Blog

Oct01

California Wolves: Waiting for Fulfillment

By Bob Ferris
 
People who know me understand that I am not a wolf fan per se.  I haven’t always read the latest book on a particularWolf Pup wolf and my house is not festooned with paintings and pictures of wolves.  I have worked on wolf recovery for more than 20 years, but wolves—in my mind—are simply one, albeit important, tool in our work to restore a semblance of wildness to our damaged landscapes.  And in North America, wolves thriving is a physical manifestation of our success.  
 
Yes wolves are remarkable and fascinating animals. And with each passing field season we find out more and more about their true roles as keystone predators and how wrong we were when we looked at these critters as valueless varmints and pests.  It was wrong for us to nearly wipe them out in the United States.  It is wrong for some to still continue this war.  And it is right—in an Aldo Leopold sense—for us to want to restore wolves when and where we can.   
 
I tend in all this not to anthropomorphize wolves.  Certainly I do compare humans and wolves on occasion to talk about a behavior such as dispersal and why wolf control is a bad idea in terms of letting teenagers loose on the landscape.  I also tend to quietly cringe a little when folks treat wolves like long lost friends.  All this said, I have named two iconic wolves during my career for good reasons.
 
The first was during a creative meeting at Defenders of Wildlife in Washington DC when the first wolves were denning after their reintroduction two decades ago and the first litter of pups was thought to have been born in Yellowstone.  I sat in on these meetings to make sure the fundraisers and marketers didn’t go too far afield of the science.  So they were likely surprised when I said: Why don’t we call the hypothetical first pup born in Yellowstone “Promise?”
 
The idea was adopted and for the next four or five years, folks all over the US were treated to stories in direct mail pieces about this wolf known as Promise.  And I lived—at times—to regret my rash outburst.  I would crisscross the country talking about wolves and invariably someone would ask: How is Promise doing?  Early on I would try to explain that Promise was not really a wolf per se but rather the idea of reproducing wolves and the promise that happy happenstance offered ecologically.  I was naming a process as much as an individual.  But soon I just gave up and for a while I just said Promise was doing fine.  And then Promise had pups.  I took a break from wolves before I would have been forced to say that Promise was probably dead. Death being just as much a part of nature as life.  
 
With the second wolf I named, Wandering Wanda, I felt more of need to name a specific wolf.  This was in part because I felt for her not having a name when her mate clearly did.  I kept having to talk about this internationally known couple as Journey or OR-7 and the female wolf without a collar who came from we-do-not-know-where.  She needed a name that reflected her story and once I had the wandering part—for her travels are equally as remarkable as her mate’s—the Wanda tag just simply fell into place.  And Wandering Wanda, wolf of the West was born.  
 
I get some sideways glances from those who know me and wish I’d kept to my practice of sticking to the science.  I’ll live with that.  I have never pretended to be perfect, consistent or predictable.  And I’ll have to admit that I would love to name just one more wolf.  That wolf is a little like Promise in that it will likely not be a specific wolf, but rather a pup born in darkness and likely not seen.  This pup is little like the pre-ordered novels you see on Amazon.com and I would like to call it “Fulfillment.”  
 
In my mind, Fulfillment should be the name of the first wolf pup born in California and I have been thinking about this pup for more than 20 years.  Fulfillment was in the back of my mind when we were trying to maximize the number of wolves brought down from Canada in 1996 so we would have the critical mass of animals needed for a successful reintroduction.  Fulfillment was also clearly on my mind when I was speculating about wolves coming back to California in 1999.  And he/she was one of the reasons that I was quick to argue that B-45 should be allowed to stay in Oregon in an opinion piece in the Oregonian and when Todd Wilkinson (see also Two Talking Wolves Tour) wrote about the situation at the same time.
 
Fulfillment is a little of a full circle name for me too.  It harkens back to the purpose-loaded handles of my Puritan ancestors like Temperance, Constance and Supply handed out during those times when wolves were first persecuted in the newly formed colonies and the first game law in the colonies was a bounty on wolves.   Fulfillment would demonstrate how far we have come from those dark and somber times (not that all the darkness is gone).
 
It also puts a punctuation point on recovery under the federal Endangered Species Act—not the way the US Fish and Wildlife Service is presently trying to interpret it but how it was originally envisioned and how it should really be in a society that embraces science and sincerely wants to reclaim wildness where we still can.  In this last sense we who “like it wild” all want fulfillment and I hope that we will all continue to work together to achieve that important goal.  We need Fulfillment.
 
 
P.S. We need "Satifaction" in the Southern Rockies too, in case some was thinking that I had forgotten.  
 

