Good day for bighorn, bad day for wolves in Idaho

Online Messenger #270

(view with pictures, as displayed in email)

First, the good news:

On March 25, 2014, Honorable A. Wallace Tashima, Senior Judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, upheld a favorable Forest Service decision that will protect wild bighorn sheep in the Payette National Forest of Idaho.

Western Watersheds Project, The Wilderness Society, and Hells Canyon Preservation Council were skillfully represented by Laurie Rule at Advocates for the West in the case. Our groups had intervened to support the Forest Service decision to reduce domestic sheep grazing by 70% on the Payette National Forest for the purpose of protecting Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep from the threat of disease transmission. The Idaho Woolgrowers Association and other livestock organizations had challenged the well-analyzed reduction, but the court stood firm on the side of the bighorn.

This decision is likely to have immediate impact on decision-making by land management agencies throughout the range of the bighorn.

Read the decision here.

Thank you Laurie!

And now, the bad news…

On March 26, 2014, Idaho’s Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter signed into law a bill (HB 470) creating a “Wolf Control Board,” which will administer a $620,000 annual fund to, according to the Governor and other proponents, reduce Idaho’s wolf population to 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs, the minimum necessary to keep them from being relisted on the Endangered Species Act.  Ironically, this new law might have just the opposite effect because it takes sole management authority away from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and places some into the hands of the Wolf Control Board and puts wolves at great risk.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has also expanded wolf trapping to nearly every area where wolves are found in Idaho.  With seasons ranging from October 1 to March 31, wolves and many other species are at risk of being caught in leg hold traps and snares for up to 72 hours before the trapper is required to check their traps.  In past years trappers have reported catching more non-target animals in their wolf traps than wolves.

Western Watersheds Project is following these developments closely and may seek to petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to relist wolves under the Endangered Species Act.

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