Oregon Wolves


Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Removes Protections for Imperiled Gray Wolf

Press statement
November 10, 2015
Contact: Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands Legal Director, 314.482.3746
In the face of overwhelming opposition from the public, political leaders, and the scientific community, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted last evening to remove the gray wolf from the state's list of endangered species.  There are approximately 80 wolves in the state.
Photo taken July 6, 2013 of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack.  Subadult wolves assist in the raising of the pups. Photo courtesy of ODFW. Download high resolution image.


Many leading and independent wolf scientists have recently written scathing critiques of the plan to strip key protections for Oregon’s recovering wolves.
Last week, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) sent a sharp response to the Commission about the department’s proposal to remove protections.
Wolf advocates believe the decision is premature and worry that removing key protections for Oregon wolves at such an early juncture in recovery will signal to others that it is OK to resort to the old ways of dealing with wolves through trapping, poisoning and shooting. Wolves are in the early stages of recovery since reestablishing themselves back into the state in 2008.
Statements from Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands Legal Director:
"The decision to strip key protections for wolves at this early stage of recovery is disappointing," said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands.  "It is readily apparent that the Department and Commission are kowtowing to fringe, special interest groups in flagrant disregard to their responsibility to the public and to use good science.  With approximately 80 wolves in the entire state, this decision does not pass the laugh test."
“Decisions to remove protections for animals returning from the brink of extinction must be grounded in science,” says Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Unfortunately, politics appear to be hampering the process here, and the imperiled gray wolf will be the one that loses out.”
(Photo of Oregon wolves by ODFW)

Oregon Slammed for “Flawed” Scientific Basis for Wolf Delisting

Nick Cady, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Amaroq Weiss, (707) 779-9613, aweiss@biologicaldiversity.org
Steve Pedery, (503) 283-6343 x 212, sp@oregonwild.org
Scientists Slam Oregon’s ‘Fundamentally Flawed’ Proposal to Strip Wolves of State Endangered Species Protections
Top Researchers Determine Wolf Population Far From Recovered  

Photo taken July 6, 2013 of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack. Subadult wolves assist in the raising of the pups. Photo courtesy of ODFW.

