Feb. 24–BOISE — The Idaho Senate’s Agriculture Committee has voted 5-4 to reject a rule change easing restrictions on importation of farmed elk into the state that brought warnings from state Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore of potential catastrophic impacts to Idaho’s wildlife herds.
“We just need to be cautious, at this point, I think,” said Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise.
Sen. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, who supported the rule change, said, “You have to realize there’s risk with everything. I walked up to the Capitol today and could have been hit by a car or shot. … I guess I don’t really feel that we’re going to lose our wildlife, that this is something that’s going to take over and kill our elk herds. I don’t want to risk that, but like I say, there’s always some risk.”
The House Agriculture Committee had previously approved the rule, then reconsidered and locked up in a tie in a move that raised questions about whether proper parliamentary procedures had been followed; House Ag Chairman Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, said last week that he’d wait until after the Senate committee voted to decide whether his panel would take the rule up again. It was sought by Idaho elk ranchers; it would ease restrictions aimed at keeping wildlife infected with the meningeal worm out of the state.
In a July letter to the state Department of Agriculture opposing the rule change, Moore, the Fish and Game chief, wrote, “Minnesota just recently eliminated moose hunting due to declines of over 50 percent in their populations in the last three years, in part due to substantial impacts from meningeal worm.” Other states in the region are stepping up precautions against importing the worm, he wrote — not loosening them.
Sen. Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian, said, “With all our industries, I think we need to be looking at ways to reduce regulation in a meaningful way.” But, she said, “That means balancing the needs of our industries with the other benefits that we have in our state, like our wildlife. I think those are important things to weigh, and I don’t think any of us take that lightly.”
Under Idaho’s administrative rules process, it takes votes from committees in both houses to reject a rule.