The Wildlife News http://www.thewildlifenews.com News and commentary on wildlife and public land issues in the Western United States Fri, 29 Apr 2016 19:59:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ranching compromises Yellowstone Economic Values http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/04/29/32289/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/04/29/32289/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 19:59:08 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32289 Recently it was reported in the Livingston Enterprise that visitors to Yellowstone National Park contributed $493.6 million in spending in communities near the park. That spending supported 7,737 jobs.

And this research does not include all the jobs and income resulting from those with footloose businesses and/or retirement that they bring to communities like Livingston, in [...]]]>

Recently it was reported in the Livingston Enterprise that visitors to Yellowstone National Park contributed $493.6 million in spending in communities near the park. That spending supported 7,737 jobs.

And this research does not include all the jobs and income resulting from those with footloose businesses and/or retirement that they bring to communities like Livingston, in part, because people want to live near protected lands like Yellowstone.

This should raise some questions in people’s minds about how livestock production harms and compromises the natural and economic values that Yellowstone National Park sustains. .

For instance, we know that wolves are killed outside of Yellowstone, in part, due to pressure from the livestock community to limit predators. Yet one of the attractions for many visitors of Yellowstone are wolves. A recent scientific paper released in the past week showed that killing wolves outside of the park resulted in a 45% reduction on wolf sightings in the park. Similar killings of grizzly bears to protect livestock interests also compromises grizzly recovery.

The Yellowstone River’s premier status as a trout fisheries is largely due to the fact that the water that flows past Livingston comes pouring out of the park, while most of the river’s tributaries in Paradise Valley are sucked dry by irrigators growing hay for livestock. I can easily make the economic argument that water that stays in the streams growing trout is far more valuable than producing hay.

Another attraction of Yellowstone are sightings of bighorn sheep. But domestic sheep transmit disease to wild bighorns. A major die off of wild bighorns near Gardiner was a direct result of contact between domestic animals and wild bighorns.

And as bison are set to become the national animal, we continue to kill bison that migrate from the park. This is appalling because the park’s bison are genetically unique as the only sizeable population of continuously wild bison in the country. Yet we continue to kill them and prevent them from migrating out of the park, even on to other public lands—again to appease ranching interests.

Elk and elk viewing and hunting are a big part of the economy of south central Montana, yet studies demonstrate that when cattle are present, they socially displace elk into less favorable habitat, thereby compromising their ability to thrive, not to mention the bulk of forage on public lands is allotted to domestic animals, reducing what is available to wildlife like elk.

I haven’t even gotten into how cattle compact soils, trash riparian areas, spread weeds, pollute the water, and many other impacts associated with their presence but are regularly “externalized” to the land and other citizens.

A true cost accounting would demonstrate that ranching is a major liability for the regional economy, harming many other natural attributes that are the basis for our growing economy—based on quality of life attributes associated with places like Yellowstone.

Given the growing contribution of natural values to the economic vitality of the region, it would be wise to reconsider whether continued livestock grazing on public lands makes any sense at all. Certainly it is not sensible from an ecological perspective, but it could easily be argued that allowing livestock production to continue on our public lands degrades other important values that are the main drivers of our regional economy.

 

Bio: George Wuerthner is a Park County property owner, and an ecologist who has published 38 books. He is on the board of the Western Watersheds Project, among other organizations.

 

 

 

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Loservilles of the West and modern day Ghost Dance http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/04/25/loservilles-of-the-west-and-modern-day-ghost-dance/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/04/25/loservilles-of-the-west-and-modern-day-ghost-dance/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 17:52:01 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32279 Republican Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, likes to suggest there are “winners” like him and “losers” like most everyone else. And if you want to be on the winning team, you should vote for Trump. Trump has suggested that he is willing to state the truth, and is not inhibited by political correctness. But one truth [...]]]>

Republican Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, likes to suggest there are “winners” like him and “losers” like most everyone else. And if you want to be on the winning team, you should vote for Trump. Trump has suggested that he is willing to state the truth, and is not inhibited by political correctness. But one truth he is unwilling to acknowledge is that most of his supporters across the West are “losers.”

Surveys have shown that most Trump supporters are older, white, with a high school education or less. These people have suffered a disproportionate decline in their economic prospects and their communities during the past few decades. And they are angry, disillusioned, and ready to blame just about everyone else for their predicament.

At least in the West, many of these people live in the smaller rural communities scattered across the vast spaces of America’s outback. You know them—Challis Idaho, Burns, Oregon, Republic, Washington, Libby, Montana, Price, Utah, Rifle, Colorado, Reserve, New Mexico, and many more that could be named. These towns have not enjoyed the prosperity that western urban areas have experienced.

Playing off of Trump’s analogy of losers and winners, a friend of mine–with no qualms about political correctness–calls these small towns Loservilles.” Of course, not everyone in these rural towns are Trump supporters; nor are all small towns are declining in propriety or vitality.

Nevertheless, for at least a century the rural West has been losing its best, brightest, ambitious and most creative people to urban centers. This brain drain has affected the community values and ability to react effectively to changing economic and cultural issues. These “Loservilles” are filled with the people who didn’t leave.

