The Wildlife News http://www.thewildlifenews.com News and commentary on wildlife and public land issues in the Western United States Wed, 22 Jun 2016 23:45:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Why is logging dying? Blame the Market http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/06/22/why-is-logging-dying-blame-the-market/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/06/22/why-is-logging-dying-blame-the-market/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 23:45:05 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32413 George Wuerthner OPINIONJune 15, 2016Web Exclusiv

 

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you’d like to share an opinion [...]]]>

Environmental regulations and endangered species protections are not at fault for Western logging’s decline.

George Wuerthner OPINIONJune 15, 2016Web Exclusiv

 

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you’d like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston atbetsym@hcn.org.

 

Critics of public lands like to say that timber jobs declined and mills closed over the last 20 years because environmental protections such as the Endangered Species Act and other laws made the cost of logging skyrocket. This complaint is repeated so often it is usually stated as unqualified truth.

If you believe the rhetoric, the way federal lands are managed has been the problem. If only there were more private owners of the land, local economies would prosper, and there would be stable, long-term stewardship.

If only that were true. But if you compare the mostly private wood-products industry in the state of Maine to the West’s experiences on public land, you find that environmental regulations had little to do with the demise of logging.

Ninety percent of Maine is forested, and more than 93 percent of the state’s land is privately owned, mostly by large timber companies that sell trees to the wood-products industry. If private lands lead to prosperity and healthy landscapes, Maine should be the poster child for the country.  And unlike the West, Maine, imposes minimal regulations on private landowners. There are also almost no listed endangered species in Maine to harry the timber industry.

Yet today, the forest-products industry in Maine is a shadow of its former self. In 1980, there were 25 pulp and paper mills in the state. Today, two-thirds of those mills are gone. Since 1990, the state has lost 13,000 of its approximately 17,000 paper-industry jobs, including more than 2,300 in the past five years. The decline continues. Associated wood products companies in Maine have also seen a decline – everything from wood furniture, wood flooring and clothespin producers have closed up shop.

The decline in both employment and production in Maine was caused by the same forces that drastically cut forest industry jobs in the West: foreign competition, which brought in cheaper wood products, technological advances and new automation that allowed computers instead of people to run machinery. High energy prices and labor costs also played a role as plastic and steel moved in to replace wood.

Think about the brightly colored plastic Adirondack chairs for sale at Home Depot now replacing the wooden chairs on which they are modeled. Instead of wood rafters, steel-beam has replaced two-by-fours in some construction, and so forth. The decline in newspapers and print materials has also dramatically altered demand for pulp production. All of these factors are affecting the West’s wood industry as much as they affect Maine.

These days, most of the new sawmills and pulp mills built in the United States are in the South. Trees grow faster there, and unlike the Western United States, they can reach harvestable age in a decade or two. To the timber industry, the longer you have to wait to cut trees, the higher the risk. Your trees might die in a forest fire, a beetle outbreak or some other natural event. So locating your mills in places where you can grow a tree to merchantable size quickly is a smart business practice.

Furthermore, most of the Southern timberlands are flat and accessible year-round. In the steep mountains of the West, road construction costs are far greater, and snow limits seasonal access.

So that’s the picture: The decline of the Western wood products industry – like that in Maine – occurred because of economic realities that favor other regions of the globe. Blaming environmentalists, endangered species protection, or environmental regulations is easy. But blame fails to explain a changing world, or help us understand its nuances.

Unlike Maine, the West has an alternative. Its abundant public lands – in particular its wilderness areas, national parks and monuments – provides the foundation for another future for the region. While not all the changes that come with the “new” economy are welcome – take sprawl and increased impacts from recreational users – they can be managed if we make intelligent choices.

The West boasts iconic wildlands like Grand Canyon and Yellowstone national parks, the Owyhee Canyonlands and the Gila Wilderness. In the end, federal ownership and protection of wildlands and open spaces is far superior to the Maine model of private ownership and maximized profits.  Our model gives us the chance to manage forests sensibly, and it offers at least some potential for a more sustainable future for Western communities.

George Wuerthner is a contributor to Writers on the Range, the opinion service of High Country News. He lives in Bend, Oregon, and is an ecologist who has published 38 books about Western environmental issues

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Of bears and biases: Scientific Judgment and the Fate of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/06/21/of-bears-and-biases-scientific-judgment-and-the-fate-of-yellowstones-grizzlies/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/06/21/of-bears-and-biases-scientific-judgment-and-the-fate-of-yellowstones-grizzlies/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 19:15:50 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32409 How do scientists make judgments that require consideration of ‘the best available science’ under conditions of high uncertainty?  To gain insight into this question, we surveyed a group of grizzly bear researchers.  We found that the majority of experts recommended continued listing of bears, and that experts who were employed by state and federal agencies [...]]]>

How do scientists make judgments that require consideration of ‘the best available science’ under conditions of high uncertainty?  To gain insight into this question, we surveyed a group of grizzly bear researchers.  We found that the majority of experts recommended continued listing of bears, and that experts who were employed by state and federal agencies were 2-3 times more likely to recommend delisting grizzlies than their academic colleagues.  This research is discussed in an article published today by The Conversation.  You can also find a complete report of the project here.

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A Win for Bighorn Sheep in Montana! http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/06/21/a-win-for-bighorn-sheep-in-montana/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/06/21/a-win-for-bighorn-sheep-in-montana/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 15:02:42 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32406 Last week, Western Watersheds Project and our allies scored one for bighorn sheep on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest of Montana. Bighorn herds in the Greenhorn Mountains were threatened by the agency’s failure to consider the impacts of domestic sheep grazing in the nearby Gravelly Mountains.

