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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.  

 

Sep11

Female wolf is Northwest descendant: Trail cameras first spotted OR-7’s black female companion in May (an Excerpt)

By Lacey Jarrell
Klamath Falls Herald and News
September 6, 2014 
 
The mysterious female wolf that mated with OR-7 is a confirmed descendant of Northwest wolves.Potential OR-7 mate
 
According to a press release, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has received the results of scat samples sent to the University of Idaho for analysis. The samples, collected in Southwest Oregon in May and July, identified OR-7’s mate and two of the pair’s pups as wolves.
 
************
Cascadia Wildlands Executive Director Bob Ferris dubbed OR-7’s female companion “Wandering Wanda,” or just Wanda for short, in a June blog post for his organization.
 
“We got tired of calling her the uncollared wolf that came from nowhere,” Ferris said. “Wanda probably wandered as far as OR-7 and her story is probably just as remarkable as his.”
 
Ferris said although Wanda is just a nickname, he believes it’s a reasonable solution to talking about a well-known animal that doesn’t have anything to call it by. ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said biologists don’t name wolves; however, as a function of being collared, wolves are given an identification, such as OR-7’s. Dennehy said “OR” represents the state — Oregon — and “7” indicates he was the seventh wolf collared in Oregon.
 
 
 

Sep09

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

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

Sep08

Cascadia Wildlands and the Tiny Linebacker

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

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

Sep04

The Huckleberry Alpha Female is Dead: Wolves -1 and WDFW Credibility 0

alpha female dead

By Bob Ferris
 
I am bone tired after dogging the Huckleberry Pack issue nearly non-stop for approaching two weeks. And now I am angry and disappointed. That is a very bad time to put your thoughts down electronically, but someone needs to.
 
I am not angry at the rancher who may have or may have not placed sheep in harm’s way. He was just being a rancher—acting as we have come to expect from this quadrant of Washington. Perhaps he was pushing the issue and abusing the system, but that is relatively immaterial to my anger.
 
I am not angry at the private timber company who allowed the sheep on to their property so that they could graze forest understory that could have been used by deer and elk populations. That is even though they are more than likely getting tax breaks from the State for providing benefits for wildlife and watersheds.  Still not there anger-wise.
 
I am mad, however, at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Why? Not because their contractor could have made an honest mistake and shot an unintended wolf. Not because they said they would not shoot either of the alpha wolves in this pack. I have worked in wildlife long enough and under tough conditions to know that honest wildlife managers working under similar conditions can make mistakes.
 
I am mad because the WDFW did not own up to their mistake when it happened. Why would I learn about this 12 days after it happened and then only because I saw a random Facebook post made by a fairly new friend of a tweet by a Washington newscaster (see above)? Really?
 
After the Wedge Pack disaster of 2012 the WDFW had a heavy burden to carry in terms of their credibility as an agency capable of dealing with the complexity of wolf recovery. They were given a second chance with the Huckleberry Pack to do it right and demonstrate that they were willing and able to deal with this recovery.
 
They were on a path to failing the test put before them, but with this action (or inaction) WDFW just put the punctuation on that failing grade. Clearly the Governor and legislators need to step in and force the agency to undergo the rule making that we have all requested. But it is more than that, because this is a cultural failure within this public agency and in their governing body to understand their responsibility to the whole public in this matter and not just ranching interests and trophy hunters.
 
 

Sep02

Advocates Vow to Protect Devil’s Staircase Wilderness

by Zach Urness
Salem Statesman Journal
August 31, 2014
 
The first time Andy Stahl heard about the Devil's Staircase, it was little more than a wilderness myth.
 
Rumors of a spectacular waterfall hidden deep within one of the Coast Range's most remote and inaccessible canyons spread through Oregon State University's Environmental Center in the late 1970s like sightings of Bigfoot, sparking debate among students about whether this central coast Shangri-La actually existed.
 