Though they tend to be pockets of poverty in an otherwise booming west, what they really suffer from is not only economic poverty, but a poverty of imagination.

In the past, you didn’t need to be particularly ambitious, creative or bright to raise a family in these communities. There were jobs in mills, mining, logging, oil and gas drilling, and ranching. However, global economics have taken away most of those jobs.

People in these communities blame environmentalists, the federal government, Muslims, Mexicans, atheists, China, and a host of other people for their situation, when the situation is at least to some extent self-created.

GHOST DANCE RESURRECTED

Disillusioned and uncertain about their future, many of these people are vulnerable to anyone who has simple answers to complex issues.

Whether it is the Bundy family, “Constitutional Sheriffs”, Oath Keepers, American Lands Council, and others, who are reinterpreting the law to suggest that the federal government has no jurisdiction over public lands, this message has found a willing audience in many rural parts of the West who feel they have little control over their destinies.

This enthusiastic acceptance of the “take back federal lands” and other erroneous messages, reminds me of a modern day Ghost Dance. The Ghost Dance was advanced by the Paiute Indian, Wovoka in 1890s. According to Wovoka, if you did the right moves, and sang the right song, the white people would disappear and the bison would return. To the spiritually defeated, and disenfranchised tribes relegated to reservations, the idea of returning to the old ways was an attractive concept. The Ghost Dance spread across the West, but tragically came to an end at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

In a similar manner, many in these rural communities are vulnerable to the ideas parlayed by the modern day Ghost Dancers.

Many in rural communities want to believe if they could get the federal government out of the way, their communities would thrive once more. They believe if only they could log, mine, drill more, they would be “winners” again.

However, what they don’t understand is that global economics have changed, and even if the federal government wasn’t around to interfere with their desire to ramp up resource exploitation, the old jobs are not coming back.

The irony for these places is most jobs are now with government. The dreaded hated government. For instance, in Harney County where the recent standoff at Malheur Wildlife Refuge occurred with anti-government thugs, 59% of the income in Burns, Oregon, (where community sympathy is strong for getting the government off our backs”), comes from government jobs. Increasingly these rural communities are wards of the state—and dependent on taxpayers from elsewhere.

Harney County, where Burns is located, has only 7,000 residents. Given that many are children, you have a very small tax base. Does anyone seriously believe that Harney County taxpayers could, on their own, fund the construction and maintenance of highways, medical clinics, campgrounds, fire-fighting, and all the other expenses that are borne by taxpayers from outside of the county?

A REAR VIEW MIRROR OF ECONOMY

The future for many of these rural communities like Burns, Challis, Prineville, Escalante, and other similarly situated towns is dependent on fostering and protecting their natural environment.

Study after study has demonstrated that counties with protected lands like wilderness and parks have a more robust economy and more importantly, a more diverse population than those communities that are lacking in such amenities. Not only do these communities attract more “footloose” businesses and retirees, protecting the landscape enhances the attitudes of the communities as well. That is where the economics is today.

I do not want to imply that economics is the only yardstick to use for valuing a community, nor am I ignoring that the fact that population growth and expanding recreational use has its own set of environmental problems. Nevertheless, in many of these communities, economic opportunity is the goal of community leaders, but they often fail to comprehend that looking in the rear view mirror isn’t going to provide the jobs and future they desire.

LOSERVILLE OR WINNERVILLE?

Imagine, what Burns, Oregon (where the Malheur Wildlife Refuge take over occurred) could be if instead of promoting ranching and longing for the “good old dayswhen logging was a big employer in the community, they instead promoted the area as a great place to live because the proximity to Steens Mountain Conservation Area, the beautiful Wild and Scenic rivers that are near-by, and the wildlife watching at Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Instead of opposing wolf restoration, imagine how the tenor of the town would change if they actively promoted wolf restoration and advocated wildernesses designation for the many roadless lands nearby? The community could boast that it was the center of wildlands in Oregon. And that moniker would resonate with many people who can afford to live anyplace, as well as businesses looking for a high quality of life for their employees.

If these communities wanted to be “Winnervilles” instead of “Loservilles”, they need to recognize that what is truly valuable in today’s world are the remaining wildlands and wildlife in the West. They cannot economically complete with natural resource exploitation in other parts of the world, and jobs in logging, milling, and so forth can easily be exported to Third World countries where labor is cheaper and/or be replaced by automatism here.

What you can’t move abroad are the scenic landscapes of the West, the free-flowing rivers, the wildlife, and the sense of open space. These intangibles increasingly have both economic and spiritual value to an urbanized population. They are attractive to the creative society. To be a winner in today’s economy means looking forward with imagination, celebrating new ideas and innovation, not casting a longing eye backwards in the rear view mirror to restore unsustainable industries.

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Bundy’s cattle starving on their illegal Nevada range http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/04/24/bundys-cattle-starving-on-their-illegal-nevada-range/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/04/24/bundys-cattle-starving-on-their-illegal-nevada-range/#comments Sun, 24 Apr 2016 20:33:41 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32264 Rarely given more than minimal herding, Bundy’s cattle seem now to be on their own-

Many people argue that Nevada, the driest state, is really no place for cattle, grass-loving creatures that they are. Nonetheless, herds of widely spaced cattle have pummeled the landscape there for over a hundred years.

