Posts Tagged ‘California’


The wolf known as “OR-7” appears to have found a home


By Geoff Norcross
September 9, 2013

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says the wandering gray wolf (click on wolf picture to hear audio report) has spent the summer in Southeast Jackson County and Southwest Klamath County.

“What that tells you is, I think, he’s found some good habitat,” says Michelle Dennehy, Wildlife Communications Coordinator for ODFW.
It’s a rare bit of stability for a wolf whose travels have caught the imagination of at least two states. In September of 2011, OR-7 left the Imnaha Pack in Northeast Oregon and wandered hundreds of miles across the Cascades, becoming the first confirmed wolf sighted west of the mountains since 1937. He’s been roaming around Southern Oregon and Northern California ever since.
Officials believe OR-7 came to the region to find a mate. There’s no evidence he’s been successful. But he’s young – nearly 3.5 years old – and he may not be alone.
Dennehy says, “Where there’s one wolf, there’s another.”
“Of course, everyone would like to see OR-7 mate,” she says. “And you know what? It could happen.”


On Becoming a Wolf Activist—Do the wolf waltz

By Bob Ferris

“Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor.” Ginetta Sagan
The title of a recent opinion piece in a Utah paper nailed it: Making War on Wolves.  Because what we are seeing out there is truly a war waged on a wildlife species. And like with most wars there is a parallel public relations campaign making outlandish and unsupported claims against the “enemy” to justify and encourage actions that would normally be considered unethical or inhumane.  
Poll after poll shows that anti-wolf forces are in the minority, but their myth and fear-based campaigns can only be countered by a loud and resounding voice of compassion and rationality.  We, who believe that wild places are better off wild, need to speak up and urge others to do the same.  And we need to do that before October 28, 2013. 
So what do we need you to do?
1—Send a personal letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell (click here for draft language and addresses)
2—Add you name to petitions (click here) and share those petitions widely through all your social networks (please use the share this buttons at the bottom of this post).  
3—Share the following tweet (below) as Sally Jewell is active on Twitter and her staff are monitoring hash marks (simply click on the link and Twitter does the rest).

4—Support your favorite wolf advocacy organization.  (We hope it is Cascadia Wildlands but others need support for what will be a protracted campaign)
Follow these four easy steps—almost like a wolf waltz—and we will put these incredible creatures on a solid pathway to recovery.


USFWS Draft Wolf Delisting Rule Exit Strategy not Recovery Plan

Statement of Cascadia Wildlands:
We are exceedingly disappointed in the Obama Administration, Department of Interior and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for abandoning science and the intent of the Endangered Species Act in their draft delisting proposal of the gray wolf in the lower 48 states. The USFWS's pandering to the livestock lobby and involvement in political games will certainly impede or altogether block the wolf's continued recovery throughout the West. 
This political maneuver by the USFWS not only threatens the gray wolf, but places in jeopardy any species that poses difficulty for a powerful DC lobby. The Endangered Species Act was a law built to uphold science and biology, but sadly the agency tasked with enforcing it has become a political tool. 
For Cascadia Wildlands this additionally unsatisfactory as we watch our landmark settlement on wolf management in Oregon come to fruition—ready to serve as a shining model of what should be.  Where are similar plans in place for California, Colorado, Nevada, Utah and Washington?  As many renowned wolf biologists have already pointed out, this rule as it stands is a politically expedient “exit strategy” rather than a scientifically defensible recovery strategy.  We expected better.
Bob Ferris
Executive Director
Cascadia Wildlands


NYT: After Years of Progress, a Setback in Saving the Wolf

By Verlyn Klinkenborg

June 1, 2013

The 1973 Endangered Species Act provides federal protection — breathing space, in a very real sense — to plants and animals threatened with extinction. Had this task been left to the states alone, almost none of the species that have returned to health would have done so.

But the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service now plans to remove wolves from the endangered list in all 48 contiguous states and transfer control over their fate to the states. This may save the department from running battles with Congress, state officials and hunters about protecting the wolf. Whether it will save the animal is another matter.

