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Oct24

You Don’t Know Ted…

By Bob Ferris
 
I have been in and around the conservation aspects of media mogul Ted Turner’s operations for nearly two Gibbon-pack-300x203decades and through that thought that I had a pretty good idea who Ted is and the vision and scope of his efforts to re-wild the West and change the world. After reading Todd Wilkinson’s insightful biography of Turner entitled “Last Stand: Ted Turner’s Quest to Save a Troubled Planet” I found that I knew a lot less than I thought.
 
I will say upfront that Todd Wilkinson, the book’s author, is my friend. Moreover, many of the folks who work for Turner on his ranches or in his conservation efforts are too. I will also say that I just toured with Todd for more than 1000 miles promoting the paperback version of Last Stand and at the same time forwarding the notion of eco-capitalism, mechanisms for world peace, the end of female genital mutilation and pathways for re-wildling the West. Guilty as charged. In point of fact, it would have been hard for me to work in this field as long as I have without bumping into these efforts.
 
So did I like the book? Yes, for many reasons. But let’s start with the personal insights that came out of Wilkinson’s nearly unfettered access over two decades which often reveal as much about Turner as they do about ourselves and our own psychic baggage. For instance, those of us of certain age grew up trying to please parents who never seemed satisfied with our achievements or all that accepting of our natural rebelliousness. And while rejection and castigation are great motivators leading frequently to innovation and performance in those strong enough to bear them, they come at a price. Wilkinson’s sensitive documentation of Ted’s early life and young adulthood give us an important glimpse of the devils that drive Turner as well as a better understanding—even empathy—for the less embraceable elements of Mr. Turner’s public and private behaviors. The child—as Wordsworth once said—is absolutely the father of the man.
 
Wilkinson spends time also explaining the manifestations of this drive in terms of iconic actions such as the building of the family’s billboard company, founding of CNN, and winning the America’s Cup. These are indeed remarkable events that grant Turner a legitimate place in the land of super-achievers who measure themselves in billions, but do not grant the book or story special stature beyond a dozen others we see littering the discount tables. What makes Turner’s story and Wilkinson’s telling special is the narrative of Turner’s transformation from simple capitalist to eco-capitalist as well as an international actor applying his childhood-forged determination towards solving some of the world’s most Gordian knots.
 
It is this reinvention of self that Turner experiences and Wilkinson documents that makes him a truly noteworthy figure and the book a compelling read. Simultaneously catalyzed by the natural qualities of the lands he acquired with growing wealth; his close relationship with explorer and ocean advocate Jacques Cousteau; and his marriage to Jane Fonda, Ted successfully changed the direction and thrust of his life in meaningful ways.
 
That is not to say that Ted became a saint as many of the warts accumulated during his early years remain, but it would be very difficult to argue that the man who once plastered “Who is John Galt” on hundreds of billboards and was known as the “mouth of the South,” is wholly recognizable in the quieter man walking his horse in parallel to his bison herd on the Flying D ranch and working to put his two million acres in a trust to keep their natural as well as their economic values intact and functioning.
 
Todds cover350And while Turner’s transformation and achievements in conservation are important and make for good reading, his actions in the international arena indicate both a broader impact and that his transformation continues. Wilkinson understands the importance of this thread as he covers the actions of the various Turner organizations as well as the “dream team” of players like Tim Wirth, Sam Nunn and Mike Finley that Ted has enlisted in forwarding his efforts to help the United Nations, deal with nuclear threats and use borderland parks and their wildlife as icebreakers to the much more difficult discussions of peace between opposing countries.
 
Last Stand is inspirational and informative to all. Ted’s story of change and achievement gives us hope on a challenging landscape where many are saying we should jump directly into despair. If this young boy who once carried Buffalo-head nickels in pocket for inspiration can radically change perhaps we can find the needed vision and inspiration within ourselves to save this troubled planet.
 
****** 
 
Interested in this book and helping Cascadia Wildlands? For the months of November and December 2014 any donor who makes a contribution of $100.00 or more to Cascadia Wildlands will be eligible to receive a free copy of “Last Stand: Ted Turner’s Quest to Save a Troubled Planet” complements of the author Todd Wilkinson.
 

