Under pressure from lawsuits filed by wildlife and conservation groups, the Bureau of Land Management has pulled its permit to Idaho for Wildlife to hold wolf and coyote hunts on public lands.
In early November, the BLM initially approved the hunting permit, which would allow up to 500 hunters to participate in Idaho for Wildlife’s annual predator derby. The goal of the competition is to kill the most wolves and other wildlife for cash prizes; it would have been the first time the event was held on public lands. During the public comment period leading up to the decision, the BLM received tens of thousands of letters criticizing the event, according to Reuters, but approved it anyway. “We are aware of the social controversy regarding this event,” Joe Kraayenbrink, BLM district manager in Idaho Falls, said in a statement. “However, from our analysis, we could not find significant conflicts with other environmental resources that would prohibit the competitive event from occurring.”
Idaho for Wildlife head Steve Adler told Reuters that the backlash against the hunt was just critics trying to restrict constitutionally protected gun rights and portray the group as “Idaho rednecks out to kill as many animals as we can.”
Soon after the decision, WildEarth Guardians, Cascadia Wildlands, and Boulder-White Clouds Council filed a lawsuit against the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service, alleging that the contest “violated federal law and was otherwise arbitrary and capricious.”
The BLM buckled and withdrew the permit, but it’s not a total win for the conservation groups. The Idaho Statesman reports that the Lewiston-based Idaho for Wildlife said it will simply hold the hunt on private lands like it did in 2013. The group offered $1,000 prizes for killing the biggest wolf and most coyotes.
“While it’s good to see the BLM withdraw their permit, overall this killing contest remains a black eye for Idaho,” Lynne Stone, director of Boulder-White Clouds Council, said in a statement. “These are our public lands and we should share them together peacefully and respectfully with wildlife.”
WildEarth Guardians said the groups will press on with their lawsuit against the Forest Service, charging the agency with failing to analyze the killing contest’s impacts and compelling it to block similar prize hunts on public lands in the future.