PORTLAND, Ore.— A group of leading independent scientists this week voiced their opposition to a plan to remove state protections from Oregon’s wolves, saying the estimated population of only 83 wolves cannot be considered recovered. The scientists identified significant flaws in a “population viability analysis” conducted by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife that claims wolves are at low risk of extinction.
The researchers’ critical analyses of the delisting plan are included in comments submitted today by conservation groups from the Pacific Wolf Coalition to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, which is scheduled to vote Nov. 9 on whether to strip state Endangered Species Act protection from wolves.
“It is logically indefensible, and contrary to the notion of recovery under the Endangered Species Act, to suggest that wolves are in some way recovered when they’re still missing from nearly 90 percent of their suitable range in Oregon,” said Dr. Michael P. Nelson, the Ruth H. Spaniol chair of renewable resources and a professor of environmental ethics and philosophy at Oregon State University. “Dropping state protections for wolves right now would suggest that politics, rather than science and law, are guiding wildlife management decisions in Oregon.”
The state currently has about 83 wolves living in 10 packs, with several breeding pairs.
Under Oregon’s state wolf plan, reaching four breeding pairs for three consecutive years in the eastern half of the state triggers a status review. With its wolf population having reached that population threshold at the end of 2014, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife prepared a status review and recommended that wolves be delisted. But the commission has failed to initiate a formal peer review of the department’s analysis by an independent panel of experts, as required by state law.
The sole outside scientist who was asked by the state to comment on its wolf population status review raised serious questions about the review’s findings. Dr. Carlos Carroll, a wildlife ecologist with the Klamath Center for Conservation Research, whose research focuses on habitat, viability and connectivity modeling for threatened and endangered species, expressed concern in his written analysis that the manner in which certain factors were applied in the analysis “is overly optimistic compared to data from well-studied wolf populations,” and that the status review relied on information “that doesn’t accurately represent what is currently known about genetic threats to small wolf populations.”  
The department’s delisting recommendation relies largely on a population viability analysis questioned by multiple scientists, including one who characterizes it as being “fundamentally flawed” and not providing adequate or realistic assessments of Oregon’s wolf population to meet legally required delisting criteria. The scientists also raised concerns about the department’s delisting criteria assessment and about its apparent lack of understanding regarding social tolerance for wolves and other large predators.
“There appears to be little scientific evidence to justify Oregon’s assertion that a population of only 85 wolves is recovered,” said Dr. Guillaume Chapron, associate professor in quantitative ecology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, where his research focuses on large carnivore conservation and management, with a particular emphasis on modeling and viability analysis.
“According to some of the world's foremost experts in wolf and population biology, the state of Oregon's move to strip gray wolves of protection simply doesn't reflect reality,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The scientists’ comments make clear that removing protections for wolves now runs directly counter to the Oregon Endangered Species Act, which requires such decisions to be based on solid, verifiable science.”
The commission has received more than 22,000 comment letters from the public, plus substantial testimony at three public meetings this year, opposing delisting the wolves.
“Conservation groups and tens of thousands of Oregonians have told the commission that delisting of Oregon’s tiny wolf population is premature and that wolves still face threats to their continued existence in significant portions of their historic range — and the scientific community wholeheartedly agrees,” said Steve Pedery, executive director of Oregon Wild.
The state’s estimated population of around 80 wolves is only 5 percent of what peer-reviewed science says the state could support, and wolves are entirely absent from nearly 90 percent of their historic range in Oregon.
“We have repeatedly asked the commission to conduct an outside, expert peer-review of ODFW’s status review as required under Oregon law and the Department’s own regulations,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Conducting an external scientific peer review on the Department’s proposal to ensure it can move forward with legal and scientific confidence is the right and only path forward..”
The Pacific Wolf Coalition includes the following member organizations:
BARK – California Wilderness Coalition – California Wolf Center – California Chapter Sierra Club – Cascadia Wildlands – Center for Biological Diversity – Conservation Northwest – Defenders of Wildlife – Earthjustice – Endangered Species Coalition – Environmental Protection Information Center – Gifford Pinchot Task Force – Hells Canyon Preservation Council – Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center – Living With Wolves – Mountain Lion Foundation – National Parks Conservation Association – Natural Resources Defense Council – Northeast Oregon Ecosystems – Oregon Chapter, Sierra Club – Oregon Wild – Predator Defense – Project Coyote – The Larch Company – Washington Chapter Sierra Club – Western Environmental Law Center – Western Watersheds Project – Wildlands Network – Wolf Haven International
Public Comment Opportunity
Cascadia Wildlands has partnered with Oregon Wild, Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity to host a training in order to give folks interested in testifying a chance to practice their testimony and help them to refine their message.  We will be meeting at the Cascadia Wildlands office in Portland, 5825 N. Greeley Ave, December 4, 2015 from 6 to 8 pm.  See more on that event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1644960965776806/
Cascadia Wildlands' most recent testimony to the Fish and Wildlife Commission can be found here.

Oregon Wolf Delisting Training

2019372475by Legal Director Nick Cady
You may have heard the terrible news out of northeast Oregon last week that two wolves, the alpha male and female of the newly formed Sled Springs pack, were found dead next to each other.  It is highly likely that these animals were poached; poisoned given the unusual circumstances surrounding their demise, and the absence of bullet wounds.
This pair had just recently given birth to a litter of wolf pups, and now these five-month old pups must survive the winter on their own — a tall order.  The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is reaching out for information concerning the deaths of these wolves, but we are not hopeful.
Recently in Washington, a man admitted to running down an endangered wolf with his truck, and then shooting the animal.  After acknowledging poaching an endangered species, the man was released with a hundred dollar fine and a six month's probation.  (See more on this story here.) Last fall, the alpha female of the Teeanaway pack near Cle Elem was poached.
odfw imageThis tragic sequence of events is occurring in the midst of efforts by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to remove state endangered species protections for the species. Aside from all the practical and legal implications, we are worried this delisting effort will send a message to those out there hostile to wolves that it is open season. 
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission is hosting a hearing on October 9th in Florence, Oregon concerning its proposal to remove wolves from the state endangered species list. Your testimony is welcomed.
Cascadia Wildlands has partnered with Oregon Wild, Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity to host a training in order to give folks interested in testifying a chance to practice their testimony and help them to refine their message.  We will be meeting at the Cascadia Wildlands office in Eugene, 1247 Willamette Street, October 8, 2015 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. 
Food is being generously donated by Falling Sky and Oakshire has donated beverages for the event.  Don't be shy, come meet people working on these issues, and help stand up for wolves in Oregon!
(Washington wolf pup photo by Conservation Northwest)

