The state Department of Fish and Game last month hired a trapper
to eliminate the pair of wolf packs from the Frank Church River of
No Return Wilderness in central Idaho, where wolves were imported
from Canada in the mid-1990s in a bid to reintroduce the species to
the Northern Rockies.
The trapping program has become the latest flashpoint in a
long-running controversy over wolf management in the region. State
officials have not specified how many wolves are believed to make up
the packs in question but said nine animals have been killed so far.
Gray wolves were placed under safeguards of the federal Endangered
Species Act in 1974, after being hunted, trapped and poisoned to
near extinction decades earlier throughout the continental United
But wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming lost their protected status
in recent years as their numbers rebounded and states pushed to
renew hunting and trapping rights, arguing that the predators had
become too big a threat to livestock and to big-game animals such as
Environmental groups have claimed, however, that Idaho went too far
by going after wolves in a federally designated wilderness, which by
definition has been aside by the government to preserve its natural
Defenders of Wildlife and other groups filed a lawsuit earlier this
month in District Court in Boise alleging that an "extermination
program" in the wilderness near Salmon violated federal preservation
rules and required special environmental and public reviews. They
asked a judge to halt the eradication of the two packs until the
overall case was adjudicated.
[to top of second column]
District Judge Edward Lodge sided with Idaho and the Forest Service
in finding that no reviews were necessary since federal land
managers had yet to determine if eliminating wolf packs in the 2.4
million-acre Frank Church conflicts with preservation requirements
spelled out in the federal Wilderness Act.
"No final agency action has been taken in regards to the Wilderness
Act," Lodge wrote in Friday's ruling.
Idaho Fish and Game and Forest Service officials did not immediately
respond on Friday to requests for comment.
Conservationists said they would immediately appeal Lodge's
"We don't believe that killing wolves to artificially increase elk
herds for hunters is a legitimate way to manage a wilderness, which
is not an elk game farm," said Jonathan Proctor of Defenders of
(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman; editing by Steve Gorman and Richard
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.