Conservationists Ask Court to Halt Wolf Extermination in One of Nation’s Premiere Wilderness Areas
POCATELLO, Idaho – A coalition of conservationists, represented by the non-profit environmental law firm Earthjustice, today asked a federal judge in Idaho to halt an unprecedented program by the U.S. Forest Service and Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) to exterminate two wolf packs deep within the largest forested wilderness area in the lower-48 states.
In mid-December 2013, IDFG hired a hunter-trapper to pack into central Idaho’s 2.4-million-acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness to eradicate two wolf packs, the Golden and Monumental packs, in the interest of inflating elk populations for outfitters and recreational hunters. The U.S. Forest Service, which administers the wilderness, approved the extermination program by authorizing use of a Forest Service cabin and airstrip to support wolf extermination activities.
“A wilderness is supposed to be a wild place governed by natural conditions, not an elk farm,” said Earthjustice attorney Timothy Preso. “Wolves are a key part of that wild nature and we are asking a judge to protect the wilderness by stopping the extermination of two wolf packs.”
Earthjustice is representing long-time Idaho conservationist and wilderness advocate Ralph Maughan along with three conservation groups—Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project, and Wilderness Watch—in a lawsuit challenging the wolf extermination program. The conservationists argue that the U.S. Forest Service’s approval and facilitation of the program violated the agency’s duty to protect the wilderness character of the Frank Church Wilderness. They have requested a court injunction to prohibit further implementation of the wolf extermination program until their case can be resolved.
“Idaho’s program to eliminate two wolf packs from the Frank Church Wilderness Area for perceived benefits to elk hunting is just the most recent example of the state bending over backwards to accommodate the wishes of people who hate wolves,” said Jonathan Proctor of Defenders of Wildlife. “Wilderness areas are places for wildlife to remain as wild as is possible in today’s modern world. If Idaho’s wildlife officials won’t let wolves and elk interact naturally in the Frank Church Wilderness, then clearly they will allow it nowhere. The U.S. Forest Service must immediately prohibit the use of national forest wilderness areas for this hostile and shortsighted wolf eradication program.”
The region of the Frank Church Wilderness where IDFG’s hunter-trapper is killing wolves is a remote area around Big Creek and the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Even though this region hosts one of the lightest densities of hunters in the state, IDFG prioritized elk production over protection of the area’s wilderness character. The Forest Service failed to object to IDFG’s plans and instead actively assisted them.
“As someone who has enjoyed watching members of the Golden Pack and spent time in the area where these wolves live, I am startled that IDFG thinks it is acceptable to kill them off. If wolves can’t live inside one of America’s biggest wilderness areas without a government extermination program then where can they live?” asked Ken Cole of Western Watersheds Project. “The value of wilderness is not solely to provide outfitters elk to shoot,” Cole added.
Read the Complaint
Read the Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)
Read the Memo in Support of TRO and Preliminary Injunction
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. We do not accept unsolicited “guest” authors or advertising.
91 Responses to Conservationists Ask Court to Halt Wolf Extermination in One of Nation’s Premiere Wilderness Areas
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Isn’t IDFG also paying this hunter/trapper while he’s trapping bobcats for his own personal financial interest?
There is conflicting information about that. I don’t know for sure. I think I read that he was instructed not to.
I wasn’t sure either, thought I better ask first. Saw differing reports, too.
From what I heard, news out of Salmon where he lives, is that he has permits for that. But another point is that he may not be as skilled as he thinks and may prove to be unsuccessful in both efforts. Let’s hope so.
Also, I heard that the local F&G guys are not happy about the bobcat permits and that they see this as an entirely political move by the commission and has nothing based of science involved in the decision… the commission, as most of us know, are a gang of appointees at the pleasure of the governor and command the governor’s will be done regardless of any reasonable argument against their commands.
Some legal and/or legislative action is necessary to change anything about this.
Thanks to all for this action!
I do not know the timeline of this court action, but if an injuction occurs it better be quick because it doesn’t take a good trapper long to kill two packs of wolves!
