BOISE, Idaho— The Center for Biological Diversity joined a coalition of groups today in a lawsuit to stop a state-hired bounty hunter from exterminating two entire packs of wolves in the largest wilderness area in the lower 48, the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. According to the lawsuit, the U.S. Forest Service illegally allowed Idaho’s Department of Fish and Game to send the hired gun into the wild to kill wolves.
“Hiring a bounty hunter to kill wolves in one of America’s crown-jewel wilderness areas, just to make sure there are more elk for hunters to kill, is one more example of the deeply sad, cruel and reactionary nature of Idaho’s ‘management’ of wolves,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center’s endangered species director. “This outrageous slaughter is a clear reminder of why all of our country’s wolves need the protection of the Endangered Species Act.”
The Department of Fish and Game hired the bounty hunter in mid-December to pack into the 2.4-million-acre wilderness to eradicate two wolf packs, the Golden and Monumental packs, in the interest of pumping up elk populations for hunters. The Forest Service, which administers the wilderness, approved the extermination program by authorizing use of a Forest Service cabin and airstrip. Yet according to the Department of Fish and Game, elk numbers in Idaho are at an all-time high, and although elk numbers have declined some in recent years in the Frank Church, they remain healthy and are expected to increase with recent habitat created by fires.
“Killing these wolf packs has nothing to do with science-based wildlife management and everything to do with the anti-wolf attitudes of some hunters and the Department of Fish and Game,” said Greenwald. “Killing of these wolves isn’t just heartless — it’s also a boondoggle.”
The Center is represented by Earthjustice and joins long-time Idaho conservationist and wilderness advocate Ralph Maughan along with three other conservation groups — Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project and Wilderness Watch — in this litigation. The conservationists assert that the Forest Service’s approval and facilitation of the program violated the agency’s duty to protect the wilderness character of the Frank Church Wilderness. They have requested a court injunction to prohibit further implementation of the wolf-extermination program until the case can be resolved.