Yesterday, the Federal District Court of Idaho approved a settlement agreement between six conservation groups and the Bureau of Land Management ensuring public notice of a wildlife killing contest on BLM-managed public lands near Salmon, Idaho.
In 2014 a vocal anti-wolf group — ironically called Idaho for Wildlife — applied for a BLM permit to use public lands for a three-day predator-killing contest near Salmon. The derby encouraged participants to kill as many wolves, coyotes and other wildlife as possible, promising cash prizes. Idaho for Wildlife promoted the derby as a family event and encouraged children as young as 10 to participate.
“This cruel, unethical and ecologically damaging contest should not occur on any lands, but particularly not on public lands belonging to all of us,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We will continue to watchdog and fight these killing contests across the country to protect our nation’s wildlife.”
The BLM initially granted Idaho for Wildlife a permit to use its lands for the event, but rescinded the permit after the environmental groups challenged it in court. After holding the contest on Forest Service lands in December 2013 and January 2015, Idaho for Wildlife declined to hold the killing contest on either BLM or Forest Service lands during the past two winter seasons while litigation was ongoing.
“Wolf- and coyote-killing contests are an affront to ethical hunting and are incompatible with wise management of federal public lands and the wildlife that lives there,” said Laura King, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “We will hold BLM’s feet to the fire to ensure that the agency complies with federal law in permitting and reviewing any future contest proposed for BLM lands.”
Among other things the settlement requires that the Bureau of Land Management notify the conservation groups if the agency receives an application for a contest aimed at killing wolves or coyotes on Idaho’s public lands in the future.
“Having a contest to kill as many animals as possible violates every tenet of sound wildlife management, and has no place on public lands,” said Erik Molvar, executive director of Western Watersheds Project. “This settlement is a step in the right direction toward ending these cruel contests, at least not allowing them to move forward before the public has an opportunity to raise legal objections.”
“Wildlife killing contests have no place on our public lands,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director with WildEarth Guardians. “Our public lands should be safe for all users to peacefully recreate and enjoy viewing wildlife, without risks associated with large numbers of people trying to kill animals for killing’s sake.”
This news does not affect ongoing litigation the environmental groups brought against the U.S. Forest Service for allowing the contests to take place on Forest Service lands in December 2013 and January 2015 without requiring a permit. That case was argued in front of Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush on Jan. 11, 2017 and the parties are awaiting a decision.
“BLM will have to consider all of the opposition that was voiced before permitting any similar contests in the future,” said Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote. “We hope the court will also ensure that contests cannot take place on Forest Service land in the future without an appropriate public process.”
The environmental groups that challenged the contest include Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, Kootenai Environmental Alliance, Project Coyote, Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians. The groups were represented by attorneys from the Center for Biological Diversity and the Western Environmental Law Center, as well as by solo practitioner Dana Johnson.