The Profanity Peak Pack: Loss of wolves and academic freedom
The recent killing of six members of the Profanity Peak wolf pack in NE Washington in retribution for the loss of a few cattle is emblematic of what is wrong with public land policy. As I write, trappers are out to kill the remaining pack members.
What is significant about the destruction of this pack is that the Profanity Peak wolves roamed national forest lands. These are our lands. They belong to all Americans and are part of our national patrimony.
Even if the Profanity Peak Pack were not being slaughtered, it’s important to note that the mere presence of livestock negatively impacts wolves whether they are shot or otherwise killed—something that many livestock supporters are loath to acknowledge.
Domestic livestock consume forage that would otherwise support the native prey of wolves like elk. More domestic animals, means fewer elk.
In essence, domestic livestock grazing public lands are compromising the food resources of public wildlife so that ranchers can turn a private profit.
Worse for wolves, especially wolves confined to a den area because of pups as was the case in the Profanity Peak Pack, when domestic cattle are moved onto our public lands, it creates a social displacement of elk. In other words, elk avoid areas actively being grazed by livestock. If the livestock are grazing lands near a den site, then the wolves automatically have fewer elk to take and must travel further to find their dinner.
If you place cattle within a dozen miles of a wolf pack you are essentially putting the livestock “right on top” of the wolves. And if the presence of cattle forces native prey like elk to abandon the area, can anyone blame the wolves if they resort to killing a domestic animal once in a while?
The loss of the Profanity Peak Pack begs the question of whether any livestock grazing should be permitted in this area. It is obviously good wolf habitat—except of course for the presence of domestic animals.
What is particularly egregious about the on-going slaughter of the Profanity Peak Pack is that it was essentially a preventable conflict. Had the rancher, whose cows invaded the wolf pack’s territory, been required to use other public lands, or better yet, simply lease private pasture, there would have been no livestock losses, hence wolf deaths.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM IS ALSO BEING SLAUGHTERED
But the loss of the Profanity Peak Pack as terrible as it may be, has had an additional effect upon the public’s right to understand the circumstances behind the wolf slaughter. Washington State University has sought to silence one of its researchers, Associate Professor Robert Wielgus. Wielgus is a much respected and published predator ecologist whose on-going research has challenged traditional ideas about predator management.
Wielgus had been studying the Profanity Peak pack and cattle interactions. There were radio collars on both wolves and livestock, so he had a pretty good notion of their locations. In an article published by the Seattle Times on Aug. 25, 2016, Dr. Wielgus stated that a particular livestock operator had “elected to put his livestock directly on top of (the wolves’) den site; we have pictures of cows swamping it…”
This caused an immediate uproar from Washington State University and the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resources Sciences and an attempt to discredit Dr. Wielgus. The University declared in a press release: “Some of Dr. Wielgus’ statements in regard to this controversial issue have been both inaccurate and inappropriate. As such, they have contributed substantially to the growing anger and confusion about this significant wildlife management issue and have unfairly jeopardized the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Wolf Advisory Group’s many-months long stakeholder process. Moreover, the statements do not in any way represent the views or position of Washington State University or the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resources Sciences. These statements are disavowed by our institutions.
WSU then tried to dismiss Dr. Wielgus observation by stating that “In actuality, the livestock were released at low elevation on the east side of the Kettle Crest more than 4 miles from the den site, and dispersed throughout the allotments based on instructions found in the Annual Operating Instructions (AOI).”
However, Donny Martorello with the Washington Fish and Wildlife recently validated Wielgus assertions. In an email September 2nd, Martorello wrote: “Based on field reports of the 13 wolf depredations on livestock since July 8, three were within about a mile of the pack’s activity centers (den or rendezvous sites) and ten ranged from 2 to 10 miles away from wolf activity centers.” Martorello went on to say “As cattle continued to disperse through the allotment they inevitably crossed paths with the den site and later with rendezvous sites.” Martorello also confirmed that salt blocks were even placed near rendezvous sites, thereby attracting livestock to areas utilized by wolves.
This is diving into the weeds over definitions. Whether the cows were quite literally “on top” of the den or four miles away is irrelevant to the wolves. What such statements demonstrates is either the Ag school’s ignorance of wolf biology or a not so-veiled attempt to confuse the public. If you are a wolf where regular daily hunting excursions of 20-30 miles are common, four miles is a short romp. Cattle grazing four miles from a den site is essentially “right on top” of the wolves.
The attempt to muzzle Wielgus is not unusual when academics challenge traditional industries like livestock grazing, logging, or wildlife agencies. They often covertly and not so covertly support (read control) the academic agenda at natural resource schools.