Every bushwhacking adventure into the thick, cliff-walled jungle surrounding Wassen Creek — the supposed location of the fabled cascade — ended in failure, often after a miserable rain-soaked night in the wild.
 
"Year after year, students at Oregon State attempted to find it, and every time they failed," Stahl said. "It wasn't something that could be found on a map. It didn't have an official name, there certainly wasn't a trail, and the land is just damn hard to get through. A lot of people thought it didn't exist."
 
In 1981, the forestry graduate decided the mystery had to be solved. With a young environmental activist named Sherry Wellborn — who would later become his wife — Stahl traversed over 30 miles of Wassen Creek in tennis shoes.
 
The trip would not only prove Devil's Staircase did exist — and that it was as beautiful as hoped — it would set in motion a three-decade effort to preserve one of the largest remaining old-growth ecosystems in Oregon's Central Coast Range.
 
The effort to safeguard the 200-foot Douglas firs and cedars, spotted owl and coho salmon habitat, and dense interior valleys surrounding Devil's Staircase and Wassen Creek — a landscape nestled between the Smith and Umpqua rivers east of Reedsport — has been a quixotic journey that began in the early 1980s.
 
It has twice survived the threat of logging while coming within a razor's edge of being protected by Congress in 1984. It has come within striking distance of being protected as the 30,540 acre Devil's Staircase Wilderness multiple times since 2009 yet has always come just short.
 
With the 50th anniversary of Wilderness Act on Sept. 3 — a landmark piece of legislation aimed at preserving the nation's most important landscapes in their natural state — the Devil's Staircase offers a glimpse into the past and present struggle to preserve one of Oregon's wildest places.
 
Wassen Creek flows through dense old-growth forest in a remote canyon in Oregon's Central Coast Range east of Reedsport.
 
The main thing Stahl remembers about that three-day trip down the length of Wassen Creek was how isolated he felt in a 1,800-foot canyon that hadn't changed much since Columbus set sail.
 
This struck him as remarkable, especially since the Coast Range has been the realm of logging for more than a century. Forest Service, BLM and private logging roads bisect the vast majority of forest. Much of the landscape is a checkerboard of tree farms, clear-cuts, second growth, or some combination.
 
Yet within Wassen Creek, home to almost 26,000 acres of intact old-growth, Stahl found a deeper solitude than anywhere he'd previously traveled.
 
Massive Douglas fir and cedars rose 200 feet into the canopy overhead. In three days he saw more wildlife — black bear, river otter, elk and signs of cougar — than during a year's worth of hiking and backpacking.
 
On the third day, they found the Devil's Staircase, where Wassen Creek drops 50 feet down a series of sandstone tiers.
 
"It struck me that we were as isolated geographically as I had ever been in my life — the cliffs were so sheer that if one of us broke an ankle, I didn't have any idea how we'd get out," Stahl said. "I saw no evidence of humans — not a fire ring, blaze on a tree or boot mark. It was remarkable — not a canella of human presence."
 
THE FIRST THREAT OF LOGGING
Not long after Stahl's epic trip, in 1982, Siuslaw National Forest proposed a timber sale that would have led to a 400-acre cut in the Wassen Creek area.
 
The proposal sparked the first effort to preserve the area.
 
Environmental activists convinced then-Sen. Mark Hatfield to write a letter holding off the sale. In 1983, the National Wildlife Federation filed suit claiming the area's steep slopes and shallow, unstable soils on the Mapleton Ranger District were highly susceptible to landslides following timber harvests, which damage waterways.
 
The court ordered the Forest Service to conduct an environmental review and produce an Environmental Impact Statement before offering to sell, "any timber on the Mapleton Ranger District other than limited commercial thinning … firewood … greenery sales and salvage of dead and downed timber sales."
 
The result was dramatic. Timber harvests fell from 75 million board feet in 1983 to 15 million broad feet in 1984 on the Mapleton Ranger District. Many residents blamed the lawsuit for closing the mills and the city's loss of jobs.
 