Oct12

Celebrate and Practice Wolf Awareness This Week and Beyond

By Bob Ferris
 
I get philosophical when riding my bike.  I got so philosophical the other night that I almost biked into an openinglactating_female_wolf_eagle_cap_odfw2 car door, but I digress.  A lot of my pedal-powered thinking of late has been directed at wolves, science and our various governments’ intellectual and moral responsibilities—with the Huckleberry Pack and the proposed Wolf and Coyote Derby near Salmon, Idaho both heavy on my mind.  
 
The Huckleberry Pack raises so many questions in these contexts.  Are state wildlife agencies culturally suited to recover species or are they often too stuck in a management mindset that can only think in terms of reducing or setting acceptable losses?  Moreover, how does an agency oriented towards maximizing revenue via the taking of wildlife and fish suddenly switch to being the champion of species recovery and increasing numbers?  It strikes me that is a little like expecting someone skilled with a wrecking ball or sledgehammer to suddenly become of finish carpenter—certainly they are both valued members of the building trades but they tend to attack their professions in different manners and attitudes.   And yes I know folks that are good at both in both arenas but exceptions should give us sensitivities rather than stop us from trying to deal with this core issue.
 
And in parallel to the above, what role does the very presence or existence of USDA Wildlife Services in this equation play in whether or not lethal control is chosen by the state as an approach? Is this “last resort” option too easy and available when Wildlife Services is just a phone call away and when the whine of ranchers and rural county commissioners becomes simply too shrill?   And what is a program that focuses on lethal control and population reduction with a business model that is dependent upon the existence of wildlife conflicts doing anywhere near a recovery program?  
Wildlife Services Paw Prints
 
Admittedly, my feelings about Wildlife Services are greatly influenced by that flat and bruised spot gained from beating my head against the program’s impenetrable wall that has protected it from science and scrutiny for more than 20 years.   Although they no longer allow pilots to paste wolf paw prints on the side of their planes people should always remember that Wildlife Services—in a former incarnation—was actually the instrument that caused the endangerment of wolves in the first place.
 
This is all—the agency culture, Wildlife Services and the undue influence of ranching and extreme trophy hunting interests—really a house of cards built from a deck that is badly stacked against the wolf.  This tenuous structure then sits on a table with shaky legs made of bad science, inappropriate expectations from livestock producers, agency opaqueness and myths about wolves and other predators that have lived for far too long. 
 
Moving on to the predator derby, as we look at science and federal responsibility in the context of this proposed wolf and coyote derby in Salmon, Idaho it literally makes the head spin, particularly when we understand that the BLM thinks that the impacts of this proposal are not that bad.  Really?  Setting aside the fact that the analyses are far from complete and ignore much in the current literature—and we will deal with that—but what about the deeper and more fundamental impact and implications of the federal government helping to perpetuate the mindset that predators are somewhat disposable and are unwelcome elements on the landscape?  
 
Regardless of how one feels about hunting and the consumption of meat, I think that most would agree that there is a fundamental difference between killing a deer or elk for food and shooting a wolf or coyote because you hate them.  Isn’t the federal government tacitly endorsing and financially enabling the misinformation and myths promulgated by the anti-wolf group by granting permission to conduct this economic activity on public lands?  Shouldn’t one of the roles of the federal government be to adhere to and promote science’s current understanding of the role of predators in any and all actions?  Shouldn’t the federal government be a corrective and progressive force that leads us into a brighter future rather than anchoring us to ideas disproven early in the last century?  
 
As we enter Wolf Awareness Week today, we should think about these questions and issues.  We should also think about what we can all do to make others more wolf aware.  We need to break these non-productive cultural barriers and cycles of myths and ignorance.  For me this awareness-raising exercise begins again in earnest when I pick up friend and writer Todd Wilkinson tomorrow to do our Two Talking Wolves Tour at nearly 20 venues in the Pacific Northwest.  Join us if you can and please think about what you will do during this important week and beyond to bring awareness and understanding for wolves and other predators.  See some of you soon.

 

Oct06

“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)

Oct04

The Wild Goose Chase and the Land of Lost Opportunities

By Bob Ferris
 
“Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and esthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” Aldo Leopold in The Land Ethic, A Sand County Almanac pp. 224-25
 
Few us of know with certainty what we were doing 20 years ago, me included. But I do know what I was doing The Wild Goose Chaseon October 4, 1994. I was on a “wild goose chase” that was taking place at a very, very special place—Aldo Leopold’s shack in Baraboo, Wisconsin.
 
