In an effort to inflate elk populations for commercial outfitters and hunters, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) hopes to kill 60 percent of the wolves in the Middle Fork area of central Idaho’s Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, according to a predator management plan for the area released this week.
IDFG’s plan calls for an intensive program of wolf killing in the largest forested wilderness area in the lower-48 states through several successive years of professional hunting and trapping efforts designed to boost the local elk population beyond the level that can be sustained through natural predator-prey interactions. It comes just weeks after a hunter-trapper hired by the state wildlife agency killed nine wolves in an effort to exterminate two wolf packs in the Middle Fork area. State officials terminated the program in the midst of an emergency court proceeding to halt the program.
Earthjustice is in court to stop the professional extermination of wolves in central Idaho’s Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Last month, Earthjustice filed an emergency motion asking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to preserve the wolves and their vital contribution to the wilderness character of the Frank Church Wilderness. Rather than presenting its legal defense to Earthjustice’s argument, IDFG temporarily halted the program until the end of June 2014. Earthjustice will be filing its opening brief later this week in the Ninth Circuit proceeding. Earthjustice is representing long-time Idaho wilderness advocate Ralph Maughan, along with Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project, Wilderness Watch, and Center for Biological Diversity in the case.
Statement from attorney Tim Preso of the Northern Rockies office of Earthjustice: “The state of Idaho has made clear that it intends to double down on its plan to transform the Middle Fork area of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness from a naturally regulated wilderness to an elk farm benefiting commercial outfitters and recreational hunters. The only thing that is not clear is whether the U.S. Forest Service will step up to defend the wilderness character of this landscape on behalf of all the American people or instead will, as it has done to date, let Idaho effectively run the area to advance its own narrow interest in elk production. For our part, we intend to do everything we can to obtain a federal court ruling that will require the Forest Service to protect this special place and its wildlife.”
Statement from Idaho resident and long-time conservationist Ralph Maughan: “By implication our lawsuit aims to protect the entire nationwide Wilderness Preservation System from similar efforts to transform the wild into a bland farm for a few kinds of common animals.”
Statement from Idaho resident and Defenders of Wildlife representative Suzanne Stone: “It’s clear that IDFG isn’t interested in sustainable wolf recovery. Instead, they’re focused on doing anything they can to kill as many wolves as possible in the state. That’s not responsible state wildlife management any way you look at it. Idaho committed to responsibly managing wolves when federal protections were removed just a few short years ago. Actions like this just further demonstrate that they’re failing to uphold their end of the agreement.”
Statement from said Ken Cole of Western Watersheds Project: “For the idea of wilderness to have any meaning at all, wildlife must be allowed to self-regulate, to seek its own balance, to be wild. Instead, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game insists on heavy handed management of wolves in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness to benefit a tiny minority of the people who use and enjoy the area. The nation’s premier wilderness is not just a recreation area of rocks and ice, it is a thriving ecosystem that should be treated as the treasure it is.”
Statement from George Nickas, executive director of Wilderness Watch: “The State of Idaho has shown once again it is incapable of being a responsible partner in wilderness administration. It’s high time the Forest Service exert its authority and obligation to protect the public’s interest in Wilderness and wildlife protection.”
Statement from Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity: “This outrageous plan to slaughter wolves in the lower 48’s largest wilderness in an ill-conceived attempt to increase elk numbers is only the latest example of just how backwards wildlife management has become in Idaho. Already more than 900 wolves have been killed in Idaho during state-sanctioned hunting and trapping seasons. And this unnecessary slaughter will continue unless the courts step in and stop the senseless killing.”