For instance, a few years ago, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks threatened to withdraw its funding of all research at Montana State University in retaliation to a peer reviewed paper written by Dr. Scott Creel that challenged the agencies wolf hunting limits. http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/fwp-warns-msu-over-scientist-s-wolf-study/article_0d470f22-fff8-11df-85de-001cc4c002e0.html
Or consider how the Dean and some professors at the Forestry School at Oregon State University attempted to suppress the publication of a peer reviewed paper that then graduate student, Dan Donato wrote that found that post-fire logging of the Biscuit Fire harmed forest regeneration. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biscuit_Fire_publication_controversy
I had my own experience with this kind of censorship. I had applied for entrance to a Ph.D. program at Montana State University (MSU) in Bozeman and was accepted. I had helped to write a grant proposal to a foundation to fund my research and had obtained financial support for four years.
Prior to admittance into the program, I was well known in Montana as a critic of public lands grazing. So once the Montana Stockgrowers learned that I would be attending MSU, they put pressure on the university to rescind the financial grant offer (which I had written) and they also threatened the professor who was to be my advisor that he might not get tenure if he continued to work with me.
Rather than see this individual lose his opportunity for tenure, not to mention, the idea of attending a program that was hostile to my presence, I “voluntarily” withdrew my application.
The Wielgus character assassination is merely the latest a long sordid history of natural resource interests interfering with, and attempting to suppress research that challenges their hegemony and control of public resources.
It’s important that media, citizens, and others “follow the money.” Whether as blatant as the effort to discredit Dr. Wielgus or subtler, these industries make it clear there are sidebars to your research and what you can say or publish.
To believe that agency “professionals” whether wildlife biologists working for state wildlife agencies or foresters working for the Forest Service or range conservationists working for the BLM are presenting complete objective information is naïve.
However, it goes beyond the agencies since they often fund academic researchers. So if you are a forestry professor at Oregon State University, you know that it is not wise to criticize logging or the Forest Service policies. If you are a wildlife professor you had better not challenge hunting and state wildlife agencies. And if you are a range professor, well you know that cows are God’s gift to mankind so what else do you need to know.
The point is that one must follow the money. As Upton Sinclair noted long ago, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
I don’t mean to imply that all foresters, range cons, wildlife biologists, academics, etc. are doing the bidding of commercial interests. But all are well aware of the parameters of their jobs. There are certain questions that don’t get asked, certain research that is not initiated, and careful omission of specific facts that could change public attitudes or perception. These are the compromises that many make to maintain their employment.
If you violate these unwritten rules, you can suffer. I recall an Idaho BLM fishery biologist who publicly condemned livestock grazing because of its impacts on fish. He was “transferred” to Tonopah, Nevada, just outside of Death Valley and one of the driest places in the West—essentially he was sent to the fish biologist’s equivalent of Siberia.
So one needs to understand these limitations, anticipate them, and know that researchers like Wielgus who stick their heads up are risking a lot more than academic integrity. They could easily find that their schools no longer support their research or adopt other ways to punish you.
George Wuerthner is an ecologist and former hunting guide with a degree in wildlife biology
43 Responses to The Profanity Peak Pack: Loss of wolves and academic freedom
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So what can we do to stop this? This situation is frustrating…isn’t this behavior a conflict of interest when the people who can make or change a decision have a special interest that works on their behalf? It seems that we need someone to step in on the animal’s behalf. What a huge disappointment these people have become. They are not only ruining our country and our planet, they are ruining our schools too…keeping people down is so not what America used to be. Who will appreciate these guys as time goes by…just their associates I guess..
Thank you so much for all of the great and important information. I will gladly share this with everyone..
WSU Throws Professor Rob Weilgus under the Bus, why is that some might wonder? We took a peek at their Donors and pulled out just enough information to show everyone what types of Supporters that WSU and other Prominent Colleges have had over the years. We only bring these things to light for the Public to make their own Decision.
Some of their donors include Charles Koch Foundation; The Koch brothers run 460,000 head of Cattle on 12,000 plus acres.
Here is a link to WSU list of Donors
For Those that would like to Look at the Donor Lists of Various Colleges here is 1.
WSU seems to have a lot of steer manure in their paper…everytime I open to read the rag it smells like bullshit.
How could one not know that the Koch brothers were behind this? I’m glad this reputable wildlife loving site has uncovered it. Anyone got the goods on Bush? I’m sure he and Ted Cruz have a hand in this!