They will draw this out as long as they can to ensure the extinction of the grey wolf
STOP!!!! The insanity once and for all please give the freedom the wolves deserves thank you
This is yet another example of the government going against the wishes of the majority of the people…not just pro-wolf and anti-wolf people. They are also going against the law of the land. I live in Colorado and only people that are walking or on horseback are allowed in Wilderness areas. I would get a stiff fine if I even brought my dog into one of these areas. And IDFG is allowing a trapper into the Frank Church Wilderness area to trap wolves so there are more elk to shoot!!!!!!! I hope Earthjustice is able to stop this nonsense before it’s too late.
This trapper is probably following the rules.
Also, I’m not familiar with any “no dog” rules in wilderness I’ve been to.
I agree. During my most rewarding period of backpacking/winter camping, I avoided state parks and spent all my time in National Forests. My partner was my German Shepherd who always carried part of the load. Though not a great conversationalist, and subject to occasional whining, he never bitched about conditions. Even when wet, he always smelled like a dog, never cascading into the successive layers of smell that seem to be the province of humans. Always shouldering his load, I never had to fear someone playing the universal prank of putting rocks in their partners pack…
Immer weren’t you afraid of traps. I’d be terrified of having my dog get into one….
At that time, not at all. Big concern in Colorado was porcupines and mountain lions. Winter camping in MN, anywhere someone may have been trapping beaver, was wise to stay away from as there was open water, areas to stay clear of when traveling on frozen lakes.
I lived at the edge of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness…NO DOGS ALLOWED.
Many others I’m familiar with including the Rattlesnake Wilderness where I now live require dogs to be leashed.
Ralph, Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project, and Wilderness Watch.
Can someone point me to the appropriate donate buttons for these groups?
I linked to each organization in the press release.
I’m a bit green, but I believe these will work. Lets give it try.
Thank you, Ralph. Thank you, Ken. Thank you to the handful on conservation groups who are trying to stop this devil trapper/killer and the criminal political thugs who sent him. One question: why did this request for an injunction take weeks? Is that how long it takes to prepare such a request? I hope this legal initiative comes in time to be approved quickly so that each of the wolves is saved. Again, thank you!
Thank you very much to Ralph and to all those involved in trying to stop this unnecessary killing!
First, thank you to Ralph, Ken and all of the others that initiated this action. Good work! If ever there was a conflict of interest it is with U.S. Forest Service allowing IDFG’s private hired hunter/trapper.
I hate to admit how much time I’ve spent thinking about this trapper in the FC Wilderness area, and wondering if he had success on this killing mission.
Anyway, aren’t there reasons other than wolf predation that are contributing to elk population decline?
Let’s hope this works.
“I hate to admit how much time I’ve spent thinking about this trapper in the FC Wilderness area, and wondering if he had success on this killing mission.”
Me too Yvette – me too.
BTW, this trapper hired by Idaho fish and game likes save western wildlife on facebook. Save western wildlife is an extreme anti-wolf group run by Scott Rockholm. So this hired trapper is without question a wolf hating extremist. Killing wolves to have more elk for outfitters/hunters to shoot is not science. It’s selfish unnecessary killing.
A BIG Thank You to Ken, Ralph & All of the org. that are participating in this very important issue.
I, myself thought it was a conflict of interest. But, ID. is like that – not to mention MT., WY., MI., WI., & Michigan. It’s all about politics & greed.
Thank You again for all of the hard work you all are doing to save the wildlife in this country.
Great work! Thank you!
Re-sending with a couple of corrected “typo’s.”
As an active member-participant of the Washington Wolf Coalition and the Pacific Wolf Coalition, representing the Sierra Club’s Washington State Chapter, I would like to add our name to the conservation groups that are working hard to protect wolves so that they can recover and help restore our forests and waterways in the West. We, too, would appreciate your financial support. Our chapter was one of a handful of organizations that challenged our WA State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife in a petition requiring codification of our new “Wolf Recovery and Management Plan.” Right away the anti-wolf community began trying to undermine a plan that had already gone through numerous versions resulting from compromises. Most were concessions to the “producers” (cattlemen, sheep growers, hunters, et al.) to reduce the required number of breeding pairs statewide before recovery goals would be met. Now they will stop at nothing to continue chipping away at our plan. The WDFW itself seems to be aligning with the anti-wolf folks who just want more deer and elk to kill (“harvest”).
