Judge reverses wolf-kill policy in Idaho's Sawtooth NRA

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Judge halts automatic killing of wolves

Associated Press

6/15/02

BOISE _ A federal judge is prohibiting federal wildlife managers from automatically moving or killing wolves that tangle with livestock in central Idaho's Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

While the 1972 law creating the recreation area gives wolves precedence over grazing, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said it must be balanced with rules established when wolves were reintroduced in the mid-1990s.

Those rules direct the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to move and eventually kill wolves that prey on stock.

"Neither trumps the other," Winmill found. "Both must be examined by the Forest Service."

The Idaho Conservation League and the Western Watersheds Project sued the Forest Service in 2001, when two wolves in the Whitehawk Pack were killed for attacking stock that June.

Since then, federal wolf managers have killed the entire pack, generating worldwide opposition.

In the past three years, 27 wolves have been killed or moved out of the White Cloud Peaks and the East Fork of the Salmon River in or adjacent to the recreation area.

Forest Service spokesman Dan Jiron said the court order was being reviewed.

Idaho Woolgrowers Association Director Stan Boyd, chairman of the Idaho Wolf Oversight Committee, called the ruling "totally wrong" and expressed concern that it could further polarize wolf reintroduction advocates and critics.

"When they brought the wolves in, the rules were all spelled out and those were the guidelines we were to follow," he said. "There were a lot of people in livestock who weren't happy with that, but those were the rules."

Winmill also required the Forest Service to complete environmental reviews and grazing plans for all 28 allotments in the recreation area, where about 8,000 cattle and sheep graze. Those reviews, he said, must consider the needs of the wolves.

Some ranchers have worked with environmentalists to accommodate the wolves by voluntarily moving their stock, but now the Forest Service could force such moves.
 

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