Missing The Forest For The Trees: Wolf Data Destroyed?

Posted December 13, 2017 by Brandon Mason in General

We’ve all heard the expression “don’t miss the forest for the trees”. We are all guilty of missing the big picture at times, as this old saying implies.

Recently, the Congressionally designated Wilderness Act proved once again that people often “miss the forest for the trees” when it comes to the intent of the Act rather than the letter of the Act.

The Wilderness Act, signed into law in 1964, created the National Wilderness Preservation System and recognized wilderness as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” The Act further defined wilderness as “an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions….” You can read the language in the Act here.

On December 6, 2017, abc News reported that a judge ordered almost two years of data collected from radio-collared elk and wolves in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho be destroyed because the animals were collared in the Wilderness with help from a helicopter. An environmental group called Western Watersheds Project, Friends of the Clearwater and Wilderness Watch enlisted Tim Preso, an attorney for Earthjustice, to handle the case. Gee…do you think there is an axe to grind in that camp?!

The data obtained from two years of collection was intended to be used for better elk/wolf management on the landscape. But now your and my hard-earned tax dollars and license fee dollars are being used once again to pay for nonsense in the court system related to wildlife management.

I’ve been in more than one helicopter of differing sizes and the footprint they leave on the landscape is virtually nonexistent. This method of wildlife capture for study is a very efficient means of higher level wildlife management and has no negative effect on the landscape.

This is just one more case of “missing the forest for the trees,” or more specifically, missing sound wildlife management tactics for bureaucracy. What say you? Am I off-base or spot-on?

About the Author

Brandon Mason
Brandon Mason


    George King

    The inmates are running the asylum !

    Robert G. Bentley

    YEP! And it is now time to take back the asylum ……………and by any means necessary.


    Destroying data? Why would they want to do this? Because a helicopter was used in the data collection? So what? This is a common management practice that has been around for many years. Did the judge consider the data as equivalent to “illegally obtained evidence?” It reminds me more of the way the Nazis burned books.


    The key part of the ESA is the right for organizations like those cited in this sort to file lawsuits. That’s pretty much all they do. And they have a ton of suckers to contribute so they can pay attorneys. The law created a cottage industry. And it’s even worse with all the jobs created for consultants to collect data and write reports.

    kevin h

    If a wolf dies in an Idaho wilderness, did it ever even exist? Ya see where Im going here?


    The reason they have filed suit is that they do not want to have the data available in any form. If there is no data, no kind of management plan can be put in place.

      Harrie Dennison

      Exactly. More than 1 way to skin a cat.

      Brian J

      Exactly the date didn’t match their narrative… just another example of scientific bias.


        I fully concur. They found a sympathetic goof judge to help skewer the process and thus silence the findings. They are no friends of wildlife. They are not conservationists, they are preservationists. They are simple minded peons who base their factless decisions on emotions, and they attempt to force their beliefs on everyone else.


    Condemn the process for collecting the data or address the method that should be used next time, but heck – have some common sense, it”s done, it can’t be taken back, the “footprint” has been left, but by God people, destroy the data? It’s not like this is a murder trial and the evidence was mishandled. That’s just plain stupid and a wasteful use of money by the Watersheds Projects group. Maybe they should use this money to assist in the process. Maybe they should hike in, capture and tag. Everyone wins!




    No surprise. Agenda 21. Just another George Sorros funded group.


    I cannot believe we can be hamstrung by courts on this topic again. You can point a finger at inept attorneys representing wildlife. I know passionate hunters that could plead heart wrenching testimony regarding alpha predation of calves, and fawns. Pictures, testimony from ranchers, everything that can be brought to bear, EVERYTIME we go to court over this stuff. Trail cam pics of predators, highlight the Yellowstone project on bear/wolf interaction that has been going on for over a decade. We should package all the data together for interstate use by Wildlife agencies

    Kent Short

    I’m not sure if there are any stipulations about how data is collected in wilderness areas but if there were no laws were broken in the collection process I’m dumbfounded why the data would
    be destroyed. Put an asterisks beside it if necesssry but the data is only uslelss if it no longer exists and I’m not sure that fact can be argued. Clarify methods and techniques going forward perhaps but to destroy years worth of data that conservation minded persons risked their lives to capture is just beyond logic. I live in Texas which clearly doesn’t have wolf issues at the forefront but to see this happen in any state is disheartening to say the least.

    Bob Freeman

    I’m a career helicopter pilot, and even flew some contracts for ID F&G back in the 70’s. I’m insulted that the helicopter is deemed the only reason that this data is to be destroyed. Clearly, they aren’t happy w/their findings or fear what happens when they’re exposed.

    Robert Friel

    Who is going to appeal the judges obviously biased decision? B

    Larry Shields

    Just remember, the old saying lawyers and politicians are the bottom feeders of society and judges are the pillars of the earth. In reality a judge is just a lawyer who is also a politician.

