ALERT ~ COMMENTS ON CONTEST HUNTS DUE OCTOBER 16th ~ SPEAK OUT NOW!

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http://www.projectcoyote.org/

In response to an application submitted by Idaho for Wildlife to host a Predator Hunt Derby on public land, the BLM is accepting public comments on an Environmental Assessment (EA) through October 16th.

Idaho for Wildlife is seeking to repeat their highly controversial killing contest targeting wolves, coyotes, bobcats, foxes and other predators  — offering prizes to those who kill the most and largest animals —   in a multi-year “predator derby” scheduled for the next five winters (with the next one scheduled for January 2-4, 2015).

The EA comment period comes following a scoping period that resulted in approximately 56,500 public comments of which a mere 10 were in support of the permit being issued. Thank you for making your voices heard during the scoping process! Your input is needed again!

Express your support for Alternative B- the “No Action Alternative” – which would deny Idaho for Wildlife’s request for a special recreation permit that would allow contestants to kill predators on over 3 million acres of public lands in Idaho for the next five years. This event would be damaging to the affected ecosystem, harmful to ecologically vital species, incompatible with scientific principles of wildlife management, and offensive to the concept of fair chase.

Please don’t miss this opportunity to voice your opposition (you do not have to be an Idaho resident to comment as this is federal BLM land- YOUR land!). 
You can read the EA here.

Please act now! Comments are due no later than October 16th and can be emailed to:

Liz Townley
Outdoor Recreation Planner
BLM Idaho Field Office
1206 S. Challis Street
Salmon, Idaho 83467
blm_id_predatorhuntderby@blm.gov

Please cc Project Coyote as we are tracking letters sent (info@projectcoyote.org) & remember to include your full contact info. in your signature block to ensure your comments are included in the official record.

Please include in your subject line Re: Predator Hunt Derby EA- Support for Alt. B

Talking Points:

Express your support for Alternative B – the “No Action Alternative” (please use your own words).

1.  Killing contests have nothing in common with fair chase, ethical hunting. Technology, baiting, and “calling” place wildlife at an even greater and unfair disadvantage. Hunting in winter, when species can be easily tracked in snow and when most animals are working hard to survive contravenes the notion of fair chase. Killing predators, or any wild animal, as part of a ‘contest’ or ‘derby’ is ethically indefensible and ecologically reckless.

2.  Bloodsport contests are conducted for profit, entertainment, prizes and, simply, for the “fun” of killing. No evidence exists showing that predator killing contests control problem animals or serve any beneficial management function. Coyote populations that are not exploited (that is hunted, trapped, or controlled by other means), form stable “extended family” social structures that naturally limit overall coyote populations through defense of territory and the suppression of breeding by subordinate female members of the family group.

3. The importance of wolves, coyotes and other predators in maintaining order, stability, and productivity in ecosystems has been well documented in peer- reviewed scientific literature. Coyotes provide myriad ecosystem services that benefit humans including their control of rodents and rabbits, which compete with domestic livestock for available forage. As apex predators wolves increase biodiversity and ecological integrity.

4.  With fewer than 700 wolves in Idaho and poaching a common problem, allowing a killing contest of a species just off the endangered species list is reckless, indefensible and counter to sound science.

5. Economically, a live wolf is worth far more than a dead one. Wolf watching has brought in millions of dollars into Idaho and tourism is a major economic revenue source. Furthermore, issuing the permit is likely to affect tourism in Idaho as those who value wildlife decide not to visit due to the state’s draconian predator management policies.

6.  Wildlife killing contests perpetuate a culture of violence and send the message to children that life has little value and that an entire species of animals is disposable.

7.  Wildlife killing contests put non-target animals, companion animals, and people at risk. Domestic dogs are sometimes mistaken for coyotes and wolves.

Idaho wolf/coyote killing derby wants double the area for hunt

Sep 29, 2014
Salmon – Salmon, Idaho may be a small town by anyone’s standards, with a little over 3,000 people, but they have big ideas. Located in the middle of the state along the banks of the Salmon River, it is famous for fishing, rafting, and now, wolf hunting.

