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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of April 24 - 30, 2002

  News

Suit filed against predator control plan for sage grouse


By GREG STAHL
and The Associated Press

Four environmental groups filed a lawsuit April 17 to prevent implementation of a predator control program aimed at helping southern Idaho's struggling sage grouse population.

Rather than predators, the groups cite the loss of habitat as the major issue threatening sage grouse. But an Idaho Department of Fish and Game official contends the plan is sound even if habitat loss is another significant factor.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's a well-designed plan to do predator removal," said Tom Parker, chief of Fish and Game's Wildlife Bureau.

The federal lawsuit targets the Wildlife Services operations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service because predator control will occur on land managed by the agencies.

The Committee for Idaho's High Desert, Defenders of Wildlife, Idaho Conservation League and Western Watersheds Project filed the suit.

The groups won a lawsuit a year ago that required Wildlife Services to conduct an environmental assessment before beginning predator control. The new complaint contends the environmental assessment is inadequate because, among other things, it does not evaluate the impact on predator populations.

"The scope of the project involves 31 million acres," said Western Watersheds Project Executive Director Jon Marvel, of Hailey. "That qualifies even under the most modest reading of the National Environmental Policy Act for an Environmental Impact Statement."

Marvel said the groups already won part of the battle when, Monday, the Department of Agriculture told Wildlife Services not to implement the plan this year, pending a decision from the court.

Biologist Katie Fite, of the Committee for Idaho's High Desert, said the six-year predator control study is not about science, but politics aimed at diverting attention from habitat loss. Livestock overgrazing contributes to that, she said.

"The agenda here is not research," she said. "Itís expanding Wildlife Serviceís range of killing activities and reverting to the Dark Ages of widespread predator eradication."

Wildlife Services, which traditionally protects livestock, crops and the public from predators, would use traditional control methods including poison, traps, snares and aerial gunning to kill such animals as ravens, red foxes, coyotes, raptors, badgers and magpies.

Wildlife Services has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to approve the use of M-44s, a poison control method involving the use of spring-loaded baits that deliver lethal doses of sodium cyanide.

Conservation groups object, saying it would expand the use of the poison for the first time beyond predators of livestock and federally protected species.

 


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.