Judge orders reform
on wolf, cattle issue
Forest Service must
give wildlife precedence over livestock
it will force the Forest Service to be more creative with how it deals
with livestock, which is what we wanted them to do all along."
Conservation League central Idaho director
Express Staff Writer
agencies must devise new strategies for dealing with wolf and livestock
conflicts in central Idaho’s White Cloud and Sawtooth mountain ranges,
according to a federal court ruling last week.
11-page decision issued June 13, U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill ordered
the U.S. Forest Service to give wildlife precedence over livestock in the
Sawtooth National Recreation Area and to complete overdue environmental
studies on grazing allotments.
law that established the SNRA gives all wildlife precedence over
livestock, Winmill ruled.
statute is clear," the judge wrote. "Congress identifies, as one
of the primary ‘values’ of the SNRA, the conservation and development
of ‘wildlife,’ which would include the gray wolf. Certain other
values, including grazing, were to be developed conditionally—that is,
developed only ‘insofar as their utilization will not substantially
impair’ the development of wildlife such as the gray wolf.’"
regulations must be balanced with rules established when wolves were
reintroduced in the mid-1990s, he said. Those rules direct the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service to move and eventually kill wolves that prey on
trumps the other," Winmill found. "Both must be examined by the
was a victory for Hailey-based Western Watersheds Project and the Idaho
Conservation League, who filed the lawsuit against the Sawtooth National
Forest almost a year ago after members of the White Hawk wolf pack were
killed in the Sawtooth Valley for preying on sheep.
federal wolf managers have killed the entire pack, generating widespread
In the past
three years, 27 wolves have been killed or moved out of the White Cloud
Mountains and the East Fork of the Salmon River valley in or adjacent to
happy because the judge ordered the SNRA to finish their analysis of
grazing, which will be better for the ranchers and better for
conservation," said ICL Central Idaho Director Linn Kincannon. of
Ketchum. "Plus, it will force the Forest Service to be more creative
with how it deals with livestock, which is what we wanted them to do all
Director Jon Marvel, of Hailey, was more frank.
a great decision," he said. "They (the Forest Service) got their
butts kicked. If I were a rancher on public lands on the SNRA, I’d be a
alluded to grazing allotments, like ones in the East Fork of the Salmon
River valley, that haven’t been updated in many years. In many cases,
salmon and bull trout have received Endangered Species Act listings in the
interim. Now Winmill has ruled that wolves must also be considered in
Service regional spokesman Dan Jiron said the court order is being
reviewed, but forest managers have said, even previous to Winmill’s
decision, that the status quo will be difficult to maintain on those
grazing allotments following revised environmental studies.
Idaho Woolgrowers Association Director Stan Boyd, chairman of the Idaho
Wolf Oversight Committee, called the ruling "totally wrong" and
expressed concern that it could further polarize wolf reintroduction
advocates and critics.
they brought the wolves in, the rules were all spelled out and those were
the guidelines we were to follow," he said. "There were a lot of
people in livestock who weren’t happy with that, but those were the
ranchers have worked with environmentalists to accommodate wolves by
voluntarily moving their herds, but now the Forest Service could force
ranchers to move their sheep when wolves move into an area.
cowboys have to give up some of the unbridled management discretion they’ve
had on these federal lands," said Laird Lucas, the attorney who
represented the environmental groups.