Wolf Tracks

Willamette Week by Aaron Mesh
May 27, 2015
Nick Cady is thrilled to see the return of gray wolves to Oregon’s Cascade Range. He celebrated when the wolf dubbed OR-7 was spotted south of Crater Lake in 2011, more than 60 years after hunters wiped out the species from the state.
But even as wolves return to Oregon’s southwestern mountains, Cady fears the U.S. Forest Service will authorize logging and road building that could cut off the wolves’ range.
“Federal agencies are supposed to lay out how projects will impact species,” Cady says. “What we’ve seen with wolves is they say, ‘Oh, it won’t impact them at all.’ I don’t think that is true.”
This spring, Cady’s environmental nonprofit, Cascadia Wildlands, filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking all Forest Service plans for protecting wolves while selling off timber and building roads in Oregon and Washington’s national forests. Two months later, the agency hasn’t given him a single document.
So Cady’s group has gone to court, suing the Forest Service in U.S. District Court on May 20 for its failure to respond to Cascadia Wildlands’ records request.
Lawsuits accusing government agencies of violating the FOIA have become a reliable tool for environmental groups trying to watchdog public officials.
Cascadia Wildlands’ suit is the 10th lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for Oregon in the past decade by an environmental group seeking to force the release of public records. It’s the second in less than a month. On April 29, the Northwest Environmental Defense Center in Portland sued to see water-quality records from the Columbia Generating Station in Hanford, Wash.
Cascadia Wildlands says it filed the records request March 12, seeking communications between the Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The suit says Cascadia Wildlands then wrote letters in April and May offering to let the Forest Service release the documents gradually.
The Forest Service responded in May by saying it needed more time to review the request, because it had 20 other records requests ahead of Wildlands’.
Glen Sachet, a spokesman for the Forest Service’s Portland office, declined comment to WW on pending litigation.
Oregon officials estimate 77 wolves live in the state, but just seven of them are in the western half of the state. The largest Cascade Range wolf pack, called the Rogue Pack, includes OR-7, his mate and three pups.
Cady fears that commercial logging could disrupt the wolves’ range, expose them to cars and change the behavior of deer and elk, making it harder for wolves to find food. The group also says building new timber roads makes it easier for hunters to get deep into the wilderness and set wolf traps.
He says his group wants assurances from the Forest Service that the agency’s plans take into account protections for the Rogue Pack and the next generation of Oregon wolves.
“We just hope they’re taking a hard look at the science before proceeding with irretrievable resource damage and road construction,” Cady says. “They might have taken a good, hard look at this. But I don’t think that’s the case. We’ll find out.”
A copy of the complaint can be found here.

Maintaining Protections for Oregon’s Wolves

By Nick Cady, Legal Director
WOLF_OR17_odfw_Photo taken July 6 2013 of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack. Subadult wolves assist in the raising of the pupsPhoto courtesy of ODFW

