News Shorts April 14, 2004 

Boise

SAYONARA PHELPS

Last Tuesday the Boise City Council quickly and unanimously nixed an appeal by the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, headed by Fred Phelps, to a put a monument in Julia Davis Park about gay people going to hell.

MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE MONUMENT

Last Thursday U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge ruled the Keep the Commandments Coalition must reimburse the city $10,000 in attorney fees incurred fighting a lawsuit regarding the city's decision to remove the Ten Commandments monument from Julia Davis Park. Lodge said the Coalition's lawsuit against the city was "unreasonable and without foundation" and "relied on a novel theory, unsupported by legal precedent, that does not present a colorable claim."

ACLU VICTORY

Last Friday U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill granted the ACLU's request for a temporary restraining order against the Nampa Urban Renewal Agency (NURA) for refusing to allow a group to gather signatures at the city-owned Idaho Center for an initiative to repeal Idaho's Right to Work Law.

On March 12 two volunteers collecting signatures at the Idaho Center were arrested for trespassing. The Idaho Center is owned by the City of Nampa and was built with public funds.

The NURA claims whoever is leasing the Idaho Center for an event has the right to grant groups access to the property. The ACLU argues this policy is a violation of First Amendment rights.

The restraining order remains in effect for ten days. A preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for April 16 at 8 a.m. in the federal courthouse.

Idaho Environment

WOLF MANAGEMENT PUBLIC HEARING

A public hearing on a federal proposal to change the way gray wolves are managed in Idaho takes place Tuesday, April 20 in Boise.

The proposed change would allow State fish and game agencies in Idaho and Montana to manage wolves as completely as they are able, and would expand the circumstances under which lethal control of wolves is allowed by private citizens.

Gray wolves, which were reintroduced in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming in 1995 and 1996, have exceeded recovery goals that were established for the species under the Act. In Idaho the Service estimates there are approximately 370-400 wolves in 37 documented groups or packs. Both Montana and Idaho have Service-approved wolf management plans, which are required in order for those States to assume most management authority over the species until it is delisted. The proposal does not apply to Wyoming because that state does not yet have an approved wolf management plan.

Under the proposal, landowners could take additional steps to protect their livestock and pets from attacks by problem wolves, and the State could issue permits allowing landowners to control wolves that consistently pose a threat to domestic animals.

Among other things, the proposed regulations would provide that:

• Wolves near livestock could be harassed in a non-injurious manner at any time on private land or on public land by the livestock permittee. Wolves attacking livestock, livestock herding and guarding animals and dogs on private land could be taken without a permit if they are attacking or about to attack such animals. A permit would be required for such take on public lands.

• Wolves determined to be causing unacceptable impacts to wildlife populations, such as herds of deer and elk, could also be taken. This could be allowed when such populations are not meeting state management goals and are unlikely to rebound without agency intervention, and when such take would not affect wolf recovery.

The hearing will be held in two sessions, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Grove Hotel, Evergreen Room, 245 South Capitol Blvd. The proposed rule, which was published in the Federal Register on March 9, may be viewed online at http://pacific.fws.gov/news/2004/Final_FR_wolf.pdf. The Service's most recent report on Northern Rocky wolf populations, including numbers for Idaho, is available at http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/annualrpt03/

Public comment on the proposed rule ends at the close of business on May 10.

SECRET GRAZING PACT CLAIM

Three conservation groups—Western Watersheds Project, Idaho Birdhunters and the Ada County Fish and Game League—filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management and Glen Secrist, BLM's Lower Snake River district manager, over an alleged secret deal Secrist made with ranchers that will increase grazing on the Hardtrigger Allotment in the Owyhees.

In response to a previous lawsuit, the BLM in 1999 conducted a review of ecological conditions on Hardtrigger. The agency determined that grazing had severely damaged streams and wildlife habitat on the allotment and ordered sharp reductions in grazing levels in order to reverse decades of livestock impacts.

WWP recently learned that in August 2003, the BLM reversed its decision in a secret settlement reached with ranchers. The deal was brokered by Secrist, who served as an expert witness for Owyhee ranchers in the previous lawsuit, before he was appointed to his BLM post under the Bush Administration.

"Science and the BLM's own findings demonstrate conclusively that livestock grazing is taking a terrible environmental toll in the Owyhees," said Russ Heughins of Idaho Birdhunters and the Ada County Fish and Game League. "Hunters and fishermen see this destruction too. We simply cannot stand by and let ranchers dictate how the public lands are to be managed, without any public oversight."

The Hardtrigger Allotment comprises 21,588 acres of BLM lands about 10 miles south of Marsing. The allotment is principally a sagebrush-steppe ecosystem, a unique terrain known for its fragile desert landscape and abundant biological diversity. Several special status species occur within the allotment, including sage grouse, California bighorn sheep, pygmy rabbits, western burrowing owls, northern harriers, long-billed curlews, yellow warblers and western toads.

"The federal courts have ruled time and again over the past five years that grazing levels in the Owyhees are too high and are causing enormous harm to fish and wildlife," said Todd Tucci, a staff attorney with Advocates for the West, representing the conservation groups. "For BLM to sidestep these rulings—not to mention its own findings—is appalling, and we believe the courts will not look kindly on these actions."

U.S. NATIONAL DEBT CLOCK

The Outstanding Public Debt as of April 13 is $7,170,443,281,065.06.

The estimated population of the United States is 293,786,926, so each citizen's share of this debt is $24,406.95.

The National Debt has continued to increase an average of $1.98 billion per day since September 30, 2003.

Source: www.brillig.com/debt_clock/

U.S./IRAQ DEATH TALLY

As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 13, 674 U.S. service members have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 419 in combat and 190 from non-combat-related incidents and accidents.

Source: U.S. Department of Defense

Got a news tip? E-mail cynthia@boiseweekly.com or call 344-2055 ext. 3020.

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