|Friday, November 16, 2012 (PST)|
|North Idaho’s Bonner County and the state’s snowmobile association this week launched a lawsuit in U.S. District Court aimed at forcing a response from the federal government regarding Endangered Species Act listing of the “Southern Selkirk” population of woodland caribou.
Bonner County and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association on May 9 filed a petition under ESA regulations suggesting that the caribou population was illegally listed and asking that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reconsider its 1983 listing of the Selkirk caribou population as endangered.
Under ESA rules, an initial finding as to whether or not a petition to remove a species from the list presents substantial information indicating that the requested action may be warranted is due within 90 days of the petition. The complaint that finding has yet to be issued.
The complaint filed Thursday for the county and snowmobile association by the Pacific Legal Foundation says the USFWS has “violated the ESA, and unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed required agency action in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act….”
“Unfortunately, the government has not responded to our petition,” said PLF attorney Daniel Himebaugh. “The agency is not serving the taxpayers, or the cause of responsible environmental regulation, by ignoring legitimate questions about its policies. Therefore, on behalf of our clients, and all taxpayers, we’re forced to tell the agency, ‘we’ll see you in court.’”
The petition claims that the caribou population in Bonner County’s Selkirk Mountains isn’t distinct in a legally relevant way that would support federal regulation.
“The delisting petition that we submitted in May was based on the government’s own science,” Himebaugh said. “As we pointed out, the federal government’s findings suggest that the caribou population should be dropped from the ESA list. The problem is the Service did not look at the Selkirk caribou population in relation to the caribou species as a whole. The government singled out a small population without determining whether it was legally discrete or significant in the manner that the ESA requires.”
A 2008 status review completed by the USFWS says “The geographic separation between the South Selkirk population and the next two closest populations (South Purcells and Nakusp), the physical movement barriers between these populations, and the limited exchange of animals between the South Selkirk and adjacent populations demonstrate that this population is markedly separated from other populations of the same taxon as a result of physical factors.
“We find that the population is significant because of its importance in helping protect the viability of the mountain caribou metapopulation, which is in danger of extirpation throughout its current range. Over the last century, mountain caribou have been extirpated from 60 percent of their historic range in BC and the US,” the status review says.
“Loss of the South Selkirk caribou population would represent an additional 8 percent reduction in the current range of mountain caribou (whose range has already declined by 60 percent) and would eliminate the southernmost population and the last remaining caribou population in the coterminous US.”
“There are hundreds of thousands of caribou on the North American continent, so there is no justification for putting Idaho caribou on the ESA list and imposing job-killing land use restrictions as a result,” said Bonner County Commissioner Mike Nielsen. “This regulatory overkill puts winter tourism and recreation on the endangered list.”
The complaint says that due to purported threats to the Southern Selkirk Mountain Caribou Population, a court-ordered injunction prevents Bonner County and its residents from using and maintaining certain trails in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests for snowmobile recreation.
“Trail grooming that interferes with the caribou or its habitat may expose the county to liability for a ‘take’ of caribou under the ESA. Moreover, implementation of the defendants’ recent critical habitat proposal for the Southern Selkirk Mountain Caribou Population would place additional restrictions on recreational activities in more than 375,000 acres in Bonner County and surrounding areas, resulting in lost income for the county and its residents,” the complaint says.
The complaint asks the court to issue a “mandatory injunction requiring Defendants to make a finding by a date certain on whether Plaintiffs’ petition ‘presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that’ delisting the Southern Selkirk Mountain Caribou Population may be warranted.”
For more information see CBB, May 11, 2012, “Pacific Legal Foundation Files Petition To Delist Idaho’s Selkirk Mountains Caribou” http://www.cbbulletin.com/420363.aspx
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS PROPOSED TO DESIGNATE 600 SQUARE MILES IN IDAHO, WASHINGTON AS CRITICAL HABITAT
March 12, 2018 03:53 PM
Updated March 19, 2018 03:09 PM
Wyoming announced its plans to open grizzly bear hunting, now that the bruins in Greater Yellowstone no longer have the protection of the Endangered Species Act.
The reaction has been predictable. The people who didn’t want grizzlies delisted in the first place loudly protested.
“Wyoming’s reckless hunt ignores the fact that grizzly bears remain endangered in Yellowstone and across the west,” Andrea Santarsiere, an East Idaho-based senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a news release. “It’s tragic that these imperiled animals will be shot and killed so trophy hunters can stick heads on their walls.”