Last year, Salmon, Idaho held their first annual Predator Derby on December 28-29. The news of the derby was condemned by people all over the world. Threatening letters and emails poured in, many with threats of bodily harm. But one Salmon resident, Billijo Beck defended the hunt, saying it was just the way they lived. “If you look up the definition of murder, it’s defined in human terms. Not in animal terms,” said Beck.

After winning a court challenge allowing them to hold their hunt last year, the group is holding their 2nd Annual Predator Derby on Jan. 2-3. 2015. There is one difference though. They want to expand the killing zone to almost double the size it was last year. They have petitioned the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for approval.

Today the BLM said they would issue an environmental analysis on Thursday, and then take public comment for 15 days before issuing an answer. The contested area involves around 1,500 square miles. Environmental groups are saying they will protest the permit.

The group behind the killing derby, Idaho for Wildlife, is the same group that hosted the derby last year. At that derby, a number of activists and a journalist, Christopher Ketcham infiltrated the hunt. Ketcham wrote a scathing story, “How to kill a wolf,” for Vice. In the story, Ketcham describes a “good old boy” local who bought his group a round of drinks at a local bar. Cal Black then told the “supposed hunters” to “Gut-shoot every goddamn last one of them wolves.”

For those of you who wonder why a gut-shot is recommended, it’s the best way to kill a wolf, but the death is prolonged. Sick, yes. But that’s what these guys like to do. The only thing killed last year, besides a lot of hot air and liquor, was 21 coyotes, but no wolves. No one claimed the $1,000 prize.

Idaho for Wildlife is a supposedly patriotic organization, wrapped in the flag10171053_10152319527762440_4831074600876870909_n and espousing American ideals. Dedicated to the preservation of Idaho’s wildlife.The group also states they will “fight against all legal and legislative attempts by animal-rights and anti-gun organizations who are attempting to take away our rights and freedoms under the Constitution of the United States of America.” Interestingly, the group says they believe that wildlife management should be governed by science.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/environment/op-ed-idaho-wolf-coyote-killing-derby-wants-double-the-area-for-hunt/article/405980#ixzz3F1CGPs87

Idaho wolf hunting derby seeks 5-year permit

http://www.spokesman.com/blogs/outdoors/2014/aug/15/idaho-wolf-hunting-derby-seeks-5-year-permit/

This Sept. 1, 2009 file photo provided by Robert Millage shows his rifle with a wolf he shot on the first day of wolf hunting season along the Lochsa River in Northern Idaho. A temporary court order in Oregon has barred wildlife authorities from killing wolves that attack livestock for the past year. While Oregon has seen wolf attacks on livestock remain static while wolf numbers has risen to 46, Idaho last year saw the numbers of livestock attacks rise dramatically as hunters and wildlife agents killed 422 wolves. Wolf advocates hope tha ccidental experiment will lead other states to reconsider lethal controls as wolves spread through the West. (Robert Millage)
This Sept. 1, 2009 file photo provided by Robert Millage shows his rifle with a wolf he shot on the first day of wolf hunting season along the Lochsa River in Northern Idaho. A temporary court order in Oregon has barred wildlife authorities from killing wolves that attack livestock for the past year. While Oregon has seen wolf attacks on livestock remain static while wolf numbers has risen to 46, Idaho last year saw the numbers of livestock attacks rise dramatically as hunters and wildlife agents killed 422 wolves. Wolf advocates hope tha ccidental experiment will lead other states to reconsider lethal controls as wolves spread through the West. (Robert Millage)

HUNTING — Organizers of a disputed predator derby aimed at killing wolves in central Idaho are asking for a five-year permit to hold the contest.

The Idaho Mountain Express reports the group called Idaho for Wildlife applied with the Bureau of Land Management for a special recreation permit.

The derby went ahead last year after a U.S. District Court ruled against an environmental group that filed a lawsuit to stop the event. Wolf hunting with the required license during the established seasons is Idaho is legal.

