The Wildlife News http://www.thewildlifenews.com News and commentary on wildlife and public land issues in the Western United States Wed, 20 Jul 2016 17:07:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Do you have some interesting wildlife news? July 20, 2016 edition http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/07/20/do-you-have-some-interesting-wildlife-news-july-20-2016-edition/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/07/20/do-you-have-some-interesting-wildlife-news-july-20-2016-edition/#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2016 17:05:58 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32440 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 May 21, 2016.

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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 May 21, 2016.

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Agencies Fail to Identify, Track, Penalize, or Deter Unauthorized Livestock Grazing on Public Lands According to a New Report from the Government Accountability Office http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/07/14/agencies-fail-to-identify-track-penalize-or-deter-unauthorized-livestock-grazing-on-public-lands-according-to-a-new-report-from-the-government-accountability-office/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/07/14/agencies-fail-to-identify-track-penalize-or-deter-unauthorized-livestock-grazing-on-public-lands-according-to-a-new-report-from-the-government-accountability-office/#comments Thu, 14 Jul 2016 17:45:41 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32438 The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report last week detailing the extent to which the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have failed to follow agency regulations in documenting and penalizing unauthorized or trespass livestock grazing on federal public lands. The report, entitled Unauthorized Grazing: Actions Needed to Improve Tracking [...]]]>

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report last week detailing the extent to which the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have failed to follow agency regulations in documenting and penalizing unauthorized or trespass livestock grazing on federal public lands. The report, entitled Unauthorized Grazing: Actions Needed to Improve Tracking and Deterrence Efforts, was requested by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee. The request came in response to several high profile cases of trespass grazing and a recognition of the devastating ecological impacts it can have on wildlife habitat.

The report came to several important conclusions. Trespass grazing is pervasive and causes widespread degradation of public lands, agencies do not document it adequately, and the Forest Service trespass fees are too low to be a deterrent.

The report also highlights the extent to which public lands livestock grazing is heavily subsidized by American taxpayers.  In 2016, BLM and the Forest Service charged ranchers $2.11 per animal unit month for horses and cattle, and $0.42 for sheep and goats. But, average private grazing land lease rates in western states ranged from $9 to $39.

In a separate press release, Grijalva stated, “We know we’re leasing public land at well below market value. What we don’t know nearly enough about is the extent or impact of unauthorized grazing on public lands. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management need to bring grazing fees in line with the modern economy and take illegal use of public lands more seriously going forward.”

In addition to the agencies’ failure to document or penalize trespass grazing, the report states that according to agency personnel, “high-profile cases of intentional unauthorized grazing and related antigovernment protests can affect agency decision making regarding enforcement … (and) that not taking enforcement action on violators is likely to encourage more unauthorized grazing.” The report also states that “lack of support from higher-level managers for strong enforcement action does not incentivize field staff to act on unauthorized grazing and, in some cases, lowers staff morale.”

The report also acknowledges the significant ecological damage that trespass grazing can cause. The report states, “(U)nauthorized grazing may create various effects, such as severely degrading rangelands under certain conditions.” This damage was witnessed firsthand by the GAO investigators. “During our field visits, we observed locations where unauthorized grazing had resulted in severely damaged natural springs, overgrazed meadows, and trampled streambeds.”

“Western Watershed Project (WWP) has been documenting these types of abuse for years. Our reports often fall on deaf ears or are purposefully ignored by agency land managers who refuse to follow the law and punish or even document illegal grazing on public lands,” said Jonathan Ratner, the groups Wyoming Director.

Because the agencies rarely track and report on unauthorized grazing, the GAO concluded that the frequency and extent of unauthorized grazing on agency lands are largely unknown. The report found that rather than report and penalize unauthorized grazing as required by agency regulation, agency personnel are far more likely to handle incidents informally with no subsequent documentation. This leads to both a lack of institutional knowledge and makes identifying and prosecuting serial violators much more difficult.

“Trespass grazing occurs far more often than the agencies are willing to admit. We often find cows grazing inside exclosures, in the wrong pastures, or long after the permitted season of use. In fact, this is more the norm than the exception,” said Josh Osher, WWP’s Montana Director.

