Wolf near the entrance to Artist Paint Pots

NPS / Jacob W. Frank

BOZEMAN, Mont. - The U.S. Forest Service was asked by several wildlife advocacy groups to issue new protections for wolves in designated wilderness areas.

The coalition of wildlife advocacy groups is being represented by the non-profit environmental law firm Earthjustice.

A petition was submitted to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and top Forest Service officials asking the agency to enact measures to protect wolves in National Forest wilderness areas from new Idaho and Montana laws enacted during their 2021 legislative sessions.

A release from the Center for Biological Diversity says the anti-wolf laws target up to 1,800 wolves across the two states. One goal of the laws is to artificially inflate elk populations to levels last seen in the mid-1990s, before wolves were reintroduced to their historic range in the Northern Rockies.

“A wilderness is supposed to be a wild place governed by natural conditions, not an elk farm,” said Earthjustice attorney Timothy Preso. “We are calling on the Forest Service to prevent Montana and Idaho from taking the wild out of wilderness through their aggressive wolf-removal campaigns.”

The petition focuses on a guarantee in the 1964 Wilderness Act that the Forest Service must manage designated wilderness as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, … retaining its primeval character and influence, … which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions.”

“New laws that authorize professional contractors and subsidized trappers to drive down wolf populations threaten to degrade wilderness conditions by upsetting the balance of predator and prey and eliminating a keystone wildlife species that is an icon of the wilderness landscape,” the release reads.

The Forest Service is being asked by the petition to issue new regulations and closure orders to prevent wolf killing by professional and subsidized hunters and trappers across nearly 8 million acres of designated wilderness in Idaho and Montana.

The petitioner groups include the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Clearwater, Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Legislative Fund, International Wildlife Coexistence Network, Sierra Club, Western Watersheds Project, Wilderness Watch, and Wolves of the Rockies.

You can read the petition online here.

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