  • There was a lot of hysteria promoted by pro-wolf groups who predicted a wolf slaughter even though everyone with a clue knew that derby hunters had little chance of killing more than a few wolves.

Organizers say that last year more than 230 participants killed 21 coyotes but no wolves near Salmon.

Organizers have said they’re seeking to publicize wolves’ impact on local elk herds and potential disease risks.

The BLM is examining the application as part of a process that will include a public comment period.

Idaho Wants to Make Wildlife Killing Contests an Annual Event

Idaho Wants to Make Wildlife Killing Contests an Annual Event

Last year a hunters’ rights group in Idaho sparked outrage when it decided to hold the first predator killing contest targeting coyotes and wolves in decades, but it appears the group learned nothing after turning the town of Salmon into a battleground and is back seeking a permit to hold the event annually over the next several years.

The contest last year, sponsored by Idaho for Wildlife, awarded trophies and prize money for killing the largest wolf and most coyotes, among other things, and offered special prizes for a youth category for children between the ages of 10 and 14.

More offensive is that the contest kicked off on the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act and marked the first time wolves were targeted in a predator derby since their reintroduction. While the group tried to claim it was just good old family fun, wildlife advocates called it out for what it really is – a reckless waste of life – and fought unsuccessfully to shut it down.

No wolves were killed last year, but 21 coyotes weren’t so lucky. Now, the group is back and is asking the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for a Special Recreation Permit that would allow it to hold more of these contests on public lands for the next five years, with the first one scheduled for January 2-4, 2015.

This time around, the scope of the contest could be expanded to include even more species, including skunks and weasels.

Now organizations including Project Coyote and Defenders of Wildlife are urging the BLM to deny the permit because, among other reasons, hosting a predator derby is an offensive misuse of our public lands, they could impact a host of species at a time when food is scarce and they are exactly the type of thing that drove predators like wolves to the brink in the first place.

These contests are also incompatible with the scientific principles that are, in theory, supposed to guide wildlife management decisions and defy the principles of ethical hunting. These events aren’t about managing wildlife or controlling predator populations, they’re about killing for fun and for the profit and entertainment of a few who decide to participate and they completely ignore the important role predators play in healthy ecosystems.

Tell the BLM to Shut This Down

While the BLM doesn’t regulate hunting, it can make sure these contests don’t take place on federal public land, which belongs to all of us. The agency will be accepting public input on the scope of what it should consider in its Environmental Assessment for a few more days until August 18. The agency will be considering how this contest will impact economic and social values, the impact on existing recreational uses, and how they would affect wildlife habitat and threatened species in the targeted area.

You can send a comment, with all of your contact info so its counted for the official record, to Liz Townley, Outdoor Recreation Planner, at blm_id_predatorhuntderby@blm.gov with the subject line: Re: DOI-BLM-ID-I000-2014-0002-EA.

Project Coyote is also offering talking points and keeping track of the letters we send; you can cc them on your email at: info@projectcoyote.org

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/idaho-wants-to-make-wildlife-killing-contests-an-annual-event.html#ixzz3AUN4gRT1

Help stop the wolf and predator killing spree!

From Defenders.org:

A multi-year competitive killing derby has just been proposed by a “hunters’ rights” group in Idaho. 

If approved, this will be the second wolf-killing competition held in Idaho – and no predator will be safe!

If you care about wolves and other predators, please take a moment to tell the BLM to deny this outrageous request to conduct an organized predator killing derby.

copyrighted Hayden wolf in lodgepoles

A “hunters’ rights” organization has formally requested a federal permit to hold a multi-year predator-killing derby in Idaho — on national public lands!

If approved, this will be the second competitive wolf-killing competition held in Idaho – and no predator will be safe!

If you care about wolves and other predators as much as I do, please help by telling the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at the Department of the Interior to deny the request to conduct this organized killing spree.

As if the competitive targeting of wolves was not bad enough, this proposed derby would sweep all predators in Idaho into its gun sights, rewarding the killing of coyotes, skunks and even weasels.

