A settlement agreement between conservation groups and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management guarantees interim protections for native wildlife in Idaho pending the completion of new environmental reviews of the agencies’ actions. The settlement was reached pursuant to a lawsuit filed in Idaho District Court in 2020, asserting that Wildlife Services had violated federal law with regard to its predator management programs by relying on outdated and inadequate assessments of its policies and methods.
“We’re pleased to have added restrictions to the wildlife-killing activities that USDA Wildlife Services is pursuing across Idaho,” said Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project. “This new agreement blocks wildlife killing on protected public lands across Idaho, and blocks the use of certain lethal methods employed against native carnivores throughout the state.”
The settlement gives Wildlife Services until the end of 2024 to complete a new environmental review of its activities on federal lands, and mandates that the agency will consider an alternative restricting predator killing on certain public lands, blocking “preventative” killing of wolves and coyotes, and placing a long-term moratorium on M-44 “cyanide bomb” use.
“This settlement forces the federal agencies to come up to speed on the new science around management of native carnivores and to stop using inhumane and antiquated methods like poison or body-gripping traps,” said Lindsay Larris, Wildlife Program Director of WildEarth Guardians. “This settlement ensures that Wildlife Services won’t use gas cartridges or burn wolves alive in their dens – a practice they were unfortunately still able to lawfully employ, until today.”
In the interim, the parties agreed on a number of measures that will help protect Idaho’s native predators. The agreement halts the use of “denning” (gassing or immolating wolf pups in their dens), limits the agency’s methods of trapping, and requires reporting if Wildlife Services traps go un-checked for more than 72 hours. This is an important measure to prevent animal cruelty.
“Our settlement also means that native predators that live in Wilderness or Wilderness Study Areas in Idaho will not be killed by Wildlife Services except to protect human health and safety,” said Laurie Rule, Senior Attorney at Advocates for the West, which along with counsel from Western Watersheds Project is representing the conservation groups in the case. “These areas are intended to remain in their natural state, including allowing predators to fulfill their natural role in the ecosystem.”
The settlement follows a March 2020 settlement in an earlier lawsuit that substantially restricted the places where Wildlife Services could kill wolves in Idaho. Predator protections under both agreements will be in place until Wildlife Services completes a new environmental impact statement in 2024.
This new settlement extends the statewide ban on M-44 “cyanide bombs” of the type that poisoned 14-year-old Canyon Mansfield and his dog near Pocatello, killing the family dog, in 2017.
“Working side-by-side with the Mansfield family, as well as with other M-44 victims for over 30 years, I have witnessed the pain and loss these indiscriminate poisonous devices inflict,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, a national wildlife advocacy group. “Since M-44s can never be used safely, Wildlife Services agreeing not to use them in Idaho, even temporarily until their analysis is complete, will better protect people, pets and wildlife.”
Erik Molvar, Western Watersheds Project, 307-399-7910, email@example.com
Lindsay Larris, WildEarth Guardians, 310-923-1465, LLarris@wildearthguardians.org
Brooks Fahy, Predator Defense, 541-937-4261, firstname.lastname@example.org
Laurie Rule, Advocates for the West, 503-914-6388, email@example.com