Sep27

Win for Wolves in Alaska

The Federal District Court in Alaska just issued an Order granting our motion against the Tongass National aawolfForest, stopping four old-growth timber sales in Southeast Alaska for a second time because of concerns related to logging effects on wolves, deer, and subsistence hunters.
 
So raise a glass! The Scott Peak, Traitors Cove, Overlook and Soda Nick timber sale, near the communities of Petersburg, Ketchikan and Hydaburg on Alaska's rainforest archipelago, are back off the chopping block. 
 
This case has been a mini-saga showing the fun & maddening ways environmental litigation works. Cascadia and Greenpeace, represented by the top-notch legal talent at CRAG law center, first sued back in 2008. It took a couple years of legal ping-pong until, in 2011, we finally got our win in the 9th Circuit. The court found the Forest Service had not explained how the project, which we had argued reduced deer habitat capability far below the established thresholds (18 deer/ sq mi), was in compliance with their own Forest Plan. The Forest Service had been mis-using a computer model in a way that masked those effects. 
 
So, the court kicked it back to the Forest Service to correct its model and explain itself (in legalese: a "remand"). If the Forest Service could adequately explain how the sales were kosher with the Forest Plan, then logging could proceed. 
 
Trouble is, the sales aren't really consistent with the Forest Plan. Combined with past logging, not enough old-growth would be left for deer to achieve the promises they've made about wolves and subsistence. The best science says the computer model needs to show 18 deer/ sq mile to have enough actual deer to feed wolves and human subsistence hunters. Remove too much habitat, and the whole system unravels. Places like these are at that breaking point.
 
So again, the Forest Service tried to obscure the problem on the ground with clever paperwork, applying the wrong rule to their new decisions. 
 
That all took another couple years. When we saw the Forest Service hadn't really corrected its errors, we filed a motion to enforce the mandate on remand, which is what the court granted yesterday.
 
The Forest Service now has a choice whether to invest more taxpayer money pushing these sales forward, or to let it drop. Theoretically they could re-do their anlysis, do it right, and log the sales. 
 
That's the frustrating thing about environmental law, the only things you can win on are procedural. The government gets infinite chances to try and make things square with the law. 
 
But fundamentally I hope Forest Service leadership recognizes that the underlying problem here is not legal procedure. There is a fundmantal contradiction between the political desire to use the forest to feed a timber industry, and the reality that the forest ecosystem is at a breaking point. Deer hunting in some of these areas is already highly restricted, and wolves (who feed on deer) are on a path to an ESA listing or extinction. The only way you can rationally decide it's OK to continue logging the Tongass is to make a mistake.
 
So the struggle continues on many fronts, but for now, we're celebrating a nice victory. Alaska's subsistence hunters, deer and wolves are a little safer today than they were yesterday. That's movement in the right direction.
 
 
 

Sep26

Practicing for Two Talking Wolves

By Bob Ferris
 
I had a short talk with Todd Wilkinson yesterday morning. These chats are becoming more frequent as our book and lecture tour becomes more real and concrete.  We talk logistics but we also talk current events and philosophies. 2019372475 On some level we are like musicians trading guitar licks in preparation for a set of concerts after not playing together for decades.  The good news is that we are pleased and comfortable with the sound.
 
This morning we talked about wolves—huge surprise.  Specifically, we opined about the joyous Wyoming decision and the sadness and anger over the Toby Bridges incident—one playing off the other like bass and lead guitars.  The song that emerges is that many states are just not ready to be responsible for wolves—philosophically, culturally or operationally.  
 
The Wyoming wolf experience and the judge’s ruling reinforces the reality that many state fish and wildlife agencies—particularly those heavily influenced by timber, energy and trophy hunting interests—cannot tackle this important undertaking without serious revision and retooling.  This really runs deep with the wildlife commissions as well as the agencies they oversee. And the public clearly sees through the rhetoric to the underlying and often contradictory attitudes and actions.  
 
The physical manifestation of this wink-wink-nudge-nudge approach to post-federally listed wolves (that does not really fool anyone) is Toby Bridges of Missoula, Montana running over two wolves and bragging about it on Facebook.  Yes this is Montana and not Wyoming, but I cannot help but think that these seeds of wolf hatred would grow less easily and spontaneously if these state agencies did not create such fertile soil through their treatment of wolves and messaging.  
 
wolf-110006State agencies need to demonstrate that they are serious about wolf recovery prior to taking over the reins on this.  And that conversation cannot start with “this how we will manage wolves,” it has to start with “this is how we will continue recovery of wolves.”  Until this cultural shift happens we will continue to do this dance in states that want to manage a “problem” rather than demonstrating that they are serious about restoring an important ecological actor.  Hopefully at some point these states will realize that holding on to their out-of-date and biologically indefensible culture is the reason they spend time in court and why the global public sees them as a region full of folks just like Toby Bridges.  
 
