Posts Tagged ‘Endangered Species Act’

Aug25

Press Release: Lawsuit Filed to Protect Threatened Marbled Murrelet from Logging on Former Elliott State Forest

For Immediate Release, August 25, 2016
 
Contact:         Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746
                       Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
                       Bob Sallinger, Portland Audubon, (503) 380-9728
 
Lawsuit Filed to Protect Threatened Marbled Murrelet from Logging on Former Elliott State Forest
Logging Highlights Controversy Over Ongoing Privatization of Public Forest
 
EUGENE, Ore.— Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Portland Audubon filed a lawsuit in federal court today seeking to block Scott Timber Company from logging a portion of a 355-acre parcel of land that until 2014 was part of the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest and provides habitat for the threatened marbled murrelet. The Endangered Species Act strictly prohibits “take” (harm, harassment or killing) of threatened species like the murrelet, which, unlike any other seabird, nests on the wide branches of large, old trees, making a daily trip of up to 35 miles inland to bring fish to its young.
 
The groups are seeking emergency relief to stop logging that under state law could begin as soon as Sunday.
 
“It was illegal for the state of Oregon to log the marbled murrelet’s habitat and it is illegal for Scott Timber Company to do the same,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “We intend to hold the landowner accountable to the law to ensure this imperiled species receives the protections it needs.”
 
In 2012 the three groups sued the state of Oregon for illegally logging marbled murrelet habitat on the Elliott and other state forests. The state settled the suit in 2014, agreeing to drop 26 timber sales and stop logging in occupied murrelet habitat. But following the loss, the state sold three parcels totaling 1,453 acres, even though they contained mature and old-growth forests that are occupied by the murrelet, including the 355-acre Benson Ridge parcel.
 
“By trying to log, then sell occupied marbled murrelet habitat, the state of Oregon has completely disregarded its duty to protect these unique birds and the remaining old-forest they need to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “This shortsighted action on the part of the state not only endangers the survival of the birds, but shortchanges Oregonians who’re counting on the state to protect our natural heritage.”  
 
At the time of the sale, the groups notified Scott Timber and other buyers that in purchasing the land, they were taking over the responsibility of ensuring the survival of the murrelet, and that logging of its habitat would violate the Endangered Species Act. Scott Timber responded that it had no immediate plans to log the Benson Ridge parcel it had purchased, but has now proposed a timber sale in habitat where murrelets have been documented in recent years.
 
“The marbled murrelet has lost most of the old-growth habitat it needs to survive in the Oregon Coast Range and is facing degraded ocean conditions due to climate change and other factors,” said Bob Sallinger, conservation director at the Audubon Society of Portland. “Flagrant violations of the Endangered Species Act in addition to these factors are a recipe for disaster for these birds.”
 
The controversy over the Benson Ridge parcel exemplifies why the public is so outraged about the privatization of public lands. Currently Oregon’s State Land Board, made up of the governor, treasurer and secretary of state, is in the process of disposing of the rest of the Elliott State Forest.
 
“This unfortunate situation should send a clear message to Governor Kate Brown, Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins that further privatization of the Elliott will directly threaten imperiled salmon and wildlife, old-growth forests, recreation opportunities and other values that Oregonians hold dear,” said Cady. “Our leaders in Salem must stand up for Oregonians, and halt the ongoing privatization of the Elliott State Forest.”
 
In June the groups sent a petition to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife requesting uplisting of the murrelet from “threatened” to “endangered” under the state Endangered Species Act, and to the Board of Forestry requesting that it identify and protect important forest sites critical to the murrelet’s survival — a requirement of the state's endangered species law that has never been met.
                                                                    
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Cascadia Wildlands represents approximately 10,000 members and supporters and has a mission to educate, agitate and inspire a movement to protect and restore Cascadia’s wild ecosystems.
 
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
 
Audubon Society of Portland was founded in 1902 to promote the understanding, enjoyment and protection of native birds, other wildlife and their habitats. Today it represents over 16,000 members in Oregon.
Dec30

Suit Filed to Restore Endangered Species Act Protections for Wolves in Oregon

For immediate release
December 30, 2015
 
Contact:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands / 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity / 971-717-6403, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org
Rob Klavins, Oregon Wild / 541-886-0212, rk@oregonwild.org
 
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.

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.— Three conservation groups filed a legal challenge  today to the removal of protection from gray wolves under Oregon's Endangered Species Act. According to the challenge, the 4-2 decision by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to delist wolves violated the law by failing to follow best available science and prematurely removing protections before wolves are truly recovered. With only about 80 known adult wolves mostly confined to one small corner of the state, Oregon’s wolf population is far from recovery, according to leading scientists.
 