The Wassen Creek area was originally included for protection under the 1984 Oregon Wilderness Act. A cap placed on acreage in the bill forced then-Rep. Jim Weaver to choose between a wilderness area in Southern Oregon and Wassen Creek.
 
Wassen Creek was the odd wilderness out.
 
RE-ENERGIZED
Without wilderness protection, but under no real threat from logging, the Devil's Staircase and Wassen Creek area went quiet as the Forest Wars raged in other parts of the state.
 
The area was declared critical habitat for the spotted owl by the Endangered Species Act in the early 1990s and the Northwest Forest Plan provided additional protection in 1994, but it never received the wilderness stroke of Congress.
 
The quiet period ended in 2006 when a 5,000-acre section of the proposed wilderness was included in a draft of the Western Oregon Plan Revision by the Bureau of Land Management to become Timber Management Area.
 
The inclusion re-energized the wilderness campaign around Devil's Staircase and Wassen Creek that hit full bore in 2007.
 
Editorials, rallies, media attention and even visits by two of Oregon's congressional delegation — Rep. Peter DeFazio and Sen. Jeff Merkley, who bushwhacked to the waterfall — brought renewed emphasis to preserving the area as wilderness.
 
Rep. DeFazio has introduced a bill giving the area wilderness protection three times in the House since 2009. Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Merkley have introduced similar bills in the Senate three times as well. It passed the full Senate in June with unanimous consent but is a long shot to pass the House.
 
AWKWARD POSITION
Wassen Creek remains as difficult to reach today as it did when Stahl made his trip more than 30 years ago.
 
While some rugged roads provide access along its borders, and barely visible game trails can be followed in places, this roadless, pathless forest remains as difficult to penetrate as ever.
 
Only around 100 people per year, all with strong navigational skills, endure the hellacious bushwhack into Wassen Creek and Devil's Staircase. Multiple people have been lost or spent an unexpected night among the densely forested ravines attempting to locate the staircase.
 
But while the forest has changed little, the political climate has taken an unexpected twist during the past few months.
 
The Devil's Staircase Wilderness bill is now part of a larger package of bills in the House (authored by Rep. DeFazio) and Senate (authored by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden). The package would protect some areas, like the Devil's Staircase, while increasing logging on Oregon's federal O&C lands.
 
This has put supporters in a tough spot. In some cases, long-term proponents of the wilderness are now fighting the very bill that would finally make the Devil's Staircase Wilderness a reality.
 
"It's an incredibly awkward spot to be put in after the bill was advancing on its own merits," said Josh Laughlin, who has visited the Devil's Staircase area more than 20 times and is campaign director for Cascadia Wildlands, an Eugene-based environmental group.
 
"It's one of the wildest places in Oregon — really a magnificent slice of what the Coast Range once looked like. The Devil's Staircase deserves to stand on its own."
 
Zach Urness has been an outdoors writer, photographer and videographer in Oregon for seven years. He is the author of "Hiking Southern Oregon" and can be reached at zurness@Statesman Journal.com or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Facebook at Zach's Oregon Outdoors.
 
ABOUT THIS SERIES
Today's installment is the first of a two-part series about the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, exploring both the fight to create new wilderness in the example of the proposed Devils Staircase Wilderness and its history in Oregon.
 
The series continues Monday with dramatic examples of what can happen when nature and human nature collide over the restrictions inherent in the act.
 
50th ANNIVERSARY OF THE WILDERNESS ACT
On Sept. 3, 1964, Lyndon Johnson signed into law one of the most significant bills in environmental conservation into law. The Wilderness Act provides the highest level of protection for landscapes deemed worth both nationally and locally.
 
Five percent of the United States (and 2.7 percent of the Lower 48) and four percent of Oregon are protected under the Wilderness Act. In this two-part series, the Statesman Journal explores both the fight to create new wilderness — in the example of the proposed Devil's Staircase Wilderness — and its history in Oregon.
 
"A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain."
 
– Text of Wilderness Act
 
 
 

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.
 