WWP, Gallatin Wildlife Association, WildEarth Guardians, and Yellowstone Buffalo Foundation [...]]]>

Last week, Western Watersheds Project and our allies scored one for bighorn sheep on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest of Montana. Bighorn herds in the Greenhorn Mountains were threatened by the agency’s failure to consider the impacts of domestic sheep grazing in the nearby Gravelly Mountains.

WWP, Gallatin Wildlife Association, WildEarth Guardians, and Yellowstone Buffalo Foundation had filed the lawsuit against the agency’s domestic sheep authorization because of the disease risk posed to the Greenhorn herds. Additionally, the court found that the agency failed to analyze and disclose an agreement with the sheep permittees that allows them to kill bighorn that come near their herds and prohibits the agency from altering grazing management for the benefit of the bighorn.

The court ordered the forest to redo its analysis and consider the reintroduction of bighorn sheep in the area, follow the guidance for managing bighorn as a sensitive species, consider the kill permits in developing management alternatives, assess the scientific evidence of disease transmission, and address the reality that closed grazing allotments could be potential reintroduction sites for bighorn populations. Effectively, the court has ordered the agency to do the job it should have done in the first place!  

The order is available online here.

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Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act Introduced into Senate http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/06/19/northern-rockies-ecosystem-protection-act-introduced-into-senate/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/06/19/northern-rockies-ecosystem-protection-act-introduced-into-senate/#comments Sun, 19 Jun 2016 18:26:51 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32402 Whatever you do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Goethe

For the first time, the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA) was introduced into the Senate by Senator Whitehouse and has seven co-sponsors including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

The bill, S. 3022, would protect 23 million [...]]]>

Whatever you do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Goethe

For the first time, the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA) was introduced into the Senate by Senator Whitehouse and has seven co-sponsors including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

The bill, S. 3022, would protect 23 million roadless acres in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington. The legislative package has been repeatedly introduced into the House, but this is the first time the bill has any Senate sponsor.

NREPA not only protects the few remaining roadless lands (most of our federal lands and nearly all of our private lands are already roaded and developed), but in keeping with the basic principles of conservation biology, the legislation provides for corridors that would connect these wild chunks of country.

It also promotes restoration of some previously roaded lands providing jobs in road deconstruction.

As singer and wilderenss supporter Carol King noted, “One result of not having NREPA has been a tremendous loss of population among species such as wolverine, lynx, grizzly bear, fluvial Arctic grayling and bull trout.  Plus, protecting these Northern Rockies ecosystems will attract tourists from around the world and, unlike logging, tourism is a sustainable economy that will benefit local communities for generations to come.”

These lands are the fountainheads of the Nation’s major rivers including the Snake/Columbia, Green/Colorado, and Missouri/Mississippi. Protecting these headwaters will preserve the clean drinking water for millions of Americans, as well as industry and agricultural uses.

These mountains are among the most iconic and beautiful landscapes in America. Protecting them as wilderness will greatly enhance the Northern Rockies as a desirable place to live and work. As much new research demonstrates, counties with protected wildlands have lower unemployment, higher property values, and higher incomes than counties with little or no protected lands.

For those who think that wildlands protection only provides tourism jobs, think again. In today’s world where many people can “choose” to live anyplace, access to protected landscapes brings a premium. People move with their feet, and locate near protected federal landscape and bring their jobs, income, and ideas to communities.

Besides favoring business and retirement options for Americans, the legislation will save taxpayers millions of dollars a year by precluding tax payer subsidized timber sales, not to mention protecting habitat for many wildlife species that we (taxpayers) expend great amounts of money to mitigate the impacts of logging sales.

According to a 2010 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report, “Excessive sedimentation is considered the most important factor limiting fish habitat and causing quality impairment.” With over 400,000 miles of logging roads on national forest lands alone, the impact on our rivers and streams is huge. Logging road sedimentation is among the biggest contributors to the demise of bull trout, cutthroat trout, salmon, steelhead and other cold water fish.  Logging roads also fragment and reduce security habitat for other wildlife like elk. All of this is part of the uncounted collateral damage that we must absorb or pay to fix.

Keeping the forestlands of these wildlands intact will also help to alleviate global warming since forests are a huge carbon storage mechanism. Indeed, recent research in Oregon showed that each logging job costs Americans $1.6 million in lost carbon storage. Although the forests of the Northern Rockies are not as productive as those Oregon forests, the basic principle applies.

The proposal is endorsed  by many scientists and former President Jimmy Carter. In the House of Representatives, NREPA is supported by dozens of Congressional representatives led by Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona.

Not surprisingly, none of the Congressional delegations in Idaho, Montana or Wyoming have voiced support for the legislation. But then again, the Northern Rockies state representatives of the past did not support protection of Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park either. It is obvious they were on the wrong side of history.

Also apparently on the wrong side of history are some regional and national organizations who have yet to endorse the proposal including the Montana Wilderness Association and Wilderness Society, among others. Most of these groups believe that such a large, bold proposal will not get traction in Congress. But I can assure you that lack of support from conservation groups will certainly make passage of NPREPA more difficult.

Fortunately, these are national lands owned by all Americans, and as such, local parochial interests—that have been wrong time and time again when it comes to decisions about conserving our public patrimony, are not the only voices that count. With luck NREPA will pass Congress and present and future generations will wonder why there was any reason not to support such bold legislation.