Thanks entirely to federal protections, wolves have rebounded remarkably in some places. There are now about 4,000 in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and 1,600 or so more in the Rocky Mountain states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Interior has gradually delisted the wolves in all these places because, it says, their numbers are enough to guarantee survival. And it is not necessary to their survival, the service says, to protect wolves elsewhere.

Link to full article


U.S. plans to drop gray wolves from endangered list


U.S. plans to drop gray wolves from endangered list
The planned ruling would eliminate protection for the top predators, but scientists and conservationists say the proposal is flawed.
By Julie Cart, Los Angeles Times

April 25, 2013, 6:20 p.m.
Federal authorities intend to remove endangered species protections for all gray wolves in the Lower 48 states, carving out an a exception for a small pocket of about 75 Mexican wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico, according to a draft document obtained by The Times.
The sweeping rule by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would eliminate protection for wolves 18 years after the government reestablished the predators in the West, where they had been hunted to extinction. Their reintroduction was a success, with the population growing to the thousands.
But their presence has always drawn protests across the Intermountain West from state officials, hunters and ranchers who lost livestock to the wolves. They have lobbied to remove the gray wolf from the endangered list.
Once those protections end, the fate of wolves is left to individual states. The species is only beginning to recover in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. California is considering imposing its own protections after the discovery of a lone male that wandered into the state's northern counties from Oregon two years ago.
The species has flourished elsewhere, however, and the government ended endangered status for the gray wolf in the northern Rockies and Great Lakes regions last year.
Mike Jimenez, who manages wolves in the northern Rockies for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said delisting in that region underscored a "huge success story." He said that while wolves are now legally hunted in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, the federal agency continues to monitor pack populations and can reinstate protections should numbers reach levels that biologists consider to be dangerously low.
Scientists and conservationists who reviewed the plan said its reasoning is flawed. They challenged how the agency reconfigures the classification of wolf subspecies and its assertion that little habitat remains for wolves.
Jamie Rappaport Clark, the former director of the Fish and Wildlife Service and now the president of Defenders of Wildlife, said the decision "reeks of politics" and vowed that it will face multiple legal challenges.
"This is politics versus professional wildlife management," Clark said. "The service is saying, 'We're done. Game over. Whatever happens to wolves in the U.S. is a state thing.' They are declaring victory long before science would tell them to do so."
The Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to release its decision to delist the wolves in coming weeks and it could become final within a year. Brent Lawrence, a Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman, said Thursday that the agency would not comment.
The proposed rule is technically a draft until it is entered into the Federal Register.
Some scientists agreed with the decision to delist the wolves. But several took exception to some of the findings that the agency included in the document, including the scientifically disputed issue of defining wolf subspecies.
"It's a little depressing that science can be used and pitched in this way," said Bob Wayne, a professor of evolutionary biology at UCLA.
Wolves were once common and ranged across much of the continental United States, a vestigial symbol of the Old West and its expanse of open, wild country.
But as the West became urbanized and ranching spread, government-subsidized hunting that offered bounties for wolf kills virtually wiped out the animals by the 1930s.