Please help us in the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, CBD, and other groups to stop the misguided policies of the US Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, the BLM, and the US Forest Service who do NOT appreciate the important values of wolves in the U. S. Contact your Congressional “electeds” and express your well reasoned concerns.
Seems the anti-wolf attitude hasn’t settled down since the killing of the Wedge pack. Another instance showing that killing wolves does not increased tolerance. Still the same spineless, boot-licking state wildlife agencies and legislatures pandering to ignorant, intolerant bullies.
Great information here about the work in WA. Hope you can make a difference. Thank you.
And where the hell is Conservation NW in all of this?
most likely on the ground doing educating people and helping prevent conflict.
oops, scratch doing
Richard….Let’s hope Conservation NW isn’t out there supporting the “removal” of more wolves like they supported the Wedge Pack killing.
Oh, the Wedge pack. I have not forgotten that awful mess. That was the wolf incident that turned my head, and made me follow more closely what is happening with wolves. It’s hard for me to grasp why the ranchers that lease public land seem to trump everything else. It is not logical. Ranching is a business, and any business will suffer some losses. But with ag., they get reimbursed on our dime. To boot, who knows if these ranchers are paying market value for those leases or even if they are current on payments. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around what drives this loathing of wolves and other predator species. My nature is to try and figure out why things work they way the work; what turns the gears; what drives the machine? And I’ve not yet found a satisfactory answer to this hysteria over predator species, especially wolves. It all seems to be without logic.
That was a mess, a disaster. WDFW was told that another pack would move into the Wedge and apparently another pack has. It’s not logical because it is political. It’s never about wolves, it’s about politics. Any politician who proclaims his/her “dislike” for wolves gets support from big money orgs like Farm Bureaus, the Rocky Mtn. Elk Foundation, cattleman’s associations, livestock associations, etc. There are also some powerful ranching members of Congress. The wolves have been a scapegoat along with bison in MT particularly for decades. The NRA also gets involved in hunting issues. Not many politicians have the cajones to stand up against them because they will get beat down by them and their supporters. There are thousands more black bears, grizzlies, mountain lions than there are wolves but wolves always seem to get the most attention. Coyotes are probably the most persecuted and an easy target too, so to speak. There are many coyote killing contests in many states, too many, with prizes being cash or shiny belt buckles. That’s how low the value of a coyote’s life is, whether it ever touched a calf, sheep or lamb or not. Ranchers are rewarded for lost livestock, they should be rewarded for protecting them first. They should be more concerned about keeping their livestock alive rather than killing a suspected predator afterwards. Some ranchers have Wildlife Services on speed dial it seems.
I’ve been very concerned as well. The arrogance of these states is incredible. They are not qualified to manage our precious wildlife. Thank you so much, good luck and give ’em hell.
One of the major problems in this battle is that there isn’t a single Western Dem Senator or Representative that gives a crap about lands or species issues except Raul Grijalva, and possible Tom Udall when it affect Mexican wolves. This is a political battle now; science has been thrown out as a decision determinant ever since the Tester Amendment was crafted and supported by the White House and DOI Salazar to keep the Senate under Democratic control. What we got for this sacrifice of the ESA is NOTHING…and now we are seeing the second coordinated effort to extirpate wolves in the lower 48, led by agribusiness, ranchers, and Sagebrush Rebellion converts. This notion that a STATE can authorize this kind of excursion into Federal Wilderness, and the Forest Service supports it…all for f’ing elk who are allegedly threatened by wolves…it smacks of the bizarre. YOu want to know why there is a renewed interest in Monkeywrenching?…
Problem with your thought process is that Monkeywrenching works both ways.
Also your claims about the second extirpate of wolves it’s about as science filled as any claims about wolves killing all the elk it smacks of the bizarre and ignorance.
Lastly the only reason the Tester rider was needed was because of the endless lawsuits looking for a loopholes in the science that said it was time to delist wolves in the RMA.
That should set you off now really let loose.
