Wilderness not to blame for wildlife issues

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A recent opinion by Pete Thompson, Nancy Hadley, Tony McDermott, and Brad Corkill suggests that wildlife will be in peril if S.3531 (introduced by Idaho’s U.S. Senator Risch) passes. To make their case, they build upon questionable presumptions, starting in the first paragraph in which they speak for a dead person.

In the second paragraph, they state unequivocally that “the U.S. Forest Service…will continue to manage it as wilderness regardless of the designation.” The “it” in this bold statement refers to the Idaho portion of the proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness. I wish that were the case, but it most assuredly is not.

The letter speaks to two lawsuits in which plaintiffs sued for actions performed by Idaho Fish and Game and by Federal Wildlife Services Agency. Thompson et al must find these actions offensive, as each served on the IDFG Commission. I suggest that thorough research on these actions will offer a better understanding of the particular issues and will demonstrate that wilderness designation does not preclude wildlife management as long as both agencies follow proper guidelines and procedures.

Thompson et al cast a wide net in their accusations, trying to gather up the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness (FSPW) into a category of “extreme environmental organizations” whose goal is “to limit the state’s ability to adequately manage its wildlife and other resources through the use of endless lawsuits.” This will come as a surprise to many folks. FSPW, in carrying out its mission, has acted collaboratively with diverse stakeholders, including individuals, businesses, and state and federal agencies in Idaho and Montana. It may also surprise the many hunters and anglers who support wilderness designation for Scotchman Peaks, evidenced by endorsements from the Back Country Hunters and Anglers, Bull Lake Rod and Gun Cub, Libby Rod and Gun Club, and the Idaho Wildlife Federation.

FSPW’s support of IDFG’s “Multispecies Baseline Initiative Program” (MSBI) tangibly demonstrates its collaborative efforts with Idaho Fish and Game. As a result of years of recruiting, training, and organizing 200+ volunteers to run forest carnivore bait stations in the West Cabinet Mountains, in-kind matching funds totaled over $300,000. These dollars, representing over 10 percent of the entire MSBI budget, helped secure 1.2 million federal dollars for IDFG, enabling baseline data collection of nearly 200 under-studied species and associated micro-climate data at 2,000 sites across the Idaho Panhandle and adjoining mountain ranges.

Finally, S.3531 merits a reading. It’s short and sweet and here is a direct quote from section (c): “FISH AND WILDLIFE.—Nothing in this Act affects the jurisdiction of the State of Idaho with respect to fish and wildlife on public land in the State.” The act can be found easily on the website www.scotchmanpeaks.org.

There may be issues with wildlife management in Idaho. It’s not accurate to blame designated wilderness for them or to assault a campaign that has been transparent and collaborative. Better coordination between IDFG and the USFS would help to solve many wildlife management issues in and outside wilderness areas.

LEXIE DE FREMERY

Sagle

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