Idaho Suspends Wilderness Wolf-Killing Plan In Face of Court Challenge
POCATELLO, Idaho – Faced with a legal challenge by conservationists and an imminent hearing before a federal appeals court, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (“IDFG”) has abandoned its plan to resume a professional wolf-killing program in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness during the coming winter.
In a sworn statement submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on July 24, 2014, IDFG Wildlife Bureau Chief Jeff Gould stated that IDFG “will not conduct any agency control actions for wolves within the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness before November 1, 2015.” IDFG had previously advised the court that the program could resume as early as December 1, 2014.
A professional hunter-trapper hired by IDFG killed nine wolves in the Frank Church Wilderness last winter and state officials in February announced plans to kill 60 percent of the wolves in the Middle Fork section of the wilderness over a period of several years in an effort to inflate wilderness elk populations for the benefit of commercial outfitters and recreational hunters.
“As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act this September, we are relieved that the Frank Church Wilderness will be managed as a wild place, rather than an elk farm, for at least the coming year,” said Earthjustice attorney Timothy Preso, who is representing conservationists challenging the wilderness wolf-killing program. “Now we must make sure that wilderness values prevail for the long term.”
Earthjustice is representing long-time Idaho conservationist and wilderness advocate Ralph Maughan along with four conservation groups—Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project, Wilderness Watch, and the Center for Biological Diversity—in the lawsuit challenging the wolf-killing program. The conservationists argue that the U.S. Forest Service, which is charged by Congress with managing and protecting the Frank Church Wilderness, violated the Wilderness Act and other laws by allowing and assisting the state wolf-killing program in the largest forest wilderness in the lower-48 states.
In a separate sworn statement filed with the Ninth Circuit on July 24, the Forest Service committed to providing the conservationists with notice by August 5, 2015 of any plans by IDFG to resume professional wolf-killing in the Frank Church Wilderness during the 2015-16 winter, as well as “a final determination by the Forest Service as to whether it concurs with or objects to such plans.”
“IDFG’s announcement now gives the Forest Service the chance to play out its mission—its obligation to protect our irreplaceable Frank Church Wilderness for the American people and for all its wildlife against an effort to turn it into a mere elk farming operation on infertile soil,” said Maughan, a retired Idaho State University professor who was a member of the citizens’ group that drew up the boundaries of the Frank Church Wilderness 35 years ago.
“We are pleased to see this truce in Idaho’s wolf reduction efforts in the Frank Church for a full year,” said Suzanne Stone, Defenders’ regional representative who has worked nearly three decades to restore wolves in Idaho. “The Frank Church is both the largest forested wilderness area and a core habitat for gray wolves in the western United States. Wolves belong here as they have made the ‘Frank’ truly wild again. Ensuring healthy wolf populations here is critical for the recovery of wolves throughout the entire northwestern region.”
“It is hard to imagine a decision more inconsistent with wilderness protection than to allow the hired killing of wolves,” added Travis Bruner, executive director of Western Watersheds Project. “Today, some relief for wild places flows from the news that IDFG will not continue that odious operation this year. Next we will see whether the Forest Service will take action to protect the Frank Church Wilderness from such atrocities in the future.”
“It’s time for the Forest Service to stand with the vast majority of the American people by taking the necessary steps to protect wolves in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness for the long-term, not just the next 15 months,” stated George Nickas, executive director of Wilderness Watch. “Wolves are the epitome of wildness. Their protection is key to preserving the area’s wilderness character.”
“We’re glad Idaho’s wolves are rightly getting a reprieve from the state’s ill-conceived predator-killing plan, at least for a year,” said Amy Atwood, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re also happy to see the Forest Service agree to be more transparent about any future decision to allow Idaho to kill wolves in the Frank Church.”
BACKGROUND: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had scheduled an August 25, 2014 court hearing to address the conservationists’ request for an injunction to prevent IDFG from resuming its program of professional wolf killing in the Frank Church Wilderness during the coming winter. IDFG commenced the program in December 2013 without public notice but abruptly suspended the program on January 28, 2014 amidst emergency injunction proceedings before the Ninth Circuit. Since then, the conservationists have continued to press their case for an injunction before the Ninth Circuit, which led to the scheduled August 25 court hearing.
