A coalition of wildlife groups is suing federal and state officials over a controversial wolf killing plan in Idaho, demanding an immediate stop to the plan to give the case a chance to work through the courts. Conservationists say that the plan, which involved hiring a professional hunter to kill two packs of wolves in Central Idaho, only benefits elk hunters in the area, who expect the elk population to rise with the elimination of wolves.
The lawsuit was filed by Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project and Wilderness Watch in Pocatello's U.S. District Court on Monday. The plan in question began late last year, AP reports:
Idaho wildlife officials hired the hunter late last year to begin killing the two packs in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game hopes it will aid the recovery of elk populations in the region. At the time, the department's wildlife bureau chief Jeff Gould said that using a professional hunter and trapper will help the department determine if it's a cost-effective method for managing wolves.
Conservationists say that the plan violates the 1964 Wilderness Act because it threatens to change the character of the area. "IDFG's wolf extermination program threatens the wilderness character of the largest forested wilderness in the continental United States by removing animals that are a wilderness icon and whose undisturbed presence in the wilderness is critical to maintaining ecological balance among wildlife species," Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso wrote in the lawsuit.
Idaho's wolf population was estimated at 683 last year -- an 11 percent drop from 2012.