The U.S. Forest Service (FS) is poised to allow Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) to use helicopters to pursue, capture, and collar up to 20 bighorn sheep in the Gospel Hump and Frank Church-River of No Return Wildernesses in Idaho. IDFG would capture the sheep from the air using net guns, and then land helicopters to put radio collars on the sheep. The operation is planned for Marach 2022, and is expected to take up to three days.
The stated purpose is to enable IDFG to test bighorn sheep now and in the future for Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae (MOVI) bacteria. The project presents yet another motorized intrusion and intentional trammeling of Wilderness in Idaho, not to mention undue stress for the sheep.
We need you to speak out against this unlawful capture and collar project by the March 1 public comment deadline.
If this proposal sounds familiar it’s because the FS has authorized unlawful IDFG helicopter capture and collar operations in Wilderness in the past, targeting elk and wolves in the Frank Church-River of No Return (RONR) Wilderness. We took the agency to federal court and won—in 2020, the court admonished the FS and IDFG for their rushed implementation of helicopter projects in Wilderness and ruled the FS must wait at least 30 days after a decision before it can authorize future helicopter use in the RONR Wilderness. While the FS has committed to a 30-day delay for bighorn sheep captures in the RONR, it has made no such commitments for the Gospel-Hump Wilderness.
Back in 2010, when a judge allowed an IDFG helicopter-assisted wolf-collaring project in the RONR Wilderness, he warned the FS that it “must proceed very cautiously here because the law is not on their side if they intend to proceed with further helicopter projects in the [Wilderness].” It’s long past time for the FS to stand up for Wilderness and the law by rejecting this latest IDFG project. IDFG can conduct its monitoring outside of Wilderness.
The use of helicopters to pursue, capture, and place telemetry tracking collars on wild animals deep within Wilderness—to transmit their every movement to a computer, manned by a “game” agency that places high value on control and manipulation—is fundamentally antithetical to everything Wilderness is about.
Photo: Amanda Soliday/USFWS via Flickr
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