There is a reason we kept winning the lawsuits, it was because the government wasn’t following their own plan that required all three states to come up with a plan. Wyoming didn’t do that for a long time and the USFWS kept trying to rig the game. We could go on and on about that but we were winning for a reason.
It may feel like a long tortuous road for those who love the animals, but a continued foundation of legal precedent and increased public awareness are happening. Great work.
Problem is, the Monkeywrenching has all been from one side….poisonings, illegal shooting,etc.
Well said, JimT. Thanks!
Peter DeFazio, a representative from western Oregon, is questioning the funding of Wildlife Services in the Department of Agriculture. Oregon is in the West. Though not from my district I have supported him for many years even though I do not agree with some of his recent forest management issues.
Wolves and wildlife must stay protected to survive.
Really proud of you guys. What good are the laws if the government and the agencies don’t abide by them ? Just keep kicking their butts in court – its the only way.
I especially love a statement in the press this morning:
“Hunters have not been able to reduce the wolves in the area because it is so hard to access.”
If you can´t go in with your Dodge Ram…….
Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2014/01/07/2960859/wildlife-groups-sue-over-hunter.html#storylink=cpy
There have actually been a lot of wolves killed in the Middle Fork zone. Not sure why they say that.
I also now live in Colorado, but graduated from Meridian HS back when tote-goats where the only off-road vehicles anywhere. I still love Idaho for its wilderness among other things. I read the Idaho Statesman article yesterday. (Im sure its still the go-to news for most of the population in Idaho).
One glaring omission was the lack of immediate support for the wolves in the comments section. (I guess we all don’t have the required facebook page yet)
Its also obvious that the anti-wolf propaganda has influenced some of those who are otherwise without an opinion. We need to remember that the press can be our friend when they are provided the proper and timely information.
Lets all recommit ourselves jump on those articles in the Statesman with a prepared statement IMMEDIATELY, from here on out. Make it A race to be the first one to post.
I sent the Statesman a letter immediately. Although I live next door in Montana, I spend a lot of time in the Frank, and spend plenty with local air and shuttle services.
This shows exactly why wolves need to be listed under the ESA. You simply can’t trust States or its seems certain federal agencies to do the right thing.
Great. Good luck and thank you.
Ralph et al
at some point won’t we reach the this is where the buck stops moment
it should have been a long time ago
thank you very much
I’m late for the party due to a bad cold. Thank you Ralph, Ken, and all. Good luck.
I have been thinking about this suit some over the last couple days. It really is about a much larger issue than whether IDFG can go into the Frank with a hired professional to “manage” a growing wolf population for whatever reason.
The larger issue – and this is the core matter- is whether the federal government can/must assert primacy over routine state management of wildlife in designated Wilderness through its various forest management statutes and NEPA, by requiring a special use permit AND attendant public participation requirements. Is the FS role limited to placing operational boundaries on the scope and magnitude of an action, or can it actually STOP the action if it conflicts with other federal statutes, including “wilderness values”?
The plaintiffs in this suit assert violations of the FS’s own general forest management manuals, policies and a specific management plan for the Frank. These documents, of course, are written by bureaucrats in DC, Denver or in the Regional or Forest Supervisor’s office. Did the bureaucrats, in preparing these documents, follow the law or go beyond it? Are there conflicting provisions of these laws that need legislative clarification?
Again, from the legislation creating the River of No Return (Frank Church) 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.”++
Could there be a conflict here with “wilderness values” provisions, and, if a judge and appellate court find the FS should have formally gone thru application processes/public participation and such, it would set a new paradigm for federal-state relations in wildlife management in Wilderness, possibly everywhere, because many federal statutes creating Wilderness contain the very same savings clause that is quoted above for the Frank. Congressional types relied on these assurances their state wildlife management was safe from federal intervention when passing these laws. It is hard to imagine reasonably imagine another view from their perspective (maybe legislative history will tell the story).
Here IDFG told the FS what it was going to do, and received implicit approval. What is actually required under the law? Which controls, the bureaucrats plans or the plain meaning of a federal statute repeated multiple times in creation of specific Wilderness, arguably assurance from Congress that state wildlife management will not be a topic of interference by the FS.
