US Forest Service Sets New Precedent by Saying that it Doesn’t Have Ability to Regulate Activities in Wilderness that Clearly Conflict with Management Plans and Policies.

For the first time the US Forest Service is claiming that it has no authority to restrict activities and uses of federal wilderness that conflict with their own wilderness management plan and policy manuals. It was recently reported that the US Forest Service is allowing a professional trapper, hired by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, to trap and kill two entire packs of wolves that live deep within the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness while staying in a US Forest Service owned facility. There has been no public process, no public notice, and it is based on an unfinished predator management plan that has never been seen by the public, all at the request of an outfitter who guides hunters in the area.

This abdication of US Forest Service management authority to Idaho Department of Fish and Game violates at least two laws and several policies laid out in management plans and policy manuals. The scheme violates the National Forest Management Act which requires the US Forest Service to adhere to its management plans and regulations in which there is plain language that disallows such actions. The violation of this plain language, without any rationale, is arbitrary and capricious which also makes this a violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.

“[C]ontrol of problem animals [within the Frank Church Wilderness] will be permitted only on a case-by-case basin in coordination with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game . . . .” That’s what the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Management Plan states. The Management Plan goes on to say the Forest Service only permits wildlife damage control in the Frank Church Wilderness “to protect Federally listed threatened and endangered species, to prevent transmission of diseases or parasites affecting other wildlife and humans, or to prevent serious losses of domestic livestock.” Also, “[w]ildlife damage control must be approved by the [Forest Service] on a case-by-case basis,” and all control efforts must “[d]irect control at individual animals causing the problem,” and “[u]se only the minimum amount of control necessary to solve the problem.”

It’s not only the management plan that places restrictions on control actions, the US Forest Service’s own Service Manual 2320 for Wilderness Management says:

Predacious mammals and birds play a critical role in maintaining the integrity of natural ecosystems. Consider the benefits of a predator species in the ecosystem before approving control actions. The Regional Forester may approve predator control programs on a case-by-case basis where control is necessary to protect federally listed threatened or endangered species, to protect public health and safety, or to prevent serious loss of domestic livestock. Focus control methods on offending individuals and under conditions that ensure minimum disturbance to the wilderness resource and visitors. . . .

The Forest Service is responsible for determining the need for control, the methods to be used, and approving all proposed predator damage control programs in wilderness.

The killing plan is bad enough but it raises a much bigger issue than just predator control in wilderness where there is no conflict with livestock. It sets a precedent that the US Forest Service has avoided setting since the inception of the Wilderness Act. Under the Obama Administration the US Forest Service is saying that it has no authority to regulate such uses despite the fact that they conflict with established policy. This is a precedent that is very profound, and if it is allowed to stand, it could be used for all manner of future actions that the states may contrive. The US Forest Service is abdicating its responsibilities to manage and protect wilderness values to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, a state agency. This is not a good precedent to set, and it is one that many powerful interests, who we know want to wrest control of federal lands away from the federal government, are just waiting to be set.



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  1. Salle Avatar

    This appears to be one of those wait, what? things. Or maybe, did your ears hear what your mouth just said? moments.

    Glad you posted this as it needs to be known by the general public that their representative agency is refusing to do its job.


  2. Garry Rogers Avatar

    I don’t doubt the FS has done this, but I need a little more. A quote from a FS employee, the name of the trapper, or something else that would give a little more support. I will watch your blog, and I will help ring the FS’ bell if I can.
    Thank you.

  3. Louise Kane Avatar
    Louise Kane

    Ken, The agency appears to be in clear violation of their own regulations and as you point out this also seems to be in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. But I don’t actually think that their piss poor response constitutes a precedent, and thats a good thing. Perhaps they are hoping the statement/agency position will set a precedent. Yet only if their actions/stance are unchallenged or upheld in litigation , would it create a binding precedent? It seems that their actions merit a legal challenge to prevent a precedent from occurring.

  4. Louise Kane Avatar
    Louise Kane

    and thank you Ken for articulating the issues and the danger in allowing this to go unchallenged.

  5. WM Avatar


    Reading over your lead in story, exactly how does a FS Management Plan for the Frank Church by-pass these key provisions of the 1964 Wilderness Act or its reference within the statute creating the Frank?

    Sec.(4)d(8) provides, “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as affecting the jurisdiction or responsibilities of the several states with respect to wildlife and fish in the national forests.” ++

    and specifically in the Act creating the River of No Return Wilderness:

    ++Sec. (7)(c) – As provided in Section 4(d)(8)[of the Wilderness Act] nothing in this Act shall be construed as affecting the jurisdiction and responsibilities of the State of Idaho with respect to wildlife and fish within the national forest.”++

    Since the Frank Wilderness is within the national forest it seems, if anything, ANY provision of an FS management plan that conflicts or infringes on these very basic and plainly stated statutory provisions would be unlawful on the part of the FS. Seems to me IDFG can pretty much do what they want pursuant to the reservation of rights specifically referenced in BOTH FEDERAL LAWS.

    The only leverage the FS has is IF an IDFG wildlife control plan involves a federally protected species, potentially wolves in this instance. But, as of this date, as we know, wolves are not ESA protected.

    Unless the talented young legal staff at WWP and affiliated “conservation” groups can find some way around this, again, it would seem IDFG can pretty much do what they want – except that if they attempt to use helicopters it may be frowned upon (but maybe not prohibited) as an intrusion into wilderness values, as we know from a previous court ruling by USDC Judge Winmill on collaring wolves.

  6. JB Avatar

    WM: I think you’re reading the text of the statute pretty narrowly. As you pointed out, it reads:

    “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as affecting the jurisdiction or responsibilities of the several states with respect to wildlife and fish in the national forests.”

    The management plan, however, does not challenge the jurisdiction or responsibilities of Idaho Fish and Game, rather, it specifies that certain ACTIONS (i.e., control) will require approval. Banning a particular action does not challenge the state’s jurisdiction over wildlife nor its responsibility to conserve and manage wildlife–both are still intact. Rather, it simply specifies certain conditions for management to take place.

    Perhaps another example would be better to illustrate? Let’s say that IDF&G proposed completely clearing out the wilderness of a particular species (species X). They have the jurisdiction and responsibility over wildlife, so the FS can do nothing to stop such a plan. However, let’s say IDF&G wants to clear out species X by using planes, helicopters and chainsaws (methods that clearly conflict with the purpose of the wilderness). Objecting to a specific management action does not in any way infringe upon the ‘jurisdiction and responsibility’; it simply limits the actions/methods that can be used to achieve the state’s objectives.

    1. WM Avatar


      Actually, a lawyer might say the statute is being read broadly, and according to its express terms in a strict construction sense. And, apparently in the same manner as the FS decision-makers.

      You do raise good points about “methods” that are inconsistent with wilderness values. It does not seem at present IDFG is proposing to use any of those methods. Chainsaws and other mechanical equipment are specifically prohibited in designated wilderness (unless, of course, they are allowed by specific statute – like jet boats and airplanes in the Frank and a bunch of other seemingly inconsistent uses, which are written into the law). The helicopter thing, mentioned in my earlier comment was the subject of litigation, and Judge Winmill ruled it was OK to use helicopters in the Frank for limited research purposes. I doubt a court would be so accommodating on helicopters to kill wolves, at least in Judge Winmill’s court. But, do remember helicopters can be and are used with some frequency in designated wilderness for other purposes like hauling out toilet waste, setting up communications towers (FS repeaters) and rescue operations. Of course the presence of the helicopter is in direct opposition to wilderness values (the machines are same and they make the same negative visual and audio impacts, but there may be distinguishing factors like how much use, and where, and for how long and for what purpose, that make their presence more or less tolerable).

      I also think the FS management plan is to a large extent more focused on what the federal government or its permittees may do within the boundaries of the Frank, whether it be FS, another agency of the Departments of Agriculture or Interior.

