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Report Finds Minimal Environmental Impacts From Idaho Hunting Derby

Denali National Park and Preserve

Federal land managers in Idaho project minimal environmental damage from allowing a predator hunting derby to take place in the north-eastern part of the state.

That’s the finding of an environmental assessment released Wednesday. It’s part of a controversy that started last winter when hunters competed to kill wolves and coyotes during a two-day event.

The first predator derby attracted international attention, as well as online petitions, and even an undercover report in Vice magazine. Hunters competed for $1,000 prizes for the biggest wolf or most coyotes.

Now, the hunting group that organized it is applying for a five-year permit. That would allow them to hold the derby annually on land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. And in its new report, managers found any impacts would be either non-existent or short-lived.

Katie Fite, of the Western Watersheds Project in Boise, said the report ignores too much.

“It just doesn’t even skim the surface on the complexity of issues involved in this,” she said, referring to things like the ethics of killing predators and the effects of ATVs on streams.

Steve Alder, the head of event organizer Idaho for Wildlife, said he isn’t surprised the BLM found minimal impacts. He said the derby is meant to be an opportunity for young hunters to learn outdoor and gun safety skills.

Alder said about 150 hunters competed last year. They killed 20-30 coyotes and no wolves. He said it would be a “miracle” if anyone shot a wolf, which are notoriously hard to hunt.

The permit would authorize up to 500 hunters to compete on roughly 3 million acres near Salmon, Idaho. A public comment period on the environmental assessment is open for 15 days.

The BLM considered the impacts to streams, soil, fisheries, migratory birds, other wildlife, vegetation, forests and cultural sites. It also examined the economic impact of the derby.

The report’s authors estimate local hotels, restaurants and outfitters in the Salmon area could do an extra $94,000 in business from all the hunters.

On the other hand, they say there could be a negative economic impact if opponents make good on their promise to boycott Idaho. The authors calculate if 1,000 people boycott Idaho, the state could lose $2.3 million. Still, they say, that’s less than 1 percent of how much is earned from out-of-state wildlife enthusiasts each year.

The BLM noted in the report it received 56,500 comments and all but about 10 of those were opposed to the derby. Many of the opposing comments were from other states or other countries, according to the report.

If the BLM decides to issue the permit, the predator derby would start on January 2.