20 Feb 2010, 4:01pm
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Judge gives his blessing to copters in wilderness

Fish & Game officials set to collar wolves

By Eric Barker, Lewiston Tribune, February 20th, 2010 [here]

A federal judge said Friday the Idaho Department of Fish and Game can land helicopters in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area this winter to capture and place radio collars on wolves.

The department won Forest Service approval late last year to briefly land in the wilderness up to 20 times while biologists are flying over counting deer and elk. The landings would occur if and when fish and game biologists spot and are able to shoot wolves with tranquilizer darts. Once on the ground, a biologist would fit the wolves with radio collars to help them monitor wolf movements and populations.

But several environmental and wilderness protection groups sued, saying the landings violated the Wilderness Act. Motorized travel is not allowed in federally designated wilderness areas but there are several exceptions, including one for scientific studies that lead to improving wilderness conditions.

On Friday, Judge B. Lynn Winmill, of Boise, said the landings meet the criteria for exceptions to the ban on motorized travel and refused to issue an injunction.

“The use of helicopters is designed to restore a specific aspect of the wilderness character of the Frank Church Wilderness that had been earlier destroyed by man. In that context, the helicopter flights for this particular operation are consistent with the categorical exclusion that requires they be “limited in context and intensity.” … [more]



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