      As for states exercising their rights and responsibilities toward wildlife in wilderness (as long as the federal government has not asserted an interest to protect a particular species by statute) I suspect the state can do what it wants within a wide range of discretion as long as not employing those objectionable “methods.” Using a professional hunter on horseback with a rifle (or maybe trapping) to remove wolves from specific known packs seems fairly benign, as does the reciprocal use of a FS cabin, where the state also shares its resources with the FS. The IFGF hunting methods are the same hunters have been using there for decades every fall, and trappers in winter. Very difficult in my opinion to say this discrete and very limited activity requires review for compliance and FS management planning or a public participation process.

      To distinguish, and avoid the wrath of some of the more strident wolf advocates here, please note that I am just saying what I think the law requires, not what is “right” from the perspective of some. And, of course, I could be wrong about the law.

      1. JB Avatar

        I agree that, in this case, the action being undertaken is relatively benign and the method(s) by which it is undertaken do not necessarily conflict with wilderness values. However, the question you raised in your first post is a good one. The way you framed that post suggests that the FS would be utterly powerless with respect to actions undertaken by the IDF&G in the wilderness so long as those actions were undertaken with the alleged purpose of managing wildlife? Let me give another example that I think better demonstrates where your reading of the law breaks down.

        The primary tools for managing wildlife in the US are (a) habitat manipulation (e.g., planting grasses, mowing, cutting trees, etc.) and (b) lethal harvest (i.e., hunting or trapping). Let’s say that IDF&G determined that in order to properly manage elk in the wilderness area, it would have to conduct a controlled burn or a clear cut. By the reading of the law you presented above, the FS would be powerless to prevent such action because doing so would affect the ‘jurisdiction and responsibilities’ of the IDF&G.

        The issue here is what is meant by the terms ‘jurisdiction’ and ‘responsibilities’ and whether the prevention of lethal control actions in the wilderness actually affects the IDF&G’s jurisdiction and responsibilities. My opinion: Nothing about the prevention of a particular type of action impacts the responsibilities of the state agency; however, whether such prevention impacts the agencies ‘jurisdiction’ depends upon what is meant by the term. Merriam-Webster lists three definitions:

        1: the power, right, or authority to interpret and apply the law
        2: the authority of a sovereign power to govern or legislate
        3: the limits or territory within which authority may be exercised

        I’m not sure these definitions are of much help. It is pretty clear that the ‘power, right(s), and authority’ of the IDF&G are not absolute within the wilderness (else, they would be planting, clearcutting, and doing whatever they liked to meet wildlife management objectives). So the state’s power/authority is already somewhat limited. The question here is whether the FS preventing a specific type of action further limits the power/authority of the state over wildlife. I do not think the answer to this question is as clear as you allege in your first post.

        1. WM Avatar


          My original comment was directed to the specific ocurrent IDFG action and Ken’s belief as stated in the introduction to the topic – that the “US Forest Service is allowing a professional trapper, hired by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, to trap and kill two entire packs of wolves that live deep within the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness while staying in a US Forest Service owned facility.”

          And, this statement of Ken’s: ” The US Forest Service is abdicating its responsibilities to manage and protect wilderness values to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, a state agency. ”

          Sorry if that was not clear.

          My conclusion was that I believed his analysis was incorrect, and that if anything, the FS in its Forest Management planning process and policy manuals had overstepped its bounds if it asserted authority requiring IDFG to cease from THIS control action or otherwise materially try to control it (EXCEPT METHOD that could compromise wilderness values when measured against the federal statutes creating the Frank, including those specific reservations of rights in the state of ID. Then there is the use an FS cabin – apparently a shared resource by agreement,that part seems to have a bunch of folks steamed up.

          The examples you give, in my opinion, go to the very forest resources the FS traditionally manages – the vegetation, soil and water. I don’t think the state of ID has any authority there whatsoever, in the rights reserved to it. Trees, shrubs, and the soil on which they grow don’t move (erosion excepted), wildlife does, and water does (states assert a right to this resource as well, subject to the federal reserved water rights doctrine which applies on federal land). That is why they are managed differently with more state involvement.

          As to limits, and your examples or even this specific control action, if IDFG decided it needed trail motorcycles to get around more efficiently, or began whacking down trees or other forest vegetation for shooting lanes, or decided to put up a camp in a “sensitive” area, or using poison that might kill federally protected animals or harm humans, or maybe bring in an army of hunter trappers pursuant to some large scale plan with potentially huge impacts, the FS would have the authority to regulate those activities because they affect wilderness values and the things the FS is empowered to regulate, and where powers have not been reserved in the state. There might be some gray areas there, but sending a lone hunter with a pack horse and a rifle is not one of them.

          1. JB Avatar

            Good point about vegetation vs. wildlife/water, but examples of other actions (use of poison, for instance) suggest my original point (i.e., the IDF&G’s ‘right’ over wildlife here is not absolute) is still valid.

            Personally, I think the context of the action must also be considered. Here the IDF&G is conducting this action not to save a threatened or endangered species, but specifically in (what many will see as) a short-sighted attempt to boost ungulate numbers locally in order to increase elk hunting opportunity. In addition to asking about the action itself, one might ask if its purpose is consistent with wilderness values? Whether such action conflicts with wilderness values might also be determined, in part, by how long the ‘hunter-agent’ is in the wilderness and whether such control actions become frequent.

            In any case, I tend to agree with you regarding the particulars of this action; that is, it probably does not rise to the level that a federal court would get involved.

            In any case, the fact that we can detail a variety of ways in which wildlife management actions (particularly control action) conflict with wilderness values suggests the Forest Service’s stated policy of reviewing such values is legitimate, and does not necessarily challenge the ‘jurisdiction’ nor ‘responsibilities’ of the IDF&G.

            Thus, the point Ken raised here–that the FS has apparently chosen not to follow it’s own policy of reviewing such actions–seems legitimate.

            1. JB Avatar

              Sorry, should read:

              The Forest Service’s stated policy of reviewing such actions is legitimate…

              1. Jon Way Avatar

                Just to add briefly to the conversation:

                JB said “the action being undertaken is relatively benign and the method(s) by which it is undertaken do not necessarily conflict with wilderness values.”

                Of course, this is a relative comment as I am sure the wolves (and nontarget species) that are getting strangled in snares (no doubt this is what the trapper is doing) would disagree with this relatively benign method… So would many Americans.

                A Carnivore Conservation Act could give wolves and other species protections on our federal lands. We need to focus on this in the bigger picture and challenge USFS and others in the short term.


    2. Chris Avatar

      My understanding is that on a constitutional level, the federal government has the authority to manage wildlife on federal land. As you point out, it has chosen by statute to respect state management. But when there is a conflict between state management and other federal laws, the federal law should trump state management.

      Insofar as the purpose of wilderness is to maintain a natural or primitive state, and wolves are part of a primitive ecosystem, it could be argued that FS has the power to stop the wolf culling.

      The question is if it has an obligation to stop said culling. Ken’s post seems to take it for granted that it does, but I’m not sure. I would want to know more about what internal actions, if any, FS undertook in evaluating the situation.

  7. CodyCoyote Avatar

    ” US Forest Service Sets New Precedent by Saying that it Doesn’t Have Ability to Regulate Activities in Wilderness that Clearly Conflict with Management Plans and Policies ” …

    … except when it suits them.

    1. IDhiker Avatar

      And, the Payette National Forest never had to be an accomplice by allowing the IDFG trapper/hunter to use their Cabin Creek historic facility.

    2. Allyson Robertson Avatar
      Allyson Robertson

      They better open their eyes and take into consideration the benefit that the wolves are to our ecosystem. They feed on the weak and sickly which prevents the spread of disease to other animals. Regrets will fly when Chronic Wasting Disease goes on a rampage through the deer, elk and moose herds.

