It was surprising that in his opinion of wilderness and wildlife management in Idaho, Al Van Vooren, former Idaho Department of Fish and Game supervisor, made no reference to the January 2017 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Winmill that forced IDFG to destroy elk and wolf data collected in the Frank Church Wilderness. Three lawsuits were filed by environmental groups protesting the use of helicopters (which was approved by USFS) and wildlife management in the wilderness and this ruling essentially stopped cold, Idaho’s ability to manage wildlife in wilderness. Judge Winmill, a Clinton appointee, stated after the ruling: “The IDFG has collected data in violation of federal law and intends to use that data to seek approvals in the future for more helicopter landings in the wilderness area.”
Besides the waste of data and money, the ruling negates the wording in the wilderness act, Idaho’s Constitution and the misleading statements by the U.S. Forest Service and wilderness supporters that helicopter use in a Scotchman wilderness would be allowed. The state has had to invest considerable effort to try to reestablish management control in all existing and potentially new wilderness.
Portions of Scotchman, like much of our national forests, are in great need of forest management, due to decades of non-management by the USFS. Wildlife habitat and forest health go hand in hand. No one is proposing to build roads in the Scotchman area, but meaningful wildlife and habitat management requires the use of helicopters and the clear authority of the state to manage wildlife and habitat.