Mar 21, 2014 6:10 PM by Associated Press

Bill targets federal wolf-recovery program

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona Republicans who say the federal government is overstepping its boundaries are targeting a gray-wolf recovery program with bills that allow livestock owners to shoot the wolves while also directing the state Legislature to consider banning conservation efforts.

The Senate Committee on Government and Environment on Friday approved a bill that would allow ranchers to kill wolves in self-defense and would direct the Arizona Legislature to consider pulling the state out of the program. It also would require officials to push for federal reimbursement for any damage to, and use of, private property involving Mexican wolves. For example, the federal government would be required to reimburse ranchers if their cattle lost value because of Mexican wolves.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service already has a program in place that reimburses livestock owners for the death or injury to animals caused by gray wolves.

House Bill 2699 is similar to one passed in the Senate that also targets the federal program that aims to reintroduce Mexican grey wolves in Arizona, New Mexico and other states. Proponents say the wolves are detrimental to livestock and that the federal government is overstepping its boundaries by imposing the program on the state.

"How can the federal government tell us that they are just going to use our property without permission?" bill sponsor Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, asked.

Thorpe's bill is similar to one the Senate passed last month that also allows livestock owners to shoot wolves if they are threatening their livestock.

Opponents of the bill say Mexican wolves don't actually kill as many livestock as proponents say they do.

In fact, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service paid out $14,300 for the deaths of 19 livestock in 2012, the latest available figure.

Sandy Bahr, director of the Grand Canyon chapter of the Sierra Club, said the bill violates the federal Endangered Species Act.

"Basically it treats wolves as if they did not belong in Arizona, and as we know, these are a native wildlife species that are being recovered. Wildlife is not private property. It's a public-trust responsibility, and trying to say that a wolf shouldn't wander over a piece of private property over state trust lands is inappropriate and contrary to law, certainly," Bahr said.

There are currently 82 Mexican wolves in both Arizona and New Mexico, a Wildlife Service spokesman said.

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