For a generation Cliven Bundy [...]]]>

Rarely given more than minimal herding, Bundy’s cattle seem now to be on their own-

Many people argue that Nevada, the driest state, is really no place for cattle, grass-loving creatures that they are. Nonetheless, herds of widely spaced cattle have pummeled the landscape there for over a hundred years.

For a generation Cliven Bundy ran his herd illegally on and around the former Bunkerville grazing allotment in the hot desert near Las Vegas (more properly next to Mesquite, Nevada). It was public land at first, but then increasing numbers of his cattle became at least semi-feral and were found over a huge area near the Nevada, Utah, Arizona border. Bundy portrayed himself as a typical rancher, opposed by the government, but the U.S. Attorney at the time of his indictment told the judge:

“Raised in the wild, Bundy’s cattle are left to fend for themselves year-round, fighting off predators and scrounging for the meager amounts of food and water available in the difficult and arid terrain that comprises the public lands in that area of the country,”. . . . “Bereft of human interaction, his cattle that manage to survive are wild, mean and ornery.

“He does not vaccinate or treat his cattle for disease; does not employ cowboys to control and herd them; does not manage or control breeding; has no knowledge of where all the cattle are located at any given time; rarely brands them before he captures them; and has to bait them into traps in order to gather them.

Now there seems to be no care for the cattle at all, and it is reported that they are slowly starving, although there is no official confirmation of this. March through May is the only time of the year when there is any semblance of what looks like grass or forbs on the big alluvial fans beneath the Virgin mountain range where the cattle roam. The Reno Gazette-Journal contacted State of Nevada officials about finally rounding up the cattle, but they were told by email from Flint Wright from the Nevada Department of Agriculture:

“We have not received any substantiated reports of Cliven Bundy’s cattle starving on the Golden Butte [sic] allotment — though this may be true to some extent, as Cliven’s management practices leave a lot to be desired.

“Yes the cattle are in trespass and some are unbranded, and therefore feral and estray. Also yes, per [Nevada Revised Statute] 569, that makes them state property. However, because they are trespassed on BLM ground with a court order in effect, it would require BLM or the court to authorize the [Nevada Department of Agriculture] to perform any sort of gather of the cattle.”

Wright said the herd’s size was unknown, but it was probably 1000 or more. A report from the BLM in 2014 said Bundy’s cattle had been found over an incredible 700 square mile area that included BLM, National Park (Lake Mead NRA), state and private lands (in addition to Bundy’s private land).

Beneath the Virgin Mtns. in March. Nothing to eat but creosote. Photo by Ralph Maughan

Beneath the Virgin Mtns. in March. Nothing to eat but creosote. Photo by Ralph Maughan

It is hard to say when they will be removed because in the past outfits contracted to round up the cattle have been threatened and run off by Bundy supporters. In addition the cattle are near feral and often mean:

Nevada Fish and Wildlife Department told E&E News that the physical effort of rounding up the cattle would be most hard.  “But removing Bundy’s ornery, battle-tested herd — estimated by one Nevada official to be worth up to $800,000 — will be expensive, logistically difficult and potentially dangerous.  ‘It’s like hunting cape buffalo,’ said Ken Mayer, the former director of Nevada’s Department of Wildlife. ‘They’re nasty, they’re smart, and they won’t hesitate to charge.’ ” Of course, the value of the herd will also decline as they stand in the waterless 100° + F. heat of the southern Nevada summer.

 

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Wildfire Policy ignores science http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/04/19/wildfire-policy-ignores-science/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/04/19/wildfire-policy-ignores-science/#comments Tue, 19 Apr 2016 20:20:18 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32261 The Forest Service solution to large wildfires is more logging, but this prescription ignores the growing body of scientific research that suggests that logging/thinning/prescribed burning does not work under severe fire conditions.

Why is this important?

Because the vast majority of all fires self-extinguish whether we do anything or not. However, all large fires — [...]]]>

The Forest Service solution to large wildfires is more logging, but this prescription ignores the growing body of scientific research that suggests that logging/thinning/prescribed burning does not work under severe fire conditions.

Why is this important?

Because the vast majority of all fires self-extinguish whether we do anything or not. However, all large fires — the ones that are a threat to communities — burn under what are termed “severe fire weather.” These are fires burning under conditions of low humidity, high temperatures, persistent drought and, most importantly, high winds.

If you get these conditions in the same place as an ignition source, you cannot stop the fire until the weather conditions change. Blazes under such conditions regularly burn through fuel treatments — even clearcuts. In fact, fuel treatments can even make fire spread quicker by opening the forest to greater drying and wind penetration.

Here’s a small sample of conclusions that cast doubt upon Forest Service policies.

