POCATELLO, Idaho (CN) - The U.S. Forest Service has been killing wolves illegally in "one of the wildest regions remaining in the United States" to protect the cattle industry, the Wolf Recovery Foundation claims in Federal Court. The group complains that the federal government used a helicopter to "gun down several members of the popular Basin Butte wolf pack during the Thanksgiving holiday."
This complaint is the newest addition to the long fight over whether to nurture or kill gray wolf packs in Idaho. The wolf was protected by the Endangered Species Act for several decades and has recently been removed.
The Wolf Recovery Foundation and Western Watersheds Project claim the Forest Service ignored a 2002 court order to suspend wolf control measures in and around the area protected by the Sawtooth National Recreation Area Organic Act. The environmental groups also sued the Forest Service's parent agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
The groups claim the government failed to implement livestock management measures to prevent conflicts with wolf packs and that several packs have been "exterminated or dispersed" to prevent livestock predation.
APHIS Wildlife Services - "the wolf-killing arm of the federal government" - made no valid environmental analysis, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, to justify killing wolves anywhere Idaho, the groups claim.
Livestock grazing is authorized on 778,000 acres of public land only as a secondary use, and only if it does not "substantial impair" conservation, wildlife and other values contributing to public use and enjoyment, according to the complaint.
Idaho Fish and Game recently made it legal to hunt wolves in Idaho. The groups claim that as a result of this and the "continued persecution" of wolves, not even the protected wild Sawtooth region is available as a refuge for the gray wolf.
The groups seek the suspension of threatening livestock grazing and further killings of central Idaho wolves. They are represented by Laurence Lucas of Boise.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.