Blog

Aug31

Of Wolves and Huckleberries

By Bob Ferris
 
There are tons of rumors floating around about the Huckleberry Pack.  Things are being said about wolves, the 2008937557rancher, WDFW and even private property rights.  In this say-anything and believe-anything society we now find ourselves in we have to be discerning and cut the tails off both ends of the information spectrum to find something approaching the truth of this matter.  But there are some things we know and should be concerned about.
 
The first is the agency behavior.  The public expressed great displeasure at the way the Wedge Pack incident was handled and many of us—including Cascadia Wildlands—were simultaneously critical and stood (and are standing) ready with concrete ideas and solutions for moving forward.   As we look at this Huckleberry Pack situation it was clear that both were ignored. 
 
Most of my professional life has involved looking at complex ecological, economic and social systems in a conservation context.  And this Huckleberry situation is one of the most complex and myth filled.   Taken in its purest form what the wolves and this huge sheep flock on private timberlands in northeastern Washington State represents is the collision between a nearly two century old effort to transform the West into pastures and woodlots for the benefit of a select few and the desires of the many to see wildlands that are wild.  Both sides of the debate have valid points but rather than searching for solutions many are looking for bigger and uglier conflicts.  That search will ultimately result in poor outcomes for both sides.
 
In many people’s minds what makes this situation special is that it happens on private lands rather than public because that gets away from the issue of subsidies and below market grazing.  While that is kind of true, rural counties—like Stevens County—are notoriously subsidized by federal monies and by the more urban counties in the state.  Rural road systems and education are two areas where rural residents enjoy amenities far above their federal, state or county tax contributions and there are many others.
 
2019372475Certainly there are valid reasons for this osmotic flow of tax dollars and there should be no shame in it.  But it also should not be ignored or denied by those whose activities—like ranching and timber harvests—are compromising the water quality, recreational opportunities and ecological services needed or enjoyed by those parties footing some of their bills.  Nor should this situation encourage a sense of self-righteousness or crowing from rural private landowners promoting their reputation for rugged self-reliance, because it only makes these folks look a lot like teenagers plastering their rooms with no trespassing signs. 
 
On the flipside those in urban areas need also to understand a few things.  First off, animal protein and lumber comes from somewhere.  Only 14% or so of people in the United States are vegans or vegetarians and most of us live in houses so divorcing ourselves from this situation like we are disinterested parties is not productive nor is it honest.  We all have a hand or hands in this. 
 
We have to be honest too about the wolves and livestock.  Wolves are wild critters and they do occasionally kill livestock and where that happens it is a problem for that producer.  That said, there is really no excuse for comments like those made recently by Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho—a state which seems poised to nominate “lying about wolves” as an Olympic sport.  Leaders should certainly have strongly held beliefs but their leadership should not consist of throwing gasoline on a fire and the complaining about the heat.
 
Which brings us to sheep.  Domestic sheep are bred to be docile and afraid of their own shadows.  They are as distant in many ways from their canny wild ancestors as teacup poodles are from wolves.  So how truly prudent is it to release these walking, wool-covered cocktail wieners into a rough and rugged, re-wilding landscape?  
 
Certainly folks should be granted great latitude in the way they manage or use their private lands, but there are limits particularly when those lands often enjoy substantial tax benefits because of their perceived benefits for wildlife and watersheds—which are diminished by sheep and cattle grazing.  Or when the users of these tax-advantaged parcels or public lands expect non-trivial amounts of state and federal assistance to deal with conflicts with endangered wildlife such as the $75,000 cost of controling the Wedge Pack. 
 
So where does that leave us?  My sense is that this pack was aptly named because huckleberries are fruits used both by humans and wildlife.  When cultivated and over managed huckleberries only provide food for humans and little benefit for wildlife.  And when approached too casually in their wild state there are sometimes conflicts with bears and other wildlife.  But when left in their natural state and sensitively and cautiously approached by humans they yield both a wonderful experience and a tasty treat.
 
This Labor Day weekend is one of respite for the wolves and is a good time for reflection about this whole affair.  The WDFW, for instance, needs to consider how they move forward and how to repair their doubly bruised reputation with the public they serve. 
 
This rancher and others need to think about how their businesses can thrive in this re-wilding landscape and how their choices of livestock breeds and management options can lead to conflict and loss or more happy outcomes.  In this they might look at other options such as hardier breeds of sheep and cattle or even bison as Ted Turner has on his Flying D ranch and elsewhere (for more on this latter topic please consider attending one of the Two Talking Wolves tour stops). 
 
Washington’s Governor Inslee needs to think about how he can help the WDFW deal better with this situation and others.  Our sense is that the best pathway would be what was done in Oregon where the agency, ranchers and wildlife advocacy groups sat down and negotiated rules that were later adopted by the legislators and the Fish and Wildlife Commission.  It took 18 months, but it was worth it.
 
And wolf advocates must reflect as well.  Based upon comments that I have seen, we need to become more aware and sensitive to the situations faced in rural areas and proceed in an informed and respectful manner.  I know this is difficult—particularly in the face of vitriol—but it is necessary as well as keeping up the pressure needed to get the logical and best parties to the table in Washington.  Please click below to help and share this around the social networks.
 
 
 

Aug26

WTF?!

By Gabe Scott
 
Cascadia Wildlands filed a lawsuit today to stop the U.S. Forest Service’s Big Thorne timber project on Prince of Wales Island in southeast Alaska. Big Thorne is by far the largest logging project on the Tongass National Forest since the region’s two pulp mills closed about 20 years ago.
 
Mail Attachment-9
The lawsuit argues the federal government failed to heed research by Dr. David K. Person, a former Alaska Fish and Game wildlife biologist and foremost expert on Alexander Archipelago wolves. A formal declaration by Person, written after he retired and filed with Cascadia’s appeal of the project, says that Big Thorne would be the final straw to “break the back” of the ecosystem dynamic between the wolves, deer and hunters on the island.
 
We’ve joined forces with Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Greenpeace, Center for Biological Diversity, and The Boat Company to file the suit, and are jointly represented by CRAG law center.
 