Last year’s wolf and coyote-killing derby included prizes for killing the most coyotes and killing the largest wolf. This is not hunting; this is simply mass-killing for fun based upon hatred and fear.

Defenders is adamantly opposed to this sort of competitive killing derby and the dangerous and unethical precedent that it sets. Please stand with us and call on the BLM to immediately deny this outrageous request!

If you think it can’t get worse, consider this: The proposed event would take place every winter for five years when wolves and other wildlife are most vulnerable out foraging for food in the snow and extreme cold.

This proposal sets us back to the barbaric 19th century approach to predators when their value to the environment was not understood. These are exactly the kinds of extermination era tactics that drove wolves to the brink in the first place! This is not modern wildlife management, and it has no place in civil society.

Please demand that the BLM stop this unconscionable killing contest in its tracks!

Thank you for taking immediate action.

Idaho Suspends Wilderness Wolf-Killing Plan In Face of Court Challenge

http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2014/07/29/idaho-suspends-wilderness-wolf-killing-plan-in-face-of-court-challenge/

By On July 29, 2014

POCATELLO, Idaho – Faced with a legal challenge by conservationists and an imminent hearing before a federal appeals court, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (“IDFG”) has abandoned its plan to resume a professional wolf-killing program in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness during the coming winter.

In a sworn statement submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on July 24, 2014, IDFG Wildlife Bureau Chief Jeff Gould stated that IDFG “will not conduct any agency control actions for wolves within the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness before November 1, 2015.” IDFG had previously advised the court that the program could resume as early as December 1, 2014.

A professional hunter-trapper hired by IDFG killed nine wolves in the Frank Church Wilderness last winter and state officials in February announced plans to kill 60 percent of the wolves in the Middle Fork section of the wilderness over a period of several years in an effort to inflate wilderness elk populations for the benefit of commercial outfitters and recreational hunters.

“As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act this September, we are relieved that the Frank Church Wilderness will be managed as a wild place, rather than an elk farm, for at least the coming year,” said Earthjustice attorney Timothy Preso, who is representing conservationists challenging the wilderness wolf-killing program. “Now we must make sure that wilderness values prevail for the long term.”

Earthjustice is representing long-time Idaho conservationist and wilderness advocate Ralph Maughan along with four conservation groups—Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project, Wilderness Watch, and the Center for Biological Diversity—in the lawsuit challenging the wolf-killing program. The conservationists argue that the U.S. Forest Service, which is charged by Congress with managing and protecting the Frank Church Wilderness, violated the Wilderness Act and other laws by allowing and assisting the state wolf-killing program in the largest forest wilderness in the lower-48 states.

In a separate sworn statement filed with the Ninth Circuit on July 24, the Forest Service committed to providing the conservationists with notice by August 5, 2015 of any plans by IDFG to resume professional wolf-killing in the Frank Church Wilderness during the 2015-16 winter, as well as “a final determination by the Forest Service as to whether it concurs with or objects to such plans.”

“IDFG’s announcement now gives the Forest Service the chance to play out its mission—its obligation to protect our irreplaceable Frank Church Wilderness for the American people and for all its wildlife against an effort to turn it into a mere elk farming operation on infertile soil,” said Maughan, a retired Idaho State University professor who was a member of the citizens’ group that drew up the boundaries of the Frank Church Wilderness 35 years ago.

“We are pleased to see this truce in Idaho’s wolf reduction efforts in the Frank Church for a full year,” said Suzanne Stone, Defenders’ regional representative who has worked nearly three decades to restore wolves in Idaho. “The Frank Church is both the largest forested wilderness area and a core habitat for gray wolves in the western United States. Wolves belong here as they have made the ‘Frank’ truly wild again. Ensuring healthy wolf populations here is critical for the recovery of wolves throughout the entire northwestern region.”

“It is hard to imagine a decision more inconsistent with wilderness protection than to allow the hired killing of wolves,” added Travis Bruner, executive director of Western Watersheds Project. “Today, some relief for wild places flows from the news that IDFG will not continue that odious operation this year. Next we will see whether the Forest Service will take action to protect the Frank Church Wilderness from such atrocities in the future.”