  8. Oliver Starr Avatar

    For anyone curious about the killer hired in this case, here’s a link to his Facebook profile:

    It clearly says he works for IDFG.

    1. ramses09 Avatar

      W0W – that’s a surprise.
      I am so sick of this crap. No one wants to take responsibility for anything it seems. Everyone is paid off. imho
      Isn’t there something that can be done about this trapper dude – I mean – can this be stopped by a judge? It’s just not right that this guy can go in & wipe out 2 whole packs of wolves …. who have done nothing wrong but survive for themselves.

      1. Ida Lupines Avatar
        Ida Lupines

        I was wondering that myself. All at the request of an outfitter? Why does an outfitter(s) have so much influence with government agencies? Are declining elk numbers backed up with facts and science?

        1. Mike Avatar

          This slaughter is being brought to you by hunters.

          Never forget who’s behind the killing.

        2. Ralph Maughan Avatar
          Ralph Maughan

          Ida Lupine,

          It could well be that the outfitter and a Fish and Game commissioner are related, drinking pals, political allies.

          1. Ida Lupines Avatar
            Ida Lupines

            Hard to accept that is all it takes to decide whether an animal lives or dies since delisting.

      2. mandy Avatar

        I believe a federal judge could and probably would stop quickly this if somebody would bring the case. Enough is enough.

  9. Steve Clevidence Avatar
    Steve Clevidence

    When it comes to getting a straight, honest answer from the feds or state wildlife agencies, we all are treated as if we were a bunch of mushrooms, Always kept in the dark and fed BS. It would be very interesting to know who this outfitter is and why he carries so much weight within the IDFG. Its not going to get any better until IDFG has completely eliminated the wolf upon Idaho’s landscape. JMO.

  10. Ranger Joe Avatar
    Ranger Joe

    Most interesting. What the extended legal discussion above comes down to is a pissing contest over who has authority to do what. The biological situation on the ground is irrelevant.

    Glad we cleared that up.

  11. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    I’m sorry, taking out two wolf packs for no reason at all is far from benign, on many levels. These animals haven’t threatened humans with their presence, haven’t attacked any livestock, and there’s no proof they are reducing elk numbers. These animals will be gone forever, never to reproduce, strictly for human recreation? It is unconscionable. I think if you scratch the surface of these ‘outfitters’, you’ll find the usual suspects lobbying groups. One of them has even been shown to be a criminal poacher. Since when do these outfitters get preferential treatement? There are other Americans who have interest in wildlife that need to be ‘catered to’ as well. Hunters do not get a money-back guarantee if they don’t get an elk. It’s absurd.

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      Especially in the middle of a roadless wilderness.

      1. Ida Lupines Avatar
        Ida Lupines

        Or maybe ‘pandering’ is a better word. It would be nice to see, in some cases, overly subsidized, environmentally destructive and antiquated agricultural and hunting practices phased out for more modern, ecological-minded tourism and education. If the money goes that way, I think it will happen.

  12. mandy Avatar

    Ranger Joe, good point!

    As JB points out in his astute analysis, “Here the IDF&G is conducting this action not to save a threatened or endangered species, but specifically in (what many will see as) a short-sighted attempt to boost ungulate numbers locally in order to increase elk hunting opportunity. In addition to asking about the action itself, one might ask if its purpose is consistent with wilderness values? Whether such action conflicts with wilderness values might also be determined, in part, by how long the ‘hunter-agent’ is in the wilderness and whether such control actions become frequent.”

    A lawyer needs to take this to federal court which will sort it out in pretty short order. The federal regulations take precedence, no matter how much money is being made by outfitters and elk hunters.

    What’s on earth is the matter with Idaho…?

  13. Wolfer Avatar

    Sadly the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife seems to be following the lead of Idaho in developing now (in 2014 while wolves still have not recovered to sustainable populations) a plan for the hunting of wolves. They are now writing a Game Management Plan for 2015-2021 and are already including a section related to wolf hunting. Over 75% of WA State citizens surveyed indicated strong support for the coexistence of wolves in our state.

    The WDFW put a survey online to ascertain the issue concerns of WA State citizens, but it was truly stacked and directed in favor of WA hunters. The survey is online until COB tomorrow (Jan. 3), in case you would like to weigh in. Counties in NE WA include Spokane, Stevens, Asotin, and others. Respondents must be careful not to exceed ten issues TOTAL in the several pages of the survey. I would encourage you to take a look. ( I hope that many people will focus on “good science,” the importance of top predators in healthy habitats, and the need to protect recovering wolf populations in Washington.

    Thanks for the thoughtful articles and comments on the Idaho wolf hunt. How did the Salmon Wolf Hunt work out?

    1. bret Avatar

      Asotin co. is in SE WA

      can you point out where hunting is in any were similar to ID in any way?

  14. Michael Guest Avatar
    Michael Guest

    They’re wrong. This needs to get fixed. Protect the wildlife.

  15. JB Avatar

    Half of this thread is nothing more than an extended ad hominem attack. You folks need to learn to separate people from ideas.

    1. Ranger Joe Avatar
      Ranger Joe

      JB Politics is a contact sport. You want peace, love, and understanding, go to an Elvis Costello concert.

      1. JB Avatar


        The character and biases of a particular individual has no bearing on the value of their ideas. Someone you might believe is morally corrupt is still capable of generating good ideas and supporting them with good arguments. Attacking people (rather than arguments) is to rely upon a logical fallacy (ad hominem attack). It is a waste of time, and detracts from what should be the subject of the debate: ideas.

        While it may be true that ‘politics is a contact sport’, it is also true that reliance upon fallacious arguments and personal attacks represents the worst of politics.

        I’ll take the Indigo Girls over Elvis Costello, thank you.

        1. Ranger Joe Avatar
          Ranger Joe

          But what you call the worst of politics is how politics really is. If you ever left the ivory tower and worked in the trenches, you’d know that. Of course, trenches have a way of brutalizing peoples’ precious illusions with reality, which is why most people avoid trenches. They prefer their precious illusions.

          Fact is, peoples’ characters have everything to do with the worth of their ideas. Just because you believe different doesn’t make it so.

          For example, you seem to think you have the right to censor and control what people say because what they say and how they say it do not comport with your prejudices regarding appropriate speech. What does that say about you, dude?

          1. Nancy Avatar

            Each smallest act of kindness reverberates across great distances and spans of time, affecting lives unknown to the one whose generous spirit was the source of the good echo, because kindness is passed on and grows each time its passed, until a simple courtesy becomes and act of selfless courage years later and far away. Likewise, each small meanness, each expression of hatred, each act of evil. – H.R. White

          2. JB Avatar

            “Of course, trenches have a way of brutalizing peoples’ precious illusions with reality, which is why most people avoid trenches. They prefer their precious illusions.”

            I found this statement terribly ironic! The “Ivory Tower” (i.e., scientific community) is where “people’s precious illusions” are confronted with empirical data. The political trenches are where you all turn this empirical data into “precious illusions” for consumption of the masses.

            “…you seem to think you have the right to censor and control what people say because what they say and how they say it do not comport with your prejudices regarding appropriate speech.”

            I censored nothing. I merely commented that a good argument doesn’t rely upon ad hominem attacks. What that says about me is that I prefer arguments that are supported with logical arguments and empirical data, and avoid the ‘precious illusion’ of moral superiority. 😉

          3. Immer Treue Avatar
            Immer Treue

            Ranger Joe,

            I’ve got something that JB was involved in for this very reason. If you want, I’ll share it, and I think JB would not mind, as it is masterful.

