Conservationists Sue to Stop Wolf and Coyote Killing Contest on Public Lands

Monday, December 23, 2013

Groups Challenge Federal Agency’s Failure to Regulate Highly Controversial Contest

Pocatell, ID – Today a coalition of conservation organizations sued the U.S. Forest Service for failure to require permits and environmental impacts analysis for the advertised “Coyote and Wolf Derby” in Salmon, Idaho, December 28 and 29. The lawsuit seeks an order requiring the agency inform the killing contest sponsors and participants that shooting wolves and coyotes on public lands as part of the contest is illegal without the required environmental analyses and permits.

“Killing contests that perpetuate false stereotypes about key species like wolves and coyotes that play essential roles in healthy ecosystems have no place on public lands.” Said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians. “The Forest Service is abdicating its responsibilities as steward of our public lands. We are asking the agency to comply with the law: require a permit application and do the necessary environmental analysis, including providing a public comment process, to ensure our public lands and wildlife are protected.”

The killing contest is charging an entry fee, advertising prizes for the largest wolf and the most coyote carcasses, among other award categories, and specifically offering opportunities for children as young as 10 to kill for prizes. Commercial activities like the killing contest are prohibited on public lands without a special use permit. An application for a special use permit triggers application of the National Environmental Policy Act. Highly controversial activities are exempted from fast track permitting. In contrast to the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) informed the killing contest sponsors that a special use permit is required. To date, BLM has not received an application. Hunting on BLM administered public lands as part of the killing contest is therefore illegal.

“Predator killing contests have no place in the 21st Century,” said Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote. “Killing coyotes and wolves for fun and prizes is ethically repugnant, morally bankrupt, and ecologically indefensible. Such contests demean the immense ecological and economic value of predators, perpetuating a culture of violence and sending a message to children that life has little value.”

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. It’s no wonder so many people view Idaho as like something out of Deliverance.”

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, nearly 1,000 wolves have died at the hands of hunters and trappers. Science shows that wolves play a key role as apex carnivores, providing ecological benefits that cascade through an ecosystem. Wolves bring elk and deer populations into balance, allowing riparian vegetation to regrow, in turn creating habitat for songbirds and beavers and shade for fish.

“That the US Forest Service allows a commercial event that glorifies the killing of wildlife for killing’s sake without a special use permit on public lands is unconscionable.” Said Ken Cole, NEPA coordinator for the Western Watersheds Project.

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. Coyotes have no protection under Idaho state law.

“Such killing contests reveal a larger flaw in our nation’s wildlife management strategies where predators continue to be treated as vermin, including by those very state agencies responsible for their management,” explains DJ Schubert, wildlife biologist at the Animal Welfare Institute. “The scientific reality is that predators are immensely important members of any healthy ecosystem and their ecological role should be celebrated, not condemned.”

DJ Schubert, Animal Welfare Institute, 609.601.2875, dj@awionline.org
Contacts: Bethany Cotton, WildEarth Guardians, 503.327.4923, bcotton@wildearthguardians.org
Camilla Fox, Project Coyote, 415.690.0338, cfox@projectcoyote.org
Lynne Stone, Boulder-White Clouds Council, 208.721.7301, bwcc@wildwhiteclouds.org
Ken Cole, Western Watersheds Project, 208.890.3666, ken@westernwatersheds.org

The organizations are represented by WildEarth Guardians Senior Attorney Sarah McMillan and the law office of Dana Johnson.

Animal Welfare Institute is a national non-profit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. For more information, visit www.awionline.org.

WildEarth Guardians envisions a world where wildlife and wild places are respected and valued and our world is sustainable for all beings. >We work to protect and restore wildlife, wild places, and wild rivers in the American West. Visit www.wildearthguardians.orgto learn more.

Project Coyote (ProjectCoyote.org) is a national non-profit organization promoting compassionate conservation and coexistence between people and wildlife through education, science, and advocacy. Join our community on Facebook and Twitter.

Boulder-White Clouds Council has worked for over two decades to protect and defend wild lands and wildlife in Idaho's upper Salmon River Country. Our website has extensive information and rare photos of Idaho's gray wolves: www.wildwhiteclouds.org.

Western Watersheds Project is a regional non-profit conservation group that works to influence and improve public lands and wildlife management throughout the West with a primary focus on the negative impacts of livestock grazing on 250,000,000 acres of western public lands. http://www.westernwatersheds.org

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