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U.S. Forest Agency Under Scrutiny for Helicopter Use in Idaho Wilderness Areas

In Idaho, the U.S. Forest Service is being sued by three environmental groups to challenge a decision regarding helicopters in wilderness areas. 

State wildlife officials in Idaho have begun pushing to outfit elk with tracking collars in order to monitor their population and movement, but to do so would require landing helicopters in remote Idaho wilderness areas. This is particularly a problem because these wilderness areas are protected from a myriad of things, including mechanized equipment.

The Wilderness Watch, Friends of the Clearwater, and the Western Watersheds Project recently filed a lawsuit stating that the U.S. Forest Service is violating Congress’ Wilderness Act, among other laws, by allowing these helicopters to land near the “Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.”

This brings into perspective, also, the aim of collaring elk. The groups believe that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game isn’t being totally transparent in their mission to collar. Instead, they “are concerned that [the Department] is aiming to gather information to justify killing wolves in the area,” as the Agency has stated that it is looking for the reason in the decline of elk populations.

So how is a helicopter necessary in the process of collaring elk? Well, both the U.S. Forest Service and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game would arm workers with tranquilizing darts to be shot from the ‘copter and upon landing, the workers would collar the elks with GPS tracking devices.

There are lingering concerns over the declining elk population, but also in the ratio of cow to calves in the mix. There are indicators that the birth ratio is decreasing, but no set claims can be made until testing or tracking is complete.

While helicopter flights could begin anytime, it’s unclear yet if the three environmental groups will be successful in their attempt to end the use of mechanical equipment in these protected Idaho areas.

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U.S. Forest Agency Under Scrutiny for Helicopter Use in Idaho Wilderness Areas