Because IDFG has abandoned the 2014-15 professional wolf-killing program in the wilderness, the conservationists have agreed to forego the scheduled court hearing, but they renewed their call for the Forest Service to fulfill its legal duty to protect the Frank Church Wilderness.
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.
74 Responses to Idaho Suspends Wilderness Wolf-Killing Plan In Face of Court Challenge
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It’s about d*** time something started going better for the wolves!!!
I’m glad to hear this. Completely made my morning. Huge thanks to all the groups who brought this suit to light.
Thank you, thank you – everyone involved in making this happen. IDFG chose the ‘better to ask forgiveness than permission’ approach, and it failed.
Wonderful news and a good precedent that should inspire other conservationists! Thank you, all the attorneys and volunteers and EVERYBODY who work on this.
This is a good news. it’s utterly disgusting that Idaho fish and game are allowed to kill wildlife just for the benefit of providing more animals for hunters to kill.
DOW regional rep, Suzanne Stone said, “Wolves belong here as they have made the ‘Frank’ truly wild again.”
I disagree. There’s still one piece of the picture missing. I don’t think it’ll be “truly wild” until the grizzly has been returned.
Doug Peacock would echo that sentiment.
So would I!
This is great news! It has astonished me that a state wildlife agency has been so reckless and ruthless in their “management” of wildlife. I would think that an agency such as this would have the education to understand that wolves are an integral part of a healthy ecosystem and that interfering with this natural balance can only bring disastrous results. As an example, just look at the benefits to the entire area in Yellowstone when wolves were reintroduced. They belong in nature. I’m happy for this decision; let’s keep it this way.
I don’t think there ever was too many grizzlies in the Frank Church Wilderness area, wolves I have encountered there twice backpacking in Bighorn Crags, I would welcome the Grizzers and pack a 30-06 all the time in case they forgot their manners….
Why not pack bear spray Brian? Then you and the bear, might both walk away from the encounter, ruffled but alive 🙂
I have been writing a short ebook about the establishment of the Frank Church Wilderness. One of the most important things brought to my attention was that back in the early days — the 1920s – 40s, elk were not even a big attraction. The hunting feature was mostly deer. That was what the area was known for.
This goes to show that wildlife needs to be able to fluctuate naturally in abundance. Suddenly trying to make the Frank into an elk farm, goes against the very concept of wilderness, and it is likely doomed to failure without a huge input of resources by Idaho Fish and Game to keep elk artificially abundant.
Should be an interesting read. I believe that there is a lot of information that both hunters and non hunting conservationists don’t know about the history of the areas they enjoy. In my own reading I have found examples of areas that were once nearly void of all wildlife even wolves that now are held up as the cradle of either deer, elk, bears or wolves. In other cases I’ve discovered areas that were once dominated by a species that is no longer present but most people don’t know it was ever any different than the current assortment of wildlife.
++Text: (c) As provided in paragraph 4(d)(8) of the Wilderness Act, nothing in this Act shall be construed as affecting the jurisdiction or responsibilities of the State of Idaho with respect to wildlife and fish in the national forests in Idaho.++
From reading this text on the creation of the Frank Church Wilderness the federal government and the Forest Service do not control the wildlife. Should not wolves be under the total responsibility of the State of Idaho not the federal courts.
I think that WM had several other comments on this matter in the Frank Church Wilderness.
“Should not wolves be under the total responsibility of the State of Idaho not the federal courts”
What wolves Elk?
would be funny Nancy if it were not so true….
I take it that Idaho has received no federal funds what so ever in their “protecting” of the wilderness for the commercial benefit of private enterprise? Just asking.
WM has cited this provision on a variety of occasions. It seems clear that Congress intended Idaho to keep jurisdiction over fish and wildlife, as well as the responsibility for their management. The Forest Service, in contrast, would retain responsibility for wilderness management–which is primarily the management of recreation.