Now we certainly see areas within wolf country try to distance themselves from the Toby Bridges’ of the world like Ketchum, Idaho recently did by passing a resolution urging co-existence with the wolf.  But for every “Ketchum” there seems to be an “Idaho for Wildlife” style derby or website.  
 
My sense is that those looking after the reputations and also tourism revenues of their respective states should take a moment to examine the public’s reactions to those diverse actions.  Some serious thinking about which public face leads to more filled chairs, beds and rooms is likely in order, as I have yet to see studies indicating that ignorance, hatred and illogical persecution of wildlife “sell” a particular tourist destination.  Moreover, I remain unconvinced that the actions of Toby Bridges, Idaho for Wildlife or others represent the majority sentiment in those states so the many are being financially penalized for the loud and out-of-scale voices of the few.
 
More later as we get ready to take the stage in less than a month.  Hopefully we will see many of you as we travel north from Ashland on the 14th of October towards BC.  Bring your friends and questions.
 
 

Sep25

“Safeguard the Elliott!” — Come Testify at the October 8 North Bend Hearing

Kelsey:Sheena adjustedFuture management of the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest located northeast of Coos Bay is at a pivotal crossroads. The State Land Board (made up of Governor John Kitzhaber, Treasurer Ted Wheeler, and Secretary Kate Brown) is the trustee of the Elliott and will be hosting a special "listening session" in North Bend on October 8 to take public testimony on the future management of the forest. There are a number of proposals currently being considered by the state, including a reckless one that would dispose of the entire Elliott to Big Timber. The session will provide a tremendous opportunity to encourage a conservation solution for the Elliott that safeguards the forest for its outstanding values, like clean water, wild salmon, carbon storage and recreational opportunities.
 
Special State Land Board "Listening Session" on the Elliott State Forest
Wednesday, October 8, 3-6 pm
Hales Performing Arts Center (1988 Newmark Ave.), North Bend, OR
 
Carpools from Portland, Eugene and west of Roseburg are being planned. For more information and to RSVP for the Portland carpool, email Micah Meskel. The Eugene carpool will leave at 12:30 pm from behind FedEx Office on 13th and Willamette St.. Email Josh Laughlin for more information and to RSVP. The carpool from west of Roseburg will leave at 1 pm. Email Francis Eatherington for meeting location and to RSVP.
 
Preparing your testimony: Please consider preparing three-minute (maximum) testimony on behalf of yourself or the organization you represent. You should also plan to leave a hard copy of your testimony with Land Board staff after you testify. If you can't make it to the meeting on October 8, consider submitting your comments to the Land Board by email.
 
Possible talking points include:
       Decouple old-growth clearcutting from school funding on the Elliott
       Protect the Elliott's remianing native forests, wild salmon and imperiled wildlife
       Safeguard the Elliott for its hunitng, fishing and recreational opportunities and potential
       Promote timber jobs on the forest by restoratively thinning the dense second-growth tree farms and enhancing fish and wildlife habitat
       Oppose the privatization of the Elliott State Forest
 
It is encouraged that you personalize your testimony and remind the State Land Board why the Elliott is so important to you or your organization. Thanks for speaking up for this outstanding public resource!
 
(School kids stand in the threatened Elliott State Forest. Photo by Josh Laughlin)

Sep23

Great Expectations: the Oldest Trick in the Book

“I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.” Thomas Jefferson
 
By Bob Ferris
 
So much of our attitudes and actions in life are determined by our expectations—some of them true and some of them false. When you look at some of the unrest about wolves in the West, for instance, some of that has to do with Bob and Incense Cedarfolks incorrectly believing that the minimum delisting goals for wolves in the Northern Rockies were maximum acceptable population levels. I can, to a certain extent, understand their anger but it is misdirected at the wolves and wolf advocacy organizations when it should be directed at those promulgating the falsehood and creating the unreal and untrue expectation.
 
“To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings;–And…” US Constitution Article I Section 8
 
This phenomenon of purposely created false expectations becomes particularly pertinent as we start to hear election rhetoric regarding federal lands and so-called “government overreach.” The most distilled and egregious of these attacks are the ones made by candidates and others shaking a copy of the US Constitution, invoking the founding fathers, and boldly stating that the federal government cannot own any lands within the states greater than 10 square miles. This is usually emphasized by the speaker saying that they are a “student” of the US Constitution. Yep it is right there is black and white. However…
 
“The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States….”US Constitution Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2
 
The problem is that these “students” are extremely good at finding Article I Section 8 that actually deals with the federal government taking or purchasing state lands with the approval of the state legislatures for “needful buildings,” but miss Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 known as the “property clause” which actually deals with federal ownership of lands (see also here). They also conveniently forget that all this land stuff is settled by an Act of Congress before a state becomes a state in what is essentially a congressionally approved application for statehood that always includes clauses dealing with who owns what (see steps to statehood).
 