Congress Members Seek Continued Wolf Protections

Peter DeFazio » Congress members seek continued wolf protections

Associated Press By John Flesher Mar. 5, 2013 
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Dozens of U.S. House members urged federal regulators Tuesday to retain legal protections for gray wolves across most of the lower 48 states, saying the resilient predator could continue expanding its range if humans don't get in the way.
A letter signed by 52 representatives urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service not to drop wolves from the endangered species list in areas where it hasn't already been done. The wolf has been designated as recovered in the western Great Lakes and the Northern Rockies after rebounding from near-extinction in the past century.
The comeback is "a wildlife success story in the making," the lawmakers said in a letter distributed by Reps. Peter DeFazio of Oregon and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, both Democrats. But it added that because of lingering human prejudice, "federal protection continues to be necessary to ensure that wolf recovery is allowed to proceed in additional parts of the country."
The Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to return wolves to the Southwest, despite court battles and resistance from ranchers. It's also reviewing the status of wolves and their potential habitat in the Pacific Northwest, where perhaps 100 of the animals are believed to roam, and in the Northeast, which has no established population although occasional sightings have been reported.
"The outcome of these reviews will identify which, if any, gray wolves should continue to receive protections under the Endangered Species Act outside of the boundaries of the recovered populations and the Southwest population," agency spokesman Chris Tollefson said.
A recommendation is expected in the next few months, he said.
An agency report last year proposed dropping the wolf from the endangered list in most locations where none are known to exist. In their letter, the lawmakers said that could prevent wolves from migrating to places where they once lived and where enough habitat and prey remain to support them.
They noted that lone wolves have wandered into northern California, Utah, Colorado and several Northeastern states. If re-established there, they would help restore ecological balance and boost the economy by drawing tourists, DeFazio said in a phone interview.
"I think a heck of a lot of Americans would be thrilled to hear or see a wolf in the wild," he said. "It's part of our natural heritage."
About 2 million wolves once lived in much of North America but were all but wiped out in the lower 48 states by the mid-1900s. The areas where they have recovered represent only 5 percent of their original range, said Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity.


USFWS Catch 22: Embrace Flawed and Dated Science or Do the Right Thing for Wolves

By Bob Ferris
Catch-22 (Logic)
A catch-22 is a paradoxical situation in which an individual cannot or is incapable of avoiding a problem because of contradictory constraints or rules.  Wikipedia
In Joseph Heller’s classic book Catch 22 the protagonist was caught between the horns of a dilemma.  He, Captain John Yossarian, was a B-25 bombardier attempting to get out of his service in World War II on the grounds that he was crazy, but if he wanted to leave he was not technically crazy.  Wolf Recovery in the United States is often not that different from a war, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, like Captain Yossarian, is not to blame for wanting to get out.  However, in order for the US Fish and Wildlife Service to remove itself from wolf recovery and avoid the controversy, they must demonstrate that the wolf is recovered.  There would be no grounds for controversy, if the wolf has truly recovered.  Nevertheless, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is attempting to make this claim, a claim that is not technically or morally defensible and full of Catch 22’s.
Catch 22s you ask? Take the Northern Rockies wolf program, for example.  This recovery plan was originally constructed around the concept of recovering a subspecies of wolves.  The recovery area and therefore the recovery goals were predicated on the historic range of this particular subspecies of wolf.   Subsequent morphometric (species determinations derived from skull or body part measurements) and genetic analyses have clouded this once crystal-clear picture from a classic taxonomic tome.  What’s more, the population goals were determined prior to the wide-spread acceptance and use of minimum viable population analyses (MVPs) in looking at recovery goals.  MVPs or population habitat viability analyses (PHVAs) are now commonly used to estimate needed populations.
So, if the US FWS is arguing that they have recovered this “subspecies,” then they need to take steps to protect and recover the other subspecies in the Pacific Northwest and the Southern Rockies.  But if they quietly sweep the subspecies argument under the rug and make a “Canus soupus” argument (i.e., wolves are wolves), common sense as well as science would argue that recovery goals would have to be adjusted to reflect the greatly enlarged recovery area, not just the Northern Rockies.  Regardless, nowhere in these scenarios is there a scientific justification for the USFWS to step away from wolf recovery in the Western US.  In short, they like Heller’s Yossarian cannot simply opt out of an unpleasant situation, because they no longer want to be there.
Continued federal involvement also makes sense because the threats that led to endangerment—as evidenced by behavior in the Northern Rockies states—has not diminished or been corrected.  Then there is the mobile nature of the wolf and wolf packs which frequently cross state and international borders and spend a good portion of their time on the matrix of federal public lands that dominate the western landscape.  Both these conditions are strong arguments for continued federal oversight and protections.  Add to these two arguments the fact that recovery of the wolf in the West is really a federal public lands issue (please see Oregon, California, and Washington map)
But there is another argument here that is rarely raised and that is the question of responsibility and past sins.  The US FWS—through their precursor the Biological Survey—was the agency largely responsible for endangering the wolf in the first place.  Their agents did not stop until wolves were truly and nearly annihilated in the lower 48 states.  This historic exuberance by the agency should be mirrored in recovery.  Brave and innovative wolves are trying diligently to restore themselves to their former haunts in the Pacific Northwest and Southern Rockies and their efforts need to be supported by like courage and adherence to the best available science by the US FWS.  The mission is not yet accomplished.  
For all of the above reasons and more, we ask that wolf supporters in the US and elsewhere join with us to send a clear message to the US FWS that the wolf recovery job in the West is not finished.  Federal protections must remain in place and wolves expanding into western Washington and Oregon as well as northern California need and deserve federal protection.  And we feel the same way for wolves recolonizing Colorado and Utah.  Therefore we ask that wolf supporters sign a petition to that effect here.  
Thank you.  Working together we can fully recover the wolf in Cascadia and other promising areas.  Pioneering wolves like OR-7, also known as Journey, should not become immediate targets because the road to recovery difficult and political expediency trumps science and compassion.  Let's work for wolves and keeping it wild.