This is an outrageous action taken by government to cater to arrogant cattle ranchers who have usurped our public lands for their own fiscal benefit and are murdering wildlife to protect their larceny.
The ranchers have shown a disregard for the well being of their cattle by moving them to public property that has indigenous wildlife, causing their cattle to suffer needlessly. As a result, they should be fined and have the cattle removed from their ranches and placed in a suitable facility to protect them.
The removal of the wolves because they are in the way seems oddly similar to removing Native Americans to reservations. If a living being is in the way of what we want, do we have the right to relocate them or permanently remove them? Where does the selfishness and arrogance stop?
Some may recall this Wolf Science Panel that was held at WSU? Worth watching again. Rob Wielgus was one of the speakers.
This speaks directly to the discrimination Jon way has experienced in his career by the Ma Dept if wildlife for challenging assumptions about coy wolves
As for the recent profanity pack killings
The state did s grand job of cherry picking which parts of the wolf plan they chose to enforce
The plan itself states that activities that negatively impact wolf denning sites should be avoided
This was a terrible tragedy
Yes, and it keeps happening every two years or so! That’s what I can’t understand. Also, it was very dismaying to read one of the conservation groups or sanctuaries refer to those against this unnecessary killing as ‘extremists’! It would be one thing if it was a different rancher, first time, did his best using non-lethal alternatives, or just sincerely needs some guidance on what to do. This man seems to be insincere, and is having problems repeatedly. This is the second time?
This also doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence about the grizzly science for what they hope is going to be a delisting! What’s the rush?
The following message was sent to the Wolf Advisory Group on September 2 by Donny Martorello, the Wolf Policy Lead for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. I think it’s important to note that the U.S. Forest Service seems to have done nothing to avoid this situation once it became known. Also, range riders are not enough, and why should people be allowed to harass wildlife on public lands for one producer anyway? The cattle should have been removed, or shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
Hello Wolf Advisory Group members and Interested Parties,
I am writing to provide you with an update on the continuing Profanity Peak wolf pack lethal removal effort.
Since July 8, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has documented a total of 13 depredation events on livestock, including eight confirmed and five probable depredations. In the latest event, August 31, the Department documented a confirmed wolf depredation involving one dead calf.
The Department has lethally removed a total of six wolves, the same number reported in my August 25 update. These include two females removed Aug. 5, and two adult males, one adult female, and one female pup removed Aug. 21-22 (the carcass of the adult female taken during the latter period was recovered from the field since my last update).
I also want to make sure you are aware of two other recent developments:
· On August 25, the Seattle Times ran a story http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/profanity-peak-wolf-pack-in-states-gun-sights-after-rancher-turns-out-cattle-on-den/ quoting Dr. Rob Wielgus, associate professor and director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at Washington State University, as saying the livestock producer “elected to put his livestock directly on top” of the Profanity Peak wolf den. On August 31, WSU issued a news release https://news.wsu.edu/2016/08/31/wsu-issues-statement-clarifying-comments-profanity-peak-wolf-pack/ disavowing that and other statements made by Dr. Wielgus in the Times story.
· Yesterday (September 1), about 70 people gathered in front of the Department of Natural Resources building in Olympia to protest WDFW’s action to remove the Profanity Peak pack. The protest, initiated by the Center for Biological Diversity, was peaceful and received some news coverage http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Group-protests-eradication-of-Profanity-Peak-wolf-9198320.php.
Here are some facts I hope will improve everyone’s understanding about the situation in the Profanity Peak pack area.
· Based on field reports of the 13 wolf depredations on livestock since July 8, three were within about a mile of the pack’s activity centers (den or rendezvous sites) and ten ranged from 2 to 10 miles away from wolf activity centers.
· The Profanity Peak pack overlaps almost entirely with federal grazing allotments administered through the U.S. Forest Service. On this range, wolves and livestock share the landscape.
· Four livestock producers operate on the allotments in the area and graze a total of about 1,500 cattle.
· One of the livestock producers set out his cattle (198 pairs of cows-calves) around June 10 in a 30,000-acre allotment, which has only one road access point. The cattle turnout area was four to five miles from the Profanity Peak pack’s den, but the den site wasn’t known or confirmed at the time.
· During the first week of June, Department employees started trapping to place radio collars on Profanity Peak wolves to monitor the pack. There were no collars in this pack prior to that time. We captured and collared an adult male on June 10 and an adult female on June 12.
· As cattle dispersed through the grazing allotment from the release site, the Department employee conducting the trapping noticed cattle starting to come into that area around June 12. In the following weeks biologists began receiving data from those collars, and confirmed the den site by the end of June.