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will hear a similar proposal by its managers to open a grizzly season this fall at its March 22 meeting in Boise. Instead of Wyoming, they could follow Montana’s example and wait.
Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Director Martha Williams said her agency will manage grizzly bears for long-term recovery. It plans to prevent conflicts with humans by “continuing to work hard at responding proactively to bear conflicts, and educating people and communities in grizzly country how to be bear aware,” she said.
To meet the overall population goals, 17 male and two female grizzlies are allowed to be killed within the so-called demographic monitoring area around Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Wyoming has the largest area and quota, allowing 12 bears killed. It is also allowing the same number in ranches and other areas surrounding the central grizzly habitat.
Montana would have been allowed six males. Idaho would be allowed only one inside the habitat area, which includes most of Island Park and parts of Ashton in East Idaho next to Yellowstone.
Federal officials have told the Idaho commission to consider requiring all hunters to take a mandatory bear identification class, to ensure they kill what they’re after.
Idaho game managers may also ask the commission to allow additional grizzlies to be killed outside of that habitat area, in a region west to Interstate 15. That request would likely focus on the Palisades Wilderness Study Area south of the Tetons and the Big Hole Mountains west of Teton Valley. It also could include part of the Centennial Mountains. The latter is the most important wildlife corridor linking two of the largest, wildest landscapes left in the Lower 48: the 20-million-acre Greater Yellowstone ecosystem and the 22-million-acre Salmon-Selway ecosystem of Central Idaho.
If commissioners allow hunting in this critical wildlife corridor, they will make it harder for grizzly bears to migrate into Central Idaho — a region largely protected as wilderness without roads and development, and where grizzly bears were extirpated in the 1950s. Bears are still protected there under the Endangered Species Act, but only a few have wandered in from surrounding populations to the north, east and southeast.
Idaho still has grizzly bears up north in the Selkirk Mountains and the Cabinet-Yaaks near Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry. They remain protected as endangered, and the hunting proposal would not change that.
Meanwhile, our neighbor to the north, British Columbia, announced in December 2017 that it was ending grizzly hunting. The province has 15,000 grizzlies.
“It’s abundantly clear that most British Columbians do not support the killing of grizzlies,” said Doug Donaldson, British Columbia’s minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
There are many hunters who share delisting opponents’ distaste for grizzly hunting. Even more don’t like the practice of bear baiting, using food and other attractants to lure bears in. They consider it a violation of fair chase ethics, though a stronger case can be made for its use to deal with bears that become habituated to humans.
With such a low quota, Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore told hunters in 2017 not to expect a hunting season right away. The commission should stick with that advice for now.
COEUR d’ALENE — A Mica Bay man accused of killing a moose out of season was convicted by a jury after a two-day trial earlier this month in Coeur d’Alene.
But before he could be sentenced, John A. Huckabay, 65, flew to Africa where he works in the medical field.
The court expects him back April 27 for sentencing.
Huckabay is accused of killing a cow moose Oct. 2, 2014 near Red Hog Road at Mica Bay, on the northwest side of Lake Coeur d’Alene. He pleaded not guilty and asked for a jury trial.
Penalties and fines for killing a moose out of season include a $1,500 civil penalty and a $500 fine and no more than six months in jail. His hunting privileges could be revoked for a year, or up to life, at the discretion of the court.
Huckabay, who works in Africa for a University of Washington medical evaluation program that studies the spread of disease, is known to neighbors and Idaho Fish and Game as someone who likes to hunt.
Over the past decade Huckabay has been a fervent supporter of Idaho Fish and Game by purchasing a slew of hunting and fishing licenses, tags and permits.
The department said he had a tag in 2014 for moose in Unit 2 along the Spokane River, but not for Unit 5 near Mica Bay where the cow moose was killed after some neighbors reported it had become a nuisance.
Huckabay was charged after neighbors heard a rifle shot and later saw Huckabay hoisting a moose into the bed of a teal-colored pickup truck near Red Hog Road.
In an ensuing investigation Idaho Fish and Game officers found the spot where the moose was reportedly shot and killed and followed evidence to a skinned moose hanging at the shop of a butcher with a private operation in Coeur d’Alene.
A conservation officer stuck a thermostat in the meat to determine when the animal was killed, and DNA evidence showed it was from a cow moose, according to court testimony. Evidence pointed to a match between the moose at the butcher’s and the moose shot at Red Hog Road.
