Oral Arguments on Wilderness/Wolf litigation heard today

“Wilderness Wolf Watchers” Coalition seeks an Injunction/Temporary Restraining Order preventing the landing of helicopters

Chief District Judge B. Lynn Winmill is set to hear oral arguments on the Frank Church Wilderness/Helicopter Landing litigation this afternoon.  The “Wilderness Wolf Watchers” Coalition seeks an Injunction/Temporary Restraining Order preventing the landing of helicopters in the Frank Church Wilderness before they take place, while the merits of the case are considered.

The Idaho Department of Fish & Game and the US Forest Service each filed briefs against the Wilderness Wolf Watcher coalition’s request :

IDFG Brief
USFS Brief

Among their arguments, the government belittles several advocates’ declarations describing their trips to the Frank this winter and their potential for their wilderness experience to be harmed by the helicopter incursion.

Laurie Rule, Wilderness/Wolf advocates’ esteemed attorney, replied to the governments’ argument with this excellent brief :

Plaintiff’s Reply Brief

Read the Opening Injuction Brief
Read the Injunction Motion

Previously: More Groups Join & Motions Filed in Frank Church Wilderness/Helicopter Landing Litigation (includes previous filings and choice declarations).

Link: Central Idaho Wolf Litigation Page (Advocates for the West)



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  1. Virginia Avatar

    Any inclination about how this particular judge might rule? I read the entire brief and it is excellent – I particularly noticed the emphasis of the belittling and disrespect the forest service shows for the Plaintiffs as though citizens have no rights in this issue. Why do we have a Wilderness Act if they do not respect it?

  2. JimT Avatar

    Bon Chance, Ralph and others. Is Laird doing the argument?

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Laurie Rule is arguing for us.

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Judge Winmil is regarded are more favorable on this kind of issue than Idaho’s other federal judge, Judge Lodge

  5. JimT Avatar

    Looking forward to an impression of how the argument went, and what issue the judge seemed to focus on. Of course, that is often a red herring in how they are going to rule and on what grounds, but still….

  6. timz Avatar

    I just came from the hearing, he said he would try to issue a ruling tomorrow AM

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Thanks for the news.

  8. spanglelakes Avatar

    Tim – mind sharing who was there and your impressions? I can visualize the 2nd floor courtroom at the Federal Bldg in Boise. And can guess who was sitting on one side of the aisle and the other side.

  9. timz Avatar

    Seems like there were quite a few (maybe 25) supporters of WWP their, if their were any against they were few and silent. The only person I recognized was S.Stone. The judge ask a lot about what preserving the wilderness meant, a lot of discussion about was this really needed. The judge made a comment about turning wilderness into a “wilderness disneyland.” The woman who represented USFS brought up some wierd points like Malloy’s decision to allow the hunt to go forward, I couln’t figure out what that had to do with this case, the IDF&G lawyer sounded like a live version of a Gamblin post, they must use the same writer for their material. I thought Laurie R. made a very strong argument that this was not routine and not data that was necessary quoting the memo that allowed it where they used a lot of words, like may, might perhaps. She also shot down their assertion that these flights were just a minor add-on to already occuring flights.

  10. timz Avatar

    Oh, and Carter N. was also there.

  11. spanglelakes Avatar

    Thanks, Tim.

  12. Wilderness Muse Avatar
    Wilderness Muse

    I was not at the hearing. It is possible timz’s reference to Molloy’s ruling to allow the hunt to go forward meant the judge in that case concluded those plaintiffs did not meet an “irreparable injury” standard (necessary to grant a TRO or Prelim. Injunction), either to the wolves or to themselves.

    The defandants’ argue if the standard could not be met there, how could plaintiffs in this case, some of whom declared they intended to be in the FCW (coincidentally) at the exact same time of the IDFG helicopter work, meet such a standard that affected themselves or harmed the wolves? According to the defendants’ brief, the intended presence of the declarant plaintiffs to be in the FCW at this time of year has little historic precidence. They also say, plaintiffs contrived to be in the FCW for the purpose of gaining standing. This would constitute “self inflicted” harm. Interesting, and maybe compelling, argument.

    It still butts up against the meaning and character of wilderness under the Act, and whether the proposed aerial activities, add-on or not, are consistent with the purpose of designated Wilderness.

    The philosophers among us (and maybe the judge) might ask that perplexing question/riddle and apply it to this situation: “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, did it make a sound?”

    If a helicopter flies into Wilderness, whether anyone is there to hear it, does it make a sound (or otherwise adversely affect wilderness character)? I say it does.

  13. Mike Koeppen Avatar

    Wilderness Muse,

    My brother in Boise made the same, “If a tree falls…” argument to me. He favors wolf killing.