· As cattle continued to disperse through the allotment they inevitably crossed paths with the den site and later with rendezvous sites.
· The Department confirmed the first wolf depredation on July 8. By August 3, the Department had documented four confirmed depredations (and others classified as probable), and the situation met the terms of the lethal removal protocol developed earlier this year. The Director authorized wolf removal actions the same day.
· Following the first depredation July 8, the producer deployed a range rider. The producer also increased human presence on the allotment by hiring two additional people to patrol the area on foot.
· The livestock producers’ U.S. Forest Service grazing permit for this allotment directs them to rotate cattle through multiple allotments over the course of the grazing season. During this time, the paths of wolves and cattle have put the two in close proximity a few times. When such situations occur, the Department works with producers to seek ways to reduce the risk of depredations.
· In one situation, the wolf rendezvous site overlapped with part of the normal grazing path, where livestock were concentrated with the use of salt blocks. Once that overlap was detected, the Department contacted the producer, who removed the salt blocks from the area.
· The Department will continue to communicate and work with the producers to reduce risks of depredations as the situation evolves.
The removal operation of the Profanity Peak pack is ongoing. I will provide another update next week.
This article is spot on, George Wuerthner. I know a hydrologist that was fired for not falling in line (using typical methods with herbicides promoted and funded by the manufacturor) for a range management plan. It involved a tribe, the hydrologist and the BIA with a supervisor educated at WSU. So after 30 years of work for federal agencies the hydrologist was terminated.
“Follow the money” is right.
What will it take to get open range cattle off of public lands? At a minimum, we need to get this open range cattle off some types of public lands. I don’t see how it will happen, but I hope to see ranchers like the McIrvins be forced to have their “product” graze on private land and pay normal grazing rates.
Last week, I sent the following message to Washington Governor Jay Inslee: “Dear Governor Inslee,
I am writing to implore you to please use your influence in stopping the Profanity wolf pack from being completely wiped out on our public lands for the benefit of one recalcitrant ranching outfit that is using the state for their private gain because of their hatred of the species and unwillingness to use other means to protect their herd. This is the second time such unethical killings—using barbaric and cruel methods such as helicopter shooting and employing Judas wolves to locate packs—have been executed by the Department of Fish and Wildlife for the Diamond M Ranch and it is not only infuriating (again!) but also immensely heart-sickening. The recurrence makes me wonder what influence and relationships the owners of the Diamond M Ranch have with the powers that be within the agency and it seems to me that an investigation of any undue influence—as well as the whole incident—is in order.
Wolves have every right to be here, their native land, without being driven to extinction again by ranchers who are full of hate and intolerance, profiting from their public land grazing, and unwilling to learn how to live with the species, the presence of which the public overwhelmingly supports. Yet the state keeps doing their bidding! It’s senseless, scientifically unsound, barbaric, and immensely unjust, especially given the proportion of wolves that have been killed in relation to their small overall number in the state (which is infinitesimal compared to the cattle population).
With the return of wolves to Washington, I had hoped for something better from our state in the treatment and handling of these persecuted and endangered creatures. I still maintain that hope and urge you to speak up about it.”
Yesterday, I got this response from the Governor’s office: “Thank you for contacting Governor Inslee regarding the Profanity Peak wolf pack. The Governor understands that this is a difficult and emotional issue, and he respects your position.
By statute, the Department of Fish & Wildlife has ultimate authority regarding wildlife management in our state, including adopting rules governing lethal removal (RCW 77.12.047) and authorizing lethal removal of wildlife (RCW 77.12.420). While the Governor does appoint members to the Fish & Wildlife Commission, he does not direct the work of the Commission or the Department, nor does he have direct authority over wildlife management.
On August 23rd, Wolf Haven International, the Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife and Conservation Northwest issued the following Joint Conservation Wolf Advisory Group Statement:
“The authorized removal of wolves in the Profanity Peak wolf pack in northeast Washington is deeply regrettable. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is however following the protocol developed by the Washington State’s Wolf Advisory Group (WAG) – a diverse group of stakeholders. The WAG and WDFW have committed to evaluate how the protocol worked on the ground this season in order to improve it for next year. In addition, we intend to conduct a thorough and open-minded assessment of the issues raised for all stakeholders involved.
“We remain steadfast that our important goals remain the long-term recovery and public acceptance of wolves in our state alongside thriving rural communities. In the meantime, we ask our community and the citizens of Washington State and beyond to engage in respectful and civil dialogue as we work through these challenging events. We believe that ultimately we can create conditions where everyone’s values are respected and the needs of wildlife, wildlife advocates, and rural communities are met.”