Of course, hunting and fishing are both forms of recreation, and potential means of managing wildlife. Certainly Congress did not intend for the state of Idaho to have sole jurisdiction over all forms of wildlife-dependent recreation! Rather, the law very clearly and concisely gives them jurisdiction over “fish and wildlife.” I don’t see how bans on certain types of recreation or certain specific types of management actions that are deemed incompatible with wilderness character in any way threatens the state’s jurisdiction over fish and wildlife nor their responsibility for management?
I think this is where “cooperative federalism” comes in. Who really knows what that means? Every state in the union believes they can pretty much do what they want to manage game and fish on most federal forest lands – Designated Wilderness, included.
I do bet there are some very talented legal minds going over federal statutes, regulations and legislative history – on both sides, trying to figure out what this all means.
The legal issues underlying this wildlife management action within Designated Wilderness are far from over.
[****I may be factually wrong on some of the following statement, so maybe someone can correct me if I went astray.]
It has been awhile since I looked at the legal complaint (and I don’t have access to a copy right now). I am a bit fuzzy, but I don’t recall if the plaintiffs challenged the right of IDFG to do this under the law, or it was just the nominal use of a federal air strip, a cabin (under a co-op agreement), and some asserted belief there should have been advance public notice before IDFG sent their guy in (these are all pretty thin grounds). And, do recall the federal judge in this matter just said the plaintiffs didn’t have enough to win a Temporary Restraining Order and made summary judgment ruling in favor of the defendants. So, IDFG already has one mark in the win column before a trial court judge. I think that is what was on an expedited appeal(?)- attempting to stop the trapper. IDFG, as I recall, just said we’re done for the year and had him come out after taking out a few wolves. Sorry I don’t recall the details.
This is just a timeout for a one year period, with a promise of a notice of decision by the FS, before the state does something. Not sure what that ultimately accomplishes in the long term. And, also recall ID hunters with a wolf tag (5 tags actually @ $11.50/tag) can still hunt and trap here. They just weren’t very effective in removing the desired number of wolves most of the last season,and that was why they sent the trapper in.
Maybe Ken can give us more details on where this stands, and correct me where I went astray.
WM: Your facts are straight–at least as far as I recall them.
FYI: I believe I’ll be in your neck of the woods (Seattle) on 29 Oct. for a panel discussion on wolves. Any chance we might get a beer?
That is the tail end of the time for my annual ID elk hunt. If some prognosticators here are correct I should have one by then – off the elk farm, that is. On the other hand, experience has taught me its often not that easy, even tougher if this dry hot weather extends into the season. I’ll have to take a raincheck, but thanks for the offer. If I get out of the woods earlier, I’ll try to do it, and know how to reach you.
Who is putting on the wolf panel and where?
I thought that might be the case. I’ll hold out hope for a quick hunt. 🙂
A variety of groups are sponsoring, the the Pacific Wolf Coalition is organizing. To be honest, I’d never heard of them?
A few wolves = 2 packs. Nine were ultimately ‘taken out’.
Let’s not forget who this judge was, (Lodge) a Bush appointee who has been overturned in some very high profile cases. (I believe the sniper in the Randy Weaver case was one of them.)
And lest we forget his wife is an Idaho state senator and pretty much votes the party line including yes on wolf kill bills.
And we all have seen how Idaho has managed “their” wolves. Wolves are no one’s responsibility – nature truly takes care of it’s own.
Ralph, lets just hope that this decision to let natural ecosystems function will last long-term.
Thanks Ralph for all the work you’ve done on this……what has happened there is a crime.
One little shining star lighting the way. I am sure Frank Church (watching from above) is proud of the people who have participated in staving off IDFG’s plan for killing innocent wildlife in the Wilderness he so wisely established. I know I am, and so thankful for this reprieve.
Thank you conservationists!
May this positivity prevail.
So glad to hear this. Wolves belong.
