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Groups fail to stop USDA wolf kills

Published on February 4, 2011 3:01AM

Last changed on March 4, 2011 8:38AM

Wolves'unnecessarily exterminated,' environmentalists say


Capital Press

Environmental groups have failed to convince a federal judge to prohibit the USDA's Wildlife Services Division from killing wolves in Idaho.

The Wolf Recovery Foundation and the Western Watersheds Project filed a lawsuit in 2009, claiming Wildlife Services agents had unlawfully shot several wolves from a helicopter near Stanley, Idaho.

The division, part of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, is charged with controlling predator populations to reduce livestock predation and other conflicts with humans.

According to plaintiffs, hundreds of wolves had been "unnecessarily exterminated or dispersed" by Wildlife Services agents in recent years.

The complaint claimed that USDA had violated the National Environmental Policy Act by not conducting an environmental analysis of the activities.

"APHIS Wildlife Services seeks to avoid public disclosure, scrutiny or accountability for its actions," the complaint said.

Chief U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill has ruled that the environmental groups lack legal standing to challenge the USDA's wolf control activities in Idaho.

To have standing, plaintiffs must show they've suffered an injury that can be remedied by a favorable ruling.

At the time the environmentalists filed their complaint, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game had the authority to order wolf removals, with or without the help of Wildlife Services, Winmill said.

"In other words, plaintiffs' alleged injury -- the killing of wolves -- would not be redressed by the relief they seek in this lawsuit," he said.

Although Idaho officials have since turned over authority over wolf control to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that doesn't change the situation, Winmill said. That's because the Fish and Wildlife Service can still order wolf killings even if Wildlife Services isn't involved.

In his ruling, Winmill cited a similar case decided by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year.

Other environmental groups had tried to stop Wildlife Services from hunting cougars in Oregon without conducting an environmental analysis.

The 9th Circuit upheld a judge's decision to dismiss that case because Oregon state officials, not the USDA, had the authority over cougar removals.


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