Again, thank you for sharing your concerns with the Governor and for your commitment to protecting Washington wildlife.”
Discouraging to say the least. And I was rather repulsed by the so-called “Joint Conservation Wolf Advisory Group Statement” issued by Wolf Haven International, the Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife and Conservation Northwest. which has considerably lowered my opinion of all of these organizations.
I stand by my assertion that an investigation over this whole affair is warranted.
This is a really good piece. Thank you for noting that releasing the cattle four miles away is “on top of the den”. And how the natural prey is being driven away.
But especially thank you for pointing out the dangerous precedent WSU sent by allowing agricultural (and beef) money to influence its support for its own academics.
This can’t be tolerated.
“By George” (Wuerthner), as the Settle Mariners limp along with good days and bad days, I’ll use a baseball phrase to comment on your article here; “you knocked this out of the park.” Well done, thank you for more education.
You confirm Professor Weilgus was thrown out of the sniper chopper by WSU to attempt to hide their complicity in their own failures in academic ethics.
Additionally, thanks for the reminder of the cheap-skate rancher bottom-feeding on mismanaged public lands for extreme below-market range fees for range resources consumption to the disadvantage of public arena animals such as Elk and Mule Deer.
Thanks very much for this. As an academician in biology and environmental consultant who has also been a conservation advocate for a long time, I am all too familiar with the issues you raise. We need scientists who speak truth to power more than ever now, and it’s not going to get any easier. It’s going to take a lot of courage to make change happen, not to mention some court battles to ensure freedom of speech without retribution, or use of the (illegal) non-disclosure agreements so many environmental consultants are being forced to sign if they want to be given a contract or keep their job. This is a very important issue you raise, and definitely not just for wolves.
Excellent article. It also illustrates why I could never work in the field of wildlife biology for such corrupt and cowardly entities. They are a plague on this nation.
I learned right out of college in the mid 1970’s, money and corruption rule over all wildlife decisions.
The statement from the Washington State University and the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resources Sciences is also quite interesting because the expert most qualified to speak is being condemned by non-experts not qualified to speak.
Since researching wildlife on my own, I have made discoveries and I have uncovered several extensive government frauds taking place. One I uncovered was that the CA Dept of Fish and Game was rigging deer herd population estimates by 3-4 times to justify excessive hunting tag allotments. This fraud on the hunters of CA had gone on for over a decade. Part of this fraud also included fraudulent reported hunter success rates that were inflated 4-5 times.
The other government fraud I have uncovered has been the mountain of research produced by sellout wind industry experts hiding a devastating slaughter taking place from wind turbines. With voluntary regulations and a premeditated pattern of absurd, contrived, and completely nonscientific studies, the truth about wind turbine mortality impacts to protected species has been hidden.
Wow, this stuff is, or should be, a bombshell. Institutional/corporate/big-ag corruption on a global scale. The salient quote, however, is above: which side your butter is on. Money says what money does, the people got no say. The 1% will wring the last drop of profit out of the apocalypse.
A table with four corners, as a rule of thumb, at midsection leads succession. A table of roundness, as a rule of thumb, in conversation seat’s an opponent’s corner chair. Freedom is dramatic literature, as is a grassy hill with wolves.
essentially he was sent to the fish biologist’s equivalent of Siberia.
there are fish in Siberia:
While I do not know the ground, the fact that this is the second wolf pack within four years that has been killed due to livestock predation, I would bet that the area is fairly wooded and just not conducive to livestock grazing and wolf presence. So what is the solution?
1. The Forest Service should attempt to work with the ranchers to find other areas that are not as heavily wooded and thus more livestock defensible.
2. The ranchers could agree to have their allotments bought out by NGO’s and thus wolves would have the land livestock free.
3. The public should put pressure on the local Forest Service office through phone calls, e-mails and letters asking them what solutions they have to prevent future conflicts, because clearly there will be future problems in this particular area if something doesn’t change. Gray wolves are listed as a endangered species by the State of Washington in this area so when the Forest Service completes their environmental documents for these allotments they have to analyze the effects livestock grazing has on wolves. With the loss of 9 wolves out of a total of 90 in the entire state, and the second pack removal in this general area, this should get the attention of the district ranger (top dog). Contact information for Colville NF is below.
I believe the ultimate solution lies between the Forest Service and ranchers as the WDFW and Wolf Advisory Group are reacting to the problem created when livestock are allowed to graze in inappropriate areas.
