Idaho predators are under the gun

 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

The wolf will enjoy federal protection for at least a few more years, but other Idaho predators aren't so lucky.

In August, the seven-member Idaho Fish and Game Commission, which sets the agenda for the state Department of Fish and Game, adopted the state's first predator-control policy. The policy provides only the broadest of guidelines, but commissioners - especially the four new appointments by Republican Gov. Dirk Kempthorne - are pushing for aggressive controls.

The Clearwater National Forest in northern Idaho may be the first to feel the impacts of the commission's new approach. In late January, the state announced plans to kill at least 75 bears and 10 mountain lions in a 200-square-mile area near the Lochsa River, where elk populations have dropped in recent years.

The elk scarcity is a big concern for the agency, in part because hunting licenses bring in a lot of funding, and commissioner Don Clower says the Clearwater project will determine whether predator control is a workable solution.

The Idaho Guides Association lobbied the commission in support of the new policy, and it backs the Clearwater proposal. "If you can't show people live elk on the ground, man, you are not going to be in business very long," says executive director Grant Simonds. He says predators - including the reintroduced wolves - are largely to blame for the elk decline.

There's one hitch in the proposal, says Lynn Fritchmann, a longtime hunter and Idaho conservationist. "There's not a shred of evidence that this will do any good," he fumes. "Every wildlife biologist you talk to says, 'Hey, it's the habitat, stupid.'" Decades of fire suppression, he says, have produced a thick understory of small trees and encouraged the invasion of inedible exotic weeds.

But Fish and Game wildlife chief Steve Huffaker says that though habitat is part of the answer, the state has no control over the private land and national forests used by wildlife. "We don't own or manage habitat," he says. "The only thing we can do something about is predation."

The Clearwater project, which has funding from the federal Wildlife Services agency, was set to begin in April. But widespread public outcry, combined with legal threats from the Idaho Conservation League, Defenders of Wildlife and several other groups, led the state to put a hold on the project in early February. State biologists are now taking a second look at the proposal.

Though Idaho's new predator policy isn't directly related to the draft wolf management plan, environmentalists fear the official Idaho attitude will turn out to be bad news for the wolf. Gov. Kempthorne recently referred to grizzly bears as "massive, flesh-eating carnivores" (HCN, 12/4/00: Grizzlies invited back to the Bitterroot), and the majority of commissioners appear to share his general feelings about predators.

"There's no one on this commission with a degree in biology, no one with any wildlife management expertise," says Larry McLaud of the Idaho Conservation League. "And what they say, goes."

High Country News Classifieds
  • DISTRICT MANAGER
    The San Juan Islands Conservation District is seeking applicants for the District Manager position. The position is open until filled and application plus cover letter...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Mountain Time Arts, a Bozeman-based nonprofit, is seeking an Executive Director. MTA advocates for and produces public artworks that advance social & environmental justice in...
  • BEND AREA HOME WITH AMAZING CASCADE PEAKS VIEW
    Enjoy rural peacefulness and privacy with one of the most magnificent Cascade Mountain views in sunny Central Oregon! Convenient location only eight miles from Bend's...
  • MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Marketing Communications Manager to join our...
  • EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks an Editor-In-Chief to join our senior team...
  • RESEARCH FELLOW (SOUTHWESTERN U.S. ENERGY TRANSITION)
    The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) in partnership with the Grand Canyon Trust is seeking a full-time Fellow to conduct topical research...
  • LENDER OWNED FIX & FLIP
    2 houses on 37+ acres. Gated subdivision, Penrose Colorado. $400k. Possible lender financing. Bob Kunkler Brokers Welcome.
  • ONCE OR TWICE
    A short historical novel set in central Oregon based on the the WWII Japanese high altitude ballon that exploded causing civilian casualties. A riveting look...
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • HOUSE FOR SALE
    Rare mountain property, borders National Forest, stream nearby. Pumicecrete, solar net metering, radiant heat, fine cabinets, attic space to expand, patio, garden, wildlife, insulated garage,...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER- NORTHERN PLAINS RESOURCE COUNCIL
    Want to organize people to protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life with Northern Plains Resource Council? Apply now-...
  • CONSERVATION MANAGER
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is hiring an energetic and motivated Conservation Manager to develop and complete new conservation projects and work within...
  • POLLINATOR OASIS
    Seeking an experienced, hardworking partner to help restore a desert watershed/wetland while also creating a pollinator oasis at the mouth of an upland canyon. Compensation:...
  • ELLIE SAYS IT'S SAFE! A GUIDE DOG'S JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
    by Don Hagedorn. A story of how lives of the visually impaired are improved through the love and courage of guide dogs. Available on Amazon.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY
    All positions available: Sales Representative, Accountant and Administrative Assistant. As part of our expansion program, our University is looking for part time work from home...
  • RUBY, ARIZONA CARETAKER
    S. Az ghost town seeking full-time caretaker. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -