The Wolf Kill Bill: Senators work together for a success story

Havre Daily News

It's not very often you get to write home about a success story about wolves, ranchers and work¬ing together to do what's right for the American West.

But that's what happened when Congress overwhelmingly passed — and President Barack Obama signed into law — legislation I wrote with my friend, Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming.

Our legislation, dubbed the "Wolf Kill Bill," authorizes federal money from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to boost Montana's livestock loss fund. That fund repays Montana ranch¬ers the full market value of ani¬mals killed by wolves.

In Montana, we call that com¬mon sense.

Fourteen years after the feder¬al government reintroduced wolves to the Rocky Mountains, they are now a thriving part of our ecosystem. Scientists estimate more than 1,600 wolves now roam Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

They're also a part of Montana's economy. Millions of visitors come to Yellowstone Park every year hoping to catch of glimpse of a wolf.

But wolves are also a threat to Montana's number one industry — agriculture.

In Montana, confirmed wolf kills of cattle rose from 32 in 2006 to 77 in 2008. Kills of sheep rose from four to 111. We've lost llamas, dogs and other domestic animals. And let's not forget the government has killed hundreds of wolves because of their attacks on live¬stock.

So Sen. Barrasso and I intro¬duced our measure to help ranch¬ers in states like Montana to bet¬ter coexist with wolves. Our legis¬lation specifically deals with ranchers and their livestock. It works whether wolves are on the Endangered Species List or not.

But the Wolf Kill Bill isn't just about repaying ranchers. It also aims to minimize wolf kills by allowing federal grants for states to help improve fencing, to improve grazing practices, and even to use more guard dogs.

I'm proud that Montana has a strong wolf management plan. But now it's time for the federal government to follow through and make sure wolves don't hurt our jobs, our outdoor heritage, and the livelihoods of countless folks who make a living off the land.

That's why Sen. Barrasso and I put our party differences aside and teamed up for this common¬sense solution. It's a solution that has wide support.

Our bill is also example of work¬ing together, across party lines, to do what's right for the West. And to protect American jobs and our way of life here ill the West.

We could all use more of that as we move forward together.