Even when trespass grazing is reported and the agencies take action, the GAO found that the penalties assessed are often too low to act as a deterrent.  This is especially true for the Forest Service where the penalty for trespass grazing may be even less the cost of permitted grazing elsewhere.  The report points out that agency field staff stated, “that penalties for unauthorized grazing are rarely or never an effective deterrent … some told us that there are permittees who view the penalties for unauthorized grazing as a cost of doing business because paying the penalties is cheaper than seeking forage elsewhere.”

A previous GAO report on trespass grazing in 1990 reached similar conclusions, including “when offenders were detected, BLM frequently exacted no penalties and, for the more serious violations, seldom assessed the minimum penalties its own regulations required. As a result, unauthorized grazing was not adequately deterred, which could lead to degradation of public rangelands, among other things.”  At that time, GAO made recommendations to the BLM including that all incidents of unauthorized grazing be documented and that compliance inspections be expanded to “provide systematic compliance coverage.”  Unfortunately, these recommendations were largely ignored by the agency.

“A culture of willful ignorance is pervasive within the BLM and Forest Service. The agencies rarely inspect grazing allotments and even when violations are found, corrective actions are rarely taken and violators are rarely punished,” said WWP’s Idaho Director Ken Cole.

In this latest report, the GAO makes similar recommendations to the agencies about identification, documentation, and deterrence of trespass grazing. While the BLM and Forest Service generally agree with the conclusions of the report and claim they will make changes to agency policy, based on past experience, WWP is not confident that changes will occur or that local field managers will change current practices.

Western Watersheds Project is a nonprofit environmental conservation group with 1,500 members founded in 1993 and has field offices in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, California, and Oregon. WWP works to influence and improve public lands management throughout the West with a primary focus on the negative impacts of livestock grazing on 250 million acres of western public lands, including harm to ecological, biological, cultural, historic, archeological, scenic resources, wilderness values, roadless areas, Wilderness Study Areas and designated Wilderness.

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Groups File Notice of Intent to Sue USFWS and for Failure to Give Yellowstone Bison ESA Protections http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/07/12/groups-file-notice-of-intent-to-sue-usfws-and-for-failure-to-give-yellowstone-bison-esa-protections/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/07/12/groups-file-notice-of-intent-to-sue-usfws-and-for-failure-to-give-yellowstone-bison-esa-protections/#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2016 17:51:34 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32428 Today, Western Watersheds Project, Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) and, Friends of Animals (FoA) took the first step to sue the Dept. of the Interior and U.S. Fish & Wildlife (USFWS) for failing to provide Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for the distinct population segment of bison in Yellowstone National Park in response to two citizen petitions.

[...]]]>

Today, Western Watersheds Project, Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) and, Friends of Animals (FoA) took the first step to sue the Dept. of the Interior and U.S. Fish & Wildlife (USFWS) for failing to provide Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for the distinct population segment of bison in Yellowstone National Park in response to two citizen petitions.

“America’s national mammal, the wild bison, is threatened with extinction because of the actions of the agencies entrusted with protecting them,” said Dan Brister, executive director of Buffalo Field Campaign. “The Department of Interior should base its decisions on the best available science, not political pressure from the livestock industry.”

As set forth in a Notice of Intent to Sue, in issuing a negative 90-day determination on the petitions to list the bison as threatened or endangered, USFWS failed to rely upon the best available science, applied an incorrect legal standard to the petition and ignored the plain language of the ESA, which requires that any species threatened by one or more of five factors shall be designated as endangered or threatened.

“The 4,000 bison in Yellowstone National Park are the only genetically pure bison in a herd of that size in America. It’s an extremely important herd and obviously in a place where they should already be protected,” said Michael Harris, director of Friends of Animals’ Wildlife Law Program. “But hundreds are slaughtered every year when snow and ice cover the bison’s food and hunger pushes them to lower elevations across the park boundary in Montana. When they cross this arbitrary line, the buffalo enter a zone of violent conflict with the livestock industry.”