Are Cows and Sheep the Sea Urchins of the Cascadian Forests?

By Bob Ferris

I have always liked sea otters—in part—because they are the quintessential keystone species or critters that materially determine some of the character of their habitat for them and others.  And now as new research emerges about the trophic cascade effects (i.e., the side benefits of having top predators present) associated with the otter’s control of sea urchins and the resultant macro-algae (kelp) growth, we also begin to understand that they are effective and needed warriors in the battle against climate change and ocean acidification.   How?  Kelp forests—like terrestrial forests—sequester carbon and CO2 is one of the leading causes of these phenomena affecting our air and seas. 
This almost obvious finding leads me to speculate: If urchins need the otter’s controlling influence for us to have robust aquatic forests, what are the terrestrial equivalents?  To begin to answer this question, let’s look at what sea urchins actually do.  Urchins don’t just eat large kelps such as bladder, boa and bullwhip kelp, they destroy the holdfasts which are essentially kelp “roots” and clearcut themselves into the oceanic pastures—known as urchin barrens—they most like to graze.  Urchin dominated “marine-scapes” look like denuded plains.  And without the three-dimensional volume provided by these large and long kelps they lack the structure and escape habitat needed for young fish (including salmon, smelt and rock fish) and a host of other sea life.  They essentially become oceanic deserts—great for urchins but not for kelp forest denizens or overall biodiversity.  
Urchin (Noun):
1) A mischievous young child, esp. one who is poorly or raggedly dressed.
2) A goblin.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary

