In a series of deft administrative maneuvers, the Bureau of Land Management side-stepped protests by environmental groups that had restricted federal predator-control activities on millions of acres of public land in the West.
With approval from Interior Secretary Bruce
Babbitt, the BLM is now issuing predator control plans with a
provision that puts them immediately into
Western politicians who lobbied for quick
action praised the BLM and its parent Interior Department for
sensitivity to sheep ranchers at the beginning of lambing season,
when livestock are most vulnerable to
But environmental groups were
"Whenever we gain some ground, they dream
up some way of going along about their business as they please,"
said Tom Skeele of the Predator Project, a Bozeman, Mont., group
trying to end the indiscriminate killing of coyotes and other
predators on public land.
predator control, carried out by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's Animal Damage Control (ADC) branch, has been in limbo
on public lands across the West since last spring. After the Humane
Society of the United States appealed outdated predator control
plans in about a dozen Western BLM districts, the BLM voluntarily
halted routine predator control in every district without a current
plan and environmental analysis.
The BLM allowed
only "emergency'" predator control in response to verified
livestock losses. In the meantime, local BLM managers worked
feverishly to develop current predator control plans that would get
them out from under the emergency-only
In Montana, the agency issued new
plans for each of its three districts in the state. While the plans
were updated, they allowed largely the same type of predator
control activities as in past years.
Skeele's Predator Project and the Native Ecosystems Council in
Laramie, Wyo., appealed the new BLM plans for Montana and requested
that the plans not go into effect until the appeal was resolved.
They got even more than they bargained for. In a Feb. 9 ruling, the
Interior Board of Land Appeals put the new plans on hold - pending
the appeals - and prohibited almost all controls on public
"That pretty much shut down the whole
program, including emergency control'" that targets coyotes, said
John Moorhouse, the BLM's chief of biological resources in
The BLM responded swiftly. On March 3,
the agency withdrew its plans, rendering the appeals by the two
environmental groups moot. ADC was then able to resume emergency
control to kill coyotes again.
Now the BLM plans
to issue new versions of its Montana predator control plans in
April. This time, however, the agency will ask Secretary Babbitt to
put the program into "full force and effect" from the start. That
means the plans will go into effect immediately - allowing normal
predator control to resume.
can still request a stay, the BLM's Moorhouse notes, but it must be
approved by the Interior Department's Board of Land
Babbitt has already used "full force and
effect" provisions to put new predator control plans into immediate
effect in three BLM districts in Wyoming, despite appeals.
Normally, the plans for the Worland, Rock and Rawlins districts
would have remained on hold until appeals by the Native Ecosystems
Council were decided. That process could take
But Babbitt told the Board of Land Appeals
that it would be "in the public interest'" for the plans to go into
immediate effect, permitting regular predator control to
Babbitt's moves on the Wyoming districts
were announced in press releases from the office of Wyoming Gov.
Mike Sullivan, who said he was "extremely pleased with Interior's
action, coming as we enter the lambing season in Wyoming."
For further information, contact the Predator
Project, P.O. Box 6733, Bozeman, MT 59771 (406/587-3389), or the
Montana office of the Bureau of Land Management, P.O. Box 36800,
Billings, MT 59107 (406/255-2913).
works in Cody, Wyo., for the Casper