    2. RodsView Avatar

      JB, My occasional trip to the Wildlife News for a whiff of what the conservation community was up to has been changed to my occasional trip to the Wildlife News for a whiff of what the anti-hunting community is up to. The rabid unmoderated comments that have appeared here recently like Mandy’s Comment “I believe a federal judge could and probably would stop quickly this if somebody would bring the case. Enough is enough.” Is the type of stuff that will lead to reform the ESA. In my option with the abuse of the ESA we have seen on the wolf issue reform is needed and around the corner. The ESA is not an anti-hunting law. Don’t you think your comments would be better served in an environment less rabid!

      1. Immer Treue Avatar
        Immer Treue

        Rods View,

        want to see how JB handles himself among the conservative rabid.

        I’ve got something that JB was involved in for this very reason. If you want, I’ll share it, and I think JB would not mind, as it is masterful.

      2. JB Avatar


        I understand your frustration with the anti-hunting rants. It’s seems they’ve become more commonplace of late. In the end, there’s really no chance that anything is going to happen to hunting as an institution; and given its popularity, I think there’s little chance that the ESA will be reformed either (though some will disagree with me).

        I hope you will stick around and comment some; this blog needs some more hunters to balance opinion (even if we disagree from time to time). 🙂

      3. rork Avatar

        It wasn’t clear to me if RodsView’s comment was even in the right article’s thread since other posts have far more outlandish comments (from my view), and are more about the ESA. I’m no lawyer but this seems more about policy on federal land. It’s not a legal but a scientific attitude that makes me want designated wilderness to be a place we agree will serve as the control arm of some experiments – it’s just my desire to have a place to mostly observe what happens. I also think folks have overlawyered using ESA on the wolf issue, but saying rabid twice, and using Mandy’s comment as an example of it, seemed way off target.

  16. Nancy Avatar

    “An interesting essay on the origins, evolution, and contradictions in wildlife law”

    Always enjoyed reading Robert’s thoughtful comments on TWN 🙂

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      I love it. Fantastic piece.

  17. Gary Humbard Avatar
    Gary Humbard

    When a federal agency considers how to make a decision, it asks the question, what is the purpose and need of the action? Whether this action is legal or not, the real issue is why is the IDF&G hiring a trapper to kill 2 packs of wolves. IDF&G relies heavily on hunting and guide fees. Even though wolves mainly prey on weak, old and diseased elk, they will also prey on elk calves and this is why IDF&G has decided to kill these packs. I do not agree with the need to kill wolves as their prescence keeps things in balance. However, I believe the best way to prevent future wolf killings is continuing the education on the benefits of having top predators on the landscape and a revenue generating method that funds state game agencies without the agency relieing on hunters, trappers and guides to fund them. A on-line and mail in system where contributions could be made to directly fund wildlife conservation.

    1. MAD Avatar

      “IDF&G relies heavily on hunting and guide fees…”

      and herein lies the reason why the wildlife conservation/management system is broken and flawed. State governments (like the Feds)have gutted the funding of agencies whose primary mission is not generating cash flow, but conservation & protection of the environment and it’s wildlife. But instead, F&G agencies now take their orders from the folks who fill their coffers, regardless of the basis for those orders or the lack any scientific understanding of the complex web of ecosystems of these constituents. Rather, special interest groups like hunters, outfitters, snowmobilers, rock climbers, et al all get to dictate the rules for lands and resources owned by the PUBLIC.

      What is needed is a new model that funnels tourism dollars and monies that eco-friendly people spend recreating that does not destroy or impinge on the natural landscape & fauna. But until the funding of these govt agencies change, they will always be beholden to the folks who can claim, “you’re supported by our license fees and taxes on eqpmt.” And don’t even get me started on the unethical behaviors of folks that work for these agencies.

      1. Immer Treue Avatar
        Immer Treue

        How about this tact? No consumptive users of wild lands buy hunting and trapping licenses. The cost within representative states is minimal… Create a voice by working within the system, as waiting for conservation groups to get their acts together, and link into powerful units who might get politicians ears seems a way off.

        THEN, when these groups must be heard, the threat of nonconsumptive users pulling out all at once, threatens funding of DNR’s in target states. It’s the pocket book folks. Money talks.

        1. Immer Treue Avatar
          Immer Treue

          I’m sorry nonconsumptive users…

          Not no consumptive…

          1. ma'iingan Avatar

            I offered up this suggestion to a couple of wolf advocates I know, who complain vociferously about not having a voice in wildlife management.

            Their rapid and emphatic responses have been that they would never support an agency that allows wolf hunting.

            So… back to square one.

            1. Immer Treue Avatar
              Immer Treue

              Try try again

        2. JB Avatar


          I agree, non-consumptive users should buy into the system. Here in Ohio you can purchase a Wildlife Legacy Stamp or a specialty license plate, which is a good way of giving money to conservation without artificially inflating hunter numbers (and in turn, giving more power to these interest groups). Problem is, license plates and diversity stamps don’t count when the feds do the math for PR funds, which are crucial for a variety of activities.

          1. Helen McGinnis Avatar
            Helen McGinnis

            It’s been suggested that excise taxes be imposed on items purchased by non-consumptive wildlife users, such as backpacks, binoculars and bird seed. Such taxes could be used to partially reduce taxes and license fees paid by hunters. The taxes would probably have to be mandatory; hunters don’t have a choice on paying taxes on guns and ammo. Once nonhunters start paying directly into state wildlife agency funds, they should have a voice in how wildlife is managed.

            1. Immer Treue Avatar
              Immer Treue


              I agree. As money is probably the only avenue for a strong voice at the table. The problem we will face is the old guard’s reluctance to allow the “new kid on the block” to play. I believe the first step is for wolf/other predator advocates to take the $ onus of predator damage. Put our $ where are mouths are, step up to the plate and earn that place at the table.

              1. Mike Avatar

                Right. Because conservation groups (most of whom aren’t hunters) haven’t earned their place at the table at all by working to not sell off public land, and working to secure national parks and wilderness areas while local hunters fought them tooth and nail.


                Ever been to the Bob Marshall Wilderness? What did that guy ever do? Lazy son of a bitch. He should’ve watched Duck Dynasty on his recliner and bought shotguns and drank a lot. *that’s* how you earn a legacy.

              2. Montana Boy Avatar
                Montana Boy

                It appears the history of the Bob was lost on you. By the way a camping trip from September to December is a Fall experience. Winter conditions didn’t start until you left. If you want to prove your manhood I have some short fat white guys going in on ski’s over the next two months. I’ll hook you up.

              3. Mike Avatar

                Montana Boy, I can tell you don’t get out much. 😉

                I was camped in the wilderness when it was a blizzard and -10, when you were snug in your apartment in Butte or wherever you watch TV and pretend to be an outdoorsman.

                There were no hunters then. They only came up into the wilderness when it warmed up. At 10,000 feet in the Absraoka-Beartooth wilderness it was single digits at the end of September, with negative wind chills and plenty of snow. Things only got crazier from there.

                I was in the mountains when the Arctic blast hit, when it was -25 as a high at noon. Did not leave until December 29th. Saw lots of hunters clearing out.

              4. jon Avatar

                That’s just not right. Just because someone PAYS TO KILL WILDLIFE should not mean their voice is more important than someone who doesn’t want to pay to kill wildlife. If non-hunters contribute, do you really think these fish and wildlife agencies are going to listen to them over hunters when the majority of the people that work at these fish and game agencies are hunters themselves? Hunting is on the decline. More and more people would rather shoot wildlife with a camera than with a gun.

              5. Montana Boy Avatar
                Montana Boy

                Like I said fall conditions, but go ahead give me all the I’s and Me’s.

              6. Elk375 Avatar


                Hunting season closed on December 1st, 2013. The cold temps did not start until around Dec 7th. I hope that the hunters had left the field after hunting season.

              7. Mike Avatar

                -25 is not a “fall condition”, Montana Boy.

                Next time, mosey on out there instead of watching Duck Dynasty.

              8. Mike Avatar

                Elk, lots of wolf hunters, trappers, bird blasters, etc. Lots of poachers, too.

                a lot of slobs driving USFS road with guns pointed out the windows.