So these folks who bang this 10-square mile drum either do not know or understand the US Constitution;re advocating for ignoring or dissolving what is essentially a legally binding agreement between a state and Congress; or are trying to deceive you and create a schism between you and the governing body of your country. Regardless of which it is, none of these strike me as desirable behaviors or conditions from a person looking to gain elected office or the respect of thinking voters.
 
I have to admit that I have a deep, probably inbred, sensitivity when it comes to discussions that simultaneously mischaracterize the founding fathers, the US Constitution and federal lands. I come by this honestly as I am the Mary Walton Morrisperson in my family in this generation who bears the middle name of Morris. This naming honors Lewis Morris (my great5-grandfather) who signed the Declaration of Independence. It also touches on his half-brother Gouverneur Morris who was one of the primary drafters of the US Constitution and widely credited with coining the “We the People” phrase so popular with and so misunderstood by the Tea Party. And it also honors my great3grandfather William Walton Morris who was shipped off to West Point at age 12 and fought with honor in the War with Mexico where many of the western lands were gained and during which his cousin and West Point classmate Lewis N. Morris was killed with a bullet through the heart.
 
"I'm guess maybe I'm a little bit like the Founding Fathers. I got a job to do, and I'm going to do it the best I can." Rancher Cliven Bundy
 
This lineage likely also explains some of my tenacity when it comes to matters of principle and rightness. Grandfather Lewis was to-the-manner-born—in this case the Manor of Morrisania –and he and his wife Mary (we have to give credit to founding mothers too, at right above) gave much of that up to push forward this exercise in democracy. And one-legged, withered-armed Gouverneur Morris died a gruesome death while performing a ticklish medical procedure on himself. William died of natural causes while commanding iconic Ft. McHenry during the Civil War but not before he famously pointed the fort’s cannon at the citizenry of Baltimore to make sure they understood that he was serious about quelling any rebellion in the country that his grandfather and great uncle had worked so hard to establish. (I am sure a pattern is emerging here.)
ClivenBundy-flag
All of the above is probably why I am so personally offended by actions like Cliven Bundy riding across the landscape with a US flag, carrying a copy of the US Constitution and comparing himself to the founding fathers. Bundy’s broad claim to these lands springs from Dudley Leavitt who swopped down from Canada in 1850, had 5 wives, and was a member of the militia group that infamously massacred a wagon train of Americans—men, women and children—heading west in 1857 and then tried to blame it on the local Indians. There is some debate as to whether or not Dudley directly participated in the Mountain Meadows killings but this seems materially different than the actions of two cousins from New York who faced the cannons and an opposing force nearly twice theirs at the Battle of Palo Alto in 1846 in order to gain the lands where Mr. Bundy’s illegal cattle now squat and compromise public safety. But enough of this, Bundy is just a tool in a bigger public lands’ game and we should focus on the forces who gave this waste of skin much, much more attention than he deserved
 
.
 
For those actually paying attention (and we all should) so-called “government overreach” is really just a misdirect. It is a ploy that gets folks to look in one direction while the thing that the real players want to remain hidden saunters by out of sight. It is—as one popular commercial calls it—the oldest trick in the book. When we focus on this myth of government overreach, we miss seeing the “corporate overreach” that Jefferson, Madison, Roosevelt, and Eisenhower all warned us about so often and is so evident in these post-Citizen United days.
 
Characterizing this as a misdirect is correct but perhaps too simplistic because it is really a whole family of similar actions cobbled together in an amalgamated campaign to open up public lands to abuse and rob us of needed protections. It is the energy companies, ranchers and timber interests targeting trophy hunting groups—buying influence or perverting policy from within. It is also corporate-funded think tanks spewing intellectual pollution on climate change, nutrient loading or pipelines.
 
“The power of all corporations ought to be limited, [...] the growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses.” — James Madison
 
It becomes apparent when you look closely and pay attention that “junk science” is just as much a misdirect as “government overreach.” And the same is true for “timber gridlock” when the chainsaws and timber mills want more logs from our public holdings like Oregon’s O&C lands or the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. And you can see it too in the manufacturing and marketing of iconic “victims” such as the aforementioned Mr. Bundy to stir up public opinion to enable more public lands abuses, dismantle key environmental protections or lay down a smoke screen that masks the true motivation behind privatization.
 
