USDA Wildlife Services took deep cuts this year, including $247,000 out of its $1.7-million Idaho budget. That cut prompted the agency to back off helicopter hunting of wolves for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game last summer to help elk herds.
That’s because the agency knows where its bread is buttered. It was established to control predators and other wildlife that caused problems for ranchers and farmers, not hunters.
It also wasn’t set up to enhance wildlife. So now that it is obvious that money is not coming back, where do they go to make up the difference?
In the old days, the livestock industry would simply go to Congress and ask that its agency be protected from budget cuts. And, if that didn’t work, the industry would turn to state legislatures, which were dominated by agricultural interests.
But today, the livestock industry faces the same realities everyone else does. Even good programs with universal support are facing cuts. Programs that have critics, like Wildlife Services does, have even less chance of holding the line.