States won’t like anything that infringes on their “jurisdiction and responsibilities,” and a legislative response is likely. Just sayin’ what is really at stake here in the end.
Your comment was a thoughtful one.
I have seen, over the years, a “hands off” attitude by the USFS in the Frank Church regarding wildlife issues.
For example, until recently, Idaho trappers commonly placed trapping devices in USFS trails. In many cases, snares were placed in constructed barriers made with poles and pine boughs right across trails, and even placed so as to block USFS pack bridges.
I complained to the USFS for many years and always got the rebuff that it was a IDFG issue. Of course, IDFG wouldn’t address it. The USFS law-enforcement officer at the time on the Salmon-Challis NF wouldn’t even reply to me. This in spite of the fact that the placement of trapping devices in the trails was specifically violating two Federal statutes.
The Salmon-Challis supervisor, now retired, told me that although the USFS had the authority to require traps to be moved off trails, they were still going to defer to the IDFG.
Since then, a warden told me that, due to many more complaints, IDFG finally addressed this to a small degree.
I don’t think we should turn a blind eye to the wolf eradication effort in Big Creek because we fear possible consequences of action. Clearly, one should always examine pros and cons, but not to the point of being paralyzed into inaction. I think things have become bad enough that a line must be drawn and whatever legal avenues that can be taken should be attempted.
As far as the Big Creek IDFG project, there’s not much worse than extermination, and IDFG has already stated that if this effort succeeds, they will implement it elsewhere.
++I complained to the USFS for many years and always got the rebuff that it was a IDFG issue.++
To me that issue is not so much one of wildlife management as of public safety on FS lands. And, the FS can engage in policy or rule making to protect visitors…if it wants to, as the retired Challis Forest Supervisor told you. Deference is sometimes a big part of that cooperative federalism balance. Without it, Senator Crapo or Risch makes the call over to Vilsack and the poop runs downhill until it gets to the guy/gal who created the ripple in the pond.
I will agree with you on that. Especially your comment: “And, the FS can engage in policy or rule making to protect visitors…if it wants to…”
I’m sorry to intrude on your conversation, but wanted to add that this deference goes beyond one unit of the USFS. I was told recently by an FWS endangered species coordinator that they felt handicapped by upper level management, who told them specifically that there should be ‘no distance between the FWS and the state’ meaning total deference to the state agency on issues related to that species’ recovery. I should note that this was not in the West.
Glad to have your input. I was actually hoping for your thoughts/reactions about my musings on where this suit might ultimately take us on wilderness policy, if it is successful.
Unfortunately I probably won’t be able to read anything you might offer until the latter part of the week-end. I am off to try to catch a winter steelhead on the Olympic Peninsula (standing butt cheek deep in a cold river with rain dripping off my hat and down my neck (loving every minute). I will be without internet service, which is a blessing of sorts.
IDFG news release on “Why Manage Wildlife in Wilderness” (1/6/14).
Their view is that they managed wildlife BEFORE creation of the Wilderness, and that designation affects nothing in their ability to manage wildlife in the same way there today.
I would definitely agree that is the view of IDFG. And, I can see why they would take that stance.
Unfortunately, the wolf issue is now so politicized in Idaho that sound management is not and probably won’t be on the agenda for some time.
The USFS did not, however, have to assist IDFG with the use of their historic Cabin Creek Cabin. I noticed that the University of Idaho turned IDFG down regarding the use of their Taylor Ranch facility.
My recollection on this is that the issue of state primacy in managing Federal Wilderness has been litigated and found to be limited or nonexistent. In this case, they did this with the wrongly granted permission of a federal agency. But, in the meantime, wolves are dying, and this trapper “conveniently” is only contacted when he decides to call in. Want to bet there IDFG told me NOT to call in unless there was an emergency situation? Even if the TRO is granted, will it come in time to save the packs? Or will IDFG and USFS hold up their hands and say Sorry Guys, we tried to reach him. Oh well…Next time.