WTF?
The legal outrage at the heart of this lawsuit is political suppression of science by the Forest Service and Parnell administration. Dr. Person first circulated his concerns within the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, where he worked at the time. The comments were buried by the agency and by higher-level state bureaucrats to implement Governor Parnell’s “one voice” policy, which suppresses troublesome science in order to maximize logging.
 
Dr. Person’s strongly held concerns were discovered through public records requests. Then, after confronting the Forest Service with the material in comments on the Big Thorne draft environmental impact statement, the agency simply ignored it.
 
 In this case, that gambit by the two governments backfired. The declaration, prepared after Person quit ADF&G, was filed by the plaintiffs in an administrative appeal of the August 2013 Big Thorne decision. The project was put on hold for nearly a year while Dr. Person’s declaration was reviewed.
 
A special six-person Wolf Task Force with personnel from the Forest Service, ADF&G and the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, reviewed the declaration. Opinion was evenly split. This is not surprising, given political pressure and the state’s one-voice policy. Breaking ranks was a Forest Service biologist who has done wolf research on the island.
 
All of which fits the “one-voice” pattern that has been embraced so corrosively by our last three Governors. It starts when a field-level scientist with the State ADF&G discovers a fact or makes a finding that implies concern for some development project. They write it up. Politically appointed bureaucrats review the biologists’ statements, cherry-picking the facts that support development and eliminating statements that raise concerns. The lower-level biologist is not allowed to talk with people outside the agency.
 
The Alexander Archipelago Wolf
The wolf population on Prince of Wales looks to have dropped very sharply in recent years. The US Fish & Wildlife Service is currently contemplating their 12-month finding on a petition to list the wolves under the ESA.
 
Nobody has a firm count on the number of wolves, but the basic dynamic is understood. Wolves on POW face two problems: (1) a legacy of old clearcuts, that are now thickets devoid of habitat value; and (2) unsustainably high hunting and trapping levels, spawned by the vast network of logging roads.
 
Habitat
The habitat problem is well-recognized by scientists; we are suing the Forest Service to force their land managers to actually apply that knowledge.
 
Without enough old-growth winter habitat in the forest for shelter, deer populations plummet during deep-snow winters. Without enough deer to go around, wolves and hunters compete with one another for not-enough-deer. That never ends well for the wolf. Hunters lose out too, because without the big-tree habitat the deer still starve in winter.
 
Dave Beebe winter deer
POW is the most heavily logged part of southeast Alaska, and what remains is increasingly important to wildlife. The project would cut more than 6,000 acres of old-growth.
 
Theoretically, the Forest Plan “conservation strategy” protects the deer/ wolf/ hunter relationship by requiring areas of the forest to keep enough forest habitat to support 18 deer/ sq mi.. The Big Thorne area is already well below this figure, and the proposed logging would push it even lower.
 
Scientists, including Dr. Person, have been hollering about the 18 deer/ sq mi. threshold for years, to no avail. Without enough underlying habitat, the whole system of interaction between deer, wolves and hunters breaks down, they say. Without habitat, fiddling around with hunting regulations doesn’t matter.
 
That’s not what the Forest Service wants to hear, however, so they’ve ignored it. This reality interferes with their plan to stay out of roadless areas by concentrating logging in sacrifice zones like Prince of Wales. The Forest Service don't want to admit to locals that cutting all those trees means they won’t have enough deer to hunt.
 
The State, who is in charge of managing wildlife, just wants to blame wolves.
 
Which brings us to the emotional heart of the issue.
 
Some Humans Don’t Love Wolves
The second threat to wolves is unsustainable hunting and trapping. A determined trapper or two can take every wolf in an area, and that’s what’s been happening on Prince of Wales.
 
In fall of 2012, Dr. Person determined through DNA sampling that there were about 29 wolves in the project area, in two packs.
 
In spring of 2013, he could only account for six or seven remaining. That winter, at least 15 wolves were killed legally, more when you count poaching.
Last winter was even worse, reducing the lone remaining pack of 13 to only 4.
 
The Forest Service claims that problem should be left to State game management to more strictly regulate hunters and trappers.
 
But is that right? I disagree that the folks who hunt and trap wolves on POW are blood-thirsty, stupid, and they almost always care deeply about a healthy environment.
 
The problem isn’t mean people, it’s bad management. Two factors are at play. First of all, the vast network of logging roads exposes pretty much every wolf to hunting. Work by Dr. Person showed that when more than 40% of a wolf home range is logged and roaded, it can become a population sink. The Forest Service proposal would bring it up to 80%.
 
The second factor is that wolf trappers are do-it-yourself predator controllers. When deer populations are low— and they are surely dropping as a result of all the logging— trappers kill a lot of wolves to help the deer.
 
The Forest Service strategy is to trust the State of Alaska board of game to keep wolf trapping sustainable. In reality, that’s obvious nonsense. The State would cheerfully kill the last wolf it if meant an easier venison steak. State sponsored predator control includes plans to kill 80% of the wolves around Petersburg, and all the wolves off another island.
 
Even if you could trust the State, and you can’t, hunting regulation can’t be the solution because the State has no population estimate for wolves. State management is predicated on knowing how many of a critter there are, calculating how many you can kill and still leave enough to breed, and fixing a harvest limit. But if you don’t know how many wolves there are, how can we say what harvest limit is sustainable?
 
There is also the problem of poaching. Dr. Person’s work has shown illegal harvest can be roughly equivalent to legal trapping.  With deer shortages driving them, how could the State really regulate experienced and motivated trappers on remote Prince of Wales?
 
“All Rise…”
What Governor Parnell tried for so long to keep hidden, now will see the light of day in front of a Federal judge.
 
Deer hunters, wolf lovers, and scientists all have a direct stake in the outcome of this fight.
 
We’ll keep you posted.
 
 
 
 

 

Aug24

Unfolding Huckleberry Pack Tragedy—We Have Been Here Before

By Bob Ferris
 
A little more than 20 years ago I started administering the wolf compensation program for Defenders of Wildlife.  huckleberry_pupsThat meant that every compensation claim during my nearly eight years with the organization had to go through me to get signed and then paid.  That also meant that I had to know the wolf side of the equation and understand the rancher or livestock owner's side as well.  So I look at the Huckleberry Pack (video of pups in 2012 below picture above right) situation through that lens and what I am seeing (and hearing) bothers me.
 

