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News and Opinion

BEWARE: LEGISLATIVE 'SCIENTISTS' AT WORK

EDITORIAL - The Idaho Statesman, April 5, 2011
On Friday, a day after Moore was promoted to director, Biology for Beginners was in session at the House Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Judy Boyle, the Midvale Republican and resident Statehouse Little Red Riding Hood, touted a bill to allow Idaho to declare a wolf disaster emergency.

Virgil Moore has the professional chops for his new job as Idaho Department of Fish and Game director. Moore, 59, has worked for the agency for 34 years. He has put his academic background to work in fisheries science, among other agency jobs. He knows the state, having worked in five of Fish and Game’s seven regional offices.

As such, Moore surely knows something about the Idaho Legislature — and the Statehouse scientific charlatans who would be happy to help him do his job.

On Friday, a day after Moore was promoted to director, Biology for Beginners was in session at the House Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Judy Boyle, the Midvale Republican and resident Statehouse Little Red Riding Hood, touted a bill to allow Idaho to declare a wolf disaster emergency.

Boyle says Idahoans feel physically and psychologically threatened by the wolves — a message echoed, in less-than-measured tones, in the bill itself. “The uncontrolled proliferation of imported wolves on private land has produced a clear and present danger to humans, their pets and livestock, and has altered and hindered historical uses of private and public land, dramatically inhibiting previously safe activities such as walking, picnicking, biking, berry picking, hunting and fishing.”

Not exactly. Wolf attacks are extremely rare — and certainly in relation to the region’s population of fearmongering political panderers.

Indeed, this end-of-session mischief has 42 Republican co-sponsors, including a disappointingly long list of locals: Sens. Russell Fulcher, Shirley McKague and Melinda Smyser, and Reps. Gayle Batt, Clifford Bayer, Carlos Bilbao; Brent Crane, Marv Hagedorn, Mike Moyle, Joe Palmer, Robert Schaefer, Steven Thayn and John Vander Woude. Authored by House Speaker Lawerence Denney, the bill has the blessing of Moyle and the rest of House GOP leadership — which explains its hasty approval in Ways and Means, a committee that meets at leadership’s behest.

This pack of lawmakers is in a big hurry to allow Gov. Butch Otter to sic local law enforcement officers on wolves. But we suspect deputies and police officers can find more pressing matters of public safety — especially since the wolf population may already be in decline.

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates, Idaho was home to an estimated 705 wolves in 2010, down from 870 a year earlier. The feds say the lower numbers could have been caused, in part, by reduced monitoring efforts in Central Idaho’s remote mountains, and the loss of some radio-collared wolves.

Yes, the science is imprecise. But it isn’t on the side of the legislators who cry wolf.

“Our View” is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board.

Read the entire article in the Idaho Statesman here

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