“Finally by current standards, even our best fuel reduction do not appear to be adequate to provide much assistance in the control of high intensity wind-driven fires. If fuel treatment is the answer, it will need to be done on a level that is far more extensive (area) and intensive (fuel reduction) than we are now accomplishing — even on our best fuel breaks.”

Source: Wildfire Cast Management

“fuel treatments … cannot realistically be expected to eliminate large area burned in severe fire weather years.”

Source: Gedalof, Z., D.L. Peterson and N.J. Mantua (2005). Atmospheric, climatic and ecological controls on extreme wildfire years in the northwestern United States. Ecological Applications 15: 154-174.

“Extreme environmental conditions … overwhelmed most fuel treatment effects…. This included almost all treatment methods including prescribed burning and thinning…. Suppression efforts had little benefit from fuel modifications.”

“It may not be necessary or effective to treat fuels in adjacent areas in order to suppress fires before they reach homes; rather, it is the treatment of the fuels immediately proximate to the residences, and the degree to which the residential structures themselves can ignite that determine if the residences are vulnerable.”

“The majority of acreage burned by wildfire in the US occurs in a very few wildfires under extreme conditions (Strauss et al., 1989; Brookings Institution, 2005). Under these extreme conditions suppression efforts are largely ineffective.”

Source: Objectives and considerations for wildland fuel treatment in forested ecosystems of the interior western United States Elizabeth D. Reinhardt *, Robert E. Keane, David E. Calkin, Jack D. Cohen.

We cannot halt large fires through fuel treatments. The best way to save homes is not by logging more of the forest, but by implementing fire-wise policies in communities that reduces the flammability of homes.

I suspect many in the Forest Service, and especially firefighters, know this, but the agency is continuously under attack from politicians, rural communities, and the timber industry to increase the amount of subsidized timber from federal lands. Fire prevention is the excuse used to justify these sales.

Plus, logging/thinning gives the agency reasonable deniability. When a fire overwhelms firefighting efforts, the Forest Service can always say we did what we could to protect the community.

It is easier to log the forest than face the wrath and accusations from ill-informed community members that if only the FS had logged more, than the “disaster” could have been avoided.

The truth is that the responsibility for avoiding disasters lies not with the Forest Service, but with individual private landowners, and county commissioners who continuously approve new subdivisions in the Wildlands Urban interface. But the FS can’t say this publicly.

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Malheur and beyond http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/04/07/malheur-and-beyond/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/04/07/malheur-and-beyond/#comments Thu, 07 Apr 2016 19:40:01 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32238 It’s been a month-and-a-half since occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon ended. Most of the Malheur occupiers and many of those who planned and directed the earlier 2014 standoff with federal personnel at the Bundy Ranch near Mesquite, Nevada, are now in prison waiting trial.

What kind of activists were the [...]]]>

It’s been a month-and-a-half since occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon ended. Most of the Malheur occupiers and many of those who planned and directed the earlier 2014 standoff with federal personnel at the Bundy Ranch near Mesquite, Nevada, are now in prison waiting trial.

What kind of activists were the occupiers?
Hal Herring, a Montana journalist, lived with the occupiers for a while and has now written a telling feature article, “The darkness at the heart of Malheur.” It is in the latest issue of the High Country News. Herring believed he might have something in common with them and hoped to use this to help him understand and write about the event.

He found that many of them seemed to be generally likable folks, but many were also basically “crackpots” when it come to political reasoning who believed in a host of extreme conspiracy theories such as the Hammonds had been taken back to prison because their land was underlain by uranium which had been bought by the Chinese government. The refuge rebels had no clue to the history of the refuge or about grazing on the public lands; oh, and they didn’t care to learn. They knew little about Ammon Bundy’s stated goal to turn the refuge land back to the ranchers it had supposedly been stolen from, and they really didn’t care about that much either. It their intense, but unfocused fight against the federal government that counted.
Ammon Bundy himself didn’t seem to know that much of the Refuge’s land had always been public land. Of the private land, there was one important seller who sold 65,000 acres willingly back in 1935. The Bundys didn’t know that today the Refuge is grazed by local ranchers who have permits to take “excess forage” not needed for the wildlife. I should add that conservation groups like the Western Watersheds Project argue that the Malheur is being overgrazed. As a result, the birds, wildlife, and visitors all suffer as a result of this gift to the local livestock industry.

Each occupier seemed to have a prime personal reason for being there. These were not based on high minded political principles, and these individual motivations hardly matched each other. The only common thing was hatred of the federal government. They all had their pocket constitutions which were frequently pulled out, but rarely discussed. They served as a trump card to enhance the occupiers’ arguments or to end disagreement.

Herring concluded, “I went to the Malheur looking for kindred spirits. I found the mad, the fervent, the passionately misguided. I found the unknowing pawns of an existential chess game, in which we are, all of us, now caught.”
Well, they failed to spark a rebellion. They’re now in jail and the Refuge has $6-million in damage according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The only winner seems to have been the marsh destroying carp. They root out the plants that sustain the marsh. The project to rid Malheur of the millions of introduced carp probably got a year’s setback.