“It’s time for the Forest Service to stand with the vast majority of the American people by taking the necessary steps to protect wolves in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness for the long-term, not just the next 15 months,” stated George Nickas, executive director of Wilderness Watch. “Wolves are the epitome of wildness. Their protection is key to preserving the area’s wilderness character.”

“We’re glad Idaho’s wolves are rightly getting a reprieve from the state’s ill-conceived predator-killing plan, at least for a year,” said Amy Atwood, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.  “We’re also happy to see the Forest Service agree to be more transparent about any future decision to allow Idaho to kill wolves in the Frank Church.”

BACKGROUND: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had scheduled an August 25, 2014 court hearing to address the conservationists’ request for an injunction to prevent IDFG from resuming its program of professional wolf killing in the Frank Church Wilderness during the coming winter. IDFG commenced the program in December 2013 without public notice but abruptly suspended the program on January 28, 2014 amidst emergency injunction proceedings before the Ninth Circuit. Since then, the conservationists have continued to press their case for an injunction before the Ninth Circuit, which led to the scheduled August 25 court hearing.

Because IDFG has abandoned the 2014-15 professional wolf-killing program in the wilderness, the conservationists have agreed to forego the scheduled court hearing, but they renewed their call for the Forest Service to fulfill its legal duty to protect the Frank Church Wilderness.

copyrighted wolf in river

War on wolves has reached new a low


 

By LYNNE STONE

Since early July, Idaho’s war on wolves has another chapter—once again in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA). This time, it involves the Casino Pack in the Sawtooth Valley near Fisher Creek.
It works like this: A rancher has a hurt or dead calf or sheep, calls the misnamed federal agency Wildlife Services, who will say it’s a wolf kill. Wildlife Services calls the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and Fish and Game rubber-stamps whatever Wildlife Services wants—usually to “kill all offending wolves.” In the summer months, there are thousands of sheep and cattle on the SNRA. Some are going to be sick or hurt every day. If wolves come around, they are blamed.
The Casino Pack alpha male was B450. I had first seen him as a yearling in 2009 with his three younger sisters and brothers in the Stanley Basin. His family, the Basin Butte wolves, were killed on Thanksgiving week 2009 because cattle ranchers would not adapt to living with wolves.
B450 survived five more years and had his own family before he was trapped on July 9 near Fisher Creek. Although Fish and Game had told Wildlife Services to release any collared wolves, B450 was so mortally injured from being in the leg-hold trap in hot weather that he was shot. The same with his yearling son, B647—caught in a trap on July 1, and in such bad shape when the Wildlife Services agent finally checked the trap, the wolf would not live if released. This is not the first time wolves have suffered in the SNRA due to trapping. A collared yearling died in a trap on Decker Flat last May.
Another Casino Pack wolf, a subadult female, has also been killed by Wildlife Services, leaving only the pack’s mother, pups and one other sibling. The kill order is out for them, too. All because one rancher lost one calf, maybe to wolves.


The town of Stanley struggles in winter to survive. Wildlife viewing, especially for wolves, could change that.


Fish and Game in Salmon told me this week that they were sorry that the collared wolves were killed. Fish and Game seems to have no control over the actions of Wildlife Services, nor do they seem to care in a state where our cowboy governor Butch Otter has made it clear he doesn’t want wolves here.
On the SNRA since 2000, the Stanley Pack, Whitehawk Pack, Galena Pack and Basin Butte Pack have been eradicated because of a handful of cattle and sheepmen. When people claim that the SNRA protects wildlife, it’s simply not true when it comes to wolves and other animals that ranchers don’t like. They call the shots, literally.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Ranchers could be proactive and learn about nonlethal methods of deterrence. A few are doing this in the Wood River Valley. Landowners who lease pasture to cattlemen could stop—that would help wolves. The SNRA could be a place like Yellowstone Park’s Lamar Valley—where people come from all over the world to see wolves and nearby communities benefit—receiving millions of dollars from tourists. The town of Stanley struggles in winter to survive. Wildlife viewing, especially for wolves could change that.