I will raise another issue, and that is the lack of leadership in the environmental community on public land and species issues. No Brower, no Foreman, no national presence that has the spine to take on the politicians and to mobilize what we have been told is a majority of Americans in favor of these issues. Why is this? Is this the fault of the non profit Boards who choose their leaders? Do they lack vision? The stomach for the good fight? Too corporate in their approach? They are certainly complicit. They set the tone for an organization like Wilderness or EDF, or any other of the advocacy groups. Or are there simply none of these types of experienced advocates anymore?
Him, not me…:*)
Wilderness Watch is trying. It is a small organization that deserves our support.
Environmental organizational leadership has atrophied in response to factionalization which renders it all too easy to adopt myopic missions that hold fast to limited visions on the ineffectual premise that somebody else will take care of that over there. This, and/or in desperate efforts to maintain orginizational viability they hire and defer to PR and fundraing consultants, who advise against controversy and toward large donors who pull the strings if not explicitly, then implicitly as organizations hire and add staffing responsibilities becoming more and more susceptible to self-imposed tensions and ever-increasing moral quandaries and limitations on strategy or tactic for fear that they will lose the support of one or two key supporters. Meanwhile, the resource of sympathetic public is raked up and away by Gang Green selling stuffed animals manufactured in China, who has mastered the marketing arena – selling individuals the notion that they helped but who remain wholly ineffectual for fear of uttering a controversial fact that crosses the hoard of consultants’ data about how people want jobs, not wildlife, or some such nonsense, and that they need to maintain a tempered approach employing strict fidelity to the consultants’ talking points and double up on the next stuffed wolf/tote bag order from China and glossed photos/update to photoshop to give the hipsters in New York/DC fodder to prepare the next email alert/donation request the next time they get word from an unemployed activist on the ground that another tradegy is underway. The key being to avoid losing wholly ineffectual access on the Hill.
A mouthful in addition to a wakeup call, thanks Brian.
I believe that there has been some communication between the trapper and people on the outside probably on Thursday.
I goofed up on the copy & paste above. Here is the correct link to the IDFG news release on “Why Manage Wildlife In Wilderness” 1/6/14:
Now lf we could just get Clem into Court on the stand and hold him accountable….
I long ago learned to expect the Forest Service to take the path of least resistance both in its routine forest management and in its “management” of designated wilderness areas. But to see them actively, agressively countermand their regulations and mandates is infuriating.
Do you have anything new to report on the status of the suit (papers filed by plaintiffs or defendants) or factually, like updates on the numbers of wolves taken by the trapper?
About to ask the same thing WM.
It probably slipped his mind. 🙂
(I mean no rudeness. I appreciate having WM.)
An order on Friday laid out a briefing schedule that required defendants to file a response by 5:00 today and for plaintiffs to file a reply by noon tomorrow (Tuesday). I expect some kind of decision on the TRO no earlier than tomorrow afternoon.
Thanks for the update, Ken. Which of the US District Court Judges in ID has this case?
I gather from your earlier post we may hear something regarding a TRO as early as late today (Wed. 1/15)?
Thanks for your efforts keeping us posted.
I’m not going to guess about when Judge Lodge will issue a ruling. The briefing was done by noon yesterday.
If I recall from the motions (there are two pending), there was a request for a TRO to temporarily stop immediately the control action, while the judge sorts out the legal issues, and then the request for an injunction, assuming the plaintiff’s were to prevail under the law. Of course, each day the legality of the control action is not addressed, the risk increases for more wolves to be lethally removed (something that cannot be undone).
That is why I am a bit confused as to why, notwithstanding the expedited briefing schedule, he hasn’t just temporarily STOPPED things until he has a chance to review the strength of the legal arguments of the parties.
Don’t know anything about Judge Lodge, other than a gut feeling he might be a bit tougher sell than Judge Winmill (or Molloy in MT)regarding wolves.
Do you have access to Defendant’s briefs, and can you post them?
Dr. Maurice Hornocker, a giant in carnivore biology, weighs in against Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s wolf eradication program in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.
Idaho Mountain Express: Wolf eradication plan goes too far – January 15, 2014.
