Lawmakers consider funding requests for wildlife control

Published February 21, 2013 5:22 pm

State funds • Public, private groups ask for help to deal with problem species.
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Maybe carp, wolves and prairie dogs could use some lobbyists — because Utah legislators heard a series of requests Thursday for money to help kill them, move them from unwanted sites or keep them away.

The Utah Lake Commission, for example, requested $3 million to help build a plant to process carp into fish meal. It says carp are an invasive species in the lake, and now account for 90 percent of the fish there. It says they decimated the ecosystem, making the lake's water muddy.

Reed Price, executive director of the commission, told the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Appropriations Committee that removing 1 million carp a year for seven years would restore the lake to a more natural, clean state. The most affordable way, he said, is to build a fish meal plant and lease it to firms to catch and process the fish.

If that happens, Price said Utah Lake's "ecosystem would begin to recover. It would have pure water. Native vegetation would return, and the other fish would grow.... It will enhance the quality of life. It will entice business to come here as they see this fresh natural body of water so close to civilization."

The committee also heard a request for $300,000 to aid public and private efforts seeking to de-list the northern grey wolf as threatened, and to preempt listing Utah as a recovery area for the Mexican wolf. Supporters said that could help Utah keep down the number of wolves, and prevent hurting populations of other wildlife.

"The amount of money we would lose [from lost hunters and the businesses that serving them] would be devastating to Utah," said Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork.

Garfield County Engineer Brian Bremner requested $35,000 to help relocate prairie dogs from private lands to a public reserve — and dust them with medication that prevents bubonic plague. He said his county wants to help increase numbers of prairie dogs so they could be de-listed as threatened there.

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, had one concern.

"Just to clarify, when you say, 'prairie dog relocation,' you're not talking about relocation to the spirit world, right?" Bremner said that was correct.