“Our aim is not to do away with corporations; on the contrary, these big aggregations are an inevitable development of modern industrialism, and the effort to destroy them would be futile unless accomplished in ways that would work the utmost mischief to the entire body politic. We can do nothing of good in the way of regulating and supervising these corporations until we fix clearly in our minds that we are not attacking the corporations, but endeavoring to do away with any evil in them. We are not hostile to them; we are merely determined that they shall be so handled as to subserve the public good. We draw the line against misconduct, not against wealth.” Theodore Roosevelt
 
Those of us in the West are the ones being subjected most frequently to this collection of anti-regulatory and public lands opening misdirects. This makes sense because there is a lot at stake financially for those proffering these misdirects. Unfortunately there is even more at risk to those of us who would suffer the consequences of their success in profiting off our resources and compromising the natural systems that support us.
 
"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist." Dwight D. Eisenhower
 
So the choice is clear, we can get informed and active in protecting these lands and cornerstone environmental protections or we can go through life like the young and confused lad with the unstylish bowl-cut continually falling for the oldest trick in the book and having our expectations recalibrated by those who would rob our purse and make our lives poorer rather than richer.
 
 

Sep18

Huckleberry Hounding

By Bob Ferris
 
I read an article recently that reported that when peace officers wore cameras happier outcomes resulted for the2019372475 police and for citizens.  I think of this now as our Legal Director Nick Cady readies himself for to meet along with our members of our coalition with officials in Washington about the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s handling of the situation with the Huckleberry pack.
 
In my mind also is a depredation report that I recently reviewed from Oregon (see below).  This well-reasoned and thorough report—available to the public—is one of the tangible results of our lawsuit and 18 months of negotiation with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon Cattleman’s Association.  It is part of the manifestation of the “video camera” we have installed on that wolf recovery program and hope to install in Washington too.  
*******
ODFW LIVESTOCK DEPREDATION INVESTIGATION REPORT
Investigation ID: 140905 Wallowa
Date Investigated: 9/5/2014
General Area: Chesnimnus Creek area ‐ public land
General situation and animal information: On 9/2/14 hunters found a dead adult cow on a ridge. Wolf depredation was suspected and on 9/5/14 ODFW was asked to respond. ODFW investigated the same day. Scavengers had removed muscle tissue and hide from the left side of the neck, the left hindquarter and the medial portion of the right hindquarter. All entrails were gone from the body cavity except for the rumen contents. The skeleton was intact. The entire cow was skinned during the investigation. The cow was estimated to have died 9/1/2014.
Physical evidence of attack by a predator: There were no signs of predation on the carcass or the scene. The majority of the hide, including most of the areas commonly bit by wolves, was present and had no bite wounds on them. There was a scrape from a large blunt object on the outside of the front right leg above the knee. There was diffuse premortem bruising and blood clots just below the scrape under the hide at the knee, but no damage into the muscle fascia. There was pocket of pus next to the right hind leg hamstring (rear flank above the hock), but no bruising or damage found to the hide or muscle nearby. No signs of a chase or attack were found in the area around the carcass.
Evidence that the predator was a wolf: N/A
Evidence of wolf presence near the time of the animal(s) death/injury: There was no wolf sign at or near
the carcass or a nearby pond.
Recent wolf depredation in the same or nearby area: One calf was confirmed killed by Chesnimnus wolves 5.5 miles away on 7/16/2014 and one calf was confirmed injured by Chesnimnus wolves 10 miles away on 8/14/2014.
Cause of death/injury: Confirmed Wolf Probable Wolf Possible/Unknown Other
Summary: The cause of death is unknown, though there were no signs that predation was involved.
*******
Now this comprehensive report indicated that a wolf was not at fault.  But had a similarly detailed report indicated that a wolf had killed the livestock I would have been satisfied as well—not as happy, but satisfied.  This is an example of the type of changes that we are trying to institute in Washington’s program.  It is all about being transparent and open about what you are doing, balancing rights with responsibility, and moving wolves towards recovery.  We wish our team well!
 
 
 
 
 

 

Sep14

Public Lands Calculations and Creating the Conservation Chip

By Bob Ferris
 
When pocket calculators first came out in the early 1970s some of us had some fun with these devices revolving Old Growth Tree in Sale Parcelaround tasking them with calculating imaginary numbers like the square root of -1 or with getting these slide rule replacements to find values for irrational numbers such as π.  What answer or response you received from your new pocket companion was largely driven by what chip or chips your magical device used.  
 
The above experience and the chips come to mind as I look at the current debates over federal public lands.  Because many involved in the debate appear to be missing the necessary logic chips including one I might call the “conservation chip.”  They also need to spend a little time with a calculator working with some real and relevant numbers.
 