Question to all of the pro-wolf people, how many of you have spent ANY time in the “Frank”? I have hunted deer and elk in Unit 20A since the early 90’s and have watched not only the elk population plummet but now the mule deer herds. Prior to the wolf re-introduction there was a very abundant mule deer and elk population. I spent 15 days in Unit 20A this fall and only saw one fresh elk track besides the herd of 30 that we also saw. Not too many years ago we saw 30-40 mule deer a day with 2-3 4X4 mule deer bucks. This year we saw about 30 head of deer and only one buck. This is some of the most rugged and inaccessible country in North America. To have watched such a huge decine in mule deer and elk herds is heartbreaking.
My statements are backed up by Idaho Fish and Games Elk Management report for the Middle Fork Zone. Five or six years ago the south side of the Salmon River burned extensively hence creating some of the best mule deer and elk habitat one would find anywhere in the world. Even with this fabulous habitat the deer and elk herds are in trouble. Why? Predators which includes wolves, bears and lions. I enjoy the wilderness experience as much as anyone and have had the skills, resources and desire to pack in and hunt in this tremendous wilderness. I don’t have to harvest an animal every year but it is nice to know they are there. With the hundreds of days I have spent in the “Frank” I have only seen three wolves! I did have at least four head surround my camp at night this fall with six head of stock turned loose. Needless to say I gathered up my stock and tied them up!
If there is not some kind of predator control in the “Frank” there will be little incentive for someone such as my self to go through the hard work and risk for a DY hunt. Maybe that is the true goal is to eliminate those of us who not only love and respect the wilderness but also the once abundant wildlife that was there 20 plus years ago.
Once again how many of you HAVE ever spent any time in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Maybe then you would appreciate how much of a challenge removing just some of these wolves will be. Certainly not eradication!
Once again how many of you have spent ANY time in the second largest wilderness in the lower 48?
Causation does not imply correlation.
Elk populations are down. Fact
Elk populations are down solely due to the wolf depredation. Unlikely.
“If there is not some kind of predator control in the “Frank” there will be little incentive for someone such as my self to go through the hard work and risk for a DY hunt”
Always troubles me when I read comments like that Monte B. As though wildlife is just there for the taking and when its not, well, its got to be for reasons other than human intervention or greed:
Maybe you should be looking at how “polluted” the Frank Church might be these days:
I would be interested in seeing people tell an answer to this persons question, please it would add to my knowledge.
Maybe that is the true goal is to eliminate those of us who not only love and respect the wilderness but also the once abundant wildlife that was there 20 plus years ago.
The abundant wildlife I believe will never be the same again, regardless of how many wolves are eliminated. I’d venture to say it will become less and less over time. Our human population is much larger now, and we’ve taken too much natural habitat for our own needs.
It doesn’t matter that some have not been to the Frank, what matters is it is a protected place for future generations and a place that remains relatively undisturbed, not someone’s personal hunting grounds. People who love and respect it aren’t the problem, it’s those who do not, including industry.
I lived many years in China, and China is a very populated country and guess what, there is still a massive amount of area in China, that people have never visited, there are many areas of the world that have very little human influence on. I have read you say this many times, but unless you have traveled many parts of this world, I don’t understand how you can say these things?
…you said that with all your days spent in the Frank, you had seen only 3 wolves…so how are they the problem? This area is also habitat for mountain lions and bears. And no, to my great regret, I have not had the privilege to be in this Wilderness Area. Nor shall I, as I need supplemental oxygen 24/7. Yet I firmly believe that it is important-very much so-to maintain these areas, to keep them as untouched as possible. Nature herself has maintained the balance of predator vs. prey for a while now. It was right to reintroduce wolves because we were also the ones responsible for their absence. I say leave her alone to figure it out. That would require, of course, leaving what few wilderness areas we have left alone, whether oil, coal, diamonds or whatever else could be imagined within their borders. Then the fortunate few like you who are able to physically go there could bring back, in addition to maybe an elk or muledeer every few years, photos and stories of the beauty you’ve been privileged to partake of.
