It’s on, and then it’s off.
And so it goes as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management at once granted a permit to hold a predator hunting contest on Idaho BLM land and shortly after pulled its permit when environmental groups announced they would sue to ban the hunts.
The BLM in Idaho had earlier delayed it decision to grant a permit for the so-called “coyote and wolf hunting derby” sponsored by Idaho for Wildlife in order to review comments protesting the hunt. The feds eventually issued the permit in mid-November for the expected 100 hunters to pursue coyotes and wolves on BLM land — then reversed its decision a week later citing “factual uncertainties” about the rules of the hunt.
“Ambiguity about details of the Derby 2 operation make it difficult to conclusively determine whether a [permit] is appropriate under our regulations, and if so, what terms and conditions would allow BLM to effectively manage and protect public lands and resources,” wrote Idaho Falls BLM district manager Joe Kraayenbrink. “I hereby rescind my original decision and … [order] Derby participants not to utilize BLM-managed land for any competitive or organizational activities and that the Derby not offer competitive credit for wildlife taken on BLM-managed lands.”
The move is a blow to hunters and land managers who say the contests help cut down on predators who attack game animals and livestock. Organizers say the BLM used last minute changes to the contest as a pretext to cave to environmental group threats.
“Somebody in D.C. twisted that I was trying to change the application so they could blame us," hunt organizer Idaho for Wildlife’s Steve Adler told the Associated Press. "They're trying to blame somebody else because they couldn't take the heat."
Anti-hunting groups, on the other hand, praised the move, saying the ban would help boost wolf populations and promote “peaceful” use of federal land.
“While it’s good to see BLM withdraw their permit, overall this killing contest remains a black eye for Idaho,” said Lynne Stone, director of Boulder-White Clouds Council, according to the Idaho Statesman newspaper. "These are our public lands and we should share them together peacefully and respectfully with wildlife.”
Adler says the contest will go on as planned in mid-January, just on private land. And anyone who kills a coyote or a wolf on BLM land won’t get any prize money for the derby.
“I think you're going to see more hunters out," he told the AP. "This isn't going to save one coyote from being shot, I can guarantee that."