Now, back in Utah
Back in Utah, the failure of this occupation did not deter the Republican portion of the state legislature from ramming through a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the U. S. government arguing that Utah must be given title to all the federal lands. They plan to make a number of legal and constitutional claims that the public lands belong in the State of Utah’s hands. Most experts say these claims are based on fringe ideas of constitutional law. They are very likely to fail.

Nevertheless, to show their commitment the Utah legislature passed a law to establish a “framework” for managing the U.S. public lands it might receive after a Supreme Court victory. Led by Kanab rancher-developer Mike Noel, it is a document specifying the lands will be managed for multiple uses. Oddly, it borrows much language from the hated federal Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). Noel says the new Utah law is all about retaining the land, not selling it off. Of course, much of the criticism over transferring public lands to the states argues that they would quickly be sold off. The reason for the prediction is that the states would lose too much money for them to bear the load. Saying the states will retain the land, and financing the retention are two different things. Several years ago the Utah legislature ordered an academic study of the feasibility of financing management of federal lands it might receive. The lengthy study considered a number of scenarios, but just one of them found the state breaking even rather than a loss. This was the case if the price of oil rose to $100 a barrel, something it has rarely attained. Right now oil is from 20 to 40 dollars a barrel. So Utah could finance their takeover at breakeven only when unusually expensive crude oil prevails. In such a case oil and gas would subsidize grazing, recreation, and  timbering. Of course, folks might imagine what Utah forestry is like, it being the second driest state.

In other Utah related public land action,  Jason Chaffetz, a Utah member of Congress, has introduced a bill to transfer all law enforcement powers on U.S. public lands to local sheriffs, a key demand of the freeman or sovereign citizen movement that believes the county sheriff is the ultimate law officer in the United States. The Bundys were associated with this strange idea., and they were very disappointed when David Ward, the Harney County sheriff at Burns did not ascribe to this belief from 12th Century England.

State land management in practice
The belief of critics is also based on the way the original land grants from the federal government to the Western states are managed – strictly for logging, grazing and mining. There is almost no concern for water quality, sustainability, recreation, wildlife, beauty, public access or the environment. For example, in Wyoming you can’t even camp on state lands. Wyoming state land management consists of just three range managers for 3.5 million acres. In terms of acres used, livestock grazing is the main use of the state lands. Nonetheless, none of the states make much money on state land grazing even though they charge the ranchers higher grazing fees than the federal government does. In Wyoming revenues from grazing the state lands are so small proportionately that they are not even broken out separately in the annual report of revenues. The states are directed by their constitutions to use these land grants (often called the state “school” or state “trust” lands) to produce maximum revenue. Nonetheless in actuality, grazing seems to be more of a state government gift to this local culturally dominant group than it is to fill the state’s coffers. This is not true of logging and mining on state lands. This is where the revenue comes from, especially the real money maker, oil and natural gas. In Wyoming about 90% of the state lands revenue comes from mineral revenues.

What about Idaho and other states?
Leaving the odd case of Utah behind, since Malheur the effort to take the public lands has not made progress in the state legislatures. At the time of the refuge occupation there were state legislators who visited Oregon to see and support occupation. From Idaho they were Rep. Judy Boyle (R-Midvale), Sage Dixon (R-Ponderay) and Heather Scott (R-Blanchard — Bonner and Boundary County). While at Burns, Oregon, one county official from Burns gave Heather Scott the dressing down she deserved. In the Idaho Legislature, Boyle came back to lead an attack on our public lands, but she was defeated in committee. She wanted to stop federal acquisition of any more public lands in the state, but many Idahoans want to donate or sell their private land to make our public lands more complete (especially our national forests). Her bill was considered by legislators as an attack on the private property right to sell or give your land.

In other states, the post-occupation response was similar to Idaho’s. Anti-public land bills did not pass in any state legislature except Utah’s. In Colorado and New Mexico bills to support federal public lands came close to passing.

Despite this, all is not safe at the federal level. Texan Ted Cruz makes it clear he wants to rid us of our public lands and make the whole country like Texas. Texas is one of the most boring states I ever visited. It might be big, but since it is private you can’t see it. You’d never know. Some members of Congress are on the same page as Cruz. This includes Utah’s five members and our own Raul Labrador in the first congressional district. He seems not to have had the chance to learn about the long tradition of public lands in the West back in Puerto Rico where he came from.

Of all those who occupied the Malheur Refuge, only one came from Oregon. In Idaho most of those who want to get rid of our public lands seem to be people who grew up in a non-Western tradition like Representative Raul Labrador. Nevada state legislator Michelle Fiore was major supporter of the Refuge’s occupation. This zaftig blonde is best known for her many poses with guns. She even has a calendar of this, but she came to Nevada from Brooklyn, New York.

Guns are an American thing, not something unique to the West. These folks were not educated in the outdoor traditions of the West that require access to big country. They have unrelated personal agendas in this. So, it’s too bad we have to battle against some of are own to keep Western land intact.