I have had a bunch of discussions with folks lately about the importance of the existence and condition of land—mainly federal land.  These discussions have become more frequent because ranching, timber and energy interests have been arguing that we have an “overabundance” of federal public lands that should be privatized or given to the states or counties.  They are also arguing that we need to do away with the Endangered Species Act and weaken the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act which is all related to their desires for unfettered access to federal public lands and use of our other public assets (i.e., waterways and air) as dumping grounds for their wastes.  
 
They are achieving some success because they are using a media machine often fatally crippled by the loss of the Fairness Doctrine.  They are helped in this by a fertile political construct enabled greatly by the wide open barn door of Citizen’s United. Both of which are then applied towards a populace that has been largely and purposely deprived of the educational advantage they once enjoyed.   
 
Rancher Bundy is escorted in BunkervilleHow else can anyone explain why a man like Cliven Bundy who is breaking the law, trashing wildlife habitat and costing the American taxpayers millions in grazing, legal and law enforcement costs could gain any sympathetic press coverage at all?  Moreover, on what planet does it make sense for any elected officials at any level supposedly acting in the interests of their constituencies and adhering to the US Constitution to stand up for this sort of behavior?  And how can anyone who enjoys hiking, hunting, fishing, bird watching or dozens of other outdoor pursuits that take place on federal lands express support for Bundy’s selfishness and think that their activities will be enhanced by privatization or increased exploitation of these lands? 
 
I ascribe this all to the anatomical equivalent of a missing logic chip because it functions so much like that.  This missing chip hypothesis is also compelling because it not only explains the disconnect on the value of federal public lands, but elegantly squares with the pattern of rural folks continually electing those who so often vote against rural interests and those of hunters and anglers on issues like climate change, grazing, road building, and energy development. 
 
I have introduced the idea of the missing chip, but what about the calculator?  In the 1990s if you looked at the per capita federal land ownership in the US we all had about 2.6 acres of land each, if we were to dissolve the federal estate and distribute it equally.  By 2010 we had added more than 50 million people to the mix and at the same time disposed of something like 18 million acres of federal lands.  So when we look at our per capita ownership of these lands held in trust for us in 2010 they had dropped to around 2.03 acres each.  We had essentially taken a 22% hit in the arena. Ouch.  
 
Seneca Clearcut at Dawn
But the news gets worse.  Now that climate change is upon us it takes more land to provide the same value to wildlife, watersheds and us.  So if our elected officials were watching out for this element of our lives they would have not only corrected and reversed this growing public lands deficit but they would also have made corrections to accommodate for the impacts of climate change out of concern over our decreased quality of life.  But this is really not what we are seeing and we should be asking why before we lose another 22%.  
 
Moreover, the above really does not take into account the ecological and economic discount that these lands are suffering from road building, over-grazing, clearcutting, fracking, alien invasive species and unrestored open-pit mining for coal.  
 
Just as pocket calculators evolved and improved the quality of their chips, the conservation movement must do so as well. Essentially we all need to work to not only broadly install the missing logic chip referenced above but also install an upgraded “conservation” chip too.  So how do we do that in the face of a broken media machine, an increasingly compromised political system and a less than informed public?
 
First, we must become the media.  We must use the social media networks we have created to broaden the reach of a whole school of conservation writers and environmental commentators who live comfortably in the intellectual border lands between environmental advocates and those who hunt and fish.  On this list I would include Ted Williams, Hal Herring, Todd Tanner, David StallingDavid Petersen, Jim Posewitz, Brenda Peterson, and Todd Wilkinson.   Please follow them, read their works and then spread them around your networks far and wide.  (And a huge apology to those writer frends who I missed.)
 
We lose political power and influence when we narrow our circle and artificially make our movement a collection of minorities by only working with those with shared views and lifestyles rather than those with shared public lands interests.  So support and promote the work of those organizations that understand the peril we all face from these various exploitive quarters, are working these issues hard, and looking to rebuild bridges between historic allies—the type exemplified by the odd-couple alliance between John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt.  I think—though they may not know it yet—that Backcountry Hunters and Anglers’ campaign for keeping public lands public is a good example of a bridge rebuilding issue.  The same is true for our work to find a conservation solution on the Elliott State Forest in Oregon that benefits marbled murrelets, elk and Coho salmon.  Political power and the will to bring change springs from these alliances.  
 
It is important to remember when thinking about the critical nature of this bridge building that vegetarians and hunters both use and enjoy benefits from federal public lands and they are both minorities in this country.  If these diverse factions focus on their differences in a broccoli versus beef manner much energy will be wasted and nothing gained.  But if they make the dialogue about needing more public land rather than less and better management of the lands we all own, the outcome is much more likely to be positive for this generation and the next.
 
