Wolf snaps up spotlight

Protestors, citizens come out for Gov. Otter's visit to Spirit Lake

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JEROME A. POLLOS/Press Bill Ross, a handler with Wolf People in Cocolalla, waits with his protest sign to attract the attention of Gov. Butch Otter during a barbecue Wednesday in Spirit Lake.

SPIRIT LAKE - The two sides stood apart in the drizzling rain, one holding signs protesting Idaho's second wolf hunt, the other the state's governor, about to honor Spirit Lake residents Rod and Nancy Erickson.

"He doesn't want to talk to us," said Bill Ross, one of 12 members from the wolf advocacy and education group, Wolf People, out of Cocolalla, who made the trip to Spirit Lake to protest the wolf season during Gov. Butch Otter's Capital For a Day celebration. "He wants to avoid us like the plague."

A few feet away from the demonstration, which included two caged wolves that licked their handlers' hands, stood Otter, fielding questions about his position on wolf management.

"I don't think there is anybody that is unfamiliar with my position," Otter said Wednesday in the middle of city park during the lunch hour. "If there is, I don't think they were listening."

Idaho proved it can manage its wolf count in 2009, the inaugural season, the courts have accepted it, and the issue has been exhausted, he said.

Otter didn't make his way over to the protest, and the protest didn't track down the governor. Ross said he never expected the sides to debate, the group was just sending a message. Instead, Otter took to the stage and proclaimed Aug. 31 Rod and Nancy Erickson Recognition Day in Idaho.

Rod, a musician who has traveled and played with big name acts including George Jones, and Nancy were honored for their contributions to Spirit Lake and Idaho, a state in which they've lived for 50 years.

But the rain cut short the song Rod played, and it was back to the Spirit Lake Senior Center for more questions and answers. Capital For a Day, which has granted nearly 50 towns in all 44 counties the honor, gives Idahoans who otherwise may not have the time, face-to-face opportunities with their representatives.

No set speaking forums, no question guidelines, whatever is on your mind, ask away.

"That's good for us, that seems to work in our favor," said Beth Miller, of Spirit Lake, on the personal time with the state that lets Otter and the team "know we exist, and that we're watching them."

"It really does work," she said, having asked the governor for support in motorcycle rights should they arise in the Legislature.

The wolf discussion led to the topic of the grizzly shot and killed near the Canadian border, and the ensuing federal court case for the suspect. But local issues were front and center, too.

Like, what should be done to stop littering? Could Idaho increase the $350 ticket to really make it a deterrent? Can it require trucks to cover their back ends should they be traveling to the dump?

"You can't drive anywhere anymore, this is a beautiful area, without seeing garbage everywhere," Hayden's Bob Granggard told Otter.

Covering loads could be a county ordinance if the local population wishes to address it, Otter said.

Where to go to solve what problem is usually cleared up during the capital celebrations. The state isn't on the hook for everything.

"It has a tendency to clear up jurisdictional questions on the one hand, and where to actually go to surrender to solve your problem on the other," Otter said.

Otter's team said a judge's recent decision on the Farragut State Park shooting range not being allowed to operate was a "disappointing" one that will be appealed.

"I think it's productive," said John Alan, who asked the governor about the shooting range. "They already knew what I was talking about, they were prepared."

Otter told one man who wanted elected officials to weigh in on a federal court case years ago, that once issues hit the federal courts, representatives are all but barred from talking about them.

Later, asked why so many representatives, including Otter, weighed in on the case involving Jeremy Hill of Porthill, charged with killing a grizzly bear, a threatened species protected by federal law, Otter said they weren't the same thing.

"Have you heard or seen a statement from Mike Crapo that says anything about the citation or anything about the court action? No. Senator Risch? No. Labrador? Maybe a little bit in a general way. But as far as the specifics of the case, they're staying away from it. Which is what they're required to do," Otter said about the press releases the elected officials sent out. "They're discussing it. They're saying, 'Golly, if my family were faced with that, if that was my only immediate relief from that threat, I would have done the same thing.'"

Local issues, statewide issues, from the north of the state to the bottom, people generally seemed to be concerned about the same thing, Otter said. And as for Spirit Lake, the governor loves it. The last time he visited was October.

"I've been here lots of times," he said. "In fact, the last time I was here the key issue was the wolves."

JEROME A. POLLOS/Press Gov. Butch Otter listens to a citizen's concerns Wednesday during a town hall meeting while he was in Spirit Lake for the Capital for a Day program.

 

JEROME A. POLLOS/Press Orin Moses, left, walks in the rain Wednesday toward the Spirit Lake Senior Center with Gov. Butch Otter while the two discuss emergency medical service for the area.

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