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Nez Perce Tribe tentatively supports proposed wolf rules 7-07

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) - The Nez Perce Tribe in northern Idaho says it supports proposals by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make it easier to kill wolves thought to be hurting deer and elk herds.

On Thursday, tribal officials released written comments about the proposal that lowers the scientific burden that must be met before wildlife managers can kill wolves.

With some 1,300 wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, federal officials are seeking to give the three states wider latitude to kill wolves that prey on big game species or threaten domestic animals.

Public hearings have been held in the three states this week.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife has also proposed allowing public hunting of wolves, but that could be challenged in court for years, and federal officials said the big game protection proposal gives states at least an interim measure to deal with problem wolves.

Under current rules, wolves now protected under the Endangered Species Act can only be killed if it is proved they are the “primary cause” for elk and deer populations not meeting objectives set by wildlife managers.

Under the proposal, wolves could be killed by state and tribal wildlife managers if they prove wolves are a “major cause.”

Idaho sought federal permission in 2005 to kill more than 50 wolves preying on elk in the Clearwater National Forest near the Montana border. The state wanted to cut the area's wolf population by 75 percent. Idaho ultimately shelved the proposal after realizing it did not meet federal law.

In a statement, the tribe said wolf control should be “carried out in a scientific framework with a clear biological understanding and evidence of impacts and an effective monitoring element to evaluate the success of control programs.”

The tribe also said rules should be changed to make it easier for people to protect their livestock, pets, hunting dogs and guard dogs.

On public land though, tribal officials said that people need to take responsibility to avoid conflicts with wolves.

“Wolves are now part of Idaho's landscape and natural ecosystem,” the tribe said. “Public land users should share some of the responsibility for using public lands safely and in a way that minimizes conflicts with wolves.”
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