              9. Montana Boy Avatar
                Montana Boy

                I realize that for you it may have seemed like winter conditions. Until you have camped in Montana during winter save the bravado for your friends that don’t know better.

              10. Mike Avatar


                The cold temps started in September where I was high in the Absaroka-Beartooth. Then continued well through the season. Browning was 4 degrees in early November. I camped on the rez. Worse near the Bob.

                First one into Glacier after the government shutdown (camped on rez land near the gate), last one out in early November when they shut the road due to single digits and ice.

                Now, hanging out and watching TV those may not seem cold. But when you’re logging 90 consecutive camp nights, it adds up.

              11. Elk375 Avatar

                Mike how do you know that they are poachers, how do you know they are wolf hunters or bird blasters. I have lived in Montana most of my life and I have never seen what you see and my eyes are not closed.

                If I wanted to find wolf hunters I know where to look.

              12. Elk375 Avatar

                There was a lot of snow in the Beartooths in September. I was worried about you and I posted on this forum wondering how you were doing and wishing for your success. I am glad you enjoyed your adventure and returned safe.

              13. Mike Avatar

                Montana Boy,

                40 year record breaking winter temps:




                so yeah, I didn’t just camp in Montana in winter. I camped in record breaking winter Montana conditions. Blew open the winter records in Montana in style, tent style.

                How was the episode of Duck Dynasty, Y’all?

              14. Mike Avatar

                Thanks Elk, I appreciate it. I was actually shocked at the weather in the Gallatin this late September/early October. Worst I’d ever seen it.

              15. jon Avatar

                School is closed monday in states like WI and MN because of the extremely cold temperatures.

            2. Elk375 Avatar

              No, it was not record breaking temps. Record breaking temps were in the winter of 1951, it was 72 below on Roger Pass in January. When I was growing up, I remember weeks of 20 below weather in Billings and other winters mild.

              You do not know what cold is. In January of 1975, I was in Kotzebue, AK. At 3 AM a my company had a DC 3 come in from Anchorage with supplies, it was 46 below that night and the pilot had to kept the engines running while we unloaded the plane from the rear cargo door behind the propeller. The wind chill was off the charts never been so cold in my life.

              1. JB Avatar


                During college I walked to class in -40 (windchill -70) in Kalamazoo, Michigan only to find out that the closed the University. That was cold.

              2. Mike Avatar

                Elk, look at my links. They were record-breaking temps. 😉

            3. WM Avatar


              Do tell how you dealt with the regular call of nature, cooking, staying warm in your tent, and what you did during this 90 day self-imposed camping adventure.

              I have done enough hostile sub-zero winter camping to know that even getting water to boil from solid ice, or making water out of snow can be a real pain with a wood fire, coleman or an MSR XKG multi-fuel stove and wind screen can be a time commitment. Munching on a power bar is impossible, a Snickers a real challenge, and you can just forget fresh fruit and vegetables So, how did you cope, and why did you take on this challenge? Oh, and what kind of tent?

              1. Cobra1 Avatar

                I’m also kind of curious. How did you know they were poachers, trappers etc. Did you talk to them? If your roughing it in the back country how did you see all those guns sticking out of the windows of the slob hunters road hunting?
                How far from the road were you camping? How far did you hike from day to day?

            4. Nancie Mccormish Avatar
              Nancie Mccormish

              Helen, don’t we taxpayers already own and pay for our public lands and National Parks etc.? Non-consumptive users already pay day use fees and pass fees as well, but somehow this is not considered of any value when compared to consumptive users.

              I know consumptive use brings in dollars, but at least there is a laundering of that money before it is printed into a paycheck for public employees. One can wonder if there would have been anything left for anyone to see (or “use”) had these lands not been protected from privatization long ago.

          2. ma'iingan Avatar

            “Here in Ohio you can purchase a Wildlife Legacy Stamp or a specialty license plate…”

            Wisconsin has a similar mechanism, Endangered Resources license plates – they actually have a portrait of a wolf on them – but I don’t think annual revenue has ever been more than $300K.

            The legislature shot the program in the foot back when wolves were first recolonizing Wisconsin – a bear-hunter-friendly legislator got a LAW passed that compensates houndsmen up to $2500 per dog if their dogs are killed by wolves while training.

            While wolves were listed, this compensation was taken from the Endangered Resources license plate fund, totaling $390K over the years prior to delisting.

            As wolf supporters and other contributors learned about where their money was going, they began staying away from the ER license plates in droves, so the program is now pretty much inconsequential.

            1. Helen McGinnis Avatar
              Helen McGinnis

              Individuals and organizations interested in nongame and large carnivores must do more than voluntarily or involuntarily fund state wildlife programs. They must keep track of how their money is spent. They’re going to need the assistance of lobbyists who watch what’s going on in the state legislatures.

              The idea of excise taxes on outdoor equipment and birdseed was proposed as early as the 1970s but was rejected, thanks to opposition by companies supplying such equipment and birdseed. (This issue is covered in Jim Sterba’s book NATURE WARS (2012), Chapter 11).

              But despite the obstacles, people who want responsible management of carnivores need to decide on strategies. One problem is where to draw the line. I am not opposed to hunting, but I am opposed to managing public lands as “game farms.”

              1. Immer Treue Avatar
                Immer Treue


              2. JEFF E Avatar
                JEFF E

                In Idaho there is a check off on the state tax form for Contributions to the “Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund” although I have never seen an accounting of any such contributions and like mentioned above if a politician sees a dollar unspent they are on it like flies on shit.

              3. Montana Boy Avatar
                Montana Boy

                Montana also has a non-game wildlife donation on state taxes they average around 6000 dollars a year.

              4. Ralph Maughan Avatar
                Ralph Maughan

                Idaho also has a non-game wildlife plate. There are 3 kinds, one with an elk; there is the bluebird plate; finally the cutthroat trout plate.

                They used to raise a significant amount. They might still.I haven’t checked.

                I have the elk plate. Unfortunately about 5 years ago some of the money raised from the elk plate was diverted to that old canard — brucellosis study.

              5. Ralph Maughan Avatar
                Ralph Maughan

                Here is more on the Idaho wildlife plates copied from a 2007 article in the Wildlife News.

                “The bluebird plate became available in 1993. The elk plate was added in 1998 and the cutthroat trout plate in 2003. Wildlife plates are available at the vehicle licensing offices of every county assessor. Of the $35 special plate fee, the nongame wildlife program gets $25 from the purchase of a new bluebird plate, and $15 from each annual plate renewal. The elk and trout plates bring in slightly less because they also support elk disease research and non-motorized boating access, respectively.
                The nongame wildlife program receives no money from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and tags and no general tax funds from the State. The wildlife plates provide about 95% of state-based nongame wildlife program funding, helping to pay for projects like annual bald eagles counts and the new Idaho Birding Trail as well as the Project WILD and Wildlife Express conservation education programs for teachers and students.
                Wildlife plate funds also provide critical matching dollars for federal grants and partnerships with federal natural resource agencies.”

              6. WM Avatar

                WA has had a voluntary purchase wildlife license plate program for 40 years.


                WA also has a non-voluntary parking/access program called “Discover” which requires the purchase of an annual pass for $30 or $10 daily, to access state parks, and park at certain trailheads on DNR or other state owned lands. It is sometimes hard to know when one needs this pass, a federal FS pass, or a seasonal state Snowpark pass. In fact, for the recreation lands user it is an administrative mess, and the state/feds write lots of tickets to well-meaning folks who don’t knowingly violate the rules, but wind up mailing in a $50 fine (or more, I think) or showing cause for why they should not receive a ticket in a court far distant from where they live. Most just pay the fines.

              7. WM Avatar


                Unfortunately, the fines go into the general fund where they don’t get used for wildlife programs.