And lastly, we all have to be active, effective voices for conservation.  If our education system fails to help folks sort all of this out and find the proper path, we will have to constantly and respectfully educate people and provide them with facts.  You can bet that those who want to exploit the economic and ecological chaos they have created for their own gain will be pulling out all the stops to continue in an unsustainable manner.  (Todd Wilkinson and I will be doing exactly this for two week next month, I would encourage others to do this as well.)
 
Our strengths are in our numbers…if we stick together, the facts…if we stick to them, and our visions for the future…if we really want a better world rather than one that is disintegrating at an accelerated pace.  

 

Sep09

To BLM: Derbies Should be Cute Little Hats, Not Killing Contests

“This is an incredible opportunity to team up with our [sic] son or daughter during Christmas break and spend some quality time in the gorgeous Salmon, Idaho Country! Some of our objectives are to teach hunting skills, gun safety and wolf disease prevention to our youth and others.” From 2013 promotion materials for the Salmon Predator Derby  
 
By Bob Ferris
 
Most of us think that “derbies” are funny little hats worn by Leprechauns and the father in Mary Poppins. But when you combine coyote or wolf with that funny little chapeau, the meaning and association become much less funny. Coyote Close up In truth, there is nothing cute or endearing about coyote and wolf derbies—that is—unless you feel that ignorance and fear are attractive traits.
 
So why would a federal agency even consider allowing a misguided group known as Idaho for Wildlife to conduct one of these killing contests as a fundraiser on lands owned by all of us?  Yes this is the same group that was deploying the so-called long-range tactical wolf hunters and offering bounties on wolves in Idaho.  Yes this is the same group that is spreading false information about wolves and disease ripping a page right out of Jim Beers' handbook (see here for a few facts on this).  
 
And yes this is the group that is fighting the other group that hates wolves because they do not tell the truth but is supported by other groups who hate wolves and spread misinformation including the group headed by a convicted elk poacher and ironically called Save Our Elk.  (I simply cannot make this stuff up.)
 
So when we distill this all down we have a group that spreads misinformation about wolves, wanting to raise money to spread that misinformation by creating a contest (based on fear and myths) on federal lands owned by all of us during a time (winter) when deer and elk—the species that they want to protect—are food challenged and most sensitive to human presence and stress.  (Why does an image of torches and pitchforks pop into my mind?)  
 
Before we all die of irony poisoning, please take a moment to give some feedback to BLM on this matter. 
 
 
 

Sep08

Cascadia Wildlands and the Tiny Linebacker

By Bob Ferris
 
I watched a little bit of football this past week. It helps take my mind off a number of issues we are dealing with and gives me a little emotional respite. This is particularly beneficial when you are in the Pacific Northwest and the two huckleberry_pupsgames you watch involve the Seattle Sea Hawks and the U of O Ducks.
 
In searching for game times and other issues I stumbled on to numerous videos about technical glitches in John Madden’s new X-Box offering “Madden 15.” Turns out a programmer made one of the linebackers 14 inches tall rather than the more realistic 6’2” tall. This led to a series of posts and video commentaries around the web about the tiny linebacker knocking over full-size players and even recovering a fumbled ball that was larger than him. This was all hilarious stuff for a time.
 

It got me thinking about Cascadia Wildlands and our size relative to our colleagues and also to those we oppose on a regularly basis. We are that tiny linebacker (only smaller) and yet we regularly prevail just like this out-of-scale video image does. I say smaller because the tiny linebacker is roughly one fifth the height of his co-players, while we are one hundredth the fiscal magnitude of a group like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation whose policies and actions allow it to freely draw from the wellspring of donations from exploitive corporations.
 
Bob and Incense CedarDon’t get me wrong, I like our size and it has many advantages. But the reason you do not get nearly constant electronic solicitations from us is because the person who would mostly likely write those is also working on critical program issues, is the webmaster, the head of personnel, the finance manager and the executive director all rolled into one.
 
It is an extremely efficient system, but at a time like now when we are fighting to save the Huckleberry pack; looking for a conservation solution on the Elliott State Forest (while blocking land sales and harvests via three lawsuits); launching a lawsuit for Alexander Archipelago wolves in the Tongass; trying to block LNG exports and a dangerous pipeline to Coos Bay; and trying to expand the suction dredge fight to Washington State it makes us prioritize and work on programs at exactly the time we should be asking the public for support.
 
Our tinier-than-the-tiny-linebacker-model is a great one and we are proud of our lean and mean reputation. But we also need public support and would encourage you make a donation to support our valuable work—particularly to our Mountain Rose Herbs matching gift campaign.
 
