The Bureau of Land Management reversed course Tuesday on its previous authorization of a contest to kill gray wolves, coyotes, and other wildlife on Idaho public lands.
Gray wolves were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act until a bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in April 2011 compelled an end to their protection.
The agency revoked a five-year permit that had been granted on Nov. 13 to organizers of a “predator derby” to be held on BLM and Forest Service lands near Salmon.
Idaho Falls district manager Joe Kraayenbrink explained that elimination of entry fees for killing contest participants and confusion as to the nature or extent of prizes to be awarded were “factual uncertainties” that prevented BLM from deciding appropriate conditions for the permit.
“As IFW plans have more fully developed over time, our analyses did not fully appreciate and capture important aspects of how IFW envisions or ultimately intends the Derby to actually take place,” Kraayenbrink wrote in an announcement of the permit rescission.
Kraayenbrink referred to Idaho for Wildlife, the organizer of the predator hunt.
Environmental advocacy organizations had challenged the issuance of the permit in federal court. A lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Boise on the same day BLM had issued the permit authorizing mass killing of wildlife alleged that BLM and its sister agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to prepare a study of environmental impacts resulting from the participation in the planned massacre of up to 500 hunters.
The extent of BLM’s NEPA compliance with regard to the hunt had been a Finding of No Significant Impact, which is a conclusion that an activity planned for the public lands will have no significant environmental consequence.
During last year’s version of the event, which was apparently the first wolf-killing contest in the United States in 40 years, participants killed 21 coyotes and no gray wolves.
Organizers had made available prizes to the hunters who killed the largest gray wolf and the most coyotes.
They also explicitly encouraged the participation of children and gave unique awards to hunters who were not adults.
The plaintiffs in the Nov. 13 lawsuit also suggested that both agencies violated their own regulations by allowing the event to proceed.
The killing contest, which is set for Jan. 2-4, 2015, is still authorized on the Salmon-Challis National Forest. USDA Forest Service did not require hunt organizers to obtain any permit at all.