahoans should be equally incensed that our state is denied adequate representation on a committee that could railroad wolves into our state."
On Wednesday, the Interior Department - which selected the wolf panel according to strict guidelines set by Congress - went on the defensive.
The department says it selected the two representatives suggested by environmental groups, including the Idaho Conservation League. It also says it selected two members who were recommended by seven Western Republican congressmen, including Symms and Craig.
"Basically, we think each interest group has their best and their brightest," Interior Department spokesman Steve Goldstein said.
Symms spokesman Dave Pearson said Interior shuffled committee members around. One member, whom the congressmen considered a representative of conservation groups, will now represent hunters and ranchers.
"There is no representative of any legitimate hunting group on that committee," Pearson said.
Mike Medberry, the Conservation League's public lands director, said he doesn't object to credentials of the committee's two environmentalists, but wonders how much they know about Idaho's wolf situation. He said his name was mistakenly put on the Nov. 8 letter of recommendation to the Interior Department.