POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) — An outspoken critic of Idaho's phosphate industry and its deadly impact on some animals has pleaded guilty to poaching two elk.

Marv Hoyt, Idaho director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, will leave his job after acknowledging in court that he illegally killed two cow elk during a November hunting trip in Caribou County, the Idaho State Journal reported Tuesday (http://bit.ly/SxHTxs ).

Hoyt has criticized mining and the resulting selenium pollution that has killed dozens of sheep and cattle that graze in southeastern Idaho's rich phosphate patch and sometimes wander into contaminated areas.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials said Hoyt killed three elk and left the meat of two to waste in a field. He had only one valid elk tag when the incident took place Nov. 2 and lied about taking the other two animals, Fish and Game officers said.

"Hoyt was dishonest for nearly 30 minutes regarding his knowledge of any additional animals that he may have killed, adamantly denying that he had killed any other elk the day he killed his," according to the agency report.

Hoyt pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors — unlawful taking of game and wasteful destruction of wildlife. Last month, 6th District Magistrate Judge David Evans sentenced Hoyt to 30 days in jail, suspended the sentence, fined him more than $2,100 and ordered that he pay $2,750 in restitution. Hoyt was also placed on supervised probation for four years, ordered to serve 32 hours of community service and had his hunting privileges revoked.

Hoyt, an Idaho Falls resident, couldn't immediately be reached for comment Wednesday by The Associated Press.

Jeff Welsch, communications director for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, told the AP that Hoyt is on vacation through December and will resign at the end of the period. Welch said Hoyt wasn't fired.

One of the Bozeman, Mont.-based environmental group's core missions is protecting elk, among other wildlife.

"GYC deeply regrets this incident and in no way either condones or excuses Marv Hoyt's judgment," according a statement from the group. "As advocates for all lands, waters and wildlife in greater Yellowstone, our credibility depends upon consistently holding ourselves to the highest legal and ethical standards."

Fish and Game officer Blake Phillips learned of the dead elk Nov. 9 while on his own hunting trip in the Nate Canyon area and immediately began an investigation with two other officers.

All told, they found three elk within 100 yards of one another. The first had been gutted, the meat taken. But nearby, they discovered two animals that had simply been left to rot. To conceal his crime, Hoyt broke off tree branches to cover up at least one of the illegally killed animals.

One reason he got such a tough sentence: Hoyt also acknowledged illegally killing an elk in 2001.

Though the statute of limitations had expired on that 12-year-old offense, Fish and Game officials included the incident in their report on these latest offenses, to encourage the judge to appropriately punish a scofflaw hunter with "a pattern of carelessness."

"It certainly played a role in his sentence, that's why we had it in our investigation," Phillips told the AP Wednesday afternoon.


Information from: Idaho State Journal, http://www.journalnet.com

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