Tom Flynn tracks policy related to conservation and recreation for the Outdoor Alliance. Most Fridays, he summarizes the week’s top outdoor policy related headlines. With questions, news tips and angry hate mail, email him at tom [at] outdooralliance [dot] net.
Hunter Hired to Eliminate Wolf Packs
Wolves dominated the outdoor policy news over the holidays. This is hardly surprising, considering the topic of wolves is rarely absent from any contentious Western public lands discussion – as a former Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service said, wolves are one of only two issues that bring grown men to tears. The recent uptick in the news started with word that Idaho Fish and Game had hired a professional hunter to eliminate two wolf packs in the Frank Church Wilderness around the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Now, a bit background. Wolves were protected as endangered, but recovered sufficiently to be de-listed in 2011. So now they are considered a game animal in Idaho (as well as Montana and Wyoming) and can be hunted and trapped. Fish and Game manages wildlife on public lands, so the goal of the hired hunt is to increase the number of elk and improve the hunting. But here’s what’s worrying. The whole reason they went to the trouble of hiring a hunter is the difficulty of getting into the Wilderness area. So who, exactly, are they improving the elk hunting for? It is hard to imagine a better place to let wolves and elk figure things out for themselves.
Coyote and Wolf Hunting Derby Goes Ahead
The debate kicked up a notch in the run up to a coyote and wolf hunting competition outside of Salmon, ID last weekend. A pro-hunting group organized the event, charging entry fees and offering cash prizes for the most, and the biggest coyotes and wolves killed. A handful of environmental organizations sued to stop it, but a Federal judge gave it the go ahead on Friday. This was the first competitive wolf hunt since the species was listed as Endangered in the 70s. (Coyotes, on the other hand, are considered pests and can be shot on sight, competitively or otherwise.) Despite the relative novelty of the event, the suit was not about the hunting itself – the argument was over the need for a special use permit, just like that for a mountain bike race or other competition on public lands. The judge ruled no permit was necessary, in part because the organizers changed the entry fee to a donation and awarded the prizes on private land. Also they used Forest Service land instead of BLM land, where managers had determined a permit was required. In the end, the 250 participants killed 23 coyotes – and no wolves. Ultimately, the de-listed wolf debate will include more and more contentious issues like this derby. Here’s hoping both sides can commit to factual, good-faith arguments that help us maintain an environmentally and socially sustainable number of wolves.