    Lynne Stone is the director of the Boulder-White Clouds Council, an environmental group. She has been a longtime advocate for wolves in central Idaho.

http://www.mtexpress.com/index2.php?ID=2007152960#.U8_dOGdOVy0

Dog Deaths Prompt Idaho to Consider Changing Trapping Rules

http://www.care2.com/causes/dog-deaths-prompt-idaho-to-consider-changing-trapping-rules.html

Dog Deaths Prompt Idaho to Consider Changing Trapping Rules

Trapping for wolves and a number of other furbearers is allowed throughout the state, but these traps aren’t just a cruel way to torture and kill the animals for which they’re intended–they are posing a serious threat to non-target animals and our pets.

According to the Department of Fish and Game, in 2012, 30 dogs and 24 house cats were among more than 800 non-target animals who were caught. Trapper reports also show the number of dogs who have become victims of traps has increased from two in 2002 to 32 in 2013.

To illustrate the seriousness of the problem, in two widely reported cases last year tragedy struck when dogs were killed in baited body-crushing traps.

According to the Spokesman-Review, the first incident occurred the day after Christmas when a family watched their two-year-old dog die in less than a minute. The second incident happened in January when a woman took her four-year-old black lab for a run, whereby it was caught in a trap that was legally placed on public endowment land. Her and her husband had to call for help because the trap closed so tightly they couldn’t get it open.

In response to the growing number of dogs being trapped and increasing concerns being voiced by pet owners, the Department of Fish and Game released an instructional video in March of this year, and it’s really helpful: you just need to bring a bucket full of supplies with you, channel MacGuyver, or be kind of person who can function calmly while you’re watching your beloved dog suffer, as you try to remember how to open one of the medieval-looking torture devices without doing even more damage. No problem, right?

As infuriating as it is to think you would have to deal with that just because you want to take your dog hiking, and as easy as it would be to say the obvious solution here is to ban traps, that won’t happen. Voters already enshrined trapping as a hunting right in the state’s constitution in 2012. At least now officials are considering restrictions that could help prevent more accidents.

Last week the Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to start making new rules for certain types of traps, and is considering other steps that were recommended by a working group, including requiring a trapper education program, posting signs, restricting the use of body-crushing traps on public land, and increasing set-backs for traps placed near trails. Once approved by the commission, these proposals go to the legislature for approval.

That’s Where You Come In

You can send a message to the Fish and Game Commission asking it to implement every possible measure to protect the public and non-target animals from the dangers traps pose.

You can also sign and share our Care2 petition asking state officials to do something to prevent the trapping of endangered Canada Lynx.

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/dog-deaths-prompt-idaho-to-consider-changing-trapping-rules.html#ixzz37xk0flgd

Idaho has declared a war on wolves

http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/jackson_hole_daily/state_and_regional/writerrs_on_range/idaho-has-declared-a-war-on-wolves/article_ea0b8b62-ad9b-5f4e-914e-dc936aa64977.html?fb_action_ids=10152158813396188&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_ref=.U4jdLo-KFj4.like

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 12:15 am

Nearly 20 years ago, I served on the team that captured and released the first wolves in daho and Yellowstone National Park. Though this reintroduction effort was heralded as a significant achievement in the recovery of endangered species, we’re in a far different place today, especially in Idaho.

The state has been working to undermine this conservation success story by proclaiming its intentions to kill most of its 659 wolves.copyrighted wolf in river

 

And state officials are just getting started. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s recently established “Wolf Control Fund and State Board” is charged with killing hundreds more wolves, with funding coming from state taxpayers. Recently, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game adopted a new predation management plan that calls for killing up to 60 percent of the wolves living in the heart of the federally protected Frank Church Wilderness. Wilderness is defined as a special place set aside for wildlife, and visitors are expected to leave no trace. Now, Idaho is going to fill this wild place with traps and snares to kill wolves in hopes of increasing the number of elk for a few hunters.

