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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 July 3 - 9, 2002


Groups sue to stop Sawtooth grazing

Court asked to close 8 allotments 
to protect wolves

"The U.S. Forest Service’s refusal to alter its management strategies for livestock in the SNRA in the wake of the court’s ruling leaves us no alternative."

- JON MARVEL, Western Watersheds Project executive director

Express Staff Writer

A coalition of Idaho environmental groups is asking a U.S. District Court to close eight grazing allotments in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area to protect gray wolves.

Jon Marvel, executive director of the Western Watersheds Project based in Hailey, said the requested closure would encompass more than 100,000 acres. It could displace between 2,000 and 4,000 sheep and up to 200 cattle. The motion seeks to close the allotments at least through the current grazing season.

The environmental groups say all eight allotments in the motion are problem areas where wolves have been in conflict with cattle in previous grazing seasons.

The action of the Western Watersheds Project and the Idaho Conservation League follows a ruling by U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill, prohibiting federal wildlife managers from automatically moving or killing wolves that tangle with livestock.

A 1972 law created the scenic recreation area and gives wolves precedence over grazing. Winmill said those rules must be balanced with rules established in the 1990s, which directed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to move and eventually kill wolves that prey on livestock.

Stan Boyd, executive director of the Idaho Woolgrowers Association, said the motion shows that environmental groups simply want to remove livestock from public lands.

"These folks are using wolf recovery as a tool to pursue other agendas," Boyd said.

But the point is not to displace cattle or ranchers, pointed out Idaho Conservation League Central Idaho Director Linn Kincannon, of Ketchum.

"The Forest Service has no plans to respond to the lawsuit by moving livestock or sheep out of the way," she said. "The injunction, we hope, will force them to move livestock out of the way of wolves.

"We’re just saying, ‘You’ve got to do something.’"

Local Forest Service officials have been tight-lipped about the lawsuits. Two weeks ago, they referred inquiries to the Intermountain Region headquarters office in Ogden, Utah. This week, inquiries were forwarded to the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

"We’re certainly taking this very seriously," said Department of Justice Spokesperson Dana Perino. "We recognize that there will be an impact on Idaho, and we will be working diligently with out client agency, the Forest Service."

Perino declined to comment on the litigation or what it means for Idahoan and Western ranchers. She also declined to comment on whether the Department of Justice plans to appeal Winmill’s decision.

The Idaho Conservation League and the Western Watersheds Project sued the Forest Service in 2001, when two wolves in the Whitehawk Pack were killed for attacking sheep in the Sawtooth Valley that June.

Since then, federal wolf managers have killed the entire pack, generating widespread opposition from around the world.

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 the recreation area.

"The U.S. Forest Service’s refusal to alter its management strategies for livestock in the SNRA in the wake of the court’s ruling leaves us no alternative," Marvel said in a prepared statement. "Our action is the only way to stop the killing of wolves in the SNRA."


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.