 
In this,I would urge you to understand that while even a large donation to larger organization makes little difference to them financially—even a small gift help us materially. Please share this around and encourage others to help us achieve a lot with very,very little.
 
 
Thank you,
 
bob's signature
 
 
 
 

Sep06

Huckleberry Hindsight

By Bob Ferris
 
The true character of any person, institution or machine becomes revealed by stress. You could think, for huckleberry_pupsinstance, that you were in good shape until you climb that steep hill and realize differently because your lungs are struggling, your heart beats like a drum and your head aches. For the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) the “steep hill” is wolf recovery. And as we look back at the Wedge and Huckleberry pack experiences we clearly see they are ill-equipped to handle this challenge or even see the most logical pathway—a rulemaking process—to remove themselves from this constant, consistent and well-deserved public beatings (1,2,3,4,5).
 
All bureaucracies fear change and generally need to be dragged kicking and screaming to any process that alters the way they do business, but even the most entrenched within this bastion of rigidity must understand that the current mode operation is not working. If forced to characterize the problem I would state it by saying the agency is deficient in comprehension, commitment and communications.
 
I am a wildlife biologist and have worked in the conservation arena for more than 30 years in various capacities. During my education I was deeply exposed to ecological theory and practice including an extensive examination of the evolution of ecological thinking influenced by folks like Aldo Leopold, Olaus Murie and others. Moreover, from my earliest education in the 1970s until now I have had the advantage of watching my profession evolve from an exercise in maximizing game and fish populations to an understanding of the value of maintaining ecological function and biodiversity. All this drives how I think and act in regards to conservation.
 
This above grounding allows me to easily recognize others with similar grounding and understanding. When dealing with WDFW’s upper management and my collective sense of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, I do not get this sense of intellectual resonance. Now granted the WDFW clings to the old-school and dated notion of maximization rather than managing for sustainability or resiliency, but even given that I do feel that there is much in the way of effort being exerted to swim upstream rather than float with the current.
 
Anyone who has been involved with wolf recovery understands that the successful pursuit of the activity requires commitment. Many states want control of this activity but lack the commitment and also do not grasp that management and recovery are fundamentally not the same thing. That is why many organizations—including Cascadia Wildlands—would prefer federal recovery efforts to state management. This is in part because we understand that these are different functions and approaches and because we have the negative examples of Idaho and elsewhere.
 
Communications with stakeholders are key to the success of any endeavor and wolf recovery is no exception. When done correctly communications engender connectedness and trust. When done poorly—as with the WDFW’s press release on the killing of the alpha female—they result in several thousand angry phone calls and e-mails to the Governor. That is a major public relations failure.
 
Why was this press release such a problem? Emerging science indicates more and more that maintaining pack structure is very important—which means it is critical to keep the alpha pairs. Our group and others were assured through various channels at WDFW that lethal control would be directed only towards young of the year and that the alpha pair would be preserved. Additionally, the WDFW, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Governor are engaged through various legal petitions and the Wolf Advisory Committee (WAG) either directly with Cascadia Wildlands or via our partners in the Pacific Wolf Coalition which makes us a stakeholder and gives us standing on this issue.
 
"The department’s wildlife veterinarian conducted a necropsy this week indicating the wolf was the pack’s breeding female."  WDFW press release September 4, 2014
 
So when we find out—basically by accident—that the alpha female was killed nearly two weeks after she died,lactating_female_wolf_eagle_cap_odfw2we are upset. When we find news of this event buried deep in what can only be characterized as a pro-ranching press release our blood pressure raises a little more. And when we see this monumental mistake mentioned offhandedly, in a manner that dismissively characterizes the role of this female, and that implies that the delay in notification is related to the need for a necropsy (the animal equivalent of an autopsy) we really have to question whether this agency takes its role in wolf recovery or it responsibility to public at all seriously. (Please see trail camera photograph of lactating female wolf taken during the summer in Oregon to understand how absolutely silly the necropsy defense is.)
 
The list goes on and on, but the answer to all of this is for WDFW and the Commission to finally wake up and undergo rulemaking. With rulemaking they would emerge with an approach that incorporates the understanding of all the stakeholders including those of the conservationists and ranching interests reflected in rules for wolves as well as for livestock producers. With rulemaking WDFW would also demonstrate that they are committed to a recovery pathway rather than one that simply manages. And with rulemaking lines of communications as well as mechanisms for communication would be created that would make sure that all parties had the information that they needed.
 
The public scrutiny and openness may seem like a pain but the agency has to ask themselves how is this current path working for them.  Because this public pressure will continue until WDFW makes meaningful changes in their program and their approach.
 
 
 
 
        

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