Fish and Game officers testified that Huckabay had been contacted by a neighbor about a problem moose, and allegedly told the neighbor he had a tag, that the season was open, although the season in that unit did not open for another two weeks. A short time later, according to testimony, Huckabay told the neighbor he had shot the moose.
After the trial, Huckabay, who has no previous criminal history, posted a $20,000 bond and was returned his passport so he could return to work overseas.
Before his next court appearance, Huckabay will travel to Madagascar, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand and Singapore before returning to Coeur d’Alene to face First District Senior Judge Ben Simpson for sentencing.
JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has caught three deer hunters from Idaho attempting to illegally pursue game over state lines in a sting operation using a remote-controlled mule deer buck.
The Jackson Hole News And Guide reports the department schedules the sting for the opening day of deer hunting in Idaho, which usually comes after the Wyoming season has concluded.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission is considering several changes to hunting rules, including allowing the use of bait to hunt wolves.
July 17, 2017, at 10:45 a.m.
KETCHUM, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission is considering several changes to hunting rules, including allowing the use of bait to hunt wolves.
The Idaho Mountain Express (http://bit.ly/2vu18Qt ) reported Friday the department is proposing the rule change in response to requests from hunters who want to use bait for hunting wolves outside of the black bear seasons.
Under current rules, wolves can be killed by hunters when they are attracted to bait set out for black bears, where hunting seasons are open for both black bear and wolf, but big game rules do not allow use of bait specific to hunting wolves.
The Department of Fish and Game is seeking public comment on the proposed changes until July 26.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
HELENA, Mont. — The Latest on removing Yellowstone region grizzly bears from federal protections (all times local):
Wyoming, Montana and Idaho officials say they won’t declare open season on grizzly bears once federal Endangered Species Act protections are lifted for the bruins in the Yellowstone National Park region.
The three states that will take over jurisdiction of Yellowstone-area bears once federal protections are lifted this summer have submitted management plans that allow for limited hunting.
But state officials say there is no rush. Brian Nesvik of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Laurie Wolf of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks both say it’s unlikely any hunting will be allowed this year.
Nesvik says rules still must be developed, and Wolf says her agency is still focused on bear conservation.
Idaho officials also say it’s too early to discuss a possible hunting season.
Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter is welcoming the delisting of grizzlies in Yellowstone and says the state is ready to start managing the bears.
Otter says Idaho has been on the forefront of Yellowstone grizzly bear recovery for many years and that the population has been recovered for more than decade.
He says officials in the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Office of Species Conservation will review the final delisting before making any decisions about specifics.
State officials say it’s too early to discuss a possible grizzly bear hunting season in Idaho.
Grizzlies have been protected under the Endangered Species Act for more than 40 years.
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead has praised the decision to take grizzlies in Yellowstone off the threatened species list, calling it long overdue.
Grizzlies have been protected under the Endangered Species Act for more than 40 years.
Mead says grizzly numbers have sufficiently recovered to justify removing the big bears from federal protection. He says he asked the Interior Department in 2013 to delist grizzly bears and is glad to see that finally happening.
The announcement means grizzlies in Wyoming outside Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks will be under the control of state wildlife managers by late July.
State officials could decide to allow grizzlies to be hunted in limited numbers. Mead gave no guidance on when that decision might be made.
U.S. government officials say grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park region are no longer threatened, and that they will lift protections that have been in place for more than 40 years.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Thursday that the recovery of Yellowstone’s grizzlies is one of the nation’s great conservation success stories.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will turn over grizzly bear management to Montana, Idaho and Wyoming by late July. The states plan to allow limited bear hunts outside park boundaries.
The ruling does not affect threatened grizzlies living in other areas of northwestern Montana and northern Idaho.
Grizzlies have been listed as a threatened species since 1975 when just 136 bears roamed in and around Yellowstone.
There are now more than 700 grizzlies in the Yellowstone region.
COURTESY OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission heard from dozens of people with diametrically opposed views when it took its wolf plan review on the road to hearings in Klamath Falls and Portland this spring. When the commission sits down with ODFW staff June 8 in Salem, members will sift those viewpoints with their own to determine how the state will manage a top predator that wasn’t here when the plan was first adopted a dozen years ago. Adoption of a five-year plan is expected late this year.