“It's simply too soon to remove protections for Oregon’s wolves,” said Noah Greenwald, Endangered Species Program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s not rocket science that roughly 80 wolves in 12 percent of suitable habitat in Oregon does not equal a recovered population. The gray wolf remains endangered, and protections should never have been removed.”
 
Like the federal law, the Oregon Endangered Species Act requires protection of species when they are at risk in any significant portion of their range. After being extirpated in the mid-20th century, wolves have begun to make a comeback in Oregon but remain absent from nearly 90 percent of the state’s potential habitat. Wolves have only been present west of the Cascades since the wolf known as OR-7 (Journey) trekked across the state in 2011. OR-7 found a mate and established the Rogue pack in southwestern Oregon, the only known pack in the portion of Oregon where wolves are still recognized as federally endangered. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to strip wolves of federal protections in most of the lower 48, including where the Rogue pack lives, making the need for continued state protections all the more essential.
 
“Oregon’s endangered species act has provided critical backbone protections for gray wolves,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. "Oregon law with its science requirements wisely protects endangered species in this state from becoming political gambling chips. The commission’s decision to delist wolves is plain political kowtowing to the livestock industry. This decision was not based in science, it was not based on Oregon’s conservation values, it violated the law, and it will not survive scrutiny.”
 
Hundreds of citizens testified at hearings across the state and more than 20,000 public comments were submitted during the status review. More than 95 percent were in favor of maintaining protections.
 
“Most Oregonians value native wildlife, and wolf recovery has the potential to be a tremendous conservation success story,” said Rob Klavins, a conservation advocate for Oregon Wild in Wallowa County. “We look forward to the day we can celebrate the recovery of wolves in Oregon, but in a rush to declare ‘Mission Accomplished,’ the state caved to political pressure. If there were fewer than 100 elk or salmon or eagles left in the state, the agency would be scrambling to protect them. Wolves are being treated differently.”
 
Oregon’s endangered species act requires that the listing or delisting of a species is based upon the best available, verifiable science. More than two dozen scientists submitted comments to the state highly critical of the delisting proposal. The scientists strongly criticized the state's basis for delisting, documented that the state has not taken appropriate steps to lessen threats to wolves and concluded that wolves remain at risk and should not be delisted at this time.
 
Excerpts from scientists’ comment letters submitted to the state during the public comment period leading up to the commission’s vote to delist wolves:
 
“… it is untenable to think that being extirpated from nearly 90% of current suitable range … would qualify the species for delisting.”
 
—John Vucetich, Professor of Wildlife, Michigan Technological University; Jeremy T. Bruskotter, Associate Professor, School of Environment and Natural resources, The Ohio State University; Michael Paul Nelson, Ruth H. Spaniol Chair of Renewable Resources and Professor of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy, Oregon State University.
 
“It is my expert opinion that the existing [population viability analysis] is fundamentally flawed and does not provide an adequate or realistic assessment of the Oregon wolf population to meet Criterion 1 or 2 or 4, therefore the delisting requirements are not supported by the results of the [population viability analysis] as it was performed.”
 
—Derek E. Lee, Principal Scientist, Wild Nature Institute, Hanover, N.H.
 
“ODFW finds that the wolf is not now (and is not likely in the foreseeable future to be) in danger of extinction throughout any significant portions of its range in Oregon. . . . The reality is that the wolf is past being in danger of extinction throughout many significant portions of its range in OR because it occupies only 12% of its suitable habitat (so is extinct in 88% of its suitable habitat). The interpretation of this section of OR ESA by ODFW is an illegitimate interpretation that . . . also runs contrary to recent scientific literature on significant portion of range.”
 
—Guillaume Chapron, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Grimso Wildlife Research Station, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Riddarhyttan, Sweden.
 
 
Sep28

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)
Sep15

Six Groups File for Emergency Listing for Alexander Archipelago Wolf

by Leila Kheiry, KRBD-Ketchikan
September 14, 2015
 
Six conservation groups on Monday petitioned for an emergency Endangered Species Act listing for the Alexander Archipelago wolf.
 
In a letter addressed to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Daniel Ashe and Regional Director Geoffrey Haskett, the groups cite the recent drop in the estimated wolf population on Prince of Wales Island, and the decision by state and federal officials to move forward with a wolf hunting and trapping season there