But we should remember the quote from Goethe—dream big—it genius, power, and magic.

To see a map of the proposal go to this link. https://allianceforthewildrockies.org/nrepa/

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Carter Niemeyer writes a new wolf book http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/06/11/carter-niemeyer-writes-a-new-wolf-book/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/06/11/carter-niemeyer-writes-a-new-wolf-book/#comments Sat, 11 Jun 2016 20:13:02 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32398 Carter Niemeyer, with his wife Jenny, has written his second book on his career restoring wolves to the Northern Rocky Mountains. The book is Wolf Land, in paperback and download. It is fourteen unnumbered chapters of his memoirs of wolves and wolf incidents. It is full of action and kept my attention. I read it in [...]]]>

Carter Niemeyer, with his wife Jenny, has written his second book on his career restoring wolves to the Northern Rocky Mountains. The book is Wolf Land, in paperback and download. It is fourteen unnumbered chapters of his memoirs of wolves and wolf incidents. It is full of action and kept my attention. I read it in two sittings. Every chapter was intrinsically interesting and more so because for eleven years I blogged “Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Reports.” I had written about several of these incidents myself, so it was fascinating to read the account from someone who was actually there and usually the leading human participant. The various events described took place in Idaho, Wyoming (including Yellowstone N.P.), Montana, and Oregon.

The book also tells us of Niemeyer’s self-transformation. These stories are not told in a linear fashion, but through his eyes as he works with wolves and the people who love them, those who hate them, and the biologists who study them. He was trained in a traditional way for his career. He saw wildlife as game, non-game and predator, and he was very good using his traps and guns. He was different from most in that he observed and learned not only new techniques, but new ideas including those that made him rethink as original assumptions about wildlife.

His career progressed from being an excellent trapper and predator control agent for the federal government’s Animal Damage Control agency (now renamed Wildlife Services), to becoming its first wolf control expert. Next he became a wolf manager for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). He retired after a very successful stint as the federal head of wolf management in Idaho for the federal government (with the USFWS). During his tenure at the top of the wolf restoration program the Idaho wolf population increased, and amazingly, the number of both wolves killed by the government and the number of livestock lost to wolves declined. I think Idaho would have a better (certainly a happier wolf program) today if he was still at its helm. After his official retirement, he continued to work with wolves and increasingly to advocate for their secure restoration, and for a kind of wolf management that relies much less on lethal control than at the present. Over his career he became disenchanted with the shoot first attitude and uncritical acceptance of the desires of ranchers by his old employer ADC/Wildlife Services. His chapters give many glimpses of these things along with detailed stories of the animal he quickly came to admire.

A few of these events have been described before by others, especially “Beginnings: The Rose Creek Wolves.” It tells the story of the wolf trapping in Alberta for first release in the Northern Rockies wolf restoration program. The tale of Yellowstone wolf 9, her soon-to-be-poached mate no. 10, and her seven pups has been told at greater length, but the story of trapping/darting the wolves in Canada is all Carter. Without his expertise and likeable personality, the wolves would not have been effectively secured for reintroduction. This is true especially due to the time constraints and all the intrigue by parties bent on keeping wolves from being returned to their native range in Idaho and Wyoming.

Most of these stories have been told before only by Carter. “Number 27” was a favorite to me. Originally I had learned about this bold, light colored wolf immediately after her 1996 capture in northern British Columbia. She actually tried to attack the trapper’s helicopter there in the deep wilds near Pink Mountain. Niemeyer tells of his later attempts to retrap or dart her. It turned out that she always jumped at the helicopter if she could. She was a wolf that did things her own way. Wolf 27 was clever avoiding wolf managers from finding her or her pups. Once finally recaptured, Yellowstone Park’s Nez Perce wolf enclosure was not for her. She escaped and taught other wolves how to do it too. Eventually she led a large number out of the Park northwestward toward Dillon, Montana. Niemeyer was then ordered to shoot her, which he reluctantly did. Her escape this time had been foiled by an old fence in front of what would have been escape cover.

The Crystal Creek Pack was one of the three 1995 packs released in Yellowstone. Niemeyer tells the story how they were almost wiped out by their new rivals, the Druid Peak pack. They were reduced to just the alpha female and a sub adult male. They left Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley to settle in the remote Pelican Valley. Both grew very large feasting on elk and bison. They were the origins of Yellowstone’s big, bruising Mollies pack. Niemeyer tells of excitement and perils of chasing and darting them. The male wolf (number six) turned out to be the heaviest wolf measured weighed so far.

There are two stories about dogs that killed livestock. One was of cattle killing being two dogs when a wolf had been suspected. The more amazing one was where a male sheep dog paired off with a female wolf for romance and mutton.

The stories are not just in Yellowstone and Wyoming. They are also of the less known part of the restoration program in Idaho and even about the beginning of the wolves’ eventual colonization of Oregon.

This book is probably interesting whether it is the first book a person has read about wolves or whether they are old hands at observing, reading, or just have intellectual curiosity about wolves.

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Wildlife Services Challenged http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/06/08/wildlife-services-challenged/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/06/08/wildlife-services-challenged/#comments Wed, 08 Jun 2016 20:02:13 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32390 Wildlife Services Challenged

In early June environmental groups filed a law suit against the euphemistically named “Wildlife Services” WS (formerly Animal Damage Control) to halt its killing of wolves in Idaho.