“The Yellowstone bison herds are unique in the scope of their genetic diversity and the absence of hybridization with cattle, a problem that besets almost all other bison herds,” added Michael Connor, California director of Western Watersheds Project and author of the listing petition. “But instead of allowing these bison to behave like bison and move with the seasons, government agencies are practicing indiscriminate killing that is destroying their genetic diversity. Protection under the Endangered Species Act is the only way to counter these government management inadequacies and other threats.”

Harris pointed out that the USFWS failed to consider the fact that the present and historical curtailment of habitat and range has already resulted in placing the Yellowstone bison at risk of extinction. USFWS deems the population status of the herd to be stable, however under the ESA, the agency is required to not only look at the current numbers of bison, but how much of the bison’s range has already been destroyed and curtailed. Bison historically occupied approximately 20,000 square kilometres and presently only 3,175 square kiometres within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park serve as principal bison habitat.

“There were millions and millions of acres that were available to the bison that are no longer available to them because of human actions. Their range has been curtailed by 90 percent, and that alone should be enough to warrant a listing,” Harris said.

Darien, Conn.-based Friends of Animals, an international animal protection organization founded in 1957, advocates for the rights of animals, free-living and domestic around the world. www.friendsofanimals.org.

West Yellowstone, Montana-based Buffalo Field Campaign is a non-profit public interest organization founded in 1997 to protect the natural habitat of wild migratory buffalo and native wildlife, stop the slaughter of America’s last wild buffalo and advocate for their lasting protection, and work with people of all nations to honor the sacredness of wild bison.www.buffalofieldcampaign.org

Western Watersheds Project is a nonprofit environmental conservation group with 1,500 members founded in 1993 and has field offices in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, California, and Oregon. WWP works to influence and improve public lands management throughout the West with a primary focus on the negative impacts of livestock grazing on 250 million acres of western public lands, including harm to ecological, biological, cultural, historic, archeological, scenic resources, wilderness values, roadless areas, Wilderness Study Areas and designated Wilderness. www.westernwatersheds.org


Update: Media coverage of the story.

Wildlife advocates to sue for Yellowstone bison protections. By Matt Volz. Associated Press
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Utah land grab “institute” used false data about recreation on Utah state lands http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/07/06/utah-land-grab-institute-used-false-data-about-recreation-on-utah-state-lands/ http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/07/06/utah-land-grab-institute-used-false-data-about-recreation-on-utah-state-lands/#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 04:19:18 +0000 http://www.thewildlifenews.com/?p=32424 Washington state data used to represent Utah.

Occasionally land grab groups produce reports intended to show how state management of lands is superior to management of our national public lands by the BLM, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, etc.

About a week ago one such group in Utah, the Sutherland Institute, issued a report [...]]]>

Washington state data used to represent Utah.

Occasionally land grab groups produce reports intended to show how state management of lands is superior to management of our national public lands by the BLM, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, etc.

About a week ago one such group in Utah, the Sutherland Institute, issued a report that claimed their data showed Utah’s state parks were managed both more efficiently and were more popular than the national parks of the West.

They used some very odd indicators of popularity and efficiency. For example, for popularity they calculated “state park visits per acre.” They found that per acre Utah’s small and smallish state parks got more visitors per acre than most national parks. This kind of measurement makes the vast backcountry of the national parks count negatively in the measure. Instead of Yellowstone Park’s overcrowded roads, what counts to the Sutherland Institute is that the wilderness backcountry has no traffic jams, and so an inefficient use of the land. By the metric they use, crowded and tiny city parks would be the best managed recreation land of all.

Rather than argue about their methodology, however, the Center for Western Priorities looked at their raw data and found Sutherland had mixed up the recreation figures for states. For example, Oregon’s visitation data was wrongly given to New Mexico, Utah’s data went to Oregon, Washington’s data was put in the Utah column, and so on. In other words, they used totally erroneous data to create measures that would be very doubtful even with excellent data. So we have worthless study that will still probably be used to lift their claims that our national parks should be given to the states.

See the takedown by the Center for Western Priorities. “Busted: Right-wing “environmental research” group uses falsified data to justify state land grab.”

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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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