A hunting competition that would've allowed for the killing of wolves on federal land has been canceled after backlash from environmental groups. The hunt, referred to as a "predator derby," was slated for January. It had been approved by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for 3 million acres of public land.
After word spread about the BLM's approval, a coalition of organizations geared up to file a lawsuit against the agency to stop the derby. The suits, led by the Center for Biological Diversity, Project Coyote, Defenders of Wildlife, Wildearth Guardians and several other groups, claimed that killing contests on public lands are against established wildlife policies.
"Killing wildlife for fun and prizes on public lands that belong to all Americans is not only reprehensible, it is also a violation of the Public Trust Doctrine and contravenes Idaho Fish and Game's policy condemning killing contests as unethical and ecologically unsound," said Camilla Fox, the founder and executive director of Project Coyote, in a statement. "It is high time the BLM acknowledges that wildlife killing contests are not an acceptable ‘use' of public lands."
Just before the suit would have been filed, a representative for the U.S. Department of Justice - the agency representing the BLM - announced that the derby would no longer be allowed on public land.
Conservationists argued that the derby, which would allow 500 hunters to participate, undermined aggressive recovery programs that have brought gray wolves back from the brink of extinction over the past two decades. Wolves have seen an impressive recovery, but advocates say the work is not done - and that trophy hunts would reverse that trend.
"BLM's first-ever approval of a wolf hunting derby on public lands undercuts wolf recovery efforts, so it's good they canceled this permit," said Laird Lucas, director of litigation at Advocates for the West, which represents Defenders of Wildlife.
The public seems strongly in favor of canceling the hunt - during a comment period, the BLM received just 10 comments in support of the competition and some 56,000 comments against it.