The lack of agency transparency and the clear bias towards the livestock producer’s rights rather than responsibilities is troubling in this situation involving an endangered species, but what irks me most is that I have written this piece before–twice in fact (1,2).  This is the Wedge Pack incidence played out again only with sheep instead of cattle and on private lands rather than public.   
 
Certainly Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has made progress in terms of trying to do what is right by the species under their care, but it is very much a work in progress and very far away from the model we see to the south in Oregon.  The agency has to do better and one way to get them to do that is to respectfully ask Governor Jay Inslee to intercede.  So please click the below button to take action on this critical wolf issue and also spread it around to other activists.  
 
 
 
 
 

Aug22

The American Mining Rights Association: A Darwin Award Winner in the Making

By Bob Ferris
 
“AMRA is different than all other non-profit associations, we don’t give you a T-shirt or a bumper sticker for a donation, we give you access to our gold claims.  Proven claims.  We own these claims, and most have been used to provide us with our incomes.  We are expanding our claim holdings in as many states as we possibly can and access to these claims will be provided to our members.  Our wish would be that every member who mines our claims makes back any donation to us in gold.”  AMRA website 
 
Those who have read my blogs and other writings know that I do not suffer bullies (real or cyber), truth-benders, fools or those who purposely ignore laws gladly.  And with Shannon Poe of the American Mining Rights Association we have all four.  
American Mining Rights Association
My first encounter with Mr. Poe (and his present or one-time fiance Ms. Grossman) was when someone told me that he was challenging me to a debate on the AMRA Facebook page.  As he never directly contacted me and I was unaware that there was a virtual chair waiting for my posterior, I was a little bothered when he publicly criticized me for not having the courage to show up—I believe there was even a mention of some missing body parts at one time. He riffed on that for a while until I found out and actually visited his site.  I then asked him to defend several statements he made in one of his too, too long video rants.  
American Mining Rights Association T Shirt
I had many issues with his video that was circulated during the debates on Oregon suction dredge legislation.  But the one gem that I really wanted an answer on was his statement that people along the rivers in Oregon—if those rivers were designated as state scenic waterways—would have to go through an environmental impact process to plant tomatoes.   Really?
 
We had some give and take on this and I kept asking the same questions, which he never answered.  His response was to insult me personally (again) and when he realized that he could not defend his statements and respond to rational questions, he banned me from the AMRA site and removed that portion of the dialog.  The whole incidence bothered me so I took a few minutes to try to figure out who and what AMRA was.
AMRA2
 
My research led me to the fairly functioning AMRA website and on the site they claimed to be a non-profit company.  But in other areas of the site and elsewhere they describe themselves variously as a 501(c)3 entity or as having applied for non-profit status with the IRS.  Since it is illegal in California to solicit funds for non-profit purposes unless you are a registered non-profit, I thought that I would check in with the State of California and the IRS (see above status report).  As he was not registered with either, I filed a simple complaint form with the Attorney General’s Office in Sacramento (see below result).  And that was that.  Until I saw a video posted on our friends and campaign partners the Fish Not Gold site in Washington State.  
AMRA3
Not satisfied with the non-profit violations, Mr. Poe thought that he would rip a page out of Cliven Bundy’s play book and publicly suction dredge in Idaho without the required EPA permit.  His video even stated that he did not have a permit and it included captioning identifying AMRA as a non-profit, which is clearly not the case.  Now I will admit that the federal and state law enforcement agencies have their hands full with a bumper crop of public land duffuses at this point, but the fact that Mr. Poe seems to beg for it and provides his own video evidence should move him to the front portion of this large class.  I would add that given the challenges that salmonids in the West are facing with water flows and temperatures at this juncture, his “my rights were given me by God” action was particularly poorly timed for the fish.
 

 
Now I suppose he could use the Glenn Beck I-got-caught-up-in-the-moment-and-was-spewing-crap defense for his earlier video statements.  After all the camera was running and he therefore had to say something—but his actions in Idaho are something different.  That is also true for his continued claims of being a non-profit even after being sent a notice by the California Attorney General’s Office of problems with his operation and being rejected on similar grounds when he applied for a raffle permit earlier this year (see below).   
AMRA4
And I am still trying to sort out all the problems with the opening statement of this piece from the AMRA website.  All I can conclude is that Mr. Poe is a big fan of Tom Sawyer.  My conclusion is drawn from his concept that people will pay him to be able to work his claims and then give him back the fruits of their labor—in gold, mind you—so that he can buy more claims, pay legal fees or protect their rights as he sees fit.  But the fact that he and others are not required to return their findings to the “non-profit” indicates that he is self-dealing and that they are getting value for the contribution which means it is not a donation nor is it tax deductible even if they were legally a 501c3 non-profit.   In point of fact it makes him exactly like every other mining club selling access, only he wants his miners to return what they find.
 
 

 
Now I will be the first to admit that running a non-profit is complicated.  It isn’t simply a case of paying LegalZoom and then getting a tax number so you can open a bank account.  There are federal filings and state applications as well as officers, meetings, bylaws and minutes to deal with.  Believing a $149 payment gets you a soup-to-nuts solution and a fully-fledged non-profit not needing care and feeding is a lot like thinking having sex is all there is to raising kids.  As we can see by the above dialog on the AMRA Facebook page, Mr. Poe is clearly out of his depth when it comes to the legal requirements for non-profits and thinking that these bare minimum, cookie-cutter Articles of Incorporation are a "license" of any type is telling and indicates his lack of sophistication in this arena.  
 
"showing that miners are not just uninformed, uneducated folks with scratchy beards and missing teeth as our opposition seems to picture us." AMRA Website
 
On one of their pages AMRA bemoans the fact that the public does not have a good impression of suction dredge miners and others who search for gold (see above).  I can understand that concern.  But exactly what impression should the public have of a group of people that continually and publicly misrepresent the science, disregard the laws of our country and act in a threatening, belligerent and bullying manner?  This is not really a matter of underpowered public relations, but a consistent and well documented pattern of behavior that makes the rest of us less and less willing to tolerate these machines and this we-are-beyond-the-law culture in our precious waterways.  
 