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Wyoming Data Censorship Laws Are Still Illegal http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/04/06/wyoming-data-censorship-laws-are-still-illegal/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/04/06/wyoming-data-censorship-laws-are-still-illegal/#comments Wed, 06 Apr 2016 21:37:26 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32245 Conservationists say statute remains unlawful despite revisions

Cheyenne, Wyoming– Yesterday, a coalition of public interest advocacy organizations again challenged the unlawful parts of Wyoming’s anti-data statutes. Western Watersheds Project, National Press Photographers Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Center for Food Safety, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed [...]]]>

Conservationists say statute remains unlawful despite revisions

Cheyenne, Wyoming– Yesterday, a coalition of public interest advocacy organizations again challenged the unlawful parts of Wyoming’s anti-data statutes. Western Watersheds Project, National Press Photographers Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Center for Food Safety, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed an amended lawsuit against Wyoming officials for the enactment of the “Data Censorship Laws,” which, even after revision, still bar citizens from reporting environmentally damaging activities.

The “Data Censorship Laws,” Wyoming Statute § 6-3-414 and § 40-27-101 were originally designed to prevent individuals and organizations from documenting harmful environmental activities on federal, state, and private property, and from reporting any violations to federal and state authorities. After the conservation groups’ legal challenge was filed in September 2015, the Wyoming legislature reframed the laws and passed the revised statutes last month.

However, even the revised laws are still deeply flawed. From selectively punishing individuals for collecting information about certain subjects, to imposing criminal and civil liability on persons who collect specific types of data on private lands, the laws can still be used to punish persons acting in the public interest who sample polluted water, document illegal mining activities, film animal abuse, and gather other forms of “data.”

“The revised laws are still un-American at the core,” said Jonathan Ratner, Wyoming Director of Western Watersheds Project. “Any law passed specifically to protect polluters, exploiters, and abusers from public scrutiny is fundamentally at odds with our freedom of speech and right to know.”

“The legislature tried to void this suit: they failed. These laws put the State of Wyoming way out of line with the ideals America is based on,” said Michael Wall, Senior Attorney with Natural Resources Defense Council.

Most other states have abandoned pursuing “ag-gag” legislation, though the push continues from big agricultural industry lobbyists and the lawmakers they fund. Republican governors have vetoed similar bills, and state legislatures are increasingly rejecting or abandoning them. Ag-gag bills are at their lowest numbers in more than half a decade.

“No matter how cleverly they are written, they cannot circumvent the constitution and no matter how slickly they are marketed, they cannot fool the public. Wyoming is wasting its citizens’ money and the judiciary’s time by continuing to fight for this unnecessary and unconstitutional law,” said Ratner.

The amended complaint is online here (pdf).

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Two More Years of Trespass: Bundy’s Cows Still Trampling Tortoise Habitat http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/04/05/two-more-years-of-trespass-bundys-cows-still-trampling-tortoise-habitat/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/04/05/two-more-years-of-trespass-bundys-cows-still-trampling-tortoise-habitat/#comments Tue, 05 Apr 2016 13:32:03 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32234 Reseda, CALIFORNIA – Hundreds of cattle are still on the loose two years to the day after the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) began rounding up Cliven Bundy’s cattle in the Gold Butte area of southern Nevada. Forced by armed militants to release the penned cattle at the famous standoff under the highway bridge, the [...]]]>

Reseda, CALIFORNIA – Hundreds of cattle are still on the loose two years to the day after the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) began rounding up Cliven Bundy’s cattle in the Gold Butte area of southern Nevada. Forced by armed militants to release the penned cattle at the famous standoff under the highway bridge, the BLM has not endeavored to finish the job and, in fact, has stated there is no immediate plan to revisit the area.

“Cliven Bundy is in custody but his cows are still on the loose on public lands that were designated as conservation areas for threatened desert tortoises back in 1998,” said Michael Connor, California Director of Western Watersheds Project. “Livestock were supposed to have been removed 18 years ago. It’s high time for the BLM to finish the job and remove those cattle.”

“Cliven Bundy’s livestock were ordered off these key desert tortoise habitats because they were incompatible with habitat protection, and the long-overdue removal of the cows is a necessary step to give the habitat a chance to recover and give the desert tortoise a leg up on survival,“ said Erik Molvar, wildlife biologist with WildEarth Guardians.

Cattle have direct and indirect adverse effects on desert tortoise, ranging from trampling tortoises and their eggs, trampling tortoise burrows and trapping tortoises underground, removing the nutritious vegetation that tortoises need to survive, and facilitating increased numbers of ravens that eat hatchling tortoises. The lands around Gold Butte are considered “critical habitat,” a specific geographic area that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined is essential for the conservation of the species.

“Grazing trespass is a form of theft. In this case, the Bundy clan is taking public resources to which they are not entitled,” said Kirsten Stade, Advocacy Director for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The BLM has indicated it has no plans to reinitiate the round-up of Bundy’s cattle.