 
 

Aug29

Coalitions sue Forest Service to block Alaska old-growth timber sale (Excerpt)

Coalitions sue Forest Service to block Alaska old-growth timber sale
 
By Maria L. La Ganga
Los Angeles Times
August 29, 2015
 
Two coalitions of environmental groups have filed three separate suits against the U.S. Forest Service, hoping to stop what the organizations say is the largest sale of old-growth timber in nearly a generation in America's largest Mail Attachment-9national forest.
 
Last week the Forest Service gave the final go-ahead for the so-called Big Thorne timber sale in Alaska's Tongass National Forest, a scenic expanse the size of Delaware studded with 1,000-year-old trees. Under the terms of the multiyear sale, about 6,000 acres of old-growth trees would be harvested.
 
[BREAK]
 
On Tuesday, a separate group of environmental organizations filed a third suit against the Forest Service seeking to stop the Big Thorne project.
This group, which includes Cascadia Wildlands and Greenpeace, said that the Alexander Archipelago wolf population on Prince of Wales Island had dropped sharply and that the federal agency ignored research by the foremost expert on the wolves in deciding to go forward with the sale.
 
"Without enough old-growth winter habitat in the forest for shelter, deer populations plummet during deep-snow winters," said Gabriel Scott, Cascadia Wildlands' Alaska legal director. "And without enough deer to go around, wolves and hunters are direct competitors.
 
"That never ends well for the wolf, or for hunters, because deer are the wolves' primary prey," Scott said. "Big Thorne bites hard into necessary winter habitat."
 
Link to full article here
 
Link to press release and background information here 

 

Aug28

With Huckleberry Wolf Pack in Crosshairs, Conservation Groups Appeal to Gov. Inslee to Require Rules Limiting Killing of Washington’s Endangered Wolves

For Immediate Release, August 28, 2014
 
Contacts: 
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746
John Mellgren, Western Environmental Law Center, (541) 525-5087
Tim Coleman, Kettle Range Conservation Group, (509) 775-2667
 
With Huckleberry Wolf Pack in Crosshairs, Conservation Groups Appeal to Gov. Inslee to Require Rules Limiting Killing of Washington’s Endangered Wolveshuckleberry_pups
 
OLYMPIA, Wash.— Eight conservation groups filed an appeal with Governor Jay Inslee today to reverse the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission’s denial of a petition asking for enforceable rules limiting when wolves can be killed in response to livestock depredations. The petition seeks to limit when the Department of Fish and Wildlife can kill wolves and require livestock producers to use nonlethal measures to protect their stock. Rules similar to those requested by the petition are in place in Oregon and are working to encourage ranchers to enact nonlethal measures; there, the number of depredations has decreased dramatically, and the state has not killed wolves in more than three years.  
 
“All we’re asking for are some very reasonable standards on what ranchers need to do to protect their livestock and when the state can step in and kill an endangered species,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Many, many questions about the circumstances that led the Department to secretly move to kill wolves in the Huckleberry pack this past weekend — on top of the disastrous killing of the Wedge pack in 2012 — highlight a clear need for such rules.”
 
In 2012 the Department killed seven wolves in the Wedge pack despite the fact that the rancher had taken little action to protect his stock. A similar situation is now taking place in southern Stevens County with the Huckleberry pack. The pack has been involved in multiple depredations of sheep, but there are many questions about the practices of the rancher in question. In particular, the rancher is grazing 1,800 sheep in highly dissected terrain in close proximity to a known wolf rendezvous site. Reportedly, the sheep have been protected merely by four guard dogs since a sheep herder quit roughly a month ago and was not replaced. Additionally, sheep carcasses have been left in the area, serving as a potential attractant to wolves.  
 
Once depredations were discovered, the Department advised the Commission that the sheep were being moved, a range rider was being deployed and that agency staff were on-site to help deter further depredations, but before these actions were fully implemented, the Department secretly put a helicopter in the air to shoot wolves. To date, one wolf has been killed and the sheep still have not been moved.  
 
