The Blaine County Recreation District on Wednesday joined a chorus of local protest against proposed wolf trapping in Blaine County.
The nonprofit organization, which manages and maintains more than 120 miles of winter trails and is a conduit for outdoor recreation generally, sent a letter to Magic Valley Fish and Game Commissioner Greg Cameron calling for continued curtailment of wolf trapping in the area.
“Trapping of wildlife, including wolves, in the Wood River Valley puts the recreational public at risk,” wrote BCRD Executive Director Mark Davidson. His letter reflected the views of the BCRD board expressed during a meeting last Thursday.
On March 18, the seven-member Idaho Fish and Game Commission will set next year’s big game rules and consider a proposal from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s regional Magic Valley office to allow wolf trapping in the Wood River Valley, including many areas where the BCRD maintains trails.
Since 1976, the BCRD has partnered with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Blaine County and local cities to develop and support outdoor recreation opportunities, Davidson wrote.
Davidson told the Express that a number of people have been seeking a public comment from the BCRD on the issue.
“One of our board members was approached directly about getting BCRD to weigh in,” he said. “With the amount of people using our trails and accessing the broader public lands trail network and getting outside in our area it seems like possible conflicts could arise. From a BCRD perspective we want to do our part to reduce possible conflicts with traps either by dogs getting caught in them or people possibly coming across a trap while out in the woods.”
The proposal to expand wolf trapping to game Units 48 and 49, located on each side of state Highway 75, was put forward by Ponderay-based Foundation for Wildlife Management and the Idaho Trappers Association, based in Fairfield. The foundation pays $1,000 bounties for trapped wolves, reportedly to decrease wolf depredations on livestock.
Davidson worries that such trapping activities could put people and pets in jeopardy as outdoor recreation grows in popularity, he said. His letter points out that the BCRD has seen significant increases in trail use in summer and winter, with snowshoe trail passes increasing by 250% this year. Dog pass sales have increased by 50%, the BCRD reported. According to the BCRD letter, winter sports enthusiasts could also be at increased risk of getting caught in a trap.
“Backcountry skiing has also seen an increase in user days, accessing many areas where wolf trapping may occur,” the letter states. “Due to the high volume of outdoor recreation in this area, BCRD strongly urges the Idaho Fish and Game Department to curtail wolf trapping in Blaine County, [U]nits 48 and 49.”
The letter states that the BCRD board is especially concerned about traps that could be located at popular trail access points, such as around Galena Lodge, which lead “deep into Idaho backcountry.”