Last year the federal agency killed 72 Idaho wolves at the behest of ranchers, and sometimes hunters as well.  In the past decade, WS [...]]]>

Wildlife Services Challenged

In early June environmental groups filed a law suit against the euphemistically named “Wildlife Services” WS (formerly Animal Damage Control) to halt its killing of wolves in Idaho.

Last year the federal agency killed 72 Idaho wolves at the behest of ranchers, and sometimes hunters as well.  In the past decade, WS has killed over 650 wolves in the Gem State.  Much of this killing occurred while they were supposedly “protected” under the Endangered Species Act.

Even more galling is some of the wolves killed from planes and helicopters were in the Lolo Pass region, an area that is largely roadless. This was done to appease elk hunters who claim wolves are harming their hunting opportunities, even though  the IDFG acknowledges that changing habitat conditions are largely the reason for declining elk numbers (regrowth after large wildfires is replacing shrubs with trees).

Some of these wolf-killing methods included very inhumane procedures including strangulation with neck snares, leg hold traps with animals left to suffer for days before they were ultimately killed, and wounded animals that are left to die a slow death.

The groups, Western Watersheds Project, Predator Defense, WildEarth Guardians, Center for Biodiversity and Friends of the Clearwater, contend that the USDA’s Wildlife Services has not done an adequate job of evaluating the need for, or the impact of its killing program on wolves and other wildlife. They demand the agency halt its slaughter until it updates its management through an Environmental Impact Statement that incorporates new science.

Let’s review many of the justifications for wolf control given by Wildlife Services as well as state agencies.

The first problem is the idea that there is a problem in need of solving by killing wolves.  Livestock losses due to wolves are a very minor component of the annual sources of livestock mortality.  For instance, in 2014 43 cattle and 103 sheep deaths in Idaho were attributed to wolf predation.  But context is needed.  According to the Idaho Department of Agriculture, in 2015 Idaho was home to 2,300,000 cattle and calves, 579,000 dairy cows, and 260,000 sheep and lambs.

The losses attributed to lobos are not even worth noting given how few livestock are actually killed by wolves.  Why are we spending any money protecting private livestock from wolf losses? There are certainly much bigger problems facing the livestock industry than wolves—including poison plants, disease, weather, even domestic dogs kill more livestock than wolves.

If we can beyond this notion that wolves are a threat to the Idaho livestock industry, one can easily question why we are spending tax dollars at all to kill wolves. The money spent trying to kill wolves is likely greater than the value of the livestock losses.  Not to mention that ranchers are compensated already for any livestock losses due to wolves.

Beyond this issue of solving a problem that does not exist, there is new science that suggests that killing wolves can actually increase livestock depredation. The reason is simple. Wolves are social animals. They work cooperatively in packs to bring down large mammals. If you kill some pack members, you reduce the efficiency of that pack in capturing prey.  A pack in disarray is far more likely to kill livestock. Indeed, one study in Wisconsin demonstrated that smaller packs were more likely to kill livestock than larger packs.

Killing wolves (or any predator) skews the population towards younger animals. Younger animals are less skillful at hunting and often less wary. Both of which can contribute to greater human conflicts.

Another argument given for killing wolves is hunter appeasement. The idea is that if you kill wolves—as Wildlife Services is doing in the Lolo Pass area—you will garner more tolerance for wolves among hunters.

Yet research, again in Wisconsin, calls into question that assertion. There, once wolves were delisted from the Endangered Species Act and the state initiated a hunting season, acceptance of wolves among hunters actually declined.  Another recent study also showed that poaching of wolves actually increased after hunting was initiated.

A third argument given for wolf killings is that without legal control wolves will decimate wild prey populations. The evidence does not substantiate this claim.  In Montana in 1992, there were 89,000 elk in the state, and in 2016 their numbers had risen to 167,000 despite the presence of 500-600 wolves.  Idaho has seen similar outcomes. In 2014 hunters killed 12,000 more deer than any time since 1992 and more elk since 2005. What this suggests is that hunting opportunity is certainly not hurting due to the presence of wolves.

The justifications for lethal wolf control simply do not exist. And why US taxpayers should be spending our tax dollars to kill an animal that only recently was taken off the Endangered Species list begs answers.

Hopefully the law suit will force Wildlife Services to evaluate its underlying assumptions and conclude its war on predators is no longer valid. If it merely rehashes its same old justifications, than this is one agency that taxpayers should no longer support with our hard earned dollars.