When we look at the current and past large grazing guild for Cascadian forests and wildlands we have elk, deer, bison, caribou, moose, big horn sheep, mountain goat and the two new-comers cattle and domestic sheep.  Who are the sea urchins in this equation and why?  Well, deer and elk as well as the other less plentiful native ungulates do not have a history of knocking ecosystems irreparably out of whack—particularly in the presence of wolves and other apex predators.  The same cannot be said, however, of cattle and domestic sheep. 
Why are cattle and sheep different?  For one thing it is a numbers and carrying capacity issue.  Cattle and sheep—particularly on public lands—are brought in at and purposely over-stocked at levels that could not be supported year-round.  This bovine and ovine host, therefore, eat more, faster than their natural counter-parts ever could.  They are essentially like the guests who visit in large numbers, eat you out of house and home then move on leaving you starving.  Additionally, they are critters that evolved in the Old World rather than North America in systems more prone to annual plants rather than perennials.  
Bison exhibit a stronger preference for the perennial grasses that form the prairie matrix, and they are strongly attracted to open landscapes during the growing season. Cattle include more forbs in their diet, and they use wooded areas and riparian zones more intensively.  From: Comparative Ecology of Bison and Cattle on Mixed-Grass Prairie.
Cattle grazing habits and regimes as well as the spread of European annuals through seeds in cattle droppings have altered vegetative make ups.  This annual versus perennial issue is a large one—particularly as we look at carbon sequestration.  Perennials sequester more carbon than annuals because their root structures are more substantial and longer-lasting and more roots in the ground means more below surface carbon.  Add to the root structure loss, the flatulence factor from too many cattle farting methane—a greenhouse gas—by the hot-air balloon full and you have another rationale for adjusting your dietary choices.  
And for those thinking that cattle and bison are functionally the same.  The cattle’s use of wooded areas and riparian habitats not used by bison indicates an encroachment into the elk and deer realm and a departure from the co-evolved, ecological niche separation exhibited by the bison.  This direct competition with elk and deer for space and food makes the alliances between hunters groups such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Safari Club International and ranchers all the more puzzling as the livestock industry’s interests are clearly in conflict with those of wildlife including game species and fish.  And this further impact on native wildlife species cements cattle and domestic sheep as land urchins.  
So what should we derive from all of this?  First, efforts to broaden and emphasize sea otter restoration all along Cascadia should be re-accelerated and expanded particularly along the coasts of Oregon and Washington.  We need also to open our eyes on cattle and sheep grazing—particularly on public lands—and honestly and realistically assess the benefits as well as the full spectrum of implications relating to federal ranching subsidies, wildlife impacts, and compromised ecological services such as clean water and carbon sequestration.  And lastly we need to continue to work towards ecological literacy so that more people come to understand these complex ecological relationships for a host of natural systems and critters from otters to orcas and from wolves to wolverines.  They all help us keep it wild.



General Response to Joe Greene

[Editor's note: When the New 49er's griped about the bias of scientists involved in the public advisory committee for suction dredging in California, the State eventually acquiesced allowed the New 49ers to invite two people with science degrees from their camp.  They selected Joe Greene and Claudia Wise retired EPA scientists from Oregon and current officers in the Millennium Diggers organization.  These parties were invited by virtue of their positions on the issue rather than their expertise on the topics at hand.  Both have made comments characterizing themselves as "experts" and not initially disclosing their memberships in Millennium Diggers or their participation in or passion for suction dredging.  Ms. Wise has posted few comments, but Mr. Greene has posted numerous comments to both suction dredging posts (Suction Dredging...Sucks and Dredging Up The Truth) requiring a general statement to him personally]

