Wolves in Idaho wilderness area get reprieve

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Idaho wolves catch a break. Photo via USFWS.

State-based wolf plan would have allowed trapping wolves to inflate elk populations

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wildlife advocates in Idaho have slowed the frantic state-sanctioned wolf slaughter that has ensued since the federal government turned management of the species over to the state.

In response to a lawsuit filed by conservationist and wilderness advocate Ralph Maughan, along with four conservation groups, Idaho Fish and Game and the U.S. Forest Service have halted wolf killing in the federally-protected Franck Church-River of No Return Wilderness during the winter of 2015-16. 

According to Earthjustice, Idaho’s wolf management plan for the Middle Fork zone in the heart of the River of No Return Wilderness authorizes the sustained killing of up to sixty percent of the resident wolves over multiple years. The goal is to artificially inflate elk populations to benefit commercial outfitters and guides. During the winter of 2013-2014, a state trapper killed nine wolves in the wilderness area.

The state stopped its wolf-killing program after the lawsuit was filed last year. This week, a new notification confirms that the wolves of the River of No Return will be safe from Idaho’s killing program for the 2015-16 winter as well.

“The Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness is one of our nation’s last great wild spaces,” said Earthjustice attorney Timothy Preso. “We are relieved that it will be managed as a wild place with natural wildlife populations, rather than an elk farm, for at least the coming winter. We will remain vigilant to ensure that wilderness values prevail for the long term.”

“Happily this means a year will go by without Idaho Fish and Game artificially disrupting the natural wildlife processes that are essential to a protected wilderness area,” said Ralph 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. “I like to think it means respect for wilderness is growing inside the department.”

“After the Idaho Department of Fish and Game killed the Golden Pack, one of the most researched wolf packs in Idaho, we are happy that they have decided not to indiscriminately kill more wolves in one of the premier wilderness areas of the United States this winter,” said Ken Cole of Western Watersheds Project.  “If wolves aren’t safe from government persecution in wilderness, where can they be?”

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