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How to think about fuel reduction effectiveness at controlling wildfire http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/06/07/32386/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/06/07/32386/#comments Tue, 07 Jun 2016 19:22:22 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32386
When one read papers about the effectiveness of fuel reductions to limit or control wildfires,  there are several points to keep in mind. Many papers suggest that fuel treatments are effective–but under what conditions is critical. See comments below.
First, keep in mind that most researchers are looking for success. So they tend to focus on evidence that suggests fuel reduction work and ignore or do not report the failures.
Second, fuel reductions vary in effectiveness both due to what is done (thinning, burning, or both) as well as where they done. Thin and burn is far more effective than thinning alone, burning is better than thinning in most studies, yet the FS emphasis is on logging/thinning. The majority of thinned forest stands are not burned–at least that is what I have seen around the West.
Third, Fuel effectiveness varies in effectiveness over time. So while a thinned and burned plot might be effective in the first couple of years after treatment, it declines quickly over time. Most studies suggest that if these treatments are not repeated within ten years, you might as well not do them at all. In fact, thinning, in particular, by removing competition for light, water, etc. can induce rapid growth of smaller trees, grass and shrubs which are good fine fuels that can increase fire risk. While the FS has money and political support to log it doesn’t do the follow up maintenance. The money isn’t usually there. In fact, in most cases they don’t even burn a thinned stand once, much less come back in 4-5 years to repeat it. Mind you to maintain effectiveness, you have to do this indefinitely. I.e. you have to reburn over and over again. Where is the money for this in FS budgets.
Fourth, many forest types naturally do not burn frequently. Their normal mode of growth is to accumulate fuels and then burn at mixed to high severity. For instance, lodgepole pine in the Rockies, spruce fir almost everywhere, etc. So fuel treatments are not “restoring’ these forests, but degrading them. Fuel accumulation is normal and natural. But even among dry forests, there is debate about the extent they burned occasionally at high severity. One does not preclude the other. You could have multiple low severity fires and then every hundred years or so have a high severity fire. This is the pattern that has been found in almost all ecosystems where they have bothered to look.
Firth, because of the long fire return interval, the chances that a fire will actually burn through a treatment when they are effective is small to zero. Even in ponderosa pine, Rhodes and Baker showed that only a fraction ( 1-2% of fires if I recall correctly) actually encounter fuel treatments during the time when they were effective. The probably is much less for higher elevation moister forests since fires are typically decades or even hundreds of years apart.
Sixth and probably the most important from a policy perspective is that the majority of our fires are small to moderate size. This is not because of a lack of fuels in most cases, simply because all fires are controlled by weather/climate. If the weather is not conducive to fire spread, it doesn’t matter how much fuel you have. Conversely fires burning under less than extreme weather conditions can be contained with normal fire fighting equipment and effort, and most actually would go out without any control at all whether there were fuel reductions or not.
But the very small number of large fires burning under extreme fire weather conditions are the ones that grow to large blazes like the Biscuit Fire. These are wind driven blazes. Under these extreme conditions–nothing works–yet these are the fires that agencies and politicians are seeking to control and stop.
The bulk of all studies show that even if fuel treatments work under moderate conditions, they do not work under extreme fire weather conditions.
So this raises the very idea of whether all of this money spent on fuel treatments–particularly logging–is worthwhile. Especially when you consider the collateral damage from logging–roads, sedimentation, weeds, removal of biomass, etc.and that most lose money too. I’m less opposed to prescribed burning since it more or less mimics natural conditions, but one has to recognize that even prescribed burning has its limitations.
Seventh, logging is not the same as natural thinning agents. Beetles, wildfire, disease etc. “select” different trees for removal. It is like the documented difference between the animals that wolves remove from an elk herd and the ones that hunters take. Wolves improve the herd, while hunting degrades it. It can be argued that logging is degrading the long-term resilience of the forest ecosystem.
To give only one example, some lodgepole pine are more resistant to bark beetles due to the fact that they have more resin ducts. A forester wandering through a lodgepole stand marking trees cannot tell which of the trees have this genetic trait. And not all trees may have it. So it’s entirely possible that thinning might remove this feature from a significant number of trees, reducing the forest’s ability to cope with beetles. Ditto for all kinds of other traits whether is it resistant to fires (thicker bark perhaps), drought, cold, etc. etc. etc.
Furthermore, there is a philosophical bias against large fires. Most assume that reducing high severity fires is a worthwhile goal, when in fact, one could argue that we need more high severity fires.  Such blazes are the major source of dead wood input into the forest ecosystem.Some argue that the snag forest resulting from wildfires is the most rare habitat out there and short-lived since vegetation usually grows back quickly.
Eighth, if you are going to do fuel treatments at all focus it on the edge of communities and homes. All the studies show that you need not treat areas more than a couple of hundred feet from homes and communities. So all these fuel treatments miles from towns are essentially a waste of time for a host of reasons.
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Kathie Lynch: Yellowstone Wolf Update: June 2016 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/06/04/kathie-lynch-yellowstone-wolf-update-june-2016/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/06/04/kathie-lynch-yellowstone-wolf-update-june-2016/#respond Sat, 04 Jun 2016 18:59:13 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32375 Copyright © Kathie Lynch

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“Wolf pups at Slough Creek!”—words that warm the heart of wolf watchers everywhere! For the first time since 2010 (when Lamar Canyon alpha “The ’06 Female” denned there), we have a den in view, and we get to watch the pups grow [...]]]>

Wolf Pups at Slough Creek!

Copyright © Kathie Lynch

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“Wolf pups at Slough Creek!”—words that warm the heart of wolf watchers everywhere! For the first time since 2010 (when Lamar Canyon alpha “The ’06 Female” denned there), we have a den in view, and we get to watch the pups grow up!

There’s even more good news—the Junction Butte pack has two litters of pups! Three-year-old sisters 969F and 907F each had pups and are rearing them in the same den.

Based on observed breeding and denning dates, 969F’s pups were born on April 13, and 907F’s pups are 6 days younger. We have seen 9 pups (5 blacks, 4 grays), but we’re not sure how many each mother had.

Surprisingly, the pups were sired by beta 890M, not alpha 911M! A clue from high school biology/genetics confirms this because gray coat color in wolves is recessive and black coat color is dominant. Therefore, two gray parents cannot produce black pups. Since both gray 969F and gray 907F produced at least one black pup, gray alpha 911M cannot be the father.

While it is possible that pups in the same litter may actually have different fathers, black beta 890M was seen breeding with 907F. Although no tie was observed between 969F and 890M, a lot of flirting went on between them during the February breeding season, so they likely bred too.