Imnaha Pack Wolves

This past Friday, I was driving to and from Bend, over five hours in the car, to give three minutes of testimony because the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) was proposing to remove gray wolves from the state endangered species list.  I was appropriately pissed given the plain fact that only 77 wolves exist in the state, but I was also feeling pretty jaded about the whole thing. I’ll explain why.
In 2011, when wolves were first returning to the state (there was 12 wolves and one breeding pair at the time), the ODFW tried to kill the male of that breeding pair and one of the sub adults from that same pack.  I had passed the bar exam weeks earlier and had one lawsuit filed to my name when co-worker Josh Laughlin yelled across the office that I needed to find a way to stop this active hunt for the alpha male, OR-4.
So I started digging around.  The problem was I did not have time to really conduct a thorough review as ODFW agents were out in the field hunting for the wolves as I was researching and writing.  But I just starting working, and began digging around in state laws pertaining to the protection of endangered species.  The gray wolf has been listed as an endangered species in the state since the passage of the law decades ago.
As it turns out the state laws did have a prohibition on taking or killing endangered species.  But everyone who had been working on wolf issues, everyone who was involved in drafting the state’s wolf plan in 2005 (governor’s office, ODFW, conservationists, agricultural interests, etc.) had not given this provision any thought, when the plan purported to allow wolves to be shot in response to wolves killing livestock during the early stages of wolf recovery while they were still listed.
The reason why no one had considered this provision was that when the state Endangered Species Act was passed, the timber industry had gutted the law of any substance that could negatively impact the ability to clearcut our forests.  Standard Salem politics. To be specific, the bill was clarified so that the “taking” of an endangered species, which was prohibited, does not include destruction of a species habitat.  So someone would have to go out into woods and shoot a spotted owl out of a tree to violate the law, while cutting down the owl’s nest tree and clearcutting for miles in every direction was fine.   Therefore, in order to violate the law, you had to directly go out and kill an endangered species.  Folks thought that this was preposterous. No monster would intentionally kill an endangered species, and another meaningless law for the environment was passed by Oregon Democrats, or so they thought.
Until it came to wolves.  Wolves are habitat generalists; as long as there is prey and not too many human beings around, they will survive.  The real threat to wolves is people shooting and trapping them, the reason why the species was wiped out and then protected in the first place.  The ridiculous contention that people might intentionally and admittedly kill endangered species had become reality in Oregon, but everyone had forgotten about the Oregon Endangered Species Act, the supposedly meaningless act of Democrat consolation to Oregon conservationists.
So I wrote a legal memo and pressed forward with the lawsuit with colleagues Oregon Wild and Center for Biological Diversity. There was a stream of late nights and Thai food drafting everything up as ODFW was actively trying to kill these wolves.  And a day or so before we filed, we got word that the agency hunters had actually taken a shot at OR-4 (father of OR-7 or “Journey”), and were not sure if they had hit him or not.  We quickly put everything together and filed.  The Court issued us a stay later that day and ended the hunt temporarily.  Ultimately, we settled the lawsuit with the state and the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association by developing stringent rules or when the state could use lethal control on wolves (more on the details of those rules here).  ODFW could only now kill wolves in limited circumstances early in recovery, and when different population objectives were hit these rules would be automatically relaxed.  
Organizationally, Cascadia Wildlands spent so much time and resources on this process.  The settlement took almost two years to negotiate, and involved what seemed like weekly trips to Salem.  It was a brutal process, but it ultimately led to an agreement that has since made Oregon the national model for responsible wolf conservation.
Turning back to my trip to Bend, and ODFW’s attempt to delist wolves, I was feeling jaded because I hoped that this landmark agreement would have bought more time before I was again taking long commutes and debating state agents and livestock producers over wolf management.  I was especially upset because we had intentionally designed the wolf rules to avoid this debate over delisting.  Specifically, we crafted the rules so that changes in wolf management as the population grew happen automatically and do not hinge on listing or delisting.  Everyone at the table knew that the listing of wolves on the endangered species act would be incredibly controversial, so we wanted to avoid the conflict.  
But apparently we were wrong, and our efforts to avoid a pointless, premature contest over delisting were in vain.  Despite only having 77 wolves in the state, ODFW made recommendations to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission that wolves be delisted.  Although delisting would not have any management implications immediately, years down the road it could open the door to wolf hunting in the state. So we had to make the trip, organize testimony, get scientists to weigh-in and analyze the delisting proposal, because we knew the well-funded livestock lobbyists would be doing the same. I was pissed and frustrated, we had designed the rules to avoid this conflict, and ODFW launched us into it regardless.  It all just seemed somewhat pointless and a waste of precious energy given all the other threats to Oregon’s environment.  
After all, the wolf is just one species among many, and a species going through a successful recovery.  Although the majority of the wolves and packs in Oregon are concentrated in the northeast corner of the state, wolves are beginning to disperse west.  Two packs are now established in the southern Cascades, and wolves have recently been documented in the northern Cascades as well.  On the other hand, spotted owl populations are crashing, sea counts of marbled murrelets indicate that numbers are plummeting, and several wetland species are now listed in the state due to disappearing habitat.
So I found myself sulking.  But something happened at the meeting.  As public testimony began, I starting listening to all the different voices supporting the wolf’s continued listing on the Endangered Species Act: the hydrologist testifying about the importance of wolves to aquatic ecosystems, the business lawyer testifying about the importance of liberal wildlife policies to new businesses and attracting workers, the grade school teacher presenting loads of drawings from her students about wolves, the retired ODFW employee advocating for the exercise of caution. A slew of people testified and had made the trip from all corners of the state.
I began to feel inspired.  I had gotten caught up in the details of these rules and management phases, and had lost focus of what wolves and their status as an endangered species meant to the general public in Oregon. Aside from the rules and laws, wolves and the species’ recovery means so much to so many in Oregon.  They are a symbol of nature and true wilderness. A species that protects the intricate web of life in our fragile ecosystems.  Their recovery and the struggle to protect them is representative of the growing environmental ethic in this country.  
A meeting that I went into feeling discouraged and pessimistic, turned into a reformation.  A rejuvenation of enthusiasm about wolves and all they mean to the people of this state.  And I was not the only one that was influenced by the public’s outcry. The Commission, despite the Department’s urgings, voted to delay any decision on delisting until later this year so that more scientific information could be gathered and analyzed.  A wise decision for the Commission and the wolves.  So Cascadia Wildlands will gather further evidence and analysis on the ODFW proposal as we would have regardless, but now with a renewed sense of purpose thanks to the public voices concerned with the protection of wolves.  Thank you.