Potential changes are on the distant horizon. Ultimately, the state will decide whether wolves are hunted like cougars and bears, whether USDA’s APHIS Wildlife Services — loathed by conservation groups — will investigate livestock attacks, whether to give livestock producers more leeway to kill wolves, whether to set population caps, and more.
A glimpse of where Oregon’s wolf management may be headed in years to come might be found in Idaho, which was the source of the first wolves to enter Oregon and has much more experience balancing the presence of an apex predator with the interests and economic well-being of hunters and livestock producers.
Idaho has an estimated 800 wolves — probably more — and has actively managed them since federal officials took wolves off the endangered species list statewide in 2011.
Compared to Oregon, which documented 112 wolves at the end of 2016, Idaho’s numbers are staggering.
In 2015, hunters and trappers legally killed 256 wolves in Idaho, the same number as in 2014. Another 75 wolves were “lethally controlled.” Of those, 54 were killed in response to livestock depredations or by producers protecting herds. Another 21 wolves were taken out to protect deer and elk populations in Northern Idaho.
In all, Idaho documented 358 wolf deaths in 2015; two fewer than in 2014. Figures for 2016 were not available.
According to Idaho Fish and Game, the number of sheep and cattle killed by wolves has been “stable to declining” since the state began allowing hunting in 2009. In 2015, wolves killed 44 cattle, 134 sheep, three dogs and a horse.
Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore has described Idaho’s wolf population as healthy and sustainable.
Department spokesman Mike Keckler said the state has proven it can manage wolves in balance with livestock and prey species.
“There’s no doubt state management of wolves has been a success in Idaho,” Keckler said. “We remove wolves when they cause problems, we’re not afraid to do that. We move quickly when problems occur.”
The thought of Oregon adopting such an attitude doesn’t sit well with conservation groups.
“This is not Idaho,” Cascadia Wildlands legal director Nick Cady said pointedly during ODFW’s May 19 hearing in Portland.
Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild warn the state shouldn’t loosen its wolf management rules. Rob Klavins, Oregon Wild’s field coordinator in Northeast Oregon, said Oregon’s adherence to its adopted plan was one of the reasons there wasn’t more of an outcry when the department shot four members of the Imnaha Pack in 2016.
During the Klamath Falls and Portland ODFW hearings, representatives from the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, Oregon Hunters Association and Oregon Farm Bureau urged changes.
Among other things, producers say ODFW staff is spread too thin and sometimes can’t respond quickly to wolf attacks. They favor allowing Wildlife Services to investigate livestock attacks as well, and make the call on whether wolves were responsible. They oppose a draft plan proposal to change the lethal control standard to three confirmed depredations or one confirmed and four “probable” attacks within a 12 month period. The current standard is two confirmed depredations or one confirmed and three attempted attacks, with no time period set.
Todd Nash, a Wallowa County commissioner and the Cattlemen’s Association wolf chair, said a neighbor has eight cows. If wolves kill three in one night, he asked during the Portland hearing, does the producer have to endure two more attacks before lethal control is taken?
The groups also believe ODFW should continue collaring wolves, and should set a population cap for wolves in Oregon.
ODFW Director Curt Melcher said the commission heard good points from all sides.
“Even though folks don’t agree, they all got along just fine,” he said. “It was a respectful process. The other remarkable thing is that nobody is saying there shouldn’t be any wolves in Oregon. That wasn’t the case not too long ago. Everybody recognizes we’re going to have wolves in Oregon and we’re going to have to manage them.”
The draft plan allows killing wolves for chronic depredation of livestock and in localized cases where they’re depleting deer and elk populations. Eventually, Melcher said Oregon might reach a point in the future where hunting becomes a part of wolf population management, as it is with other game animals. He said the original plan drafters also anticipated wolf management, including lethal control, becoming more routine. It is logical for Wildlife Services to help on depredation investigations he said. As wolves increase in number and geographical range, investigations become a workload management issue for ODFW, he said.
“I think we’ve done a good job so far,” he said. “We’ve navigated through potentially difficult waters and in large part have done it efficiently.”
“It took my dog’s life — and it could have taken my son’s.”
A boy and his dog, Casey, were taking a walk near their home in Pocatello, Idaho, on March 16 when the unthinkable happened.
The boy, 14-year-old Canyon Mansfield, noticed something sticking about half a foot out of the ground. When he touched it, there was a pop and a “siss” and orange powder shot out.