With spotting scopes eagerly trained on the den hole in the hillside over a mile away from the Slough Creek campground road, all eyes eagerly await every glimpse of the Junction Butte pack’s pups.

The first day watchers got to see them (when 969F’s pups were 3 weeks old), a round of applause and cheers erupted from the group as what looked like a furry black caterpillar toddled into view on the den porch.

Since then, the pups’ rapid growth and development has been amazing. After 907F’s younger pups began making an appearance, it was easy to tell the two sets of pups apart.

The older pups’ ears went erect sometime between age 3-4 weeks, while the younger pups’ ears were still lying close to their heads. Also, the younger pups were far wobblier on their short legs and had short, straight, stick tails, while the older pups were steadier on their longer legs and had longer, curvy tails.

The mothers nursed the pups communally. When a mother arrived at the den entrance (the “porch”), she often stood with her back legs spread, and the pups gathered underneath her belly, standing up on their little hind legs, to reach the milk—a most charming sight!

All wolves, male and female alike, love puppies, but nobody loves these pups more than the black male yearling does! Even before they were old enough to come out of the den, he would stick most of his body into the den hole to see them, leaving just his happily wagging tail outside for all to see.

It’s easy to see that the black male yearling just relishes his role as favorite uncle. He is in seventh Heaven as he plays with them down in the meadow or lies on the porch, allowing the pups to crawl all over him.

The other five yearlings (one light black female, three uncollared grays, and gray 994M) also visit the pups and share in the baby-sitting duties. They act as watchful shepherds to wayward pups that wander away, and they help return the occasional pup that tumbles off the porch. The pack is so fortunate to have the help of the six yearling survivors of last year’s 12 pups.

Although alpha 911M doesn’t seem too involved with the pups, their father, beta 890M, does show a lot of interest. However, when 890M visits the den, he does look a little unsure as to how to manage things. He seems more comfortable with a surveillance role, watching for incoming danger from his post by his favorite tree below the den.

Several times that danger has come in the form of grizzlies! When a bear approaches the den area, all of a sudden more adult wolves than you even knew were there pour out of the gully and surround the bear. The wolves run in and nip at the bear’s butt and then escort him away. One evening, the wolves even treed a hapless black bear; they surrounded the tree trunk like a bunch of hounds!

It will be interesting to see what develops as far as the alpha positions in this pack. Since the two mother wolves, 969F and 907F, are the daughters of current alpha 911M, he will have no breeding opportunities with them next February.

One possibility is that beta 890M, as the father of the pups, might again become alpha; he was previously the Junction Butte pack’s alpha male until he was deposed by current alpha 911M. Another possibility is that 911M may retain his alpha role, with 890M as the breeding male.

The alpha female position is also in question because a mortality signal has been detected from alpha 970F’s radio collar. (The collar transmits a “mort mode” signal when a wolf has not moved for four hours.)

While it is possible that the signal came from a dropped collar, 970F has not been seen since the denning season began in early April, so it is likely that she is dead, cause unknown. Which of the two current mothers, 969F and 907F, may become the new alpha is anyone’s guess.

The Lamar Canyon pack has likewise faced many changes and challenges in 2016. The current pack numbers only four members: alpha 926F, her 2-year-old daughter “Little T,” and two big males, 993M (“Dark Black”) and gray 965M.

A yearling female, “Big T,” disappeared in February. She was severely afflicted with mange and had been trying to survive on her own by scavenging on old carcasses. She was last seen trailing her pack. Perhaps she couldn’t keep up or maybe she was not welcomed back by her mother (926F) or her more dominant sister, “Little T.”

Since the Lamar Canyon pack’s den is likely deep in the trees of the traditional den forest, it is not known whether both 926F and “Little T” produced pups this year. But the two males with whom they were observed breeding, alpha 992M (“Twin”) and “Mottled,” are both missing and believed to be dead.

In late March, the Lamar Canyon pack was near a bull elk carcass to the north of Slough Creek. All of a sudden, the Junction Butte pack exploded onto the scene. The intruders ran into the adjacent trees where the Lamar Canyons were probably bedded, and “Mottled” was never seen again.

In late April, alpha 992M (“Twin”) was spotted to the north of the Buffalo Ranch in Lamar Valley chasing bison calves—and then he was never seen again. As alpha male, he would never have left his pack—especially with his pups about to be born. We’ll never know what happened to him, but the most likely causes include wolf-on-wolf conflict with a rival pack, injury by prey, and illness.

Due to the loss of 992M (“Twin”) and “Mottled,” the Lamar Canyon alpha position fell by default to the last remaining big male at the time, 993M (“Dark Black”). He had previously been the lowest ranking of the four adult males who joined the Lamar Canyon pack in the spring of 2015.

Recently, another big male, 965M, has returned. He had been away from the pack most of the time since late fall. He may challenge 992M (“Dark Black”) for the alpha position. Although still ravaged by mange, 965M’s condition seems to be improving, as mange often does in the summer.

Alpha 926F also has some mange. This is a worry because the mite can be transferred by bodily contact to the pack’s pups. Last summer, the pups were all infected. This certainly contributed to their weakened condition in the fall and winter and likely to their ultimate demise.

On top of everything else, the Lamar Canyons now have to deal with a new challenge. Sixteen Mollies (11 blacks, 5 grays) spent a lot of the winter in the Northern Range. It’s even possible that part of the pack may have decided to settle in Lamar Valley.