Living in the Age of Returns and Firsts


By Maya Rommwatt, Communications and Development Intern

On February 13th, comments are due to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the Jordan Cove LNG project.  The potentially catastrophic project includes both a pipeline and a terminal for the purpose of transporting fracked natural gas and liquefying it for export to Asia.  Similar to other proposals to transport gas and coal for the purposes of export, this project refuses to consider the impacts it will have on climate change, which now stands between us, and a livable future.

We’re living in an age of returns and firsts.  Just recently, photos confirmed the presence of an extremely rare Sierra Nevada red fox in Yosemite National Park.  There have been no sightings of the elusive creature there for ninety-nine years.  And closer to home, we learned of activity of what appears to be another one or two wolves near Crater Lake, in addition to the burgeoning Rogue Pack. I never thought I would be able to speak of Western Oregon wolves, and yet here they are, pups and all. 

But as this encouraging story unfolds, we make plans for pipelines and exports that will guarantee a future governed by catastrophic climate change.  That future has no room for recovering species.  This, as the EPA announces Canadian tar sands will only be developed if the Keystone pipeline is built, now that oil prices have dropped.  While the Keystone pipeline may soon be a receding threat, the more local Jordan Cove project is a wholly different beast.  The project would assure the export of inefficient fracked natural gas for decades to come, and once the Boardman coal plant shuts down, it will be Oregon’s biggest polluter.  This doesn’t even factor in the emissions associated with obtaining the natural gas, nor does it consider the burning of the gas by its consumers in Asia.  And yet, Oregon moves closer and closer to the LNG terminal.  We have not even begun to ask what a future with the project might look like.  If an accident were to happen with this project, say a spill, we taxpayers would likely be forced to help foot the cleanup bill, as the history of corporate settlements shows (corporations forced to pay punitive damages often deduct their settlement costs from their taxes).Two pups from the Rogue Pack, June 2014

The Jordon Cove LNG project is a disaster we can’t afford on a number of levels.  It’s foolish to think we can both recover species and build the natural gas pipeline.  Will we choose the path to recovery and growth, returns and firsts?  Or will we choose the path of negligence and loss?  Help us show the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission we stand on the right side of history, that we respect other species, and are not working in opposition to them.  We have not spent countless hours and resources building a narrative with a future, only to wash it away so a Canadian corporation can make a profit at our expense and the expense of OR-7 and the Rogue pack, the wolverine, and the remaining ancient carbon-storing forests of the Pacific Northwest. No LNG Rally, photo courtesy of Francis Eatherington

Now is the time to submit our comments; we have until noon on Friday the 13th for online comments or postmarked mailed comments.  If you haven’t already done so, you can submit your comments beginning here.


More information on the pipeline can be found here.


Photo Credits: Top left, Two pups from the Rogue Pack, June 2014. (Photo by ODFW).  Bottom right, No LNG protest. (Photo courtesy Francis Eatherington).                              






