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Wildlife Groups Petition Forest Service To Protect Wolves In Idaho, Montana

A wolf lays in snow, surrounded by sage brush.
Jim Peaco
Yellowstone National Park

A coalition of six wildlife advocacy groups are asking the United States Forest Service (USFS) to protect wolves from new laws in Idaho and Montana allowing up to 90% of wolves to be killed.

The new petition follows a similar request some of the same groups delivered to the Department of the Interior in May, asking for federal protection of wolves in the two states.

Tim Preso is an attorney for the nonprofit environmental law organization EarthJustice, representing the six groups in the legal petition to the USFS.

“The Wilderness Act of 1964 imposes clear duties on the Forest Service to protect the wilderness character of designated wilderness areas,” he said.

Preso points to the 2001 ‘roadless rule’ which prohibited logging on 58.1 million acres of public lands as an example of the agency’s power.

“We're asking them to take another step,” he said of the Forest Service and its management of areas like the Selway-Bitterroot and Frank Church wilderness.

“Recognize that a key part of the wild character of those places is the fact that you've got natural balance of predator and prey, and wolves are a huge part of that."

Part of Idaho’s new law expands the use of professionals to kill wolves.

In December 2013, wildlife groups sued the Forest Service over Idaho Fish and Game’s contract trapping of wolves in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Preso said the USFS allowed a professional to use an agency cabin, and carry out his contract on agency land.

“We've seen that movie before,” Preso said. “We are asking the Forest Service to take action to make sure that we don't see that impact again.”

Preso said the trapper killed an entire pack of wolves before a court injunction stopped the hunt. The case was dropped when Idaho Fish and Game ended the contract on its own.

Petitioners now hope the Forest Service issues an emergency order protecting wolves. Idaho’s new law takes effect July 1. State Fish and Game is accepting feedback online through Sunday on its new rules interpreting the recent law change.

The U.S. Forest Service did not respond to a list of emailed questions prior to the publishing deadline.

Troy Oppie is a reporter and local host of 'All Things Considered' for Boise State Public Radio News.