Aug21

A Clearcut Decision

By Bob Ferris
 
Francis Eatherington and I walked some timber sales yesterday near Roseburg (these are her pictures).  It was good for us to spend time together because we do not often get to do that—particularly where we get to walk in the Bob in the Foresttrees and talk in that way that people do when walking in the woods.
 
In the grand scheme of things neither of the sales was particularly horrendous or anything that made us happy in any way.   Did we like them?  No.  Could they have been better conceptualized? Yes.  Were we going to make our feelings known? Yes.  Would we sue? Probably not.  
 
Bob and Incense CedarOn one site we measured two huge trees (one Douglas Fir and one Incense Cedar) in the 5.5 to 6 foot in diameter range (DBH).  Real beauties whose post-harvest future seemed bleak.  We took pictures and rubbed our hands with dirt when we encountered the ubiquitous pitch on the surfaces we grabbed as we slipped down the slope and looked for big trees.  
 
I had walked timber sales before and seen clearcuts along with other massively destructive forestry acts, but the whole exercise helped me understand how my world differs from Francis’ work in that I work to protect and restore and she has a smoking boot applied as a brake on a runaway stage coach.  My world is largely depressing but her world seemed potentially debilitating.  (Clearly forests can make me reflective.) 
 
I also had a thought while looking up the hill towards these timber sales.  My gaze drifted across the barren expanse of a clearcut on private lands replanted with something approaching 600 seedlings per acre and an emerging flora that only seems to make sense to an herbicide enabled 2X4 but not to anything that would want to live on those slopes.  My thought had to do with land ownership.  
Myrtle Creek Clearcut
I have owned large tracts of land (and even harvested timber on those lands) and many members of my family have held that same responsibility.  And there is invariably a time when you hold your cup of coffee, day-end cocktail or partner and stare out across your acreage.  The words running around in your head differ but generally they are about some kind of pride about the fact that you own the land and are managing it well and responsibly.  
 
The pride-fullness swells most when you know that you are managing the land so that it supports your needs and values as well as not being the aesthetic and ecological disaster that looms in the darkest recesses of your human and wild neighbors’ nightmares.  If your end result does not meet or exceed these fairly modest criteria—whether you are an individual or corporation—you really ought to ask yourself why not?  Now you can rationalize your actions by claiming that it is cheaper, the trees grow straighter or it will all grow back, but you cannot get around the fact that had you done it responsibly that we would not be wrestling now over owls, murrelets, and salmon.
 
It may seem like an overly simplified notion and far too obvious, but these species did not just voluntarily jump off a cliff.  They have been pushed and pushed hard over that precipice.  Perhaps as we rush headlong into these must-pass bills to accelerate this "speeding stage coach," we should stop to look at this image of a clearcut and ask ourselves collectively if this fills us with pride and demonstrates our responsible stewardship of lands.  Did I mention that walks in the woods make me reflective?  
 

Aug18

Cascadia Wildlands Seeking Umpqua Regional Director

 
Umpqua Regional Director
Position Open Until Filled: Umpqua Regional Director (Title is Flexible)
Cascadia Wildlands  
Eugene, Oregon
Reports to: Executive Director 
 
Definition 
The Umpqua Regional Director (URD) is responsible for Cascadia Wildlands’ programs to monitor and protect public lands and associated waterways in the greater Umpqua Watershed (including the Roseburg and Coos Bay BLM Districts, Umpqua National Forest, Elliott State Forest and Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area) from destructive practices such as harmful logging, unreasonable off-highway vehicle use; irresponsible herbicide application; and energy developments that destroy habitat and foster the use of fossil fuels here or abroad.  In addition, the URD will join with other staff members in assisting with administrative, outreach and fundraising tasks as needed.  
 
Duties 
Monitoring and Commenting on Public Lands Policies, Management, and Projects
•    Demonstrate presence and engagement by frequently interacting with agency personnel, attending field trips and public meetings associated with the program area and engaging with diverse stakeholders
•    Monitor agencies, land management projects and websites on the state and federal levels—particularly Bureau of Land Management planning updates, US Forest Service schedule of proposed actions, and the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Annual Operations Plan for the Coos District—to keep abreast of upcoming projects and changes to policies and management
•    Create and maintain tracking system to ensure that all significant actions are addressed, workloads are manageable and that comment and appeal deadlines are met
•    Identify and document those actions that require written comment, appeals or administrative protests—mainly associated with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)—or other actions to urge corrections or cancelations on the part of agencies and also build the legal record if the agencies prove unwilling to make needed adjustments
•    Occasionally, as needed, submit comments on or provide support for other critical actions on federal or state forests lands outside of the greater Umpqua watershed
 
Litigation Support 
•    Provide support and documentation for the Legal Director and our retained attorneys pursuing lawsuits associated with the greater Umpqua Watershed 
•    Work with expert witnesses, provide declarations, review legal briefs, and recruit declarants  
 
Education and Communication
•    Create and maintain web content (pages, posts and blogs) for program area
•    Draft press releases, op-eds and letters to the editor on notable actions and issues
•    Conduct media interviews and lead press tours of focus areas
•    Write relevant pieces for e-newsletter and Cascadia Quarterly
•    Promote issues in social media and other appropriate venues
•    Host educational events and participate in community presentations, forums and conferences about pressing issues
•    Work with concerned landowners impacted by agency actions
 
Partnership Development and Outreach 
•    Lead legislative actions when opportunities arise 
•    Develop partnerships with other grassroots and larger groups to leverage our impact on federal and state issues including signing on to letters, comments and protests, sharing information and planning events together
•    Help recruit, educate and empower activists though presentations, monitoring, trainings and internships
 
Fundraising and Donor Recruitment   
•    In cooperation with the ED pursue likely foundation opportunities
•    Identify and cultivate supporters, major donors, and businesses with interests in the greater Umpqua watershed and larger Cascadia bioregion
•    Participate in fundraising events such as the Wonderland Auction, Ancient Forest Hoedown and house parties
 
Philosophy and Values
Cascadia Wildlands is a small, community-based organization that places huge emphasis on the wellbeing of our employees, our relationships with the community, and our role in the greater environmental movement.  Candidates must have:
•    A passion for wild places, wildlife, and grassroots movements
•    Professional etiquette and a high standard of accountability
•    An ability to form meaningful relationships with diverse constituencies, especially donors and volunteers
•    A commitment to building a movement through cultivating volunteers, creating personal connections with community members, and supporting fellow staff members in their work
•    A commitment to minimizing our organization’s environmental footprint
•    A commitment to preventing and/or resolving conflicts and communicating openly and honestly
•    A positive, solutions-oriented approach to work and a sense of humor
 
Qualifications 
The URD must have excellent organizational and interpersonal skills as well as an ability to prioritize tasks in often chaotic settings.  
 