Mollies alpha male 980M was killed by a bull elk last August. It is not known whether alpha female 779F ever found a new alpha male, but she is believed to have had pups. She likely denned to the south in her traditional Pelican Valley territory.

The pack is interesting because there is a good chance that black 6-year-old 779F is the mother of at least some of the four 3-year-olds (including gray 978F and black 1014M). She is also the mother of the five 2-year-olds (including black 979F and black 1015M) and the six yearlings (including gray 1013M).

A small group of Mollies, mostly yearlings, led by big, black 2-year-old 1015M, has been busy making kills in the Northern Range. As a pack known for its ability to hunt adult bison, the Mollies have recently been taking advantage of the relatively easy pickings of bison calves born in May.

One Mollie even dragged an entire bison calf carcass uphill on Jasper Bench. This raises some questions: where was it taking the carcass and could there even be a den somewhere there?

Given the large size of the Mollies pack last winter, it does seem possible that an offshoot group may have settled in Lamar Valley. On the other hand, the Mollies in Lamar may just be a bunch of yearlings on holiday from the boredom of den duty down south.

It is disconcerting to see the Mollies bedded right in front of the Middle Foothill in the old Druid rendezvous in Lamar. The Mollies’ proximity to the Lamar Canyon pack’s traditional den forest at the east end of Lamar Valley can only spell even more trouble for the long-suffering Lamar Canyons.

The Lamar Canyons’ former alpha, 8-year-old 755M (now Wapiti Lake pack alpha) is being seen to the south in his new family’s home, Hayden Valley. Now that he has faded with age to the lightest flannel gray, it is hard to believe that he once was black.

He is still with his very light gray (almost white) alpha female.  Watchers devoted to this pack will be waiting eagerly to see 755M’s second litter of pups in his new home. Hopefully the pack’s summer rendezvous site will be in the same great place for viewing in Hayden Valley.

Oddly, the very tiny dark gray female pup was the only one of 755M’s four pups from last year who survived; she is now a light biscuit color. The other three pups (2 blacks, one gray) all disappeared, causes unknown.

The Wapiti Lake alpha female’s parents are the Canyon pack alphas, 712M and his white female. At age 11, they are the quintessential old couple.

If they produced pups this year, it would be their ninth litter together—they have had pups every year (except 2014) beginning in 2007! The Canyon pack also includes their 3-year-old daughter and both of last year’s pups, one black and one gray.

The Prospect Peak pack is elusive this time of year. They usually den far away and/or out of sight in their vast Blacktail Plateau territory.

The pack underwent a big change in leadership during the February breeding season. A new gray male with a high waving tail challenged 8-year-old alpha 763M for the top position. Although this new gray male is uncollared, he is thought to be 2-year-old 966M, who has dropped his collar.

Happily, former alpha 763M is still with the pack, although he often trails along behind the main group. He even bred with alpha 821F, so some of this year’s pups may be his. However, she also bred with an uncollared gray male (likely new alpha 966M).

Other Prospect Peak pack members include three 2-year-olds (gray 964M, a black female, and a black male, “Spotlight,” who has a big round white blaze on his chest), three yearlings (black 996M and 2 uncollared blacks), and a gray adult female. Gray yearling 1012M died in March when he was attacked by Junction Butte alpha 970F and fell off a cliff at Hellroaring.

For everyone devoted to caring about and protecting wolves, it is hard to watch and hear of the hard times they must endure just to survive and proper, even in a protected place like Yellowstone National Park.

It’s no surprise that the words “Wolf pups at Slough Creek!” ring out with joy. As the pups take their first steps out of the dark den and into the bright spring sunshine, they bring with them new life and new hope for the future of wolves in the wild!
——–
Copyright Kathie Lynch 2016

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Conservation Groups Challenge Idaho Wolf-killing  http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/06/01/conservation-groups-challenge-idaho-wolf-killing/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/06/01/conservation-groups-challenge-idaho-wolf-killing/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2016 20:25:46 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32369 BOISE, Idaho— Five conservation groups filed a lawsuit in federal court today challenging the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services’ killing of gray wolves in Idaho.

The agency killed at least 72 wolves in Idaho last year, using methods including foothold traps, wire snares that strangle [...]]]>

USDA’s Wildlife Services Has Killed Hundreds of Idaho Wolves

BOISE, Idaho— Five conservation groups filed a lawsuit in federal court today challenging the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services’ killing of gray wolves in Idaho.

The agency killed at least 72 wolves in Idaho last year, using methods including foothold traps, wire snares that strangle wolves, and aerial gunning from helicopters. The agency has used aerial gunning in central Idaho’s “Lolo zone” for several years in a row — using planes or helicopters to run wolves to exhaustion before shooting them from the air, often leaving them wounded to die slow, painful deaths.

The agency’s environmental analysis from 2011 is woefully outdated due to changing circumstances, including new recreational hunting and trapping that kills hundreds of wolves in Idaho each year, and significant changes in scientific understanding of wolves and ecosystem functions.

Wildlife Services does most of its wolf-killing at the behest of the livestock industry, following reports of livestock depredation. For example, five wolves were killed outside of Hailey, Idaho in July 2015 for allegedly attacking sheep. Documents indicate that Wildlife Services has even attempted to kill wolves in the newly-designated Boulder-White Clouds Wildernesses. But Wildlife Services does not consider whether livestock owners took common-sense precautionary measures to avoid conflicts with wolves such as lambing indoors.