Cascadia Wildlands Statement on Wolf Recovery Announcement by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Press statement
January 28, 2015
Contact: Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 314.482.3746
                 Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 541.844.8182
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife just announced it is moving to phase II of its wolf recovery plan in eastern Oregon after state wildlife biologists confirmed that there were seven breeding pairs in the state in 2014. The wolf plan states that when there are four breeding pairs for three consecutive years in each respective part of the state, wolf management moves to phase II in that zone. This means livestock producers will now have more management flexibility in dealing with wolf/livestock conflicts in eastern Oregon. Wolves in the state’s western recovery zone will still be managed under phase I.
In 2012 Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild negotiated a landmark settlement agreement with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife andWalla Walla_odfw the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association after securing a legal injunction against wolf killing in Oregon. The settlement requires that during phase I livestock producers use proactive, non lethal methods to deter conflict between wolves and livestock, like cleaning up bone and carcass piles and utilizing human presence, before any lethal control on wolves can be used. It also sets a threshold of four livestock depredations by the same wolf or wolves in six months in order to trigger lethal control. The settlement also greatly increases agency transparency in its wolf management program. No wolves have been lethally controlled in Oregon since the settlement agreement was signed.
"Cascadia Wildlands is encouraged by the ongoing success of wolf recovery in Oregon, but it is not the time to let up," said Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands.  "It is our hope that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife continues to implement the state’s landmark wolf management plan and rules that have served as a recovery model for other states while preventing burdensome conflict."
“While it is exciting that wolf populations in Oregon continue to expand, it is critical that the state remain vigilant in ensuring statewide recovery objectives are met,” said Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “Much of western Oregon’s wildlands remain devoid of wolves and will be relying on robust populations in eastern Oregon to disperse into new territories.”
“Oregon's wolf management rules incentivize non-lethal measures aimed at preventing wolf/livestock conflict and provide necessary tools and financial assistance to livestock producers,” explained Cady.  “The plan has kept conflict down and headed off the constant political battles that have hampered recovery efforts in neighboring states like Washington."