Required Qualifications*:
 
Experience
•    Familiarity with applicable state and federal environmental laws and regulations, like NEPA, NFMA, ESA and the Northwest Forest Plan and land management agencies like the Oregon Department of Forestry, US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service
•    Experience planning and implementing conservation campaigns
•    Experience engaging the public and building successful relationships with activists, donors, foundations, conservation partners and non-traditional stakeholders
•    Experience using modern office and communication systems
    
Education
•    College degree in relevant field; graduate degree preferred 
•    Deep understanding of Pacific Northwest ecology and environmental threats
 
Abilities
•    Exceptional communication skills, including efficient, error-free writing abilities and eloquent, compelling verbal communication skills
•    Obsessive about securing necessary information and data from action agencies
•    Excellent judgment and confidence to make decisions
•    Initiative to take on challenges and develop creative, resourceful solutions to problems and obstacles; a positive, can-do attitude
•    Ability to work as part of a dynamic, fast-paced team and commitment to support volunteers and fellow staff members
•    Efficient computer skills, including fluency in social media, internet research, email programs, Microsoft Office programs, and WordPress or other blogging/web platform 
•    Willingness and ability to travel for events and meetings
•    Enthusiasm for asking for volunteer help, donations and sponsorships
•    Willingness and ability to work at weekend events on occasion
•    A valid driver’s license or other reliable mode of transport 
•    Likes to have fun
 
*Applicants must meet all required qualifications to be considered. 
 
Salary and Benefits
The URD position is a full-time, salaried position. Ideally, the position is based in Roseburg, OR, but other nearby locations will be considered.  Salary is commensurate with experience.  Health and vision benefits are available after three months of employment.  Hours are flexible.  Generous paid vacation time. 
 
Application Procedures
This position is open until filled, but due to high competition and demand, candidates are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.  Please follow the application instructions exactly.  No phone calls please. Thank you for your time and interest!  Email a cover letter, resume, and references to Executive Director, Bob Ferris, at bob@cascwild.org as a single .pdf file. Please do not submit any additional materials.
 
Cascadia Wildlands is committed to cultivating a diverse, empowered, and respectful community in the workplace and beyond. We do not discriminate against individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, age, parental status, marital status, veteran status, ancestry, or national or ethnic origin (PDF version below).
 
 
 

Aug17

Wolf Control in Idaho by Rubber Stamp and Shortsightedness

By Bob Ferris
 
 
As I look at the announcement from last month that Idaho Governor Butch Otter appointed the last two people to his wolf control committee, I am quite frankly torn. I am torn not because I want to support his good faith effort to follow science and do what is right for wildlife, but over which video clip I will use to parody this transparent attempt to make the human equivalent a rubber stamp that says “kill the wolves” look like a legitimate determinative body.
 

In the end I decided to use all three (so enjoy). I did so because each is as ridiculously silly as this shameful process in Idaho and each plays on the theme of too many people with the same name which mimics the Governor’s wolf team that is philosophically monolithic and congruently myopic when it comes to wolves.
 

Certainly this team gets the idea that wolves eat elk and certainly eat cattle and sheep occasionally, but the idea that wolves are driving this system becomes an interesting exercise when one looks at the relative numbers of players on the landscape. I have expressed the below verbally on numerous occasions but it seems to not hit home until you see it graphically and see the scale of it.
 
Cattle and Wolf Numbers in Idaho
 
 

Aug09

Of Farmers, Hunters, Oil Money and the Double Secret Déjà Vu Shuffle

"The trophy-recreationist has peculiarities which contribute in subtle ways to his own undoing. To enjoy he must possess, invade, appropriate. Hence the wilderness which he cannot personally see has no value to him. Hence the universal assumption that an unused hinterland is rendering no service to society. To those devoid of imagination, a blank place on the map is useless waste: to other, the most valuable part. (Is my share in Alaska worthless to me because I shall never go there? Do I need a road to show me the arctic prairies, the goose pastures of the Yukon, the Kodiak bear, the sheep meadows behind McKinley?)"  Aldo Leopold in the Conservation Esthetic.
 
By Bob Ferris
 
As I perused the news and Facebook feeds earlier this week I found myself reading a story about the AmericanBuck Rising unit 3 Farm Bureau Federation opposing regulation of fertilizers and other chemicals that would help prevent drinking water disasters like what we recently saw in Toledo, Ohio.  Just after that I spied a post about a study that once again demonstrated that energy development and wildlife are not compatible.  
 
The first piece threw me back 15 years—hence the initial déjà vu—to a time when I was part of a team that went head-to-head with the Farm Bureau.  We engaged in a nearly two-year exercise in opposition research–catalyzed by the AFBF Yellowstone wolf lawsuit–that was purposely complicated by the Farm Bureau’s bizarre and contradictory for-profit and non-profit structure.  The end result was an award-winning publication called Amber Waves of Gain that transmuted into a 60 Minutes expose—all followed closely by a change in presidents at AFBF.  
 
Sage GouseThe second piece is where the double déjà vu comes in.  Because the energy and wildlife study brought to mind the fact that not all hunting and angling groups are alike nor do they all subscribe to this oft-proven notion of energy development harming habitat and displacing critters (1, 2,3,4) or to a number of other broadly endorsed scientific findings such as climate change and the harmful effects of grazing.  These hunting and angling groups ignore science when it conflicts with their platforms in a very similar manner to what we observed with the Farm Bureau ergo déjà vu two.
 
But what about the secret part? The all-important secret part of all this comes from the Farm Bureau and this small collection of sporting groups publicly purporting to be the friends of family farmers and sportsmen, respectively, while their actions frequently harm the interests of the very folks they claim to represent.  They want their projected images and carefully crafted tag lines to shower down upon the public, but would rather that a good number of their actions stay secret or unobserved.  
 