                The Discover Pass website, for those interested:


            2. JB Avatar

              Thanks for the history lesson, Ma. I hope others can learn from what happened in Wisconsin. Of course, this only helps perpetuate the notion that ‘non-hunters won’t pay’ for wildlife conservation. One key piece of information that is overlooked in these conversations is that consumptive users are not given a choice. I suspect that if they were, many would choose not to pay the excise tax, or purchase a license.

  18. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    they will also prey on elk calves and this is why IDF&G has decided to kill these packs.

    This is not a criticism of your post Gary, but you bring some questions to mind. How many calves are the wolves taking and for how long a time period? Where is the science to back up and justify this action? It really is outrageous that we are trying to forbid another species from eating.

    1. jon Avatar

      That is not a justifiable reason to kill wolves. Predators eat elk calves all the time. That is nature. Idaho fish and game are manipulating wildlife numbers for the benefit of hunters and that’s it. To kill a wild animal because it eats its natural prey is absurd. Killing wolves is being done for selfish reasons.

  19. Joanne Favazza Avatar
    Joanne Favazza

    I am not opposed to hunting for food as long as it is done respectfully and the food is not wasted. However, I do have a problem with trophy hunting, and the kind of wildlife “management” that we are now seeing in the Northern Rockies.

    It is simply wrong to kill predators in order to create more game opportunities for hunters. That is not how nature works, and it’s been proven time and time again that this kind of wildlife “management” does more harm than good to natural ecosystems.

    Thanks to this type of wildlife “management” (which is based on politics and irrational hatred rather than science), and thanks to all of the deliberate brutality that is now being inflicted on wolves in the Northern Rockies, it is no wonder that I and many others are starting to feel that the term “ethical hunter” is fast becoming an oxymoron.

    I think it’s well past time for those hunters who are ethical and respectful of nature’s design to collectively come forward and publicly condemn the current “management” practices of state wildlife agencies in the Northern Rockies, and the needless killing of wolves and other predators that has resulted from these policies.

    1. Montana Boy Avatar
      Montana Boy

      I keep going back to the article about what good are wolves.
      When I read comments here I realize it’s not so much about the wolf as it is about human management.
      Joanne’s comment. “I am not opposed to hunting for food as long as it is done respectfully and the food is not wasted.”
      Last week the wolves came off the hill and killed a fawn of the year, 5 to 6 wolves, they ate the major organs and left. Why? Was the rest wasted? No the birds, coyotes and foxes cleaned up. Think of the howling if a human did the same, little is wasted by nature.

      jon’s comment. “To kill a wild animal because it eats its natural prey is absurd.” Perhaps jon needs to reread what good is a wolf. Coyote’s kill foxes because they prey on the same wild animals. Same goes for coyotes, wolves, lions, bears, wolverines,fishers ect. This how nature has worked and how it continues to work predators kill each other it’s simple. Many of the comments here are not about wolves so much but about human management which in many cases are just like natural management.

      Back to the agency-wilderness-wolf management discussion.

      1. Ida Lupines Avatar
        Ida Lupines

        Well that’s just it. Human management isn’t just like nature, it is much more ‘efficient’. We proceed with the intent of destroying. Perhaps we should tell the Creator that we don’t like the way he designed nature, specifically predators, and that we have a better way, and can improve upon it! We’ve done a terrible job so far.

        1. jon Avatar

          Humans are the only species that aren’t being managed. As our population continues to grow and grow, it will be harder for other species (mainly non-humans) to survive on this planet. We are not rulers of this planet. We need to stop being so selfish and ignorant and must learn to accept there are other species on this planet that should be given the right to survive. 🙂

        2. Montana Boy Avatar
          Montana Boy

          Terrible job because there are several 1000 wolves in the lower 48 or terrible that enough to kill. I suggest you look at the Yellowstone wolf populations rise and fall before the 2009 hunting season.

      2. AG Avatar

        “Coyote’s kill foxes because they prey on the same wild animals. Same goes for coyotes, wolves, lions, bears, wolverines,fishers ect. This how nature has worked and how it continues to work predators kill each other it’s simple”

        Montana Boy, where did you actually find this? Wolves killing other predators for territory, yes. But never did i heard of any predators killing another because it prey on
        “its” food, except humans.

        1. WM Avatar


          I think you need to do some reading. Try this one for starters:

          Ballard, W.B., L.N. Carbyn, and D.W. Smith. 2003. “Wolf Interactions with Non-prey.” In: Wolves, Behavior Ecology, and Conservation. Eds. L. David Mech and Luigi Boitani. University of Chicago Press.

          It’s mostly about competition for resources, ultimately – competition for FOOD. They protect their “territory” in large part to reduce competition by other “guild members” from consuming the species upon which they prey – often elk.

          I suppose you could say the same thing about some humans not wanting too many wolves, in the same light – the competition part. But some humans also have other needs besides nutrition.

        2. Immer Treue Avatar
          Immer Treue


          It’s all about two things: Food and Reproduction.

  20. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Wolf packs exist in any area because they have found enough prey to sustain themselves and are able to defend that home territory from other packs. As soon a wolf pack gets smaller/weaker than any other nearby wolf pack, they will be killed or driven out of their territory by the larger pack.
    Each time the IDFG trapper/hunter takes out or weakens a wolf pack in Big Creek, it will be naturally replaced by another.
    This will result in an NEVER ENDING control action by the IDFG and it’s hired guns.

    About six years ago I filmed and observed Yellowstone’s Hayden pack howling to two other wolf packs. Ten days later the Hayden pack(four adult wolves) ceased to exist. The larger Mollies pack (nine adult wolves) moved into their territory and killed the two alpha Hayden wolves and drove the rest of the Hayden pack out of Yellowstone.

    I filmed the Haydens the day before they were killed and the Mollies a few days later in the same meadow.
    You can see the photos of both packs by clicking on my name above this comment.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Larry Thorngren,

      I think that when all the information is in we will find out that sending in this professional “hunter/trapper”(Gus Thoreson of Salmon) was the work of one Fish and Game commissioner for whom the rest of the commissioners did a favor. The one commissioner himself was responding to one or two outfitters who think that the wolves are having a negative effect on their bottom line. There was no consideration of the area being wilderness or of the cost/effectiveness of the action even if one takes a very narrow view of what are costs and benefits — “crony outfitterism” to coin a crude term.

  21. SEAK Mossback Avatar

    I think one of the problems here may be the general expectation of hunting in a wilderness area, particularly among non-residents who pay to hunt with the outfitter in question. Has hunting in this area become too “commodity” driven rather than “experience” driven? If so, the remedy may be at the federal (land management) rather than state(wildlife management) level, i.e. to reduce the number of commercial outfitter permits issued by the USFS for the area to try to restore the quality of the wilderness hunting “experience” in keeping wilderness management values. I know little about this area in Idaho, but certainly one has to question the number of outfitter permits in the Bridger-Teton Wilderness (Thorofare), a remote Grand Central Station around the Yellowstone Meadows in the fall with a level of competition that has led to practices like posting hunters on bait stations (salt). There are plenty of opportunities in the west for hunters to achieve a high chance of success for the money, such as hunting on a ranch near agriculture. There are limited places where one can experience solitude on wilderness hunt with little sign of other hunters.

    The only experience I have with deep wilderness hunting is three personal trips to the north slope of the Brooks Range (designated wilderness in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge). I learned of the area from acquaintances who made similar trips there in the early-1990s and had abundant success before a severe decline in the sheep population after a series of winters with deep snow and limited wind. In retrospect, the scarcity of legal sheep (and our limited and hard-won success) was a blessing, as it gave my teenage son and me an opportunity to greatly extend our quest and explore much more of that incredible country each year, without competition — and return far richer for the experience.

