TWIN FALLS • The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has withdrawn its permit to allow a wolf and coyote derby on public land near Salmon.
Seven groups had been suing to stop the derby planned by the hunter rights group Idaho for Wildlife to hold on public land in January.
The lawsuits and pile of public comments in opposition to the derby likely led to the BLM’s decision, Defenders of Wildlife spokesman Shawn Cantrell said Tuesday.
“I think one can infer some combination of those two led to the decision,” he said. “We’re obviously very pleased that they have.”
The BLM had approved the five-year permit a couple of weeks ago, saying no significant environmental impact from the derby was apparent.
Now the derby will be held on private land, as it was last year, said Idaho for Wildlife spokesman Steve Alde. The BLM permit would have roughly doubled the land available by providing access to federal land.
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“The BLM at the D.C. level has become too politically influenced and motivated,” Alde said, as requiring an extensive environmental review “for only 100 to 150 hunters to cover over 3 million acres is absurd and ridiculous.”
The first derby in December 2013 drew about 100 hunters and negative media attention from outside Idaho. The news website Vice ran a lengthy article by someone who went undercover to participate.
Last year, 21 coyotes were killed but no wolves. The wolves were the focus, though, of derby supporters and opponents.
Wolves were largely eradicated decades ago, but they have been a controversial issue in Idaho and elsewhere in the West since their reintroduction in the 1990s, often pitting environmentalists against ranchers, hunters and others who didn’t want to see wolves return.
Defenders of the predator’s introduction decry what they call Idaho’s “War on Wolves.”
Wolf hunting started in Idaho in 2008. The political argument since has been how much hunting to allow and how much state money to spend controlling the wolf population.
The Republican-dominated Legislature, with Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s strong support, created a Wolf Depredation Control Board earlier this year to oversee the killing of problem wolves.
Idaho Democrats tend to favor killing fewer wolves and spending less money to do it. Environmental groups in Blaine County, one of Idaho’s few blue bastions, have been leading the way, working with local sheepherders on non-lethal wolf-control methods.
The green groups that were suing cheered the BLM’s decision, saying the derby undercut the wolf population’s recovery.
“The public spoke loud and clear against this wildlife killing competition, and we are glad to see senior officials at the Department of the Interior ultimately respond to the public’s opposition by directing that the permit be withdrawn,” said Suzanne Stone, of Defenders, in a news release. “By denying the permit, BLM is supporting sound wildlife management practices as opposed to endorsing archaic killing competitions on our public lands that Americans so clearly oppose.”
“We’re so glad that the deadly derby has been canceled this year,” said Amy Atwood, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These sort of ruthless kill-fests have no place in this century. We intend to pursue every available remedy to stop these horrible contests.”
Alder said derby participants will have to sign a waiver saying any animals taken on public land won’t qualify for the derby. Idaho for Wildlife started the application process early, as BLM advised, he said.
He blamed the BLM’s D.C. office for revoking the permit and said his group will “push for more legislative oversight of this out-of-control agency that is now caving to the radical anti-hunters.”
Alder said the group again will offer two cash prizes. Excess money will be given to charities, including to support a rancher who, Alder wrote, lost most of his calves and 13 adult cows to wolves over the summer and may have to get a job at ShopKo to make ends meet.
The derby will be held Jan. 2 to 4.