In Amber Waves of Gain we busted apart the myth of the Farm Bureau being the friend of family farmers and correctly portrayed them as the voice of agribusiness.  It strikes me that it is high time that someone took the time to separate the wheat from the chaff in terms hunting and angling groups as well.  I have done a little of that in my past blogs, but more of it in more places is need. 
 
Now before I continue, I want to make a few things clear.  I personally come from a hunting and fishing culture.  I grew up hunting and fishing and became a wildlife biologist because of my passion for these outdoor pursuits.  My first attempt at dating was to ask a girl to go fishing with me (perhaps this is why I was in my 50s before getting married?).  And I first walked alongside my father chasing pheasants with a friend's expensive, but notriously, gun-shy dog in the rice checks of my mother’s home town of Willows, California in the late 1950s.  
 
I will add that much of who I am today and my ethical standards came from this well-developed culture reinforced by a nearly formalized curriculum taught by my father, uncles and other relatives or pseudo-relatives while tromping through fields, climbing mountains, standing in ice-cold streams and sitting quietly in stands or blinds.  I may not participate in these pursuits as much now as I have in the past, but that does not diminish for me the value of this pathway or my sense of vesting in this hunter and angler ethos.  
 
So this exercise I suggest now does not grow out of my need or desire to end hunting or angling, but rather from my concern that some groups are compromising and perverting a culture and tradition that I personally value.  These groups have forgotten or never cared that hunting and angling, in this context, are about much more than just trigger pulls and hook setting.  
 
And those who perceive an inherent conflict between actions to preserve biodiversity such as being in opposition to an additional spring bear hunt in the absence of information and rationale or concern over the fate of lead bullet fragments in raptor and scavenger territory might want to dial it back a few notches, because responsible hunting and fishing—as opposed to shooting and snagging—involves a complex ethical decision making process that should involve the near and far future ramifications of your actions.  
 
Being from this culture and seeing life through this lens has caused me challenges throughout my career and has forced me to walk an often difficult tightrope.  When I worked for Defenders of Wildlife in the 1990s I was continually educating people (internally and externally) and making sure that programs were scientifically sound but also not anti-hunter.  And at the same time I was being characterized as an animal rights activist by those who did not know me or could not understand that there is huge difference between an animal rights organization and one that forwards biodiversity preservation.  And I am sure my current staff and board have incurred a little psychological sunburn from me on this issue.  
 
So what is the landscape out there and how does one tell one set of players from another?  It is complicated but if you think of the entire range of the entities that currently operate in the realm of natural resources and wildlife policy as a spectrum with the left representing the protectionist view point and the more animal rights end of the spectrum and the right holding down the exploitation end of the range exemplified by the trophy-focused hunting and angling groups you are correct.  The middle ground or the center of this construct is anchored by the hunting-neutral groups that tend to be driven mostly by issues of biodiversity (see below graphic).  All are different and individual.  Conservation SpectrumMany of the characteristics of these organizations are as expected.  The animal rights groups for instance are fueled a lot more by passion and emotion and less by science.  They tend to oppose trapping across the board and are less inclined to see the distinctions between the ecological value of native species and those that were introduced.  The animal welfare conservation folks tend to hold tighter to science, but be more automatic in their opposition of hunting.  
 
The hunting neutral crowd embraces science even more tightly and is sensitive to the concerns of hunters and anglers.  And while many of their supporters might have animal rights and anti-hunting leanings that reflect the views of the general population, the group’s scientific and field staff more than likely come from a hunting and angling culture or have that exposure.  Cascadia Wildlands lands in this class of groups.
 
The pro-hunting and angling conservation groups are simply that—they are people who live and work to hunt and fish.  They are largely science driven, but often see conservation biology as a newer and less proven discipline than traditional wildlife biology.  These folks like most of the folks to the left of them are pretty much as advertised and their rhetoric, actions and public messaging are consistent.  I may not always agree in the particulars of their positions from a biodiversity perspective but their actions can clearly be argued from the perspective of current and future hunters and anglers.  (In point of fact, I would not have likely seen the energy development piece had I not seen it on the Backcountry Hunters and Angler’s Facebook feed)
 
Where the problem arises is with what I am calling the pro-hunting and angling exploitation groups (I have identified these previously as wedge groups) because they are defensively and self-righteously pro-hunting and angling, but their actions and inactions bespeak a different, darker purpose.  And when someone catches them at their game these groups immediately characterize those in opposition or those who even question them as anti-hunters.   If that fails or they need a larger attack posse they then ring the Second Amendment bell loudly, which is tantamount to throwing chunks of red meat to a guard dog you want absolutely focused on something other than vigilance.
 
There was a time when I would cut them some slack and think that perhaps they were just uninformed or Oil wellprogrammatically clumsy, but the unwavering consistency of their actions paints a pattern of hardly ever lifting a finger or raising an eyebrow when ranching, timber and energy interests ride “a-whompin' and a-whumpin’” through the West.  The unfortunate answer to the reason why this is happening and what really creates the dividing line between the pro-sporting factions of conservation and exploitation is really money.  Now I will be the first to admit that running a non-profit is a tough game; it takes both guts and principles.  And we all make compromises in our own way, but there is a huge difference between being accepting from and being beholding to.
 
“Nonetheless, they usually stick to conservation—"We like to stay back in the bushes, and make sure those bushes are healthy," he says—unless a key revenue stream depends on defending the companies that pay its bills. "We rely on the outdoor industry, because that's how we exist," Holyoak says. "Our funds do come from somewhere." Quote from RMEF Director of Public Relations in Hunters Have an NRA Problem by Lydia DePillis in New Republic February 2013 
 
When considered in the light of this large monetary “tail” (or tails) wagging the organizational “dog,” a lot of the policy missteps and puzzling lack of action start to make perfect sense.   One litmus test in this is climate change.  Scientists and conservation groups who were watching recognized that climate change was going to have a devastating impact on wildlife even before Bill McKibben published his book The End of Nature in 1989.  I participated in a number of talks with energy industry representatives in the early 1990s about projects that would simultaneously benefit wildlife and sequester carbon.  
 