What is truly destructive is that state officials seem bent on perpetuating a culture of fear and loathing toward wolves. They repeat tales from mythology and fail to tell the true, full story about successful ranching in the presence of wolves, or the many reasons why the elk population has declined. And livestock losses to wolves have always ranked among the lowest causes of livestock loss in the West.

I know that not everyone in Idaho hates wolves. I grew up in Idaho, and I’ve found that most Idahoans don’t know many of the facts behind the wolf conflict. I also don’t believe that rural residents are fooled by the propaganda from campaigners against the wolf.

In Idaho’s Sawtooth National Forest — a sheep superhighway that is also wolf territory — Blaine County ranchers, county, state and federal agencies, and local wolf advocates have been working together to resolve conflicts using nonlethal wolf management and livestock husbandry methods. These methods include deterrents like livestock guard dogs and electric fencing that reduce or eliminate livestock losses while also building social acceptance for wolves. The results are undeniable.

After being persecuted for centuries, wolves deserve a better future in this country — and in Idaho in particular. We need to demand that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service examine how wolves have fared since being stripped of Endangered Species Act protection. Wolves in Idaho need our support to stay alive.

Suzanne Stone is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a syndicated column service of High Country News (hcn.org). She is the Northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife in Boise, Idaho.

Why do American farmers need some of the strongest anti-whistleblower laws in the land?

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2014/05/ag_gag_laws_idaho_is_criminalizing_muckraking_to_protect_farmers.html

Hogs are raised on the farm.
Should taking this picture without permission be illegal?

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Over several weeks in 2012, an animal rights activist secretly filmed workers at an Idaho dairy farm kicking and punching cows in the head, jumping up and down on their backs, sexually abusing one, and dragging another behind a tractor by its neck. The Mercy for Animals-made video—one of roughly 80 that activists say they’ve recorded over the past decade—prompted the owners of Bettencourt Dairies to fire five workers and install cameras in their barns to prevent future abuses. A police investigation, meanwhile, ended with three of the fired employees charged with animal cruelty. It was a clear victory for those groups that have made it their mission to expose animal cruelty and criminal wrongdoing on modern American farms.

It will also be their last, if the agriculture industry and its allies in state government have their way.

Earlier this year, Idaho became at least the seventh state to pass a law aimed specifically at thwarting such undercover investigations, and roughly a dozen similar bills are currently winding their way through statehouses around the country. While the specifics vary, so-called ag-gag laws generally make it illegal to covertly record animal abuse on farms, or to lie about any ties to animal rights groups or news organizations when applying for a farm job. Idaho’s law is the strictest of those currently on the books. It threatens muckrakers with up to a year in jail and fines up to $5,000—a sentence, it should be noted, that’s the same as what someone convicted of animal abuse faces.

The laws specifically target animal rights groups like the Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and similar organizations that have increasingly turned to clandestine video in their battle with Big Ag. But the way many of the laws are tailored, they also could ensnare journalists, whistleblowers, and even unions in their legal net, in the process raising serious concerns about the legal impact on everything from free speech to food safety. A wide-ranging coalition of organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Food Safety, has joined animal rights groups in challenging the Idaho law, along with a similar one in Utah, in federal court. The lawsuits also have the backing of the Government Accountability Project, the AFL-CIO, and a host of media organizations, including NPR.

“They can dress these laws up however they want, but ultimately the rationale here is pretty clearly self-interest on the part of the industry,” says Michael McFadden, the general counsel at Farm Forward, an advocacy group that’s leading the charge against such laws. The industry and their statehouse allies don’t necessarily disagree. State Sen. Jim Patrick, a lead sponsor of the Idaho legislation and a farmer himself, explained the rationale behind his bill: “It’s not designed to cover up animal cruelty, but we have to defend ourselves.”

The way Patrick and his like-minded colleagues see things, farmers in their state are under attack by activists who will stop at nothing to paint what happens on factory farms in the worst possible light. “Terrorism has been used by enemies for centuries to destroy the ability to produce food and the confidence in food safety,” the Idaho Republican told his fellow lawmakers while advocating for his bill several months ago. He struck a similar note during our conversation, comparing groups like Mercy for Animals, which has made a name for itself legally capturing wrongdoing on camera, with more extreme groups like the Earth Liberation Front, an eco-terrorist organization known for setting fire to ski resorts and lumber mills.