Ralph and Ken stellar effort. I live on the east coast but I used to love to think about the wolves in the west. Now come August I start fearing for them, thinking of the near endless hunting seasons and types of terrible deaths they will most certainly have or of the pups just barely a half year old caught in traps and snares or being gunned down in the eradication practices that IDFG and other state agencies call management. It makes for some sleepless nights and lots of anger. This halt on the Frank Church Wilderness killings for 2014 is one victory in a sea of sadness. Thank you
Hopefully there is a monitoring function built into this so secret trapping cannot take place. IDG is not to be trusted at their word.
I hope this action doesn’t turn out to be similar to the Experimental Sheep Station “closure” manipulated by Idaho Representative Mike Simpson.
That is awesome news. Thank you Earth Justice. That is a good start in the killing fields of Idaho.
It was only a few months ago that Otter signed the bill for and got 400k budgeted for the wolf control board. Now they agree for a one year reprieve from their wolf killing in the Frank Church?
Sounds like they are scheming a slick move. They are up to something that they think will cause more damage than hunting and trapping wolves in the Frank Church Wilderness.
Glad the wolves got a year’s reprieve, but let’s see how the hunting season proceeds this season. Something is off kilter.
Simply a ploy by Clem and his lackey’s to “collect more data” on numbers of elk and wolves so that a “negative impact” can be shown on elk numbers and thereby justify the reduction of wolves, plus deflect any current and/or future legal action based on the “data”.
All the while hoping no one understands that the only ones collecting the “data” are the very ones vested in killing more wolves.
(yes, they really are that stupid)
…and that corrupt
Congratulations and thank you to Earthjustice, Wilderness Watch, Western Watersheds Project, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and Dr. Ralph Maughan. It’s good to see a little sanity in the insane asylum.
A little refresher:
Professional Hunter Eliminated Two Wolf Packs in the Frank Church Wilderness
Keckler said the average size of a wolf pack in Idaho is five wolves, so the agency determined it had reached its goal of eliminating the Golden Creek and Monumental Creek packs. Officials announced Monday that Thoreson was coming out.
This may be the kind of thing that they could only have gotten away with once, without a public comment period? Try to go as far as they can before they are stopped? They pulled the wolfer once threatened with legal action, but the wolves are still dead. Who has ‘jurisidiction’ in the Frank Church – the Forest Service or IDFG? I still say that hunters are not guaranteed elk.
The human intervention of wolf reintroduction had negative effects greater than the federal government anticipated to area elk herds, whose value to the Frank Church Wilderness was a significant factor in IDFG’s and other’s support for its wilderness designation.
This has got to be one of the worst, most dishonest things I have ever read by a wildlife professional, and not scientific. He sounds like one of the anti-wolf leaders. Wolves eat migrating elk, and evolved with them. The only one who has messed it all up is us. The elk herds will never be as numerous as they once were because of our modern civilization. Does Dan Ashe say we must accept a world with fewer elk?
This quote, the more I think about it, sounds almost exactly like the ‘we only agreed to 150 wolves’. Here, it’s ‘we agreed to elk in the Frank Church Wilderness as a condition of designating it a national wilderness’.
This is great news, but the fight is not over. On Facebook, the “other side” is really steamed….making tons of comments about SSS, spotlighting, poisoning, and just plain breaking the law. “Kill, kill, kill” as one said. I engaged with them for a while, but it, of course, was pointless. The wolf introduction was “illegal,” wolves were invasive, etc. Basically, it didn’t matter what legal victories happened, it was just on paper, they would exterminate the wolves outside the law.
The “other side” and many on “this side” too do not understand this is not a wolf issue, at least for me.
It is about artificial manipulation of wildlife populations in a place where natural processes are supposed to be given free play.
I would happily be a plaintiff if Idaho Fish and Game had hired professional killers, rather than hunters, to reduce the elk population if, for some reason they thought it was too large . . . the same with any native species in a large wilderness area.
What would the legal basis be for discriminating between natives and non-natives, if any?