SCI Energy and Wildlife Project
And while the environmental community has been geared up and vocal on this issue since before the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, broader and more public acceptance of this was slower in coming from many of the professional groups like The Wildlife Society that dedicated an entire publication to this issue in 2008 at about the same time an influential element of the hunting and angling community issued a collective statement called Seasons’ End: Global Warming’s Threat to Hunting and Fishing.  Nearly everyone in the spectrum described above was on-board with doing something significant about climate change except a few organizations (see project description above from Safari Club from their consultant).
 
“As the oil and gas industry generously support sportsmen’s groups, they appear to be turning away from their constituencies in favor of the energy industry’s causes — specifically, mining, drilling, and logging in areas previously preserved for wildlife.” In NRA Abandons Hunters In Favor Of Oil And Gas Corporations by Lulu Chang in The National Memo April 2014
 
“The CAP report details show how oil and gas companies are leveraging three groups in particular—Safari Club International (SFI), Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF), and the National Rifle Association (NRA)—to attain "an increasingly active and vocal role in advancing energy industry priorities, even when those positions are in apparent conflict with the interests of hunters and anglers who are their rank-and-file members." In Public-Land Protests and Their Big-Energy Puppet Masters by Mary Catherine O’Connor in The Current May 2014
 
"Draw your own conclusions, but keep a few facts in mind: Before she went to work for the Safari Club International, [Melissa] Simpson worked for a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm. One of her clients was the oil and gas industry, and one of her assignments was to counter the concerns of sportsmen's groups, which had voiced concerns about oil and gas exploration running roughshod over America's hunting and fishing grounds." in Beware of Wolves Cloaked in "Access" by Ben Long in High Country News September 2011 
 
When you looked at those organizations reluctant to embrace climate change an amazing thing came to light: Those who did not see climate change as a serious problem were also those who received significant finding from or were involved in partnerships with the oil industry.  Groups like Safari Club International (SCI 1,2), Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF 1,2) the National Rifle Association (NRA 1,2) were doing well financially while casting doubt on the phenomenon, running interference for oil companies, or just turning a blind eye to whole thing.
 
“Here’s the core point I’d like to make: When we follow Bill’s lead and set aside the politics and the rhetoric, it’s obvious that sportsmen and scientists are on the same page. It’s almost impossible to be a hunter or an angler here in the Rockies and not see the empirical evidence that Bill [Geer], who is a respected biologist, documents in his presentation.” Todd Tanner in Field and Stream’s The Conservationist March 2011
 
Perhaps they just didn’t get the climate change memo?  Maybe, but my sense is that it relates to the above root of a myriad of problems (i.e., money makes the world go around).  Part of my feeling—at least where RMEF is concerned—is reinforced by their casual and immediate rejection of the Olaus Murie legacy from their culture. Moreover, when I look at the very credible and needed work done by Bill Geer in the climate change realm at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and later with Climate Hawks, I really have to question why he was summarily ejected from RMEF during their massive personnel massacre around 2000.  Now all personnel issues are admittedly tricky, but when I compare Mr. Geer’s accomplishments, academic grounding and reputation in the wildlife arena to the current crop of senior managers at RMEF working on the conservation end of things, he stands head and shoulders above this lot. 
 
Senator-Barrasso
Now if this were just about climate change, I would probably just shake my head, take a chill pill and walk calmly away, but it is not.  The NRA, Safari Club and RMEF also took an uninformed and anti-wildlife position on the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act, H. R. 1581 in 2011  Please see image of Wyoming Senator John Barrasso—above, at right—co-author of this road bill and also the bill to extend the length of grazing leases.  He is pictured at a RMEF banquet where the image of a cowboy on the range overshadows the elk.  Is it possible to have too much irony in a single photograph?.  
 
RMEF later withdrew their support for this legislation citing member feedback and a closer examination of the science as rationales for the reversal.  OK, but if there is one constant maxim in deer biology it is that elk and roads do not mix well.  How could an elk organization miss that?  
 
Conservation is and should be a passionate field, because the stakes are so high for so many.  So where is the outrage from these groups over legislative proposals to double the length of grazing leases given that cattle displace and compete with deer and elk?  Where are the prudent questions from these organizations challenging the efficacy of extending these already too long leases that have broadly degraded lands—particularly during a time of climatic uncertainty?  Where are they on wildlife diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease, Hair Loss Syndrome and this whole issue of elk hoof rot in southwestern Washington (1,2)?  And do not even get me started on supplemental feeding, Brucellosis management and bison on public lands.
 
And now with public land ownership once again under serious attack (thank you again extractive industries), where are their campaigns to protect these lands from privatization at a time when our growing population base and fluctuating climate demand that we expand the public estate and create a little margin for ourselves and wildlife?  Even as I ask the above questions an image of the three monkeys that cannot see, speak or hear evil come to mind as these groups have sold indulgences to the extractive industries and left the hard task of fighting for our public lands to those of us willing to stand up for wildlife diversity and healthy fisheries. 
 
 "Our community has never felt comfortable wading in there," says an executive with a conservation-oriented hunting group who requested anonymity in order to speak frankly about the NRA. "They are so ruthless, and carry such a big hammer, that very few in our community are willing to get in there and risk their wrath."  In Hunters Have an NRA Problem by Lydia DePillis in New Republic February 2013 
 
But there is more.  Their moneyed presence on the landscape and their tendency to tar those that question their stances as anti-hunter stifles those groups that want to raise these issues and should in the cause of legitimate public policy examination and debate.  In addition while they stifle the responsible, their actions also empower the fringes and create even more harmful mimics like Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, Big Game Forever and a host of smaller, self-styled voices of the hunter and angler.  
 
This brings me back full-circle to the value of an ethics-based hunting and angling culture, which seems to have evaporated in the above exploitive conglomeration.   Some of my friends and colleagues will argue that I am describing an oxymoron and smile at me knowingly, but many will also nod in agreement. For they too learned their code of behavior and sense of fair-play hanging with the gruff and grizzled visages they trod behind, listened to and emulated on frosty fall days.  Looking back on those lessons—while they were certainly about outdoor skills, bullets and hooks—they also acted to instill a respect for our fellow travelers on this planet (human and not), built a behavior pattern of making no sounds and leaving no traces and created a near compulsion to obey our country’s laws whether someone was watching or not.  
 