Robin, I am sorry that you do not have the ability to enjoy the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and as I age I can certainly appreciate your challenges in life. I have only seen three wolves in all those days but I have seen tracks and heard them howl many times. Wolves are extremely elusive much like mountain lions. I have only seen three mountain lions in that time period as well. As to Yvette and Nancy I didnt say I needed to harvest an animal but that is the incentive to go through the planning and hard work of preparing to go there. Generally elk populations suffer mainly due to over hunting, lack of winter habitat (generally due to development in winter ranges eg. Sun Valley), overhunting and predators. There is a huge base of uninhabited winter range (no development), few hunters (due to the rugged inaccessible country so what is left predators? Also the only place I have seen any significant pollution may be on the Salmon River due to the high number of boaters and the truth is they do a pretty darn good job of policing themselves. As to Ida’s statement I agree with you with the exception of human population affecting the “Frank” I would venture to say with the exception of the river boaters and floaters probably only a few hundred of people venture into the “Frank” more than a few miles.
It is a beautiful area and with the laws protecting it it is my hope it will be there for many generations to enjoy. Without the outfitters and hunters many of the trails will simply close due to lack of maintenance. So how will someone over the age of 35 be able to venture into and enjoy this wilderness? Not everyone is dead fit and without stock how can those of us long in the tooth venture into the “Frank” Gotta have trails! The Feds have a dismal record in trail maintenance!
I have been fortunate to spend a lot of time in the Frank Church. I have rafted or kayaked the Main Salmon River twenty-seven times, and the Middle Fork eleven times.
I have been traveling the “Frank” for forty-four years now. I would estimate about seven hundred days. My wife and I have hiked the rivers numerous times and seen most of Chamberlain Basin. We also have covered Monumental, Loon, Camas, and Big Creek to name a few.
In total, we have seen twenty-two wolves since the reintroduction. Regarding elk, and I have mentioned this before on this site, we backpacked from Thomas Creek to Bernard Creek along the Middle Fork two springs ago. We counted 806 elk in three days and many more mule deer. We saw one wolf that trip.
That compares favorably to the same trip about twenty years ago, where we saw about fifty more. We will be hiking from Thomas Creek to Cabin Creek this April and we will again take a count of elk. I do keep an open mind, and if numbers are way down, I’ll mention it.
Regarding trails, they are in terrible shape in the “Frank,” due primarily to all the deadfall from the fires, compounded with extremely low funding for trail work. Many trails are no longer passable for stock.
Having boated the Salmon River and Middle Fork since 1973, I can say that the rivers have far less trash today than years ago. It is true what you say about very few people venturing far into the Frank. Lynn and I seldom ever see hikers at any season of the year deep in the backcountry. During the fall, almost everyone we encounter is a hunter. Most hunters away from the airstrips are with outfitters.
I’ve been twice, 9 days a shot, July, Sabe and Hamilton creeks area vaguely. Saw 1 party on each trip – scientists both times, that grilled us for fish info. Saw some trash that only folks with pack animals could have brought, but we mostly try to go where horses don’t.
I’ve spent time backpacking (and angling) in the Church, but not nearly as much as others (IDhiker, Ralph). I’ve been exclusively in July.
So what was the question?
I can say I enjoyed seeing cougar (there were lots), moose, elk, mule deer, cutthroat, bull trout, grouses, pika, flowers, and some giant Boletus edulis, among the 10000 things.
More predator and less ungulates I haven’t seen cause I’ve not been there in a decade, but I might like it. I want it mostly for fit people to be able to walk and perceive, and for scientist to be able to observe control conditions. I will readily admit the ungulates sound down – based on data though, not anecdotes (where there might be bias cause the animals have changed behavior and locations).
I don’t care if only fit people can go there – I’d like it if pack animals and all air travel were prohibited. Trails just make the place defacto smaller, and less wild.
Now my questions:
1 buck outa 30 deer? Wolves been targeting the bucks, eh? How far from the road?
All Americans legally own our public lands. And, our tax dollars help to support them. Thus, we have a say regarding what occurs on these lands. Our public lands were not created so that “sportsmen” and state wildlife agencies could turn them into game farms. It’s time to take back our public lands from the small minority that is bent on destroying the wild diversity that resides on them, all to serve their own selfish, misguided interests.