“Conservation, without a keen realization of its vital conflicts, fails to rate as authentic human drama. It falls to the level of a mere utopian dream.” Aldo Leopold in review of Our Natural Resources and Their Conservation (1937)
 
The Wild Goose Chase (and this was fun to put on expense forms) was a bringing together of leaders in timber resource management, environmental community and wildlife agencies—all folks grounded in Leopold’s Land Ethic—to see if we could figure out a way to make ecosystem management work and sand some of the rough edges off the Endangered Species Act. We wanted to know if we could come up with mechanisms that would provide both economic predictability and preserve ecological integrity—saving money and species at the same time. It turns out with a little creativity we could.
 
“I have purposely presented the land ethic as a product of social evolution because nothing so important as an ethic is ever 'written'… It evolves in the minds of a thinking community.” Aldo Leopold in The Land Ethic, A Sand County Almanac pp. 225
 
The meeting and process was the brain-child of Murray Lloyd self-described “loose cannon on deck” and participant along with me and several others in the Black Bear Conservation Coalition working to conserve the Louisiana black bear that Theodore Roosevelt once famously refused to shoot. We wanted to take the lessons learned in that process and see if we could collectively apply them across a broader geography. And we did by opening doors of communication between these interests and serving as a sounding board in the development of incentives like Habitat Conservation Planning and the so-called Safe Harbor agreements under the Endangered Species Act.
 
“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” Aldo Leopold in Foreword, A Sand County Almanac pp. viii
 
This and other similar initiatives were shining promises of a hopeful and cooperative future. We were building trust and cooperation and trying to move away from the old ways of doing business. It is hard to completely identify the actual “stake through the heart” of this whole enterprise. But soon thereafter one could not mention ecosystem management in congressional testimony and not get the resentful stares normally reserved for communists and atheists. One minute we were having friendly and productive discussions with the likes of John Chaffee, Sherry Boehlert, Wayne Gilchrist and other receptive Republicans that were leading to innovative solutions and the next were being browbeaten and bullied by Don Young, Richard Pombo and Helen Chenoweth.
 
“All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants and animals, or collectively the land.” Aldo Leopold in The Land Ethic, A Sand County Almanac pp. 204
 
Aldo's Red RockLots of factors contributed to the above change and our current and worsening state, but most relate to decisions made in boardrooms and offices to abandon legitimate and democratic processes of change like the Goose Chase or efforts like the Global Environmental Management Initiative for the hard and heartless hammer of money and influence. Certainly the Koch brothers and Rupert Murdoch are exemplars of the derailing forces involved but there is room for broad blame and none of this is helped by the disastrous Citizens United ruling and the loss of the Fairness Doctrine.
 
“Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher 'standard of living' is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free.” Aldo Leopold in Foreword, A Sand County Almanac pp. vii
 
I think about the promise of the Goose Chase now because of the anniversary, but also because it and the subsequent congressional mood swing relate materially to my attitude towards and trust levels relating to modifications of how the O&C Lands are managed or even as we entertain and advocate for options for the Elliott State Forest in Oregon. My “trust meter” is on zero and those forces that worked so diligently to derail collaborative attitudes a generation or so ago should really think about what they gained through their efforts and what they could have gained had they remained honest brokers.
 
“We Americans, in most states at least, have not yet experienced a bear-less, eagle-less, cat-less, wolf-less woods. Germany strove for maximum yields of both timber and game and got neither.” Aldo Leopold in Notes on Wild Life Conservation in Germany (1935)
 
We are still mainly all in contact and the consensus among Goose Chase alumni is that the public will still exists to foment innovative public-private partnerships in the model of Leopold’s vision but that the congressional landscape which influences administrative actions and is influenced too heartily by the very corporate interests that would benefit from these undertakings is ironically the barrier. In order for us and others of similar mind sets to institute what we grew to call “virtual conservation” or “project-projects,” the bridge-makers with sensitivities to both economics and ecology need to be reactivated and empowered and the polarizing forces with a lack of understanding of the former and no sensitivity to the latter need to be expunged. Viva the Wild Goose Chase and thank you Murray!
 

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.
 
 

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
 
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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.  
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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.
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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.  

 

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