“Wildlife Service’s wolf-killing program is senseless, cruel, and impoverishes our wild country,” said Travis Bruner of Western Watersheds Project. “Killing wolves for private livestock interests is wrong, especially on public lands, where wildlife deserves to come first. In addition, new science shows that it does not reduce conflicts long-term.”

“Wildlife Services has never even bothered to consider how much mortality a healthy wolf population can handle,” said Andrea Santarsiere of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Recent research indicates the state may be overestimating wolf populations — something Wildlife Services must consider before killing more wolves.”

“It is long past time that we base wildlife management decisions on the best available science, not on antiquated, disproven anti-wolf rhetoric,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “Wildlife Services needs to come out of the shadows, update its analyses and adopt practices in keeping with modern science and values about the ethical treatment of animals.”

The agency also kills wolves for the purported benefit of elk herds, including in the Lolo zone.

“The campaign waged against the Lolo’s native wolves in the name of elk is reprehensible. Science shows that the elk decline there is due to long-term, natural-habitat changes, not impacts from wolves,” said Gary Macfarlane of Friends of the Clearwater. “It is particularly galling that Wildlife Services is targeting wolves that mostly live in Wildernesses or large roadless areas. These, especially, are places where wolves should be left alone.”

“Wildlife Services, formerly called Animal Damage Control, has been criticized for over fifty years by some of our nation’s leading predator biologists. It has a long, documented history of violating state and federal laws, and even its own directives,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense. “Idahoans and the American public deserve a guarantee that federal programs like Wildlife Services are using the most up-to-date scientific information available.”

The five conservation organizations are asking the court to order Wildlife Services to cease wolf-killing activities until it prepares an up-to-date environmental analysis of its wolf-killing program. The groups — Western Watersheds Project, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Clearwater, WildEarth Guardians and Predator Defense — are represented by Advocates for the West and Western Watersheds Project attorneys.

Read the complaint here. 

 

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Speak for Wolves is slated for July http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/06/01/speak-for-wolves-is-slated-for-july/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/06/01/speak-for-wolves-is-slated-for-july/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2016 14:08:40 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32363  July 15-17, 2016 is the date for the bash in West Yellowstone-

The third annual Speak for Wolves is set to take place July 15-17, 2016 at the Historic Union Pacific Dining Lodge in West Yellowstone, Montana. This three-day family-friendly event will feature guest speakers, live music, food, poetry, film, dance and art [...]]]>

 July 15-17, 2016 is the date for the bash in West Yellowstone-

The third annual Speak for Wolves is set to take place July 15-17, 2016 at the Historic Union Pacific Dining Lodge in West Yellowstone, Montana. This three-day family-friendly event will feature guest speakers, live music, food, poetry, film, dance and art by Virginie Baude. The mission of Speak for Wolves is to provide an opportunity for Americans to unite and demand wildlife management reform and restore our national heritage. There are five main keys to reforming wildlife management in America:

  1. Restructure State Fish & Game Department operations.
  2. Remove grazing from all federal public lands.
  3. Rein in USDA Wildlife Services.
  4. Ban trapping and snaring on federal public lands.
  5. Cease wildlife derbies and the hunting of carnivores.

The three day schedule is as follows:

Friday July 15

  • 6:00pm Doors Open.
  • 6:30pm Neil Haverstick, Musician and Wolf Advocate.
  • 7:15pm Mary Lee Sanders, Interpretive Dance: In the Spirit of La Loba.
  • 8:00pm Screening of the award-winning documentary Medicine of the Wolf followed by Q&A with Paula Ficara and Steve Wastell, Apex Protection Project and Jill Fritz, The Humane Society.

Saturday July 16

  • 9:00am Doors Open w/coffee and tea.
  •  10:00am Jen Nitz, Author and Wolf Advocate, Rubix Ruckus Reubenstein Takes Himself on a Hike
  • 10:20am Brianna Edwards, Wolf advocate, Mexican Gray Wolves are an Important Part of Arizona’s Ecosystem
  • 10:30am Jessica Blome, Animal League Defense Fund and Kelly Knokes, Wild Earth Guardians, Standing for Wolves: An Introduction to Opening the Courthouse Doors
  • 11:15am Chris Justice, Footloose Montana, Living with Predators: Non-lethal alternatives to conflict animal trapping
  • 12:00pm Natalie Ertz, Wildlands Defense, Malheur and the Land Grab

12:30pm Lunch Break w/pizza and opportunity to visit education booths

  • 1:30pm Corrine Nugent Hayes, Poet and Wolf Advocate, In His Lone Solitude
  • 1:45pm Kevin Proescholdt, Wilderness Watch, Isle Royale: Wilderness or Game Farm?
  • 2:30pm Jill Fritz, The Humane Society, Protecting the Great Lakes Wolves
  • 3:30pm Melissa Smith, Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf, screening of short film Political Predator: Dogs of War.4:00pm Dinner Break
  • 6:00pm Doors Open
  • 6:15pm Matt Stone, Musician and Wolf Advocate
  • 7:00pm Louisa Willcox, Large Carnivore Advocate, Potential Delisting of Greater-Yellowstone Ecosystem Grizzly Bears
  • 7:15pm Dr. David Mattson, Research Wildlife Biologist, The Changing World of Yellowstone Grizzly Bears
  • 8:00pm Raen Bear Stands Last, Guardians of Our Ancestors Legacy, First Nations Perspective on the Federal Government’s Proposal to Remove Protections for Grizzly Bears

Sunday July 17

 

Please visit Speak for Wolves to learn more.

 

 

 

 

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