WestViews: Risch had voice; others stammered

September 16, 2013 

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Times-News, Twin Falls

Capitol Hill has been buzzing as the White House pushed for a military strike on Syria.

Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, listened to the White House’s case, mulled it over and took a stand. Risch has come down firmly against any military action meant to punish Syrian autocrat Bashar al-Assad for chemical weapons strikes against armed rebels and civilians.

Risch, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, is privy to far more information than we are. It’s his job to make a decision, and he did.

He was a leader while many of his colleagues did what Congress does best — sidestep. He took a stand, based on available facts and reasonable assumptions.

It’s times like these when a leader shows his mettle. Members of Idaho’s delegation stuck their necks out and made a call. Risch took the helm while most took shelter below deck.

That’s the very definition of leadership.

PROPERTY OWNERS PAY FOR DAMAGE DONE BY WOLVES

Post Register, Idaho Falls

Wolf reintroduction was yet another politically divisive issue for folks in the Western states. But advocates and detractors, for the most part, could agree on one thing: Property owners ought to be compensated for the damage caused by wolves.

Three summers ago, Defenders of Wildlife ended its compensation program. In stepped the feds, creating the Wolf Livestock Demonstration Project and authorizing funds for states to pay ranchers for depredation losses.

Not surprisingly, that program is out of money. And folks such as the sheep-farming Siddoway family of eastern Idaho are out of luck.

Wolves attacked a flock owned by the Siddoway Sheep Co. near Victor. The Aug. 17 attack caused an astonishing number of sheep to stumble down a steep hillside and pile up. The ensuing body count showed that 176 Siddoway sheep either suffocated or were trampled to death; an ugly business to be sure and, according to Idaho Wildlife Services Director Todd Grimm, the largest loss of sheep ever attributed to wolves.

And so, the Siddoway Sheep Co. is out $28,000. The issue isn't whether the company and its well-known owner, state Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, can afford the loss. This is about the Western ideal of keeping promises and being responsible for your actions. In other words, the federal government gave us wolves, and the federal government ought to pay for the damage they cause.

But that’s not happening, and compensation has become a state issue.

Earlier this year, Gov. Butch Otter vetoed a bill that would have raided Fish and Game funds to compensate livestock owners.

Otter, however, tasked a Fish and Game advisory committee to find a solution everyone could live with. In July, the chairman of the panel told the Idaho State Journal that sportsmen had agreed to match the livestock industry dollar for dollar on funding for Wildlife Services. Also, the group plans to ask legislators for $400,000 out of the state general fund. The goal is to raise about $700,000, bumping Wildlife Services’ funding levels back to where it was in 2010 when Defenders of Wildlife and the federal government were keeping their promises.

It’s galling. Taxpayer dollars should be used to restore education budget cuts and lower college tuition, not compensate ranchers for wolves the vast majority of Idahoans never wanted anyway.

This newspaper supported wolf reintroduction. But there’s no doubt that because of what took place Aug. 17 near Victor, and what did not happen afterward, that position has become much more difficult to defend.

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