    I agree with your last sentence about helicopters affecting the wilderness. One could carry this to extremes, for instance: If a person chainsaws in the wilderness and no one else is there to hear it, if a person has a rock band in the wilderness…etc. etc.

    The wilderness should be protected whether or not someone is in the immediate area and directly affected. The act itself should be enforced.

  14. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Wilderness Muse,

    I think you cut to the heart of some of the legal issues, especially those raised by the defendants.

    More generally, however, the intense opposition from so many groups stems from the belief that if there is unnecessary human disturbance in a designated Wilderness area, they are harmed. Folks like to rest easy that there are places of natural peace and quiet out there that they can go to even if they aren’t presently there.

    Although this is not a Wilderness solitude issue, the same logic applies to this example. If people read that Old Faithful had been ripped up for geothermal development, they would be outraged even if they weren’t there.

    Although plaintiffs didn’t argue this, I think people are angry that wild animals will be tracked in the Wilderness for probable harmful intent in a place set aside to be wild and free.

    In addition, this kind of intrusive “management” could quickly spread to an area near to them.

    Finally, there are many fishing for steelhead inside the Frank Church Wilderness right now. How can anyone assume they are only there for the fish and not the surroundings? Idaho Fish and Game certainly knows about the steelhead run.

  15. Mike Koeppen Avatar

    By the way, I’m actually going to be in the Middle Fork next month and have planned to be there since last fall to do Sheepeater War research. Hardly the “self-inflicted” harm portrayed in the briefs.

    And no, I don’t have a flight reservation yet. I’ve learned in March it’s better to wait for good weather just before a trip before contacting an air service. That way you don’t have to haggle for a refund should the weather turn foul.

  16. Terri Avatar

    Laurie’s brief was excellent. Thanks for sharing it here.

  17. JimT Avatar

    Again, I would urge folks to read Stegner’s Wilderness Letter…it is somewhere here in the archives…if one wants to really understand the true essence of what “wilderness” is and should remain.

  18. JimT Avatar


    You can thank Scalia and his standing rulings for the fact that potential plaintiffs have to think about “contriving” to meet the elements. I haven’t looked at them in awhile, but I don’t recall a mens rea requirement anywhere…;*)

    Here is a list of some articles written by Karin Sheldon about the rulings….

    # “It’s Not My Job to Care” : Understanding Justice Scalia’s Method of Statutory Interpretation Through Sweet Home and Chevron, 24 B.C.Envtl. Aff. L. Rev. 487 (1997).
    # Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife: The Supreme Court’s Slash and Burn Approach to Environmental Standing, 23 ELR 10031 (1993).
    # NWF v. Lujan: Justice Scalia Restricts Environmental Standing to Constrain the Courts, 20 ELR 10557 (1990).

  19. Wilderness Muse Avatar
    Wilderness Muse

    Here is Stegner’s Wilderness Letter. Note to whom it is written and why.


  20. timz Avatar

    The USFS lawyer did in fact say somethng like, “if taking 320 wolves in a hunt doesn’t hurt how could this.” I had a little problem with this whole hearing in that it became mostly a wolf issue and I agree with Ralph who has stated here a couple of times it’s should not be a wolf issue but a wilderness issue. Don’t know if that was an accident or it was the strategy of the defense.

  21. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Well, the Wilderness Society, ICL, Great Old Broads for Wilderness and the Sierra Club signed on strictly for purposes of protecting the Wilderness Act.

  22. timz Avatar

    Laurie talked allot about protecting the wilderness and her last statement to the judge was “we shouldn’t have to violate the wilderness act to protect the wilderness.” ,as it seemed the defendants whole case was “we need this data on wolves to manage them, thus to protect the wilderness.” My personal impression (and this is just my opinion) was the judge wasn’t really buying that argument. (from the defendants)

  23. JimT Avatar

    I am guessing there is no ruling as of yet?. Pretty weak using the killing of wolves as logic to justify finding out the number in FCW. I think Ralph is exactly right in his theory that finding out the number of wolves in the FCW is a prelude to justify that population is enough to satisfy a wolf management plan, freeing up IDFG to basically conduct of policy of zero tolerance in all other areas of the state. I recently sent an article privately to Ralph about a study suggesting using wolves and other predators as a way to manage a forest or a park. I find this a dangerous direction to pursue and fear it would lead to more reasons why wolves would be viewed not as having an inherent right to exist in an ecosystem, but only as they have value to human purposes and goals for that ecosystem.

    If only they were foolish enough to put this down in an email someplace and someone would leak it. And too bad Idaho doesn’t have a state version of FOIA, or does it?

  24. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    They do have a information release act, just most states do, but good luck in trying to get any information from them, I have made formal requests about many issues and have not received anything yet..

  25. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, did it make a sound?”

    Depends on the definition of sound. Sound waves were generated; energy was transferred from one place to others.