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Groups Challenge Fed's Decision to Allow Highly Controversial 'Predator Derby'
McMillan, WildEarth Guardians, 406.549.3895, email@example.com
SALMON, Idaho – Today, a coalition of conservation organizations sued the Bureau of Land Management for granting a 5-year permit allowing predator-killing contests on public lands surrounding Salmon, Idaho over the winter holiday season. The agency unlawfully relied on faulty analysis and failed to conduct a full environmental impact statement. The suit also names the U.S. Forest Service for failing to require a permit for the killing contests. The next competitive killing derby is slated for January 2-4, 2015.
“Killing contests that perpetuate false stereotypes about key species like wolves and coyotes, who play essential roles in healthy, vibrant ecosystems, have no place on our public lands,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians. “The Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service are abdicating their responsibilities as stewards of our public lands.”
An application for a BLM special recreation permit triggers the National Environmental Policy Act, which prohibits fast track permitting of highly controversial activities, such as this. During the NEPA process, BLM received over 100,000 comments expressing opposition to the event. In its analysis, BLM failed to adequately consider the risk to public safety posed by the killing contest, the impacts to local and regional carnivore populations, displacement of other users of public lands, less destructive alternatives to the killing contest, and other factors. Wolves are a BLM ‘sensitive species’ and are supposed to be protected by the agency.
“The agencies are determined to stay on the sidelines of this killing contest,” said Laura King, an attorney from Western Environmental Law Center, who is representing the plaintiffs. “But federal law requires the agencies to engage—fully and in good faith—in evaluating the consequences of the contest on wolves, coyotes, and ecosystems.”
Lynne Stone, director of the Boulder-White Clouds Council, who has lived and worked in central Idaho for over three decades, said, “killing contests like this have no place in a civilized society and are an embarrassment to our state. Shame on the agencies for allowing these events on our public lands.”
Science shows that wolves play a key role as apex carnivores, providing ecological benefits that cascade through ecosystems. Wolves bring elk and deer populations into balance, which allows streamside vegetation to recover, in turn creating habitat for songbirds and beavers and shade for fish. Coyotes, like wolves, serve a valuable ecological function by helping to control rodent populations and to maintain ecological integrity and species diversity. Unlike wolves, coyotes quickly rebound when they are killed indiscriminately, meaning killing contests actually undermine the sponsor’s stated goal of reducing coyote populations.
“There is simply no ecological or scientific reason justification for these killing derbies,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. “These federal agencies are abusing public lands and wildlife to help finance an extremist, anti-wolf organization in Idaho.”
Since 2011, when Congress stripped Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves in Idaho, the state has allowed nearly half of Idaho’s wolf population to be hunted and trapped each year. Since 2011, over 1,200 wolves have died at the hands of hunters and trappers in Idaho.