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Court overturns government refusal to protect wolverine http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/04/04/court-overturns-government-refusal-to-protect-wolverine/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/04/04/court-overturns-government-refusal-to-protect-wolverine/#comments Tue, 05 Apr 2016 05:24:05 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32224 Climate change and genetic isolation threaten famously tough predator-

MISSOULA, Mont.— Describing the wolverine as a “snow-dependent species standing squarely in the path of global climate change,” a federal judge today overturned an August 2014 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refusing to grant this rare and elusive [...]]]>

Climate change and genetic isolation threaten famously tough predator-

MISSOULA, Mont.— Describing the wolverine as a “snow-dependent species standing squarely in the path of global climate change,” a federal judge today overturned an August 2014 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refusing to grant this rare and elusive species any protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen rejected the Service’s determinations that climate change, an extremely small population size—there are only approximately 300 wolverines left in the northern Rockies and north Cascades—and genetic isolation do not threaten the wolverine’s survival in the lower-48 states.

“This decision gives the wolverine a fighting chance at survival,” said Earthjustice attorney Timothy Preso, who represented eight conservation groups in the case before Judge Christensen. “There is now hope for this icon of our remaining wilderness.”

Today’s ruling passes a harsh judgment on the Fish and Wildlife Service for an eleventh-hour reversal in considering new legal protections for the wolverine. In February 2013 the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list the wolverine as a threatened species under the ESA after the agency’s biologists concluded global warming was reducing the deep spring snowpack pregnant females require for denning.

But state wildlife managers in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming objected, arguing that computer models about climate change impact are too uncertain to justify the proposed listing.  Then, in May 2014 the Service’s Regional Director Noreen Walsh ordered her agency to withdraw the listing, ignoring the recommendations of her own scientists. The agency formalized that withdrawal in a final decision issued in August 2014.

In today’s ruling, Judge Christensen addressed the question of why the Service flip-flopped on this key conservation issue:  “[T]he Court suspects that a possible answer to this question can be found in the immense political pressure that was brought to bear on this issue, particularly by a handful of western states. The listing decision in this case involves climate science, and climate science evokes strong reactions.”

The judge also directed the Service to act promptly to correct its erroneous findings:  “It has taken us twenty years to get to this point. It is the undersigned’s view that if there is one thing required of the Service under the ESA, it is to take action at the earliest possible, defensible point in time to protect against the loss of biodiversity within our reach as a nation. For the wolverine, that time is now.”

The groups represented by Earthjustice in the wolverine case are the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Friends of the Clearwater, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Idaho Conservation League, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, and Rocky Mountain Wild.  They praised today’s court decision.

“Wolverines are the mountain devils of the west and they require snow,” said Tanya Sanerib an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, “The court rebuffed the Fish and Wildlife Service’s rejection of climate change threats to wolverines as ‘bordering on the absurd.’”

“Today’s decision restores scientific integrity to wolverine management,” said Caroline Byrd, Executive Director of Greater Yellowstone Coalition. “This increasingly rare and elusive animal represents the wildness that is still found today in Greater Yellowstone and we are committed to ensuring wolverines receive the protections they deserve.”

“We are pleased that the court sided with us,” said Brad Smith of the Idaho Conservation League.  “The wolverine is one of Idaho’s rarest animals. Now we need to work toward the protections that are needed to recover wolverines.”

“This decision is great news for wolverines in the Clearwater Basin. Because elevations here are not as high as much of the rest of the Rockies, wolverines in the Clearwater are particularly threatened by climate change and other human impacts,” said Gary Macfarlane of Friends of the Clearwater.

“Today’s decision is welcome news for anyone wishing to observe wolverine in remote, rugged and snowy mountain landscapes,” said Dave Werntz, Science and Conservation Director with Conservation Northwest.  “The future of wolverine in the North Cascades and elsewhere is now a bit brighter.”

Background:

The wolverine, the largest land-dwelling member of the weasel family, once roamed across the northern tier of the United States and as far south as New Mexico in the Rockies and Southern California in the Sierra Nevada range. After more than a century of trapping and habitat loss, wolverines in the lower 48 have been reduced to small, fragmented populations in Idaho, Montana, Washington, Wyoming and northeast Oregon.

With no more than 300 wolverines remaining in these regions, the species is at direct risk from climate change because wolverines depend on areas that maintain deep snow through late spring, when pregnant females dig their dens into the snowpack to birth and raise their young. Snowpack is already in decline in the western mountains, a trend that is predicted to worsen. Wolverine populations also are threatened by trapping, human disturbance, extremely low population numbers resulting in low genetic diversity, and fragmentation of habitat.

The groups that challenged the Service’s determination pointed out that the agency disregarded well-established scientific evidence, including the recommendations of its own scientists, in speculating that the wolverine might be capable of withstanding the projected loss of 63 percent of its snowy habitat in the lower 48 by the year 2085. Contrary to the Service’s speculation, every one of the 562 verified wolverine den sites in North America and Scandinavia occurred in snow; 95 percent of worldwide summer wolverine observations and 89 percent of year-round wolverine observations fell within areas characterized by persistent spring snowpack.

Elimination of this snowy habitat due to warming temperatures presents a direct threat to the wolverine’s survival — a danger compounded by the increasing isolation and fragmentation of wolverine habitats that threatens remaining populations with localized extinctions and inbreeding.

