Here is WWP's News Release Sent Out this Afternoon:
Federal District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill today ruled that wolves in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area cannot be killed this summer even if predations of livestock by wolves occur in the SNRA.
Winmill's decision follows a motion filed by Western Watersheds Project and the Idaho Conservation League to close eight grazing allotments in the SNRA to livestock grazing.
While Winmill's decision stops short of prohibiting grazing on the allotments, it sends a clear message to livestock operators in the SNRA: Wolves will be protected, even at the cost of sheep or cattle.
"For the first time a federal judge has ordered a stop to the killing of wolves," said Jon Marvel, executive director of WWP.
"Every pack in the White Cloud Mountains, some of Idaho's wildest country, has been destroyed," said ICL's Linn Kincannon. "For this summer at least, that won't happen. And hopefully we'll have a new pack in the SNRA before long."
In today's ruling, Winmill cited "the Forest Service's violations" in its management of wolves in the SNRA. The new ruling seeks to strike "a proper balance" between "the primacy of the value of wildlife" under the Organic Act and the "conditional value" of livestock grazing.
In April 2002, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents killed the entire Whitehawk pack of 11 wolves near the SNRA. The White Cloud and Stanley Basin wolf packs were eliminated in 2000 and 2001.
In June, Winmill ruled that the 1972 law which established the SNRA gives wolves and all other wildlife precedence over livestock.
Winmill ruled that the Forest Service, which manages the SNRA, violated the Organic Act that created the area by failing to consider whether livestock grazing is "substantially impairing" wolf populations. He added that the Organic Act does not include grazing as a "historic" or "pastoral" value.
If wolves commit predations outside the SNRA this summer, they will be subject to wolf control sanctions. But Winmill said it is "in the best interests of the (livestock) permittees to work together with the Forest Service and the FWS to seek ways to protect livestock."
Winmill made clear that the decision binds not only the Forest Service but also FWS in protecting wolves in the SNRA.
The Whitehawk pack was believed to be the lone remaining population in the SNRA. Last week, however, FWS agents observed other wolves in the area. One wolf was reported in the vicinity of Fourth of July Creek. Another was seen near Stanley. Three others were observed in Pole Creek at the southern end of the Sawtooth Valley.
In the past three years, at least 27 wolves have been killed or removed from areas in or near the SNRA due to conflicts with livestock.
Despite the presence of wolves in the area, some 4,470 sheep and 2,500 cattle are allowed to graze on 28 Forest Service allotments in the SNRA.
"ICL and WWP wanted to protect wolves, and we did," said Kincannon. "We're excited for the future of wildlife in the SNRA and the Rocky Mountain West in general."
"This order is only part of the solution for the SNRA that we expect the court to order," said Laird Lucas, lead attorney for WWP and ICL. "We will be appearing before the judge again in two weeks to talk about a timetable to fully analyze the SNRA allotments and determine whether grazing is substantially impairing wildlife and recreation.
"If the Forest Service doesn't do analyses in all due speed, we will seek similar protection to prevent wolves from being killed next summer."