Farmers and their allies are quick to brush off the unsanctioned animal rights investigations as craven attempts to manipulate the public and undermine the meat and dairy industry as a whole. “Their goal wasn’t to protect the animals,” Patrick said of the Mercy for Animals investigation at Bettencourt. “Their goal was to put the farmer, or in this case the dairyman, out of business.” That, the activists admit, is largely true. After investigations uncover inhumane or illegal practices on big farms, the groups have a history of applying public pressure to any corporation it can tie to that particular farm. In the case of the Idaho dairy, Mercy for Animals publicized an indirect link to Burger King—complete with a still-active webpage, BurgerKingCruelty.com—and successfully pressed the fast-food giant to stop topping its burgers with cheese made from the dairy’s milk. While that didn’t put Bettencourt, one of the nation’s largest dairies, out of business, it certainly hurt its bottom line.

The industry concedes that abuses do happen on farms—how could it not when there is video evidence one Google search away?—but largely dismisses them as the work of bad actors that are the exception to the industry rule. The industry says reporters and the public are welcome behind closed barn doors—just as long as farmers are there to give context and explain the unsightly details. “We have no intent to stop journalists, but we do want them to ask permission first,” Patrick said, noting that he and his colleagues intentionally left their law as broad as they could.

There are plenty of problems with that logic as far as the public good is concerned. For starters, Upton Sinclair didn’t rely on official tours of Chicago’s slaughterhouses before sitting down to write The Jungle, the 1906 novel that was based on his undercover trips into meatpacking facilities and a work that is widely credited with driving widespread regulatory reform. Likewise for the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting of the New York Times’ Michael Moss, who used confidential company records in 2009 to raise questions about the effectiveness of injecting ammonia into beef to remove E. coli.

The AFL-CIO warns that the effort could have a chilling effect on unions by making it more difficult for undercover organizers to land positions at companies where they are unwelcome, a practice known as “salting.” Ditto for whistleblowers, who in theory could be charged under the law if they were to record evidence to back up their allegations, according to the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower protection and advocacy organization. State lawmakers behind the efforts often voice fears that activists could easily stage abuse where there is none, leaving farmers convicted in the court of public opinion without a chance to defend themselves—although Patrick couldn’t cite any examples of that ever happening.

There’s also the arguably more pressing matter of the laws’ main target: camera-toting activists on farm factory floors. While the industry might not like what it sees in the videos, it can’t make a convincing case that the footage has no value. In the last three years alone, activists have taped stable workers in Tennessee illegally burning the ankles of horses with chemicals, employees in Wyoming kicking pigs and flinging piglets into the air, and farmhands in Iowa burning and snapping off the beaks of young chickens. Those actions went undiscovered, or at least unreported, by the farm owners and government regulators before they were caught on camera by muckraking activists.

What they capture on film can go far beyond animal cruelty, too. The footage is capable of shifting the debate from one about the welfare of livestock to that of humans, a topic much more likely to hit home with consumers. The most damning investigation in the past decade occurred in Southern California, where an undercover Humane Society operative caught workers illegally pushing so-called downer cows, those cattle that are too sick or weak to stand on their own, to slaughter with the help of chains, forklifts, and high-pressure water hoses at the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has deemed those cows potential carriers of mad cow disease, salmonella, and E. coli. As a result, the video prompted the recall of 143 million pounds of beef—the largest meat recall in U.S. history—large portions of which were destined for school lunch programs and fast-food restaurants. That investigation would have likely never happened if laws like Idaho’s had been on the books in California.

Both sides are set to get their day in court later this summer when a federal judge hears the suit against the Idaho law. But even if the law is ultimately struck down, the fight will continue. “If it fails, we’ll revise it,” Patrick said. “I know we did the right thing.”