    There are certainly plenty of hunters out there who are potential clients for this outfitter who would leave satisfied without an elk if he is able to deliver an honest 10-day quest in a wilderness environment, folks who would count hearing a wolf howl as a bonus rather than a potential excuse for returning without a trophy. The problem is that striving to optimize tangible success for the masses degrades the attraction for those looking foremost for wilderness adventure.

    Sending a guy in on foot to try to remove two wolf packs is most likely a waste of money in terms of sustained effect on elk in the area. But if we imagine he was successful, the result would most likely be to attract more hunters, again putting stress on the “experience” aspect of wilderness hunting. The best overall potential benefit to hunting is to improve legal public access on and across private land and to protect (and in some cases improve) habitat in currently more accessible areas. It’s all good — but hunters and wildlife and land managers need to recognize that it shouldn’t all be the same.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      SEAK Mossback,

      I certainly agree with your comments. There are too many outfitters in the Frank Church and certainly in the Teton Wilderness and many others. In recent years they have also developed bad attitudes.

      Not being a wilderness hunter myself, but rather a wilderness traveller, I naively thought that those who paid to hunt in the wilderness did it primarily for the experience of hunting in a place where conditions are primitive, where safety cannot be assured, where you have to work, where the scenery is likely to be great, and the outfitters would interpret the landscape, educating the hunters.

      Was I ever wrong! It is much more likely, as you say, they simply think they will be able shoot a big bull elk or whatever because it is wilderness, and also have the primitive conditions largely smoothed out for them by the outfitter.

      It really came home to me when about ten years ago an angry hunter emailed me that he had paid $10,000 to be taken into the Teton Wilderness. There he had to watch wolves chase the elk and they had to take lots of precautions because of all the grizzly bears.

      I replied that I thought he had more than got his $10,000 for a wilderness hunt.

      Yes, this is the kind of person who should hunt on an elk farm instead, though perhaps named “elk hunters wilderness outpost.”

      1. JEFF E Avatar
        JEFF E

        if they want a sure thing go to the supermarket but I suspect one such as you describe Ralph, would have to hire an outfitter to lead them to the meat counter.

      2. Mike Avatar

        Almost all hunters want the land managed as a tree farm, and for their particular favorite prey, whether grouse or elk or white-tail.

        Very few hunters have an idea of an ecosystem. they have a very myopic, high school viewpoint of the world. There are lots of “I, I, I’s” and “me, me me’s” in everything they do.

        Most of them cannot be changed or saved. They are too stupid, and aren’t concerned about personal evolution.

        1. topher Avatar

          Some people are so hard to ignore. Can’t we just get rid of them?

      3. SEAK Mossback Avatar

        Ralph –

        I’ve seen enough evidence, despite abundant other evidence like you cite, to believe there’s an adequate market for wilderness hunters focused on adventure over trophy.

        Due to its open terrain and old geologic history, the eastern Brooks Range is extremely conducive to unsavory hunting tactics by outfitters. The predominant legal one is scouting Dall sheep by aircraft and relaying the information (acquired in minutes from a comfortable seat without breaking a sweat that would take days on the ground) to the guide (not via electronic means – illegal) so he simply has to lead the client the most expedient route to the identified pocket of rams. In the less rugged western section, the hunter is often landed in the evening as close as possible to the sheep without spooking them and spends his one night away from base camp (mandated by the same-day airborne hunting ban) before being led to the rams the following morning.

        It would be demoralizing to hunt in the vicinity of such an outfit, to say the least. However, it was a pleasure to share the country with the outfitter with exclusive guiding privileges in the easternmost drainages where we went near the Canadian border, who books clients years ahead for basic hunts with no aerial spotting support and a very basic base camp facility (two dome tents and an overhead tarp for outside shelter). I spent considerable time visiting with his guides and one of their clients, who invited us over for dinner. They said they received no spotting support what-so-ever and, during three extensive trips in the area, I never saw the outfitter’s plane to do anything but approach and leave from the direction of distant Fort Yukon or Kaktovik. He was limited by USFWS permit to 10 hunting clients annually in a vast, exclusive area, and they walked out of base camp like anyone else would, with their only advantage being the experience of the guide — or (for additional expense) they could float and hunt some of the numerous side drainages over a 30 mile section of river (the guide said his next assignment was to take a father & son on a float and hike hunt that set them back $30,000). These hunters know exactly what they are signing up for and it is not luxury or guaranteed success.

        If he had to share the area with another outfitter, or was permitted to take an unlimited number of clients, you can see that competition and economic opportunity would increase pressure to “boost production” by looking for “efficiencies” to hustle clients to their quarry and out of the field — at the cost of an extended rigorous wilderness adventure involving fair chase. There are plenty of clients out there who are willing to pay for a real hunt if one is available.

        The problem is that there is little differentiation between a back-country wilderness elk hunt and one based closer to civilization where different expectations might be appropriate (hence, reactions like you describe from hunters who resent sharing the country with wolves and bears – but mention nothing about other hunters). When recruiting hunters, most wilderness outfitters are as likely as others to emphasize a high success rate on “300 pt plus bulls” and perhaps camp amenities. There is competition on two levels — to recruit from the general pool of potential elk hunting clients and on-the-ground competition with other outfits to kill elk. A federal permitting policy that reduces the latter form of competition by giving an outfitter more exclusive access to a substantial area (thereby improving the wilderness quality of a hunt) will allow a smaller number of outfitters to realize an appropriate premium for hunts conducted in a manner appropriate with a wilderness area.

        1. WM Avatar


          If I understand the FS Wilderness special use permitting process for outfitters and guides correctly (there is a lengthy and complicated section in the FS Manual governing how they are issued), outfitters/guides have to go thru a bunch of hoops to get a permit that typically sets forth where and when they are allowed to do their guiding. It may/does limit numbers of clients, where they can hunt exclusively with no overlap from other outfitter services (maybe some state input on that too) base camp locations, stock requirements, and a lot of other stuff.

          The problem I see is that on the business side of things for the outfitter, the American business model is if there isn’t a regulation against it, it is ok do whatever you want; if there is a regulation covering what you do, it is still OK as long as there is a small risk of getting caught.

          On the client side of things, there is an expectation of obtaining tangible proof from a costly hunt, so you can recount the stories, and they don’t become the “big one that got away, fish story” variety.

          Years ago I was in Mid-town Manhattan, New York City, on a business trip, and went through the lobby of the firmI was visiting. Their offices were high in one of the tall buildings in the concrete canyons, with a partial view of Central Park. On the wall behind some chairs in the waiting area of the lobby, was a cape mount of a 7×7 bull elk, heavy base and tines, and mirror symmetry of both sides. On inquiring, I learned that one of the firm principals had been to WY (Wilderness) on a guided hunt and got this bull. It was a form of marketing, I suppose, being able to get and display the biggest and the best – classic trophy hunt. And, for most of the city dwellers that came to that office, they didn’t know or care about what great or little effort went into getting the animal by the guy who shot it. He did brag about it quite a bit, though, and never revealed the secret. I suspected little effort, though.

          I also suspect this was not the only specimen of this type in Manhattan. Commercial guiding in Wilderness is serious business with clients who will pay enormous amounts for certain experiences (whether it is this guy, some farmer from Kansas, or blue collar machinist from the South). The FS generally, I suspect, has little interest in reducing commercial opportunity (as in numbers of outfitters/guides and number of paying clients given access), though the regulations governing the activities have become more confining over the last 20 years.

          I do agree with you however, if there is a way to deal with the problem Ken describes in this thread, it is on the outfitter special use permitting end, rather than regulating the activities of an IDFG hunter/trapper going after a couple of discrete wolf packs.

          1. Immer Treue Avatar
            Immer Treue


            …”rather than regulating the activities of an IDFG hunter/trapper going after a couple of discrete wolf packs.”

            But isn’t this central to the discussion? We have “discrete” wolf packs in wilderness area who pose no threat to people or livestock, they are loving in the wild, and the reduction continues. In a sense, same as in the BWCAW in MN. No people, no livestock, no reason.

