Gary Macfarlane, Friends of the Clearwater, (208) 882-9755
Erik Molvar, Western Watersheds Project, (307) 399-7910
Andrea Santarsiere, Center for Biological Diversity, (303) 854-7748
Brooks Fahy, Predator Defense, (541) 520-6003
For Immediate Release, March 13, 2018
BOISE, Idaho— Conservation groups filed expedited Freedom of Information Act requests today with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services seeking information about controversial plans to use taxpayer-funded helicopters to shoot wolves in the remote mountain backcountry of north-central Idaho.
The director of Idaho Wildlife Services recently testified at the Idaho Legislature that the agency has been contacted by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to conduct aerial gunning of wolves this year in the region known as the Lolo Zone, but refused to provide more details when questioned. Wildlife Services, in conjunction with the Idaho Department Fish and Game, has killed approximately 100 wolves in the Lolo Zone on the Clearwater National Forest via helicopter aerial gunning operations since 2010.
Wildlife Services has been highly secretive about past aerial gunning operations in this very remote and wild part of the Clearwater National Forest. The groups are seeking an expedited review of their Freedom of Information Act request so that Idaho residents can learn more about this year’s strategy as soon as possible.
“These operations should be fully disclosed to the public beforehand,” said Gary Macfarlane, ecosystem defense director with Friends of the Clearwater. “Public disclosure of past aerial gunning operations has come after the fact, and that is completely unacceptable. Citizens deserve to know when and how their taxpayer dollars are being spent. We are calling on the agency to come forth with their plans.”
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game claims that wolves are largely responsible for the reduction of elk herds in the Lolo Zone on the Clearwater National Forest. The agency has set a goal of eradicating three quarters of the wolf population in the zone. Scientists and others, however, note that a change in habitat and the availability of food, combined with harsh winters, are the main reasons why populations have fluctuated.
“As an elk hunter, I recognize that elk are a challenging prey and while those who don’t have the outdoor skills, the stamina, and the hunting smarts that it takes to be successful might try to blame their failures on wolves, in reality the killing of wolves does nothing to increase elk numbers,” said Erik Molvar, executive director with Western Watersheds Project.
“Now more than ever, Wildlife Services and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game need to be up front with the public about their plans to kill wolves,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Idaho stopped monitoring wolves last year and stopped releasing annual reports revealing how many wolves remain in Idaho. It’s troubling to see this ever-increasing veil of secrecy fall over the management of Idaho’s wolves.”
“Wildlife Services has in the past claimed it cannot provide information due to security concerns, but given the remote and currently inaccessible nature of the area, any allegations that people might interfere with the killing operation is unrealistic. The agency is simply trying to keep citizens in the dark because it knows the public is against such pointless aerial gunning of wildlife,” added Brooks Fahy of Predator Defense.