(CN) – Conservation groups and the Trump administration have reached a settlement that will sharply limit where and how federal agencies can kill wolves in Idaho.
Filed Wednesday in Idaho federal court, the settlement comes after the Western Watersheds Project, Center for Biological Diversity and others challenged the environmental impact statement issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services regarding efforts to control gray wolf activity in Idaho. After a series of appeals and legal battles, the two parties have reached an agreement on how the killing of wolves can be managed moving forward in the Gem State.
Arguably the largest element to the settlement is the agreement to ban M-44 cyanide bombs, explosive devices that have been used to control specific wildlife activity, such as coyotes, in the past. The agreement bans the use of bombs statewide until the USDA releases a complete and thorough environmental analysis on the killing of wolves.
The agreement also bans the use of wolf snares and traps on public lands until more environmental analysis is completed.
Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the settlement is a victory for those who wish to see more humane treatment of animals at the hands of the government.
“Cyanide bombs and traps are vicious and indiscriminate, and too often lead to the suffering of nontarget wildlife and pets,” Santarsiere said in a statement. “This victory is a step forward in reducing the suffering of animals at the hands of our federal government.”
Conservation groups say the restrictions will help to prevent potential threats to non-targeted life going forward, as there have already been examples of accidental consequences born from wolf control efforts. Three years ago, then-14-year-old Canyon Mansfield was harmed by a M-44 bomb in Pocatello, Idaho, set just a quarter of a mile from his neighborhood. The device was put illegally on public land without the appropriate signage warnings of its placement.
Mansfield sustained injuries as result of the incident, and the Mansfield family dog was killed.
Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, said that others around the nation should look to new Idaho ban on M-44 devices before other tragic accidents take place.
“It’s a shame that it took the poisoning of a child and the killing of a beloved family dog to get Wildlife Services to put the brakes on M-44 deployment in Idaho,” Fahy said in a statement. “Under this settlement, the tentative moratorium on M-44s in Idaho is locked in, at least until the agency completes a full EIS. We need to ban these indiscriminate poison landmines nationwide before there are more victims.”
The settlement also outlines some key areas around Idaho’s wilderness that are now off-limits to Wildlife Services when it comes to the targeting of wolves. These include key areas in Sawtooth Valley, Craters of the Moon and Hells Canyon, as well as several other Idaho lands with notable wolf populations.
This settlement comes as the practice of wolf hunting and trapping is frequently and hotly debated in Idaho, with some claiming that managing the population of wolves helps to protect livestock while others maintain aggressive control activities over wolf populations could lead to populational damage.
A recent estimate by the director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game indicates around 1,000 wolves currently on Idaho land.
Talasi Brooks, a staff attorney with Western Watersheds Project, said Wednesday’ settlement not only offers some much needed immediate protections for wildlife, but should also remind Wildlife Services that scientific data does not support the idea that killing wolves and other predators will cut back on lost livestock.
“Wildlife Services won’t be able to keep ignoring the science that shows that killing predators does not reduce livestock losses,” Brooks said in a statement. “Meanwhile, we’re delighted to have delivered a reprieve from Wildlife Services’ wolf-killing in the Sawtooth Valley and Wood River corridor, and a statewide ban on M-44 ‘cyanide bombs’ on the three-year anniversary of the Canyon Mansfield tragedy.”
Representation for Wildlife Services did not immediately respond to request for comment by press time.