Canyon jumped back in shock. When he looked for his loyal dog, Casey, he saw him on the ground.
“He just stayed on the ground mumbling,” Canyon told the Iowa State Journal. “I thought he was playing with his toy, but I saw the toy a couple yards away from him … So, I called him again and got really scared.”
Canyon rushed toward him and held him, seeing something was terribly wrong. “[I] saw this red froth coming from his mouth and his eyes turning glassy,” he said.
He ran down the hill for help and, when he and his parents returned a few minutes later, Casey was dead.
Later the family would discover that their 3-year-old dog had been poisoned by an M44, a cyanide trap that is set out by the U.S. government to kill coyotes, luring them through scented bait.
“M44s are incredibly dangerous by nature of what they are,” Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, a nonprofit based in Eugene, Oregon, told The Dodo. “They put a scent lurer — like urine from a coyote in her heat cycle or another smell that makes the animal want to grasp the M44 head — and any coyotes, wolves, are attracted to it. They pull on it and that’s when it goes off.”
“With children and people — they are curious,” Fahy cautioned. “It’s like putting a loaded handgun on a table.”
Casey is among the latest victims of the thousands of animals unintentionally killed by Wildlife Services, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that kills millions of wild animals each year to make more room for human industries like raising livestock. Over 3,400 animals were mistakenly killed by M44s between 2006 and 2012, including black bears, bobcats, raccoons, opossums, ravens and foxes, as well as dogs — and that’s just what the agency has reported. Fahy suspects the actual number is even higher.
Cyanide poisoning strangles cells, making it impossible for them to absorb oxygen, essentially suffocating any animal — intended or unintended — to death.
There was little time to grieve Casey at the moment he died — Canyon had to save his own life. His father, a physician, and his mother had him take off his clothes, which were covered in orange powder. He was rushed to the emergency room for tests. Thankfully, the family believes Canyon was upwind from the poison powder. He’s alive, but he’s traumatized.
“My son Canyon, who witnessed it all, is really struggling with what happened,” Theresa Mansfield told The Dodo. “It was above our house. It makes me not feel safe. I feel like I had terrorism in my own backyard, with my own government.”
The Mansfield family had no idea the devices where there, just about 350 yards from their home, at the edge of their property line. And they weren’t the only ones — even the county sheriff didn’t have knowledge of these devices, or just how dangerous they are. The Mansfields say there also weren’t even any warning signs and they were never notified about the presence of the M44s. It was later reported that two M44s, including the one that killed Casey, were planted in this area near the Mansfield’s house on February 25.
“APHIS’ Wildlife Services confirms the unintentional lethal take of a dog in Idaho,” a spokesperson for the USDA said in a statement last week. “As a program made up of individual employees many of whom are pet owners, Wildlife Services understands the close bonds between people and their pets and sincerely regrets such losses.”
The agency claims it has removed the other M44s in “that immediate area,” while conducting a review of the incident.
When The Dodo asked whether the USDA would issue an apology to the family, a spokesperson replied: “We are concerned about the individual who may have been exposed to sodium cyanide when his dog activated the M44 device. Initial reports indicated he was examined at a local hospital and released with no symptoms, and we are hopeful those reports are true. We will consider this possible exposure very seriously as we conduct a thorough review of this incident.”
“It’s something so close to my house, and it took my dog’s life,” Theresa said. “And it could have taken my son’s.” Now Theresa is hoping that their story will help make the M44s illegal. “It’s a brutal way of killing something.”
While the Mansfield family has only just learned, in the hardest way, about these devices, some people have been fighting to ban M44s for years. And a mere investigation into this latest incident simply isn’t sufficient, they say.
“This is another demonstration of what we’ve been saying for decades — the dangers of M44s are essentially landmines waiting to go off for a dog, endangered species or a child,” Fahy said. He estimates that hundreds, even thousands, of dogs have been killed by these devices. “This happens all the time.”
U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced a bill in the past seeking to make these devices illegal — and it’s expected, given the recent slew of accidental deaths, that he’ll keep trying. “I have been trying to ban the indiscriminate use of devices like the M44 for decades,” DeFazio said in a statement recently. “The use of this device by Wildlife Services … has previously killed domestic dogs, and sooner or later, will kill a child.”