In my plant work for the state (MI), we will kill dirt-common natives (e.g. red cedar, gray dogwood, black locust) if they are competing with rare natives in special places we are trying to restore or protect (fen, tall-grass prairie, oak barren). It’s not just about plants, we have endangered butterflies, and are the earth’s stronghold of eastern massasauga (our little rattlesnake). We discriminate indirectly too, with fires of our choosing.
Ralph, I totally agree with you regarding artificial manipulation of wildlife in the Frank Church. It will be interesting what IDFG’s next move will be, as I’m sure they won’t drop this. It worked too well for them.
Oh my. A regular killing frenzy! Scumbags.
Here is their work-around:
Idaho Governor Butch Otter has approximately 400k to pay anyone that’s willing. It’s not “really” bounty hunting, they’re just going to “offset some of their costs”.
Thinking aout it:
Getting it done:
Warning: Graphic images on the “photos” page
Hate to be Debbie Downer here, but the sadists don’t give a flying fuck about the court. They have plenty of options both legal and illegal. They are going to hunt wolves in a low key fashion; quietly and with an increasing number of participants. There are so many hunters and trappers eager to make $500 per wolf that it is impossible to monitor them.
“People can join the group for $35. Those who join and then successfully trap a wolf, can submit their expenses and be reimbursed up to $500 per wolf.”
I meant to thankyou very much for this comment. Outstanding service.
I agree, Frank Church is not an elk farm. Leave it alone.
I think the amount of illegal wolf killing is very high. Of course, I realize most of the commenters on, “Fired Up! (People for the Management and Hunting of Wolves in the West) are blow-hards. But,I have noticed an amazing decline of wolf sign in Montana…
Your postulation that illegal take is spot on.
In conversation with two MNDNR CO’s, they put illegal kill in MN at an average of 10%. As the population numbers slide up/down during the course of the year, that’s at least 200 wolves. At the hearing this past February at the state Capitol, only about five or six were apprehended.
Wolf population in MI has been flat since 2011. Pro-wolf people (like me) use this as an argument that we are at peak wolf, thus no efforts (hunting) are needed to knock wolf population down, assuming we can stand current wolf densities. The possibility that the local humans are helping maintain the steady state – I just never mention it, cause it would be inconvenient to my arguments. I don’t really think the poaching is making a difference that way, but it’s only because of what I think I know about how many wolves would need to be killed to maintain a steady state wolf population below their “natural” maxima, and that I don’t think the locals are killing that many. For example 10% per year would do nothing, it might have to be 25 or 30% according to some experts. (But in MN or MT, added to legal take, it might be able to get you to a lower steady state.)
Add in legal take plus depredation removal, in MN, and the population numbers per survey are lower. We don’t have the Frank Church, but we do have the BWCAW (no livestock, no people other than recreational users, and what I don’t understand here is why there is wolf hunting trapping in the BWCAW.
One would think that hunting trapping might be concentrated in the area of conflict where forest belt line abuts farmland.
Moose…wolves or deer or something else. Now that deer population is down, no antler lees tags for sale. Interesting to seeming any correlation to moose overall health and numbers.
In terms of lethal control of problem wolves, targeted shooting of chronic depredating wolves is more effective than recreational hunting, where wolves (wether they have killed livestock or not) are randomly shot…
I understand this. However in MN “rush” to hunt, lawsuits by farmers such as Dale Luek and others, molded lawmakers minds that a wolf hunt was necessary to reduce depredations. The year prior to the first hunt, almost 300 wolves were “surgically” removed. Depredations were down the following year, but that was probably a result of a very long lasting winter and weakened deer.
One poster here from Montana that stays in contact with me said all the wolf dens they know of are empty and uninhabited. they are seeing no signs of wolves. This is unbearably sad to me
My wife and I just hiked 75 miles around the Chinese Wall in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. We saw one fresh wolf track along the upper West Fork of the Sun River, and a couple old tracks along the White River just west of the Wall. We have spent 17 days in the “Bob” so far this summer without even hearing a howl.
Remember this incident IDHiker?
I don’t recall they found the person (s) responsible for this atrocity, so my guess would be – they got better at it?
