Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Suit filed to block predator-killing contest

Groups claim special-use permit is needed

Express Staff Writer

    A coalition of five environmental and animal-welfare organizations filed a court action Monday seeking to block a wolf- and coyote-killing contest from taking place on the Salmon-Challis National Forest unless the event organizers obtain a special-use permit.
    The Coyote and Wolf Derby is scheduled for Salmon on Dec. 28-29, and is hosted by a statewide hunters organization called Idaho for Wildlife. The contest is offering $1,000 prizes for the biggest wolf killed and for the most coyotes killed. Prizes will also be awarded in categories for 10- to 11-year-old and 12- to 14-year-old contestants. The entry fee is $20.
    The court case was filed in U.S. District Court in Pocatello by two attorneys for Missoula, Mont.-based WildEarth Guardians. The group of plaintiffs includes the Boulder-White Clouds Council, based in Ketchum, and Western Watersheds Project, based in Hailey.
    The plaintiffs contend that forest Supervisor Charles Mark acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner when he decided not to require Idaho for Wildlife to obtain a special-use permit. Federal law requires a court to overturn an agency decision when it is determined to have been arbitrary and capricious.
    The complaint alleges that the decision failed to follow Forest Service rules and violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to consider the potential environmental impacts of the contest.
    Forest Service regulations require a special-use permit for any “commercial use” of the forest, and include any event that charges a participation fee within the definition of that term. However, a Salmon-Challis National Forest spokeswoman told the Idaho Mountain Express last week that the agency was not requiring a permit for the contest because it does not involve a particular place on the forest and because hunting is regulated by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Significant impact to both wildlife and the human environment will result from the killing contest.”
WildEarth Guardians et al.

    The National Environmental Policy Act requires federal agencies to prepare an environmental impact statement for all “major federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.” The complaint contends that the Salmon-Challis National Forest did not do so when it made its decision regarding a permit.
    “Significant impact to both wildlife and the human environment will result from the killing contest,” the complaint states. “The exact extent of the impacts are not known, both because the USFS conducted no environmental analysis and because the extent of impacts will depend on how many contestants register and how many animals they kill. There are likely to be many more shots fired because of the competitive nature of the killing contest, causing concerns for the safety for humans, their pets, and other wildlife; disturbing users seeking to recreate on the public lands, and disturbing other wildlife at a time when wildlife is already feeling the strain of winter.”
    The complaint states that as of Dec. 18, the BLM informed the plaintiffs that there were between 20 and 30 two-person teams already registered. According to the poster, advance registration is taking place at two Salmon businesses—93 Outdoor Sports and High Country Sporting Goods. An employee at 93 Outdoor Sports on Monday declined to answer questions from the Idaho Mountain Express about the contest, and an employee at High Country Sporting Goods said no one had come into the store asking about registering.
    Unlike the Forest Service, the BLM was requiring a “special recreation permit” for contest participants’ use of agency-managed land. However, Salmon Field Office Manager Linda Price said Monday that Idaho for Wildlife had informed her that it would not be submitting an application for a permit and would not conduct any part of the contest on BLM-managed land.
    According to the event poster, the contest is being sponsored by 21 businesses, one of which is NAPA Auto Parts, a nationwide chain. However, the company posted a message on its website last week stating that it had withdrawn its support. It stated that the sponsorship was initiated by an individual store owner.
Greg Moore: gmoore@mtexpress.com

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