Feds extend comment period on Idaho wolf, coyote hunting derby

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BOISE, Idaho — Federal officials have extended the comment period for a proposed wolf- and coyote-hunting derby on public land in Idaho after receiving a letter from Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management extended the deadline one week through Thursday on Idaho for Wildlife's request for a permit for the Jan. 2-3 competitive event near Salmon in the east-central part of the state. The permit would be good for additional derbies for five years.

DeFazio, the ranking member on the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, in the Oct. 9 letter to BLM Director Neil Kornze cited the 56,000 comments the agency previously received in asking that the comment period on the environmental assessment go through Nov. 14.

"The issuance of a permit to allow the event to occur on BLM land for each of the next five years needs to be carefully considered by all stakeholders," DeFazio wrote.

The BLM extended the comment period on Thursday.

"I think it's ridiculous," said Steve Alder of Idaho for Wildlife in a brief comment.

The BLM requires a permit because a derby is considered a competitive event with prizes. In 2013, the hunting group offered two separate, $1,000 prizes — one for the hunter who killed the biggest wolf, the other for the hunter who bagged the most coyotes. The event drew 230 people, about 100 of them hunters, who killed 21 coyotes but no wolves.

Environmental groups lost in federal court last year when a judge ruled the hunting group didn't need a permit from the U.S. Forest Service because derby promoters were encouraging use of the forest for a lawful activity. Last year's event didn't include BLM land because Idaho for Wildlife didn't have a permit required by that agency. If the BLM permit is approved, it would roughly double the group's hunting area this winter.

More hunters are expected this year, and BLM officials are analyzing the impacts of an estimated 500 hunters on about 3 million acres of BLM land over a three-day period. But many of the comments, agency officials said, have more to do with the potential killing of wildlife.

"We do not regulate hunting in the state of Idaho," BLM spokeswoman Sarah Wheeler said.

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