I recall this incident well. No one was ever cited or arrested for it. Since this poisoning occurred very close to a ranger station and right next to a mainline trail, I think it is highly likely that much more poisoning is/has occurred well off the trails, where chances of discovery are slim. I have been in contact with Montana’s FWP personnel and commissioners about this. Whether they take it seriously is another matter.
IDhiker – given the number of outfitters who have access AND… profit from the “Bob”…. The situation probably doesn’t differ much from the Frank Church in Idaho.
Game farm mentality comes to mind and what ever it takes to keep the “farm operating” and free of natural predators who might just take up residence there.
Nancy, is it just a coincidence that an outfitter has a camp only a mile from the poisoning site in the “Bob?”
The other problem is that USFS personnel are gone from the wilderness before outfitters close up shop for the season. Fish & Game?? My father had an elk hunting camp for over 20 years in the Bob Marshall. In all that time they had one (1) visit by a warden at their camp.
Yes…..wolf dens that have been used continuously for years are empty this year and wolf sign is rare. I haven’t picked up one wolf on my trail cams in the Blackfoot Valley. No tracks or scat. Many of the packs have been wiped out by hunting and trapping. Trapping, continues since coyotes can be trapped and snared year round and wolves are considered “incidental” catch.
I thought you were now living in North Bend. Did you move back, seasonally or permanently? Couldn’t catch a Kokanee? 😉
What about signs of other wildlife?
And the thing is that in the blackfoot valley they are trying non-lethal methods to protect livestock that have worked quite well so far. Jerry, do you know weather any control kills of wolves have been carried out lately in the blackfoot valley?
I want to THANK all involved who worked so hard on this legal fight for the wolves. I also would like to say that – I don’t think any one of us here on this blog is stupid enough to think that ALL is well in the corrupt state of ID. This hate goes back generations, unless we change that (& the greed that goes along with it) nothing will change in ID.
I want to thank and congratulate all involved who have worked for years trying to protect the wolves and other wild animals. It is time to stop thinking that everything on earth belongs to humans. We are just one more specie and we need to learn to respect and share this wonderful planet.
The only way things are going to change regarding wolf conservation within state agencies is when individuals can donate funds dedicated to wolf conservation. Eighty percent of state wildlife agency funding is from hunting and fishing licenses so naturally state agencies are going to work towards providing hunters opportunities to harvest elk, deer, bear, cougar and wolves.
If Montana implements the wolf stamp and people strongly support it, I believe a more pro-active approach to wolf “management” will occur overtime, ultimately resulting in less wolf hunting and trapping. The wolf stamp may have actions that we may not agree with, but its a step forward and one that I will strongly support.
I hope you are correct and if a wolf conservation stamp becomes available, as imperfect as it is, I will certainly make a purchase
However, it will be interesting to see what the reaction is from hunting interests. They’ve been saying all along that since they provide the funds they should be able to call the shots while at the same time claiming that if conservation groups want a seat at the table than “put your money where your mouth is.”
This conservation stamp, if approved, will allow that to happen, and I’ll be interested to see how hunting interests react to the idea of providing a few additional seats at the table to company they may not appreciate sitting among them. I believe the comment period ended recently so we should know something soon, hopefully.
So will I. It is a step forward. See? I’m not completely pessimistic. 🙂
Edit to above post:
++++that if pro wolf interests want a seat at the table than “put your money where your mouth is.”+++++
Rocky Barker has an interesting article in the Idaho Statesman, “What happened to the SNRA’s [Sawtooth National Recreation Area’s] wolves?
The SNRA could have been Idaho’s version of Yellowstone Park for wolf watching. At one time, it was getting a fair amount of wolf tourism. Wolves were pretty easy to see if you had a guide.
The Idaho Conservation League had proposed part of the area for wolf viewing in the Idaho Wolf Plan, but this proposal got no support from the Idaho decision-makers. Almost certainly they thought of wolf-watching bringing in revenues as a horrible thing. They would rather have people spending money on just about anything else.