We applaud Judge Winmill’s decision to postpone destroying data collected from elk and wolf collars in Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and urge the Judge to allow Idaho Fish & Game (F&G) Department to use its data. Plaintiff Earthjustice wants data destroyed because the Forest Service allowed F&G to use helicopters in winter to collar wildlife which it calls “an illegal action in wilderness creating the threat of further harm to wilderness.” This view oversimplifies both the Wilderness Act and the Frank Church wilderness which includes numerous airstrips, commercial lodges and jet boats on the Main Salmon River; uses prescribed in enabling legislation: the Central Idaho Wilderness Act of 1980.
The Wilderness Act of 1964 prohibits such uses but allows them if they existed before a wilderness was designated. Further, wilderness managers may use motorized equipment and mechanical transport as needed “for administration of the area for purposes of the Act.” Helicopters are used in wilderness, for example, for fire-fighting and some burn-area restoration. F&G has been pressured by hunters who claim wolves are reducing elk populations. The winter-collar survey should help F&G better understand and manage wildlife populations endemic to the wilderness.
David and Cindy Chojnacky, Hailey