Lethal Control of Predators: Of Science, Scapegoats and Icebergs

By Bob Ferris
I have been looking at the issue of lethal predator control for many, many years and the longer I look at it and 2019372475the more science I read and assimilate, the more convinced I become that lethal control of predators is more punitive than practical.  It is an activity and a supporting attitude that simply does not wash in the light of what we know and have tested. 
I know some will argue that lethal control is still needed for situations of chronic livestock depredation and where predators are dampening prey or endangered species recovery.  But even in these instances our opting for trigger, trap or poison is really more about our inability to admit that we are often raising the wrong animals in the wrong way in the wrong places and also our reluctance to recalibrate our expectations in regards to our ability to harvest, destroy and neglect our natural resources at unsustainable levels without consequence. 
Three wolf examples come to mind when I think of prime illustrations of the above: the Huckleberry pack control action, continual calls for wolf control in the Lolo National Forest to save elk and the killing of wolves in Alberta to save caribou. 
With the Huckleberry incident in eastern Washington—which we have written about repeatedly (1,2,3)—you  basically have too many of the wrong animal (i.e., sheep including rams) placed in poor habitat with little or no supervision near an area of known wolf activity.  Certainly livestock losses are regrettable and we have sympathy for the rancher who has to move his or her animals to alternative pasture, but the question hovers: Was this choice of stocking levels, location and inattention to non-lethal alternatives prudent given the situation?  One thing to think about in this context is the idea that anyone can leave roughly $180,000 worth of assets on any landscape without providing some measure of presence or protection from mishap.  In any event, this set of circumstances seems to not be a compelling argument for lethal control of a species recently released from federal protection and still under Washington State protection. 
The elk population decline in the Lolo has been offered up far too often as the poster child for the need for wolf control regardless of the fact that the decline started long before wolves came on the scene.  And biologist after biologist has pointed to this decline being associated with habitat succession (i.e., open areas transitioning to brush land and then to forests).    Certainly wolves are causing this decline to linger longer but at the end of the day this elk population is still habitat limited and will remain so as the availability of early seral habitat continues to decline.  Elk are creatures of disturbance and when the logging is done or fires put out the ticking clock of transition from good elk habitat to bad starts.  The State of Idaho is pursuing lethal control of wolves in this area but they are unlikely to get any awards for sound science or innovative management out of this endeavor (see here).  
Woodland caribou in Alberta are in terrible shape and getting worse (1,2,3).  The main reason for this decline is the explosion of tar sand development as well as tradition gas and oil development in the province.  Yet when searching for solutions, the province did not look to restrict fossil fuel operations, set up refugia or restore habitat they felt the “logical” approach was to cull wolves.  I suppose on some level this illogical of wolf culling is easily dwarfed when looking at the totality of this tar sands lunacy where wilderness is being sacrificed so we can accelerate climate change, ocean acidification and a host of other ills that compromise our ecological support systems.  
Alberta’s wolf cull strategy is not only wrong-headed but it may turn out to be an ironic choice as wolf biologist Robert Hayes reported in his excellent book Wolves of the Yukon that smaller packs had to kill more prey per capita because they lack the numbers to effectively protect their kills from crows, ravens and other scavengers.  Hayes’ observations are illustrative of the problem faced by lethal control proponents who only look at the obvious iceberg tip of predator-prey relationships and do not see the more important aspects below the surface that are not seen by the casual observer.  
The latest nail in the coffin of the lethal control illogic is Rob Wielgus’ recent findings that culling wolves likely does more harm than good.  This is solid and well-reviewed work, but it is by no means unique in sending the message that lethal control is generally a flawed approach.   In 2012, for instance, the American Society of Mammalogists issued a strong letter to USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service—where USDA Wildlife Services is housed or hidden—heavily criticizing the program’s overdependence on and use of lethal control.  And investigative journalist Tom Knudson of the Sacramento Bee wrote an excellent set of articles examining problems with USDA Wildlife Services as well as lethal control in 2012 (1,2,3,).
At this point there are likely some who are asking: If science has shown that lethal control of predators—particularly via random culling programs—is generally ineffective or often deleterious then why does it continue? The answer to this question is that livestock producers, energy developers, and timber interests want access to natural resources on public lands and the presence of predators—particularly legally protected predators—often inhibits their ability to fully exploit and derive maximum benefit from these public lands.  Yes there are groups that also support predator control, but if you scratch the surface of most of the groups with anti-wolf or anti-predator leanings you do not have to look too hard to also find connections between those groups and these industries either through funding, governance or association (see here).  
Moreover, for wildlife managers, scientists and politicians, there is real peril in questioning the lethal control model.  Both Rod Sando (1) in Idaho and Ken Mayer in Nevada (1,2) lost their jobs as directors of their state wildlife agencies, in part, because they took a principled and scientifically defensible position on the lethal control of predators.  Likewise Dr. Wielgus’ work—before it was even completed—was attacked and his objectivity questioned by the livestock producers’ front group the Science First Coalition (which has since taken down their website).  And Congressman Peter DeFazio who has long championed reform of Wildlife Services and wolf recovery as well as opposing predator derbies has taken considerable lumps from the above crowd.  Being principled is a perilous course and frequently comes at a price.  
SCCA Talking Science
I met with the leadership of Wildlife Services in DC roughly 20 years ago armed with a stack of literature that questioned the efficacy of lethal control actions particularly as they applied to coyotes and we also talked some about wolves.  The agency and the approach has changed some since then because of public pressure, legal actions and congressional attention, but only cosmetically such as not stenciling an airplane with a wolf silhouette each time you kill one.  Lethal control continues not because there is a lack of science or inadequate evidence of problems but because the myths and fear continue to be promulgated by the same interests and industries (see above).  
As you enter the holiday season and think about this coming year and those in the future, please take some time to think about how you can help all of us turn the tide on this monumental effort to bring facts and science to wildlife management and public perceptions—particularly in rural areas.  We need to break the strangle-hold and undue influence these industries have on our wildlife agencies, public lands policy and the minds of our children.   Our future and the future of what we hold dear depends on it, so please support groups that work in this area, vote for candidates who embrace science, and educate where you can with fact-based and scientifically defensible arguments.  

