Last week the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a decision to approve Idaho for Wildlife’s special recreation permit for a competitive event to have a wolf and coyote derby on public lands in southeast Idaho. The proposed event is scheduled to occur January 2015. 

Just hours after the BLM’s decision on Thursday, Nov. 13 four environmental groups filed a lawsuit.  

The BLM Idaho Falls District received 40,000 comments on the environmental assessment, many indicating concern over the proposed type of action occurring on public lands. 

“We are aware of the social controversy regarding the event,” said Joe Kraayenbrink, Idaho Falls District Manager. “However, from our analysis, we could not find significant conflicts with other environmental resources that would prohibit the competitive event from occurring.” 

In a press release the BLM said every year thousands of hunters and recreationalists conduct dispersed activities on public lands. The proposed activity comes under review only because it is advertised as a competitive event, where individuals register and compete for prizes. Without the competitive nexus, no permit would be necessary.

According to the Associated Press, Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project and Project Coyote say the BLM’s actions are contrary to the federal government’s wolf reintroduction efforts.

The permit request came from Idaho for Wildlife a group who’s mission is to protect Idaho’s hunting and fishing heritage and fight against animal rights and anti-gun organizations, according to their website. 

Last year, Idaho for Wildlife held their first ever derby on private and U.S. Forest Service land. They reported that no wolves were harvested during the derby in 2013, and 21 coyotes were taken. 

The derby is a two-day event where two-man teams compete to harvest wolves and coyotes for prize money. Last year there was a $1,000 prize offered to the team who killed the biggest wolf and another $1,000 awarded to the team that bagged the most coyotes. The event drew around 100 hunters and 230 people in total in Salmon, Idaho. 

Further explaining their decision, the BLM release said “hunting is legal in the state of Idaho, is a protected right under the Idaho constitution and is managed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDF&G). Wildlife populations are tracked and managed by IDF&G, not by the BLM. Competitive hunts are allowed by the state and no federal law forbids this type of activity. As a land management agency the BLM is tasked with ensuring resources such as cultural, vegetation, air, water, soil, etc. will not be significantly impacted by participants.” 

The permit analyzed whether up to 500 people recreating on 3.1 million acres of public land would negatively impact the resources within the BLM’s jurisdictional authority to manage. After analysis and discussion with other agencies, the BLM determined a finding of no significant impact, read the release.

A copy of the decision record, environmental assessment and supporting documentation is available online at: https://www.blm.gov/epl-front-office/eplanning/planAndProjectSite.do?methodName=dispatchToPatternPage&currentPageId=53582

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