    Dustin R

    In a murder trial and the cops obtained the only dna evidence illegally it wouldn’t be admitted in trial but it would be ordered to be destroyed. Where are all the sane people in the world?

    Bryan Sprague

    I hope someone is following up on Roberts point


    Common sense is SO much important than a judges view or opinion…… how bout we send him to the woods and see how he fares with the wolves that have decimated the “frank”and see how he survives??? Now that would be accurate data with no use of a helecopter…

    Harrie Dennison

    Anything by any means, and the Court’s just by into it. How do even begin to fight this sort of bias?

    Russ Johnson

    I agree that on the outside it seems excessive. I think I read Fish and Gamr had been warned before, so that may be a factor. Judge Winmill usually gets it right and has a lot of common sense. If any more reasonable groups were on were on the other side, seems like a compromise could be made.

    Peter Lueninghoener

    It takes is a two fold approach to first use the F&G to define what is “untrammeled” and how a helicopter applies to that definition since it does not leave damage and then a lawyer who can argue that point by dissecting the opposing argument. It is not rocket science.

    Brent Ruhlen

    Publish all the data quickly so it is in the public domain. That way a record of it exists if the state is told to destroy it.

    Zach Poiesz

    It seems clear to me they grasped a straw (helicopters) to legitimize their agenda. They will always find a way…It’s Matt Lauer’s fault! 🙂

    Timothy Halloran

    The judge’s ruling in favor of the plaintiffs for the destruction of the data can be perceived to favors the misguided plaintiffs but in actuality is just a wastes of money and in the end may be detrimental to the wolf. The judge by his ruling has taken an effective and precise wolf management tool out of the hands of wildlife management professionals. Idaho will continue to have to manage wolf populations. Idaho just will not be able to use professional hunters with wolf pack location data to manage wolf packs. Instead Idaho will have to resort to issuing wolf tags to recreational hunters to manage wolf populations. Tell me again how this helps the wolves? Idaho needs to appeal Chief Judge B Lynn Winmill’s ruling.

    David Fontaine

    As a long time Id hunter I wonder if there’s more to this story?


    Obviously these folks are concerned that the data may show a need for more wolf management/harvesting. They don’t want these cute wolves to die. Then how can they logically sit back and say it’s OK for these cute wolves to drag down and slowly kill cattle, sheep, elk, deer, or even cute little furry bunnies??


    “……….without permanent improvements or human habitation” – A helicopter landing and leaving, sounds pretty ‘NON-PERMINANT’ to me…..


    Stupidity at its finest. Why would they destroy the data? Just because a helo was used? I have been in data science and management for about 30 years now and that is the just about the stupidest thing I have ever heard.


    Many years ago, Saturday Night Live did a skit where a spokesperson (it might have been Gilda Radner but I don’t remember) was advocating for the SPCESP, the “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Extremely Stupid People.” I think this judge might need protection by the SPCESP.

    Shannon Moore

    Its simple
    …. the data gets destroyed because it did not support the agenda. Much like the global warming data did not support the agenda so they made up new data. – s

    Reg B.

    Your story doesn’t name the Federal Judge but names the attorney. Am I missing something here? All Idaho needs to do is appeal the judge’s decision and get an injunction against destroying the data. So where does Idaho really stand on this issue?


    The issue isn’t the use of the helicopter per say. It is the fact that they were granted a permit to collar only elk. They were told several times they could NOT also collar wolves by Forest Service and a judge to only collar elk. Fish and Game ignored these directives which resulted in the law suit you reference. I am NOT saying it is right or wrong only supplying some facts that were missing

    Mark Kiernan

    Any lame excuse to silence the truth seems to be the norm for all sides when a political agenda is at work. Doing the right thing for any situation is not profitable enough for the mooches and the greedy so they just dream up any stupid reason they can to drain the wallets of regular people who just want to enjoy what God put on this earth, they are all guilty of it, Judges, Lawyers, and Politicians they are all the same.

    Jim Collins

    Elected or appointed judge? We need to pay attention to the judges making the decisions and make that information available to voters.

    Ron VanBibber

    Just another way for the tree huggers to delay delay delay!!!! by any means!!!!


    I’m guessing that the data they have doesn’t go with the narrative the wolf lovers are pushing. So destroy it and see if they can’t get that they want next time. Rediculous!

    David Sanchez

    Politics at our hunting/public land expense.

    Kenneth ebbens

    Maybe the state could use this decision to their advantage. Wolves were introduced by man where we are not to change anything fight to. Remove the wolves. Eradicate them to bring it back again to a no wolf wilderness. We man, put animals into this area. Does the act allow the?

    Ken H.

    If, in fact, the Idaho Game Department violated forest service agreements or a judges orders, they screwed themselves, not the bunny hugging lawyers. I believe the wolf should be managed to control populations and predation on animals and livestock. If the courts and eco-nazis prevent that, I suspect all good hunters will solve that problem. You will never convince an animal rights activist of the necessity of wildlife management. That is tantamount to telling a Muslim to pray to Jesus.

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