BLM Says No to Predator Killing Contest on BLM Lands

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, November 25, 2014
Contact: Drew Kerr, WildEarth Guardians, (312) 375-6104
Laura King, Western Environmental Law Center, (406) 204-4852
Bob Ferris, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463
Lynne Stone, Boulder-White Clouds Council, (208) 721-7301
Conservationists celebrate win just 12 days after filing lawsuit to stop the wolf-hunting contest on public lands
SALMON, IDAHO—Conservationists are celebrating the news from the Salmon, Idaho U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office announcing the agency is withdrawing the 5-year permit it issued for a cruel killing contest on Coyote Derbysome of the wildest and most scenic BLM-managed public lands in the country. The move comes only twelve days after WildEarth Guardians, Cascadia Wildlands, and Boulder-White Clouds Council, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, filed a lawsuit to stop the “Predator Derby” killing contest on BLM and U.S. Forest Service-managed lands.
"We're pleased the BLM heeded our warning and recognized its permit allowing this killing contest to proceed was fatally flawed," said Drew Kerr, carnivore advocate with WildEarth Guardians. "Sadly, the U.S. Forest Service has not gotten the message, so we still have a fight on our hands to kick these horrifically cruel events off our public lands."
BLM’s change of heart comes after conservationists filed a lawsuit on November 13, 2014, in federal court challenging the agency’s issuance of a special 5-year permit allowing the event to take place. The lawsuit argued that the agency unlawfully relied on faulty analysis and failed to develop a full environmental impact statement. 
“Closing public lands to this killing contest is the right thing—legally, ethically, and scientifically,” said Laura King of Western Environmental Law Center. “We applaud the BLM for this decision that puts wildlife and the public interest first.”
BLM staff anticipated as many as 500 participants would descend on public and private lands in eastern Idaho, trying to kill as many wolves, coyotes, and other animals as they could during a three-day period this winter holiday season. Last year, organizers offered prizes for the most coyotes killed and the largest wolf killed. 
“While there is cause to celebrate this victory, we still must deal with the U.S. Forest Service lands,” said Bob Ferris, executive director of Cascadia Wildlands. “That will take time, but we are happy to play the role of the proverbial tortoise if that is what it takes to walk away with a complete victory.”
Conservationists filed two separate lawsuits challenging the BLM permit; however, only the lawsuit brought by Western Environmental Law Center included a claim against the U.S. Forest Service for failing to require a permit or analyze the killing contest’s impacts. This lawsuit will continue in the wake of BLM’s welcome reversal, and will seek to compel the Forest Service to similarly block participants from competing to win prizes for wasting wildlife on our public lands.
“While it’s good to see BLM withdraw their permit, overall this killing contest remains a black eye for Idaho,” said Lynne Stone, director of Boulder-White Clouds Council and long-time Idahoan. “The Salmon-Challis National Forest should not be a part of this cruel event either. These are our public lands and we should share them together peacefully and respectfully with wildlife.”
To pursue this legal action and others Cascadia Wildlands needs your support.  So please consider making a generous donation to Cascadia Wildlands.Donate between now and the end of November through Mountain Rose Herbs Matching Gift program and your donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar by our friends at Mountain Rose Herbs up to a total $5000. Please give today.



Help Us Stop Senseless Wolf and Coyote Killing Contests


Dear Cascadia Wildlands Supporter:
Cascadia Wildlands needs your support in our fight against predator killing contests. (click here)
Coyote Derby
Predator killing contests—like the one pictured above—are not hunting.  They are cruel undertakings that perpetuate long-disproven myths about wolves and coyotes.  In truth, they keep alive a form of animal bigotry that should have disappeared with the covered wagon. 
HELP US STOP THIS NOW! (click here)
While contests emphasizing predator body counts should not be condoned anywhere, the federal Bureau of Land Management and the USDA Forest Service are moving forward to issue a five-year permit for one of these obscene killing contests on federal lands in Idaho.  That’s right, on lands owned by you and me.  Unbelievable.
Today Cascadia Wildlands and our allies challenged the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service decision to allow this contest on federal public lands. We aim to stop them from allowing the senseless slaughter of our wildlife. A slaughter done for profit. A slaughter on our public lands. A slaughter driven by hate and ignorance.
Please consider making a generous special gift to help us fight this wildlife travesty in Idaho.  We need your support to pursue this action and our other work to forward wolf recovery in Cascadia and elsewhere in the American West.
 bob's signature
Bob Ferris
Executive Director
Cascadia Wildlife
P.S.  Donate between now and the end of November through Mountain Rose Herbs Matching Gift program and your donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar by our friends at Mountain Rose Herbs up to a total $5000. Give today.
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