Dear Joe,
Since I did not mention you by name in my Dredging Up the Truth blog, I can hardly see how my post was a personal attack.  It becomes a personal attack only because you see yourself in those comments.  But since you have opened the door here, let’s play. 
Former EPA scientist Joe Greene, an avid gold prospector who has been suction dredging since the 1960s, is less than impressed with the EPA’s propaganda and Tomten’s claim that dredging is illegal under the CWA (see here)
In the first place, certainly I agree with free speech.  I have defended that right my entire life.  But that is separate from the concept of professional ethics.  You have been involved in dredging for nearly 50 years, so you—as a scientist offering scientific opinions—have a huge conflict of interest.  Your access point to this debate is as a suction dredging advocate.  You have crossed a professional line with your comments and attacks on scientist with actual credentials in this field.  But in addition to the concept of professional ethics there is also a question of the extent of your credentials in this specific arena and the quality and thrust of your commentary.  
Having worked as an ecological consultant in 1980s—sometimes on fisheries matters—I was often asked to synthesize masses of studies that dealt either directly or indirectly with the species or habitat in question and draw my best conclusions based on the body of work available and those studies that were most applicable.  Where there were conflicts and confusion I had to dig deeper until I felt comfortable with my ultimate conclusion about that element.  A lot enters into this including examining experimental design and dealing with changing evaluation methodologies and scientific standards.  This was the same careful and considered process that was conducted by Dr. Moyle.  His logic was sound and his use of the literature, cautionary remarks, and conclusions were all appropriate. 
On the flip side we have you.  I found it interesting that in your initial comments that you made derisive remarks about Dr. Moyle using the work of his former graduate student (i.e., “So, Moyle stated for science he was relying on data published by his former grad student Bret Harvey.  Great move.”)  Using Dr. Harvey’s work in the context of what Dr. Moyle was asked to do was totally appropriate and you should know that.  What was inappropriate was your comment.  It was both disrespectful and incorrect.
So let’s deal with the thrust and quality of your work as exemplified by your traveling power point presentation and advocacy.  Words fail me when I look at this.  It is hard to find a single slide in this presentation that is not purposely misleading or dangerously paranoid.  Working for the EPA you should be well aware that there is a difference between sequestered toxics and those re-suspended in the water column—shame on you.  You also know fully well that the arguments about “very little” becomes a big deal when talking about suspended materials and chemicals that are often measured in parts per million.  And your quoting of water chemistry conclusions from a nearly 75-year old study is pretty much laughable—what professional scientist would do that?  Taken in sum, your presentation is deceptive, unprofessional in nature, and politically and personally motivated.  I could do a slide by slide critique but after about slide 40, it makes me sad that you have slipped so low.
So Joe, I can absolutely live with disappointment from you.  I might actually wear it as a badge.  And I am glad that you get reinforcement and compliments from the mining community because you certainly will not get them from your former peers or from the scientific community where it actually counts.  I suspect it is also gratifying that your contrarian views and emerging status in the mining community affords you a notoriety that you never enjoyed during your career as a federal bureaucrat—I hope it is worth it.  
–Bob Ferris
P.S. In terms of your characterization of my qualifications as being non-biological, my undergraduate degree is in Environmental Studies and Biology which means that I completed the degree requirements for both majors.  Moreover, my exit requirement for biology involved being above the 75% mark on the subject GRE which was easy and why I later was accepted into masters and PhD programs.  Much of this is not on my LinkedIn profile because the later 20 years of my career are more relevant.  So I left out paid teaching assignments (not unpaid courtesy appointments) at San Jose State University and UC Santa Cruz (full courses not short courses) as well as my ecological consulting and research experience in the 1980s.  


