2 Apr 2010, 12:24am
Deer, Elk, Bison Wildlife Agencies Wolves
by admin

Wolf Hunt Accounting

A curious headline accompanied an article on the recently finished first-ever Idaho wolf hunt:

Successful wolf hunt may not be profitable

By Brad Iverson-Long, IdahoReporter.com, April 1st, 2010 [here]

Idaho’s first sanctioned wolf hunt ended March 31. Despite all the notoriety surrounding Idaho’s wolf hunt, it may not be a moneymaker for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG), according to a department spokesman. Ed Mitchell said it’s debatable whether the hunt that led to 186 hunters killing wolves paid for itself. More than 31,000 hunters bought tags to hunt wolves, which sold for $11.50 to Idaho residents and $186 to out-of-state hunters.

“We need that tag money for our wolf and other big game programs,” Mitchell told IdahoReporter.com. He said the cost of wolf management programs, including tracking and tagging wolves, and the loss of revenues on elk hunting tags due to elk being killed by wolves has offset the more than $400,000 raised from wolf tag sales. Mitchell said elk herds in several areas of the state have been declining, including the Lolo zone. “The Lolo’s been studied so thoroughly,” he said, adding that other areas, like the Selway zone, may also have had large depredation. “We just have more complete science on the Lolo.” Both the Lolo and Selway zones are located along the Montana-Idaho border.

How is $400K in wolf tag sales not profitable?

Mr. Mitchell offered up the word “debatable”. I accept the challenge.

The cost of wolf management is not an “offset” of the hunt. Wolf management is a burden accepted by the State, in effect forced on them (extortion is the appropriate word) by the Feds. The wolf management costs must be borne whether there is a wolf hunt or not. The tag sales offset the management costs, not the other way around.

The loss in elk tag revenues due to the wolves radically reducing the elk population is also not an offset of the wolf hunt. Again, it’s the other way around. The wolf hunt is a method to save the elk, so more elk tags might be sold, if there are any elk left.

The decline in elk tag revenues is another burden borne by the State courtesy the Feds. That burden is a cost to the State that has nothing to do with the wolf hunt. The wolf hunt might reduce that burden, if the State can sell more elk tags. In other words, the wolf hunt is a potential benefit to the State, over and above the $400K in wolf hunt tags.

The IR article continues:

Wolves that kill livestock can also harm ranchers’ bottom line. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that Idaho will get a $140,000 grant to pay back livestock producers in cases of depredation. U.S. Sen. Jim Risch said in a news release that ranchers need this support. “Over the past year, I have heard repeatedly from ranchers who have been pushed to the brink of going out of business as a result of wolf predation,” Risch said. “This funding will help provide the resources to prevent future conflicts and provide compensation for losses. Idaho needs to continue active and aggressive management of the wolf population, just as it has successfully done with cats and bears over the last century.”

The wolf hunt will hopefully reduce livestock losses. That’s another benefit (opposite of a cost). The USFWS grants would not be required if there were no wolves, so technically killing all the wolves would eliminate the need for the grants. That would be an opportunity cost to the State, technically. But the economic effect of livestock loss is much greater than the USFWS reimburses for, so even considering the grant income, depredation is a net cost to the State. Reducing the livestock depredation is a net savings, even if as a result the grants are not necessary and not forthcoming. Hence reducing the number of livestock killed by wolves is another economic benefit of the wolf hunt.

As is well-known, the economic gain from any hunting program is vastly more than tag sales. Hunters buy equipment, rent motel rooms, and spend money like any tourist or recreationalist. The economic boost from hunting benefits businesses, causing them to hire more employees, and everybody pays more taxes on their enhanced incomes. Hence the State benefited from increased sales and income taxes.

All the wolves were not killed. In fact, the wolf population is expected to increase despite the hunt and removals of livestock depredating wolves. It is probable that elk populations will continue to decline. Hence it is difficult to accurately appraise many of the gains mentioned above. As I explained, they are not all gains per se, but reductions in costs, and possibly not much in the way of reductions either.

However, without the wolf hunt the costs probably would be even greater. The wolf hunt potentially provided a savings in costs as well as a boost in revenues. Both are economic benefits.

The State is not a private business. It is not the mission of State government to make a profit. It is their mission to provide services at a reasonable, affordable cost (that ought to be their mission at any rate). Hence the headline claim that the wolf hunt was not profitable is slightly off-kilter. A better headline would have been Wolf Hunt Enhances Economy, State Government Revenues and Reduces Costs to Taxpayers.

The wolf hunt was, in fact, a money maker. Maybe not as much as most citizens would like, but definitely an economic positive rather than a negative.

3 Apr 2010, 3:34pm
by YPmule

Posted to the YPTimes.



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