Colville National Forest
765 South Main Street
Colville, WA 99114
George, Well said. Nevertheless: having spent a professional lifetime battling “advocacy science” — e.g., on trophy hunting of adult male ungulates and carnivores; and on bear conservation — I can only wonder at my own naivete in not realizing from the start that (a) Those who benefit from a resource will do everything in their power to maximize their benefits from that resource. This includes making institutions dependent on permits, employment, and funding that can be withdrawn at will. It also includes hiring administrators who have far less to gain from allowing subordinates to tell the truth about a controversial issue than from suppressing it. Even people who champion the truth about a controversy dear to their hearts, may suppress truths to their disadvantage. Whistleblowers aren’t saints. (b) People, including scientists, treat their own opinions like crown jewels which they never surrender no matter how much contrary evidence is presented. Challenging their opinions is seen as a personal attack. (c) So no matter how outraged one may feel about venal behavior by public officials, that outrage isn’t likely to change much. So we need to look beyond outrage for more effective weapons. One which I have used with reasonable success are “political” cartoons which are done well enough that people save them and pin them up on their offices, as a constant reminder. Such cartoons have a durability that far surpasses any written protest.
They’re out there. Perhaps a bit dated…
Thoughts from the HSUS. I’d be inclined to trust their opinion, because they do good work and try to come to accord. Note that “cattle being dumped on the den site” is not in question.
But isn’t that interesting. It looks like the WDFW did try.
They certainly are enduring. I have one up on my refrigerator, that has yellowed with age, I’ve forgotten how old it is. It’s a father reading a story Hood to his daughter:
“And then Little Red Riding Hood successfully reintroduced the Big Bad Wolf into the Wild.”
oops, that should read ‘a father reading the story Little Red Riding Hood to his daughter’. 🙂
Excellent article, thank you for your insight into a situation that could have been avoided and from what I understand will be repeated.
As stated by the author “The loss of the Profanity Peak Pack begs the question of whether any livestock grazing should be permitted in this area. It is obviously good wolf habitat—except of course for the presence of domestic animals”.
“What is particularly egregious about the on-going slaughter of the Profanity Peak Pack is that it was essentially a preventable conflict. Had the rancher, whose cows invaded the wolf pack’s territory, been required to use other public lands, or better yet, simply lease private pasture, there would have been no livestock losses, hence wolf deaths”.
I talked with the Public Affairs Officer with the Colville NF and he informed me of the following:
1. EVERY ONE of the grazing allotments on the forest (NE Washinton state) are occupied by wolves. The Forest Service manages public land through ten year land use plans and the areas where these allotments are located were determined to be appropriate and reasonable for grazing. If current livestock grazing is to be excluded from any public land, then the public needs to voice their approval for a change during the next land use plan update. Unless a species is becoming imperiled (wolves are actually expanding in this area of Washington) then the Forest Service can’t simply tell the rancher to not allow his livestock on the allotment. Along with WDFW and the Wolf Advisory Group, the agency works hard to reduce conflicts between livestock and wolves but when natural prey become scarce and essentially indefensible livestock are available for the taking, bad things happen.
2. He also mentioned there are at least a handful of other ranchers that have lost numerous livestock to wolves this year but do not want any publicity.
3. The rancher who hit the headlines has received numerous death threats and at least a dozen of his cows have been shot.
4. One beneficial item the WDFW wolf plan does not include is the relocation of wolves when conflicts occur. Northeast Washington has 95% of the wolf population but there is quite a bit of good habitat west, but of course when an entire pack is removed, natural dispersal diminishes. It’s not brain surgery why relocation is not included.
It’s not as simple as Ken Cole states “The cattle should have been removed, or shouldn’t have been there in the first place”.
Again, the ultimate solution is to buyout allotments of willing ranchers when conflicts occur. Unwilling ranchers will continue to have conflicts as wolves expand and hopefully see “the handwriting on the wall”.
“There are increased expectations from the public to reverse unacceptable livestock impacts on public lands. Although not directly due to FLPMA’s land use planning requirements, the administration of evolving government regulations that address threatened and endangered species, archaeological resources, cultural resources, riparian areas and wetlands, clean water, and wild horses and burros on the public lands has led to more frustrations and complications in the use of these lands by the ranching community. BLM efforts to address these issues has, in many cases, resulted in more precise grazing terms and conditions.
To comply with decreased permit flexibility usually requires the operator to implement more labor and/or capital for intensive grazing management practices. Sheep operators in many cases have also had management stipulations placed on their grazing operations to ensure healthy rangelands and attainment of multiple-use objectives. In some cases, traditional grazing or operating methods have evolved to ensure more controlled grazing practices. More intense herding or grazing practices have increased overall operating costs.