            1. JB Avatar

              And isn’t such regulation of outfitters just another example of those pesky feds getting in the way of state wildlife management? (Playing the Devil’s advocate, of course.)

              1. Jeff N. Avatar
                Jeff N.

                Let me rephrase my last sentence…it probably should read “but for the National Forest Service to allow this is a disgrace.”

              2. Jeff N. Avatar
                Jeff N.

                Mods can you please remove my above post, I moved it to the proper “reply”switching this thread….you can also remove this one as well. Thanks.

              3. Jeff N. Avatar
                Jeff N.

                reply “within” this thread….not “switching”….jeez.

              4. Jeff N. Avatar
                Jeff N.

                Holy crap mods….can you please clean up my mess above this post, and then wipe out this one too. Total clusterf&$k. Apologies.

            2. Barb Rupers Avatar
              Barb Rupers


            3. Montana Boy Avatar
              Montana Boy

              Question, I went back and read the article saw no map are we sure these packs are wilderness only packs?
              Anyone have the answer?

              1. Jeff N. Avatar
                Jeff N.

                I guess a bigger question is, if these two packs are not preying on livestock and just living on wild prey, whether it be in a wilderness area or not, why target them for extermination?

              2. Montana Boy Avatar
                Montana Boy

                I would guess the powers that be have been too busy for our questions or they simply don’t have the answer or don’t want us to know the answer.
                What I have found is the Golden pack must be somewhat unknown as it has a home range the size of a pin point.
                The Monumental pack has a large known range which may or may not leave the wilderness.

              3. Jeff N. Avatar
                Jeff N.

                Montana Boy,

                Actually my question wasn’t really directed at the “powers that be”, as you say. It was somewhat rhetorical. Regardless of these two packs territories (size or location), why is Idaho targeting two packs for extermination that aren’t causing problems. I think we all know the answer, and it does appear that these packs spend most, if not all of their time in the Frank Church wilderness. Why else would Idaho send someone into the wilderness to kill 2 packs if it wasn’t their primary residence.

                Bottom line…It’s total bullshit which is to be expected from Idaho, but for the Obama administration to allow this is a disgrace.

              4. Jeff N. Avatar
                Jeff N.

                Let me rephrase my last sentence…it probably should read “but for the National Forest Service to allow this is a disgrace.”

          2. SEAK Mossback Avatar
            SEAK Mossback

            WM —
            I admit I am probably naïve about this. There is tremendous pressure on guides and outfitters almost anywhere to produce “results” efficiently, hence a never-ending trail in the news of shockingly disgraceful and illegal behavior by guides (and people illegally posing as guides) in this state extending back well before statehood. The guide I describe above is admittedly among a small minority even among those who operate legally. To get some idea how bad it gets, here’s a good read involving the same species and general hunting area I described above, that’s just one example of what investigations (usually under-cover) often turn up —


            I still don’t accept that it has to be that way, and designated wilderness areas seem like the most important areas to draw some lines and reduce incentives that seem inevitably to lead to abuses. The idea is not that the objective of killing a large bull elk should change, but that near-universal material success is not an appropriate goal is such an area.

            1. Ida Lupine Avatar
              Ida Lupine

              Your posts are wonderful, SEAK.

            2. Cobra1 Avatar

              I guided for an outfitter in western Colorado about 30 years ago.
              Mostly elk and deer. We had several hunters every year and most were good people. Seems to me that back then most hunters knew there were no guarantees when it came to getting game when hiring a guide and would work to get in shape before the hunt, even learn how to deal with horses etc. Now it’s supposed to be a given that if you’ve hired a guide it’s supposed to be some type of guarantee that you’ll not only get your game but he’s supposed to be of trophy standards and very little work to acquire.
              I would hate to have to try and survive as a guide in this day and age where instant gratification is required by your clients or they’ll go elsewhere with their business.
              Any animal taken is a trophy if you’ve worked for it. From the first day of the hunt to the last trip out with a heavy pack and the meals they provide. All the sights seen while hunting, bad weather, good weather, tough hikes etc., etc.
              We are losing the best aspect of hunting and that is just being there. Being in the greatest place on earth. To many have already forgotten this.
              I guess if you pay for a hunt you expect to get your game, but many hunters I guided years ago felt that taking an animal was a bonus to them. Many felt like just being there was enough.
              If they want a guaranteed kill and instant success with little effort I recommend a canned hunt.

  22. Gary H. Avatar
    Gary H.

    If predator killings are going to stop, solutions are needed, not blaming hunters, state agencies, trappers etc. I think an array of funding sources will be needed (license plates, consumptive taxes on outdoor equipment, check off on state income taxes etc.). The state legislatures will need to support the policy of protecting predators (continue the education that overall predators benefit the landscape). Writing letters to the governors, state legislatures and state agency heads works folks. There is no perfect solution, and change does not happen overnight, but as we continue to prove the importance of having predators on the landscape (through bonafide research) and keeping wild places “wild”, policies will change. Write letters, and contact conservation organizations and ask them for solutions.

  23. Anonymous Avatar

    If people are concerned that the FS has violated the Wilderness Act then the appropriate course of action would be to take the FS to court and let a judge sort out the legal matters. If people are concerned that the Idaho Fish and Game are unjustly killing Wolves then action should be taken to stop it and hold them to be accountable. Debating on this comment thread about the FS is a waste of time. The FS does not manage wildlife, the state does. If the FS had not given the Fish and Game permision to use their Cabin while their “employee” is killing wolves he would still be down there doing it, living in a wall tent, regardless. If folks disagree with the Fish and Game killing wolves, go after them. Look into their managment practices, ask for the analysis that justifys these actions, question their science and motives and in what capacity this trapper works for the Fish and Game- how is he being paid- not per kill I hope.

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      Did you see that litigation was filed in this case?

      1. Anonymous Avatar

        I have heard of two recent lawsuits against the FS. It sounds like one of them does include the Fish and Game, though I cant confirm.

        1. Ken Cole Avatar

          Yes, it does include Idaho Department of Fish and Game. I’m a declarant in the litigation and here is the story I posted earlier today about it.

          The complaint is linked to the story.

          1. Anonymous Avatar

            Thanks for the info, that confirms that the F&G is included in the lawsuit. The direction in the FSM about predators and wildlife seems to conflict with the Wilderness Act which states the managemant of wildlife will be under state juristiction. Since the manual is a guide/direction and the act is law, the outcome should be interesting.

            The part about the FS needing a Special Use Permit for the activities is interesting and makes sense. The requirements for a special use permit do seem to apply. But, is it known if the trapper is an actual employee, commercial or contracted by the F&G. If it is true that he is conducting other trapping activities for commercial gain then the need for a permit could be further justified, though it might mean the trapper is the one that needs the permit to conduct commercial activity on FS lands. If, he is not an actual employee or is conducting business other than State F&G wildlife management work while staying in/using FS facilities there could be even further legal implications.

            I think the F&G were issued a special use permit for the helicopter darting and landing a few years ago, though I cannot confirm that either. I know that an MRDG was done and the Regional Forester approved the helicopter use on the basis that wolf research was needed to maintain a viable population of wolves in the area for the purposes of wilderness management and preservation of wilderness character. I dont think the F&G asked permision for anything other than using a helicopter. You mention in your article on 1/7 that the FS gave permision to the F&G to trap. The F&G does not normally ask permission from other agencys to conduct wildlife management activities in Idaho (e.g. fish stocking, cougar seasons, elk seasons etc…). Do you have conformation that the F&G asked the FS for permission to conduct these wildlife management activities, or did they just ask to use the FS cabin while based out of the area? Thanks again for the info and drawing awareness to these issues.

    2. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan


      We just did file suit. The case is Maughan v. Vilsack


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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Ken Cole