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Wolves in a federal wilderness: should they be left alone or managed?


Some conservation groups are suing federal and Idaho state officials over Idaho's plan to track and kill wolves from two packs in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho.
     The lawsuit, filed by Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project and Wilderness Watch on Monday, asks the judge to stop the extermination immediately to give the case time to work through the courts.
     Idaho wildlife officials hired the hunter late last year to begin killing the two packs. Idaho Department of Fish and Game spokesman Mike Keckler says they hope the reduction of wolves will aid the recovery of elk populations in the region, which have declined dramatically.

"Our latest statistics show that over the last 10 to 12 years, in this particular portion of the Frank Church wilderness, elk have decreased by about 43 percent," said Keckler.

Keckler says there are a total of six wolf packs in the Frank Church. Tim Preso is an attorney with the Bozeman-based Earthjustice law firm, which is representing the conservation groups who filed the suit. He contends the large-scale removal of wolves violates federal law and alters the character of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

"The whole point of a wilderness, under the law, is to have a place where wild nature controls, and predator/prey relationships occur naturally," said Preso.

The issue of wolf control within a wilderness area will be the focus of a two-part series MTPR will air tomorrow and Friday. Tomorrow, News Director Sally Mauk talks with the Idaho fish and game official about why they believe they should be able to manage wolves as they see fit, within a federally designated wilderness. Friday, Sally will speak with the attorney for the conservation groups, about why he thinks they should keep hands off wolves living within a federal wilderness.