“This is exactly the type of situation where, if strict, enforceable rules were in place to implement the state’s wolf plan, the sheep owner’s lax practices and the failure of the Department to follow through would have kept the Huckleberry pack safe from the knee-jerk kill order that has been issued against them,” said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands.
 
Last Wednesday the Department issued an order authorizing agency staff and the sheep owner to kill any of the Huckleberry pack wolves in the vicinity, instead of using rubber bullets or other hazing tools. It has also come to light that the Department failed to accept offers of assistance from a Washington State University wolf researcher to help get sheep carcasses out, implement more nonlethal measures, and help monitor the situation. It also failed to accept an offer from a conservation group of special predator-deterrence lights used elsewhere in conflict situations. Instead, without notice to the public or even to the stakeholder advisory group the Department consults with to implement the state’s wolf plan, the Department launched a secret aerial gunning campaign over the weekend with the aim of killing up to four of the pack’s wolves. One young wolf, which may have been a pup from this spring’s litter, was killed from the air and after more unsuccessful airtime, the helicopter was grounded but efforts continue by the Department to trap and euthanize up to three more wolves.
 
“When the Commission denied our new petition, one reason they gave for the denial was that wolf-livestock conflicts are complicated,” said John Mellgren, staff attorney with Western Environmental Law Center, “but that’s precisely why clear rules must be adopted. When the Department shoots from the hip, as they have these past two weeks in dealing with the Huckleberry pack situation, the outcome is tragic for the wolves and a public-relations nightmare for the Department.”
 
Conservation groups filed a similar petition in the summer of 2013 but withdrew it based on promises from the Department to negotiate new rules governing lethal methods of wolf management. A year later, with no negotiations having taken place, the Department gave notice to the Commission it was going to introduce its own, far-less-protective lethal wolf-control rule, leading the groups to refile their petition.
 
“The Department’s actions have been extremely controversial and we know that Gov. Inslee’s office has received thousands of emails and phone calls just this week since the helicopter sniper took to the skies,” said Tim Coleman, executive director of the Kettle Range Conservation Group. “So we think he is fully aware of how much Washington residents care about the state’s endangered wolves and how badly it is needed for the Commission to adopt legally enforceable rules to prevent this from ever happening again.”
 
In 2011 the Commission formally adopted the state’s wolf plan, which was crafted in a five-year process with input from a 17-member stakeholder group, more than 65,000 written comments from the public, and a peer review by 43 scientists and wolf managers. However, Commission and Department officials have publicly stated that they view the plan as merely advisory. Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. Since the early 2000s, the animals have started to make a comeback by dispersing into Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia. But wolf recovery is still in its infancy. According to the Department’s annual wolf report, Washington’s wolf population grew by only one wolf, from a population of 51 wolves to 52 wolves from the end of 2012 to the end of 2013. 
 
The appeal to Gov. Inslee was filed by groups representing tens of thousands of Washington residents, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, Western Environmental Law Center, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, The Lands Council, Wildlands Network, Kettle Range Conservation Group and the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club.  
Upon receipt of the appeal, the governor’s office has 45 days to respond with a final decision.
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Aug26

Lawsuit Takes On Devastating Old-growth Logging Project in Tongass National Forest–Suit Follows Scientist’s Warning That Alexander Archipelago Wolves Are Threatened

For Immediate Release, August 26, 2014 :
 
Gabe Scott, Cascadia Wildlands, (907) 491-0856
Larry Edwards, Greenpeace, (907) 747-7557
David Beebe, GSACC, (907) 340-6888
Randi Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity, (310) 779-4894
Joel Hanson, The Boat Company, (907) 738-1033
Chris Winter, Crag Law Center, (503) 525-2725
 
Lawsuit Takes On Devastating Old-growth Logging Project in Tongass National Forest Suit Follows Scientist's Warning That Alexander Archipelago Wolves Are Threatened
 
PRINCE OF WALES ISLAND, Alaska— Five conservation groups 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 aawolfU.S. Forest Service logging project on the Tongass National Forest since the region’s two pulp mills closed about 20 years ago.
 