In summary, changing social values and competition for land use have required that public land management decisions achieve greater balance among sometimes conflicting resource uses. These decisions can result in reductions to livestock grazing to protect other equally legitimate resource uses and resource protections.
These decisions can have a negative effect on the economics of specific livestock operators, depending on the type of decision. However, public land management decisions do not always lead to negative economic effects to livestock operators. Decisions leading to improved range conditions can also have a positive and stabilizing effect on ranch operations”
The problem that needs to be addressed IMHO, is it okay for cattle to continue to be in places that disrupt what’s left of wildlife & ecosystems, now that so many are aware of the damage livestock are capable of doing?
I live close to a national forest, a lot of it high country and every year, 10,000 head of cattle are dumped into that forest, for roughly 4 months out of the year and I have no doubt it would be an even longer stay (given how incredibly cheap it is to graze cattle on public lands verses private lands) but heavy snows put an end to those thoughts.
Got to wonder also about ranchers who enjoy subsidies from conservation easements and then lease that land to other ranchers, making a tidy little profit, while taking advantage of cheap public land grazing for their own cattle. Double dipping?
The need for better public land management re: grazing, has changed over the past few decades and many are just catching up to that fact. Kind of like why the Taylor Grazing Act was enacted?
“As a consequence of greed and ignorance, the overtaxed, extremely exploited ranges became severely degraded and calls for gaining control of the situation from all quarters were becoming more insistent”
“All quarters” interesting way of addressing what has become future greed & ignorance 🙂
From page 10 of Wiles, G. J., H. L. Allen, and G. E. Hayes. 2011. Wolf conservation and management plan for
Washington. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, Washington. 297 pp, commonly called the Wolf Plan.
“Translocation is a conservation tool available in the plan that could be used to move wolves from
one recovery region to another if they failed to reach the recovery region through natural dispersal.
If it were proposed, it would go through an extensive public review process.”
Buyout of allotments is certainly an interesting concept, given that ranchers are lessees of public lands. Under what logic does a lessee become an owner? In any case, taxpayers would probably save money to “buy out” ranchers, because Washington taxpayers have paid more to kill wolves and indemnify ranchers for depredations than the ranching industry pays in taxes to the state.
What I have to say here is somewhat related to what happened to these wolves. For many years of my life I in a wilderness region that also had grazing on public lands. I actually got to know most of the ranchers in the region. There are some that I greatly admired and there are some that I despised for thinking they deserved every nickel they could make off the land.
I know of ranchers that have fenced off public land and locked public access gates. I know of ranchers, knowing the feds will never check, have dumped excess cattle on to public lands allowing them to overgraze. I know of ranchers that let their cattle roam freely around rural communities destroying property and causing horrendous traffic accidents because they had long outdated grazing rights from another era.
But there is one rancher that that is at the top of my despised list for his abuse. The rancher that hired people to gut shoot the deer that happened to graze on his alfalfa fields. Many of these deer fed in these fields at a time in the winter when it did not really matter.
In my extensive research into the deer herds of this remote region I had noticed a large number of deer bones I found around the perimeter of this ranch. I did not know the reason for all this high number of oddly placed bones until a man confessed to me one day that he had participated in this rancher’s form pest control.
This man told me he was ordered to gut shoot tresspassing deer so they would wander off his ranch to die.
I don’t know if I believe any of that. Who would have the familiarity with the area and terrain go out tramping around in a national forest to harm cattle? If so, it’s very sad. But a little too convenient, especially with all the shooting of wild horses lately. Hearsay, and vague accusations, with no proof.
At least with the ‘cattle dumped on top of the den site’ claim, two extremely reliable sources stepped forward to back up the claim.
Environmentalists get threatened too; but somehow that is never publicized. Who killed the wolf pups in Idaho also? Not much information on it, so it leads one to think it was too bad to print. None of these things will ever be addressed.
“all the shooting of wild horses” – I see one such almost recent event, Oct 2015, Salt River. Is there an epidemic I missed?
Or do you mean Australia, where it would be legal?
At least there, people thinking of themselves as environmentalists oppose horses it seems.
Apologies if someone already posted this: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/state-rejects-proposed-nonlethal-plan-to-transport-targeted-wolves/
“We received the proposal to relocate the remaining Profanity Peak pack members to California, but that approach just isn’t feasible,” said Eric Gardner, assistant director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), in an emailed statement.”