Dredging Up The Truth

By Bob Ferris
With every complicated, science-based issue we seem to tackle, from climate change to wolves and from forestry to diesel particulates, there seems to be a handful of slide-rule era-educated, contrarian scientists who pull themselves up from the depths of retirement to confuse the issue.  These self-proclaimed mavens generally have some credentials, but not the applicable ones and they tend to be motivated more by self-interests and politics than by science.  And the suction dredging issue is no exception (please see comments section for Suction Dredging…Sucks).
Sure, they will be fairly careful in their statements and have the skills necessary to “cherry pick” and present information in a manner that sounds convincing to the lay public, but at the end of the day their arguments are mainly logic wrapped around a kernel of deception.  Here are a few of the myths they try to promulgate and why we all should look deeper for the rest of the story.  See how many of these myths you can spot in the suction dredging comments.
There is not a single study that shows that suction dredging kills fish.  This is misleading because the issues are not primarily about adult fish but rather spawning beds, eggs, young fish, food resources, miss-timed disturbance, added stress on heat-challenged fish, and legacy pollution. (Please see California Dept. of Fish & Game, Suction Dredge Permitting Program Literature Review (2009) at 4.3-2 – 4.3-13.)
The steelhead runs after Mount Saint Helens broke records.  Steelhead are anadromous fish (i.e., breed in freshwater and grow in the ocean) and were at sea when the volcano erupted. In any case, the success of that record run was determined 3-4 years beforehand by reproductive success in the rivers and streams.  It is not an argument that fish are not affected by silt. (Please see, e.g., Peter A. Bisson, Charles M. Crisafulli, Brian R. Fransen, Robert E. Lucas, and Charles P. Hawkins, Ecological Responses to the 1980 Eruption of Mount St. Helens, 173 (Springer 2005).
Turbidity does not harm fish.  While it is fun to use the word turbidity, that is really not the issue—siltation is.  Turbidity—the opaqueness of water associated with suspended particles—can be a minor problem at the wrong time, but siltation (when those particles settle and where) is nearly always a problem. (Please see California Dept. of Fish & Game, Suction Dredge Permitting Program Literature Review (2009) at 4.3-22.)
Invertebrate populations rebound quickly after disruption, so it is not a problem.  Young salmon, steelhead, and other fish require invertebrates for food.  Steelhead fry (young fish) are also territorial and defend territories; so they also need those invertebrates in their territory. If food resources are locally damaged for any length of time, that can have detrimental impacts on fry.  And if these young fish have to move to find food, they also become more vulnerable to predation by other fish and birds. (Please see California Dept. of Fish & Game, Suction Dredge Permitting Program Literature Review (2009) at 4.3-10, 4.3-16.)
Suction dredgers are good at removing mercury contamination.  Studies indicate that this not an accurate statement.  These studies indicate that suction dredging resuspends sequestered mercury and that discharges from dredges in mercury contaminated areas exceeded legal limits by some 10-fold (see page 8 of the following report)
Suction dredging damage mimics annual storm disruption.   This is not true on two fronts. First and most importantly, the timing is off.  Aquatic species in streams and rivers co-evolved with river systems that ran wild during the wetter months and were calm during summer and early fall.  If you alter that pattern, impacts to species whose life cycles have evolved in that system occur.
There is also the argument that materials moved are not much relative to the amount of materials moved in association with storm events during the wet seasons for the entire watershed.  In fact, one analysis in California showed that the percentage of materials moved by suction dredging was 0.7 % of that moved by the river naturally.  That is a crafty but disingenuous argument because natural movement is spread throughout the watershed and suction dredging is localized and intense.  In other words, suction dredging may very well not cause much damage relative to total materials moved, but relative to what a particular locale normally experiences, the change can be profound.  This same argument can be made for cyclones (i.e., that they are relatively insignificant to annual winds), but I suspect that the person whose house no longer exists sees the situation very differently.  
We clean up gravels and improve spawning areas.  This statement is misleading as several studies have looked at the impact of suction dredge tailings.  And two things become apparent from these studies.  One is that fish tend to not use these tailings when natural spawning habitat is also available.  The second is that when fish used these tailings and the river flows are high, spawning success is reduced (i.e., fertilized and developing eggs are destroyed) because of the instability of tailings as spawning grounds. (See California Dept. of Fish & Game, Suction Dredge Permitting Program Literature Review (2009) at 4.1-4, 4.1-8, 4.3-2)
Stopping suction dredging puts Mom and Pop businesses at risk.  As a group, suction dredgers tend to lose money.    When we look at the California experience, suction dredgers on average suffer net losses of from about $5,500 to $9,000 annually to look for gold (please see for baseline numbers).  
Average California Suction Dredger Gold Recovered 
One miner X 35 days per year X $16-$122/per day = $560 to $4,270 per year in gold
Average California Suction Dredger Expenses
General Expenses per miner = $6,250/year
Fuel and Dredge Maintenance = $3,000/year
Average Dredge Cost per Miner (average dredge cost $6,000, assume 10-year life) = $  600/year
Total expenses per average miner = $9,850/year
Crunching these numbers a little more, we see that the total economic activity generated by suction dredging in California came in at about $15-$36 million for everything (e.g., dredge sales, motels, gold recovered, etc.).  While this seems like significant revenue, this pales in comparison to recreational fishing which is a $2 billion plus industry embedded in the $2 trillion California economy.  
This is certainly not the economic engine that proponents argue, and California was absolutely their best case scenario.  Moreover, it is not appropriate to characterize all of this as potentially lost economic activity, as this sector of the public will likely shift their expenditures to other similar recreational endeavors.  
When dealing with endangered and declining aquatic species found in public waterways and surrounded by public lands, we fully agree with Dr. Peter B. Moyle’s view (please see that the burden absolutely needs to be on the suction dredging industry to demonstrate through independent science that they will not harm these species, either directly or indirectly.  Instead, the industry’s strategy has been to malign dedicated experts, discount evidence as rumor, and attempt to confuse the public on the science.  I suppose it is much easier and more profitable to sell dreams of riches to the vulnerable members of society, than it is to deal with reality and science.  
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