It was here in this crucible that we also got exposed to moralistic writers like James Fenimore Cooper and Zane Grey moving on eventually to the likes of Aldo Leopold and Olaus Murie.  Here too were our heroes and models handed to us from Theodore Roosevelt (1,2) and Ernest Thompson Seton to Joseph Bird Grinnell and John Muir.
 
Now many on all sides of the hunting and angling debates—both pro and con—can point to examples of bad behaviors associated with sportsmen and gun owners. (I will stipulate here that there are also bad behaviors on the other extreme, but that is for another day.)  These range from outrageously disrespectful and near criminal comments on Facebook to the actions of the participants in the still-unfolding Affair Bundy in the Southwest and other similar events.  I would hope by now that there is a seed of understanding that these obviously do not come from this outdoor culture that I have repeatedly described and also that the hunting and angling community—just like the environmental community—is not monolithic.
 
I would hope also that those in the hunting and angling realm as well as those in the broader environmental community will take time to look at both the rhetoric and actions of organizations to know more selectively which groups to support and which they should chastise.  I look forward to the day when people grasp that their best conservation partner might not be the person who looks, dresses, talks, votes and even smells like them, but the person who values wildlife, clean water, wilderness and more public lands for all to enjoy as much as they do.   
 
 
 

 

Aug07

Wanda’s New Wolf Pack Survived the Fire But All Wolves Still Need Your Help

 

We were so pleased this morning to receive confirmation that OR-7, Wanda and the three pups are surviving the fires in southern Oregon.  We would breathe a huge sigh of relief, but the skies of Oregon are still filled with a little bit ofWolf Pup smoke.
 
This situation highlights the fact that wolves live in a dangerous world and face many natural challenges as well as man-made ones too.  Cascadia Wildlands works on the larger natural challenges through our forestry efforts by protecting the very wildlife corridors that enabled Journey and Wanda to get together.  
 
We also work on the man-made challenges too that are protecting these wolves and others in Oregon, California and Washington.  Please think about giving a special gift to our wolf work in honor of Journey, Wanda and the pups—it is such good news, but we have so much more work to do.
 
Thank you,
bob's signature
 
 
 
Bob Ferris
 
 

Jul31

Finding Common Ground with the BLM at Rickreall Creek

By Rory Isbell, Cascadia Wildlands Legal Intern
 
More often than we prefer, those of us in the conservation world are at odds with our public lands agencies and managers.  We want them to protect and restore the watersheds in which we live, and keep intact those that have evaded development or resource extraction.  But the onward march of an economy rooted in natural resource extraction carries forth.  Here in the Cascadia bioregion, the ghost of a century-old, scorched-earth timber economy still haunts those charged with managing our public lands, and has created an interesting dichotomy between the public agency and the conservationist.  Former ruthless clearcutting has left our federal forests lands full of dense Douglas-fir plantations, fire-risks largely devoid of the imperiled older forest species.  Variable density thinning can restore diversity back into these plantations, creating openings for hardwood species, and give the remaining trees ample room grow and mature.  Such sales are regularly conducted commercially, and timber companies routinely make money in our federal forests off these sales.  However, too much of a focus on making such thinning projects commercially inviting can lead to the thinning of older, native forests that would not benefit from thinning in order to allow the logging of bigger older trees.  Or the sale could log too much, and leave too few trees so that the remaining trees simply blow over in the next big storm and we are left again with a clearcut.  Like all things in life, management of these forests requires balance.
Tall Trees
Over the last few years, Cascadia Wildlands has been forced to sue the Salem District of the Bureau of Land Management for irresponsible sales that were focused too heavily on the commercial aspect.  One of the sales was a thinning sale, but was removing far too many trees in areas known to be occupied by imperiled mature forest species.  After one win in court and one loss, it became clear to both the BLM and folks at Cascadia, that leaving the end game of these forests up to the whims of the courts was not working well for either party.
 
As a result, when the BLM announced the Rickreall Creek timber sale, Cascadia immediately noticed some significant problems with the sales, but also saw some room to allow the BLM to thin in the plantations involved in the project.  So early in the project process Cacsadia staff and interns, along with the good folks at Oregon Wild and the Benton Forest Coalition began meeting with the Salem District BLM Field Manager for the Mary’s Peak Resource Area, Rich Hatfield.  After numerous field visits to the various sales involved it was clear that there was room for middle ground with these sales, and clear that all parties wanted to avoid the expense and gamble of litigation.   
 
As a legal intern at Cascadia Wildlands, I expected our interactions with the public lands agencies that often sell our forests to timber companies to be purely adversarial, so I was frankly surprised to see a public lands manager seeking a cooperative solution.  Rich was genuinely interested in appeasing our concerns with the Rickreall Creek projects, and genuinely committed to altering the projects so as to prevent further legal liability on behalf of the BLM.  After extensively touring the tree stands slated for harvest on two separate field visits, we developed a list of “asks.”  We asked the BLM to forgo any unneeded thinning of mature and naturally biodiverse stands.  We asked to enlarge a no-cut buffer surrounding a patch of snags crucial to late-successional habitat development.  We asked to drop the building of new roads unnecessary to the goals of the project.  We asked the BLM to conduct additional voluntary surveys for threatened red tree voles to ensure this imperiled species is not put at further risk.  Cascadia Wildlands is happy to announce that a settlement agreement with the Salem District BLM that includes these changes to the Rickreall Creek projects was recently finalized. 
BLM and Conservation Staff (800x533)
The cooperative solution for Rickreall Creek highlights the power of the courtroom as the great equalizer.  Through member supported litigation campaigns, we have inspired a culture change in our public lands agencies.  When our public lands managers work with the public to find common ground and ensure their projects comply with the law, we all win.  We can only hope that the BLM’s faithful execution of the law continues to be voluntary, and not by court order.  After hard fought campaigns to enact the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Northwest Forest Plan, and other pieces of legislation crucial to our environment, it is clear that our country has spoken to protect healthy and beautiful natural areas.  Fulfilling the dream of our environmental legislation is much easier when our public lands managers seek the same goals.
 

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