“People in your state seem to be determined to kill these animals even when there’s an offer to remove them that won’t cost the state a dime,” [Simmons] said.”
So much for wolves being safer in the blue states.
Good article George.
This is very well written. I really have to commend you for your ability to write in a way that tells ypur readers the facts,yet restrain yourself from letting your possible anger and disappointment at this situation belign your writing.
I find that very difficult fo me to do when I write comments about the injustices wolves are dealt just for being alive, by ranchers and their their buddies at WDFW.
The rancher who has initiated the killing of the Profanity Peak pack, is also the same rancher responsible for tbe slaughter of the Wedge pack in 2012.
That this rancher was successful in causing the death of the Profanity pack just makes my blood boil.
Life is one big perspective, so for those of you who have a mindset of objectivity, you may want to read the following:
For those who are not objective, good luck with that!
I have lived in the area of the profanity peak pack most my adult life [25 years] and I have huge issues with the ranchers in that area . Not the Diamond Ranch. Another ranch in the area. They NEVER watch the cattle, they don’t drive them to the alottment like they are suppose too, they just open the gates at the ranch and let the cattle do whatever they want. No one maintains the fences that were once in place to keep the cattle where they are suppose to be. I can not tell you how much damage these cattle have done to my private property, neighbors private property. Or, to go fishing and camping at Davis Lake or Renner Lake and have a heard of cattle come into the camp ground and knock everything over and poop everywhere. This rancher had left a dieing cow in the road one year the entire day. Another year they left a dead cow on someones private property and the stench all summer was sickening. They are not responsible and therefore should not be able to use public lands as such . Its not the cows fault! They are just cows doing what cows do. The ranchers should be held accountable , and if you have cows in the wilderness , then you need to expect these things to happen. And that area IS the wilderness. Ive had the wolves in my yard, and listened to them many nights. Guess what? The wolves never destroyed my yard, or my green house , or ate all my trees , or smashed all my stuff. I say get rid of forest grazing …
It sounds like the local office holders are, nevertheless, ready to go all out so to permit a few ranchers to continue their lackadaisical ways. It seems to be the same almost everywhere.
If someone smarter than me could put a finger on why this tiny segment of the population is able to garner such outsized influence over politics and policy maybe we who oppose them could begin to counter them and begin to dismantle the whole destructive ranching culture, probably beginning with putting the lie to the whole “Cowboy” mythology. “Cowspiracy” was a good start.
Dear Director Jim Unsworth,
I appreciate the response by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regarding the removal of the Profanity Peak wolf pack. However, I am confused at not addressing the impact that the cattle have upon the natural landscape and the natural resources that are supposed to sustain all wildlife in the area.
The cattle grazing is the number one reason why there is a lack of vegetation for all of the wildlife in the area. There are excessive numbers of cattle on the lands. The overgrazing allows for invasive plant species to come into a cleared area. Invasive plants are toxic to wildlife. Has there been any attempt to address the lack of native vegetation in Profanity Peak that encourages the natural prey of the wolves to leave the area to find food elsewhere, such as the elk?
In accordance with NEPA, any lands that receive federal dollars, the lead agency is supposed to conduct an environmental impact assessment when any change in land use is proposed to occur. A change in land use is also considered to be increasing the number of livestock onto federal lands. In conjunction with the change in land use, the lead agency is supposed to conduct an inventory of the lands to determine if the land use will have a negative impact on the native wildlife. Where are the results of the environmental assessments that are required to be conducted to ensure the land use is not endangering the native wildlife?
Since cattle grazing does have a negative impact upon the native wildlife, where are the mitigation/remediation plans that are supposed to be filed with the environmental assessments regarding the cattle grazing activities? When are the residents going to receive a reimbursement from the cattle ranchers for the haphazard conditions of the lands that are caused by cattle grazing activities?
Costs associated with cattle grazing activities are: the cases of giardia lamblia; the monitoring of the vegetation; the monitoring of the wildlife that are affected by the cattle grazing; the wildfires that are occurring due to the introduction of invasive species which is caused from the overgrazing by the cattle; the cost of evacuations from the areas of wildfires; the cost of land restoration; the cost of continued monitoring of wildlife; and the cost of repairs to roads when a landslide has occurred after a wildfire has swept through the area.
The cattle grazing activities are far more costly to the taxpayer. If the cattle ranchers want to graze livestock on federal lands, then they should be the ones to pay for all of the damages that are caused from the grazing activities.
Please leave the wolves alone, Remove the cattle from the areas where the wolves roam so the elk may return.
here is Dalrymple’s financial disclosure. it’s worth looking over.