 

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Do you have some interesting wildlife news? April 5, 2016 edition http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/04/04/do-you-have-some-interesting-wildlife-news-april-5-2016-edition/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/04/04/do-you-have-some-interesting-wildlife-news-april-5-2016-edition/#comments Tue, 05 Apr 2016 04:37:13 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32227 It is time to create a new page of “Interesting Wildlife News.” Please put your wildlife news in the comments below. Do not post copyrighted material.

Here is the link to the “old” wildlife news of February 13, 2016.

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Springtime in the South Hills near Twin Falls, Idaho. Copyright Ralph Maughan

Springtime in the South Hills near Twin Falls, Idaho. Copyright Ralph Maughan

It is time to create a new page of “Interesting Wildlife News.” Please put your wildlife news in the comments below. Do not post copyrighted material.

Here is the link to the “old” wildlife news of February 13, 2016.

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Don’t let logging be the cost of wilderness http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/04/03/dont-let-logging-be-the-cost-of-wilderness/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/04/03/dont-let-logging-be-the-cost-of-wilderness/#comments Mon, 04 Apr 2016 02:43:59 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32221 I wish to respond to the self-serving opinion piece in the March 16 Missoulian by Gordy Sanders and Loren Rose of Pyramid Lumber Company in Seeley Lake titled “Work together to pass Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project.”

The Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Project is a good example of “PPSC” socialism: privatize the profits, [...]]]>

I wish to respond to the self-serving opinion piece in the March 16 Missoulian by Gordy Sanders and Loren Rose of Pyramid Lumber Company in Seeley Lake titled “Work together to pass Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project.”

The Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Project is a good example of “PPSC” socialism: privatize the profits, socialize the costs.

Nearly every timber sale on U.S. Forest Service lands around Seeley Lake loses money. Americans are padding the coffers of Pyramid Lumber by selling our public timber to them at a loss. But this is only the beginning of the socialism of costs promoted by Sanders and Rose.

The proposal also calls for taxpayers to give $4.5 million dollars to Pyramid Lumber for a new boiler and co-generation facility.

But there are costs to all of us beyond the direct subsidies to Sanders and Rose’s company. Logging degrades our forests by removing biomass, spreading weeds, fragmenting wildlife habitat, removing of carbon storage, causing the loss of rare genetic alleles that provide resiliency to forest ecosystems, as well as increasing sedimentation from logging roads that clogs our streams, destroying aquatic ecosystems.

We are supposed to accept all these costs based on flawed assertions of benefits. Among the questionable claims, they assert that logging in the Seeley Lake area will “reduce fire risk,” a common myth promoted by the timber industry.

The majority of forest types being logged in the region are higher-elevation spruce/fir/lodgepole pine and other tree species that burn infrequently in large blazes that occur hundreds of years apart. The probability that any logged site would burn any time in the near future is very low, thus logging does not confer any additional benefits because vegetation quickly grows back.

But even more importantly, there is ample evidence that logging cannot preclude large blazes. Nearly all of the larger blazes in western Montana have burned through heavily logged forests. The fires in Gold Creek, near Lolo Creek, in the Sapphires near Rye Creek and many other large blazes all occurred in previously logged drainages, including the Jocko Lakes Fire, which burned through heavily logged Plum Creek lands just west of Seeley Lake in Sanders’ and Rose’s backyard.

Large fires are weather-driven events, not fuels-driven. When the conditions exist for a major fire – which includes drought, high temperatures, low humidity and high winds – nothing, including past logging, halts blazes. Such fires typically self-extinguish or are stopped only when less favorable conditions occur for fire spread.

In fact, some studies suggest that logging can exacerbate fire spread by increasing wind penetration and drying of the forest floor. In short, it is not at all clear that logging will “reduce fire risk,” as Sanders and Rose claim.

The second problem with their commentary is the implied message that logging will “restore” and make forests “healthy.”

In truth, large wildfires are critical to a healthy forest ecosystem. Many species live in mortal fear of green forests. Wildfire creates habitat perfect for many species. Biologist Dick Hutto has documented more than 100 bird species that prefer the habitat resulting from stand-replacement high-severity fires.

Large fires are also an episodic input of dead wood that provides habitat for rodents and amphibians, and are shelter/travel corridors for larger mammals like weasel and lynx. Dead trees that fall into streams are critical to a healthy ecosystem, providing habitat for aquatic insects, fish and other life. Dead trees store carbon and nutrients.

Rather than try to stop large wildfires, reducing the flammability of structures is the only “management” that actually protects communities. But of course, this doesn’t put ta payer money in the bank account of Pyramid Lumber.

The only part of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project that has clear long-term public benefits is wilderness designation in places like Monture Creek, and along the Swan Face. These lands should be given wilderness protection, and Americans should not be blackmailed into accepting economically and ecologically dubious logging proposals as a cost of protection.

The lands Pyramid Lumber wants to log are American public lands that belong to all of us, and a heritage that should be protected for the benefit of all Americans, not just the narrow financial well-being of any individuals, companies and communities.

Bio:  George Wuerthner has authored 38 books, including several on wildfire ecology. He is a board member of Western Watersheds Project

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