The lawsuit asks the court to find, among other things, that 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 says that Big Thorne would “break the back” of the ecosystem dynamic between the wolves, deer and hunters on the island.
 
The geographically isolated Prince of Wales wolf population is known by state and federal biologists to have dropped sharply in recent years to a low but undetermined number. If the project proceeds, more than 6,000 acres of old-growth forest would be cut into nearly 150 million board feet of logs. This old-growth forest is a mix-aged group of trees, with the oldest approaching 1,000 years of age. What remains of it is increasingly important to wildlife.
 
“Prince of Wales Island is the most heavily logged part of southeast Alaska,” said David Beebe of the Greater SE Alaska Conservation Community (GSACC). “The Big Thorne project would add to the enduring impacts to wildlife from massive clearcuts and about 3,000 miles of logging roads on the island, created beginning in the 1950s.”
 
“Without enough old-growth winter habitat in the forest for shelter, deer populations plummet during deep-snow winters,” explained Gabriel Scott, Alaska legal director for Cascadia Wildlands in Cordova. “And without enough deer to go around, wolves and hunters are direct competitors. That never ends well for the wolf, or for hunters, because deer are the wolves’ primary prey. Big Thorne bites hard into necessary winter habitat.”
 
“The other Big Thorne shoe dropping on Archipelago wolves is more roads,” said Larry Edwards of Greenpeace. “With 3,000 miles of logging roads, a high road density, you get uncontrollable wolf poaching.” Big Thorne’s 46 miles of new roads would add to 580 miles in that project area already; another 37 miles would be reopened or reconstructed. “The Forest Service consistently circumvents its road density standard and guideline,” he said.
 
“Big Thorne is the antithesis of the ‘rapid transition’ out of Tongass old-growth logging the Forest Service promised over four years ago,” said the Center for Biological Diversity’s Randi Spivak. “Time’s up. It’s deeply irresponsible for the agency to proceed in the face of the need to end old-growth logging and of Dr. Person’s dire warning about continuing a failed land-management scheme that will devastate deer and wolf populations.”
 
The plaintiffs expressed outrage at the suppression of science the Forest Service and Parnell administration have committed with this project. 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 made by the plaintiff organizations. Then, after confronting the Forest Service with the material in comments on the Big Thorne draft environmental impact statement, the agency simply ignored its existence in the final statement and project decision.
 
“That gambit by the two governments backfired,” said Scott. “The project was put on hold for nearly a year while a formal declaration by Dr. Person about Big Thorne’s impacts to deer and wolves was reviewed. The declaration, prepared after Person quit ADF&G, was filed by the plaintiffs in an administrative appeal of the August 2013 Big Thorne decision.
 
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, “unsurprisingly,” Scott said, 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. 
 
“Nonetheless, the Forest Service is again proceeding with the project rather than delve further into the ecology, revise the EIS, and reconsider the decision,” said Edwards. “We are suing to reverse that. And also to force revision of the Tongass forest plan into compliance with law that, if followed, would have avoided Prince of Wales’ ecological mess in the first place.”
 
“People from all continents and walks of life book passage on our educational cruises to see charismatic predators such as wolves in their natural habitat,” said Joel Hanson, conservation program director with plaintiff The Boat Company. “But with this timber sale, the Forest Service proves once and for all that it is blind to the wolf’s value as either a visitor attraction or vital component of a healthy coastal island ecosystem. It sees only trees, and pictures only the benefits of using forests as a commodity.”
 
“This case is the last line of defense,” said Chris Winter, at Crag Law Center who represents the conservation groups. “Otherwise, the Forest Service is going to log these species and the old-growth forests on Prince of Wales Island into oblivion.” Crag Law Center, in Portland, Oregon, is a public interest environmental law firm that works from Northern Alaska to Northern California.
 
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