While the USDA claims that a dog dying from an M44 is a relatively rare occurrence — the last time an animal in Idaho died from an M44 accidentally was in 2014 — there’s doubt that the supposed benefits outweigh the risks, especially since killing predators to control populations doesn’t necessarily even work.
“M44s are a terrible device for killing coyotes by cyanide poisoning, which is a nasty and sickening way to die,” Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told The Dodo recently, after a rare wolf in Oregon was killed by the device. “They should be banned both because they are indiscriminate, killing this wolf as well as often pets and animals, and because killing coyotes in this and other manners is totally ineffective.”
Last year alone, Wildlife Services intentionally killed 76,859 coyotes; 12,511 were killed by M44s. That’s an average of 34 M44s intentionally exploding per day. At least seven pets or livestock were killed by M44s last year, though the USDA doesn’t specify what kinds of animals they were. Twenty-two dogs the agency claims were “feral, free-ranging and hybrids” were also killed.
Another example of what an M44 planted in the ground looks likePredator DefenseJust days before Casey was killed, two other pet dogs were also killed by an M44 in Wyoming on March 11, though the USDA claims this was not one of their own devices. In either case, Fahey says the tools should be banned. “Bottom line, this device needs to go — immediately,” Fahy said.
Until the device is banned, others remain at risk, and the Mansfield family is trying to cope with their loss any way they can. The clothing Canyon was wearing when the M44 exploded is still in a bag outside their house, a constant reminder.
“We’re not coping very well. We’ve been really sad,” Theresa said, adding that she blames the USDA for not taking full responsibility for just how dangerous M44s essentially are. “I feel like they don’t care about that it’s a bomb and they’re probably worried about being in trouble, but they’re not willing to change that these things are bombs. They could hurt kids and little dogs. And there’s no explanation. That’s the thing that’s hard.”
Predator Defense“Our Casey was so important,” Theresa said. “He was everyone’s dog, he was my little boy’s best friend, my daughter’s running buddy.”
“I think in a way, you just feel violated,” she added. “We didn’t even know anything like that existed.”
USDACorrection: This article has been updated to reflect that bait on M44s can be many different attractants, not just the urine mixture.
Environmentalists trying to stop federal agency from killing wolves in Idaho
By ERIC BARKER of the Tribune 6 hrs ago 0
Environmental groups have filed a motion for summary judgment in their case that seeks to stop the federal Wildlife Services agency from killing wolves in Idaho.
According to the lawsuit, the small agency has killed dozens of wolves in the state’s Lolo zone in each of last six years at the behest of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and its efforts to aid elk herds there. The agency also has acted in concert with the state to kill wolves that prey on livestock.
The Boise-based Advocates for the West argued that the federal agency – even when acting at the request of the state – must follow the National Environmental Policy Act. The 1970 law requires the federal government to study and publish the environmental consequences of its proposed actions and to consider viable alternatives
Advocates of the West Executive Director Laird Lucas said the agency has based its wolf control actions on a 2011 environmental assessment that he argues is outdated and falls short of essential details, such how many wolves would be killed, when and where the control might take place and what the ecological effects would be.
The lawsuit also argues the 2011 assessment is out of date because it relied on a population objective in a state wolf management plan that was changed even before the assessment was complete, and that a more lengthy and detailed environmental impact statement is needed to fully consider the effects of the agency’s wolf killing program.
The lawsuit asks federal district court judge Edward J. Lodge to require the agency to set aside the environmental assessment and require the agency either expand its study or to update it.
“We have this secretive agency trying to operate outside of the public eye,” Lucas said. “Many people in the public really care about wolves, and that is the point of (the National Environmental Policy Act) – to publicly disclose what you are doing.”
The lawsuit was filed in June by the Friends of the Clearwater, Western Watersheds Project, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and Predator Defense.
The federal government has not yet responded to the request for summary judgement that was filed Friday. If the environmental groups were to prevail, it would make it much more difficult for the state to manage the size of wolf packs in remote areas like the Lolo Zone.
Last year, Wildlife Services employees in helicopters shot 20 wolves in the Lolo Zone. A similar number of wolves was killed there in the three previous years. Idaho’s predator management plan for the Lolo Zone, north of the Lochsa River, calls for a 70 to 80 percent reduction of wolf numbers. In 1989, the department estimated the area had about 16,000 elk. A 2010 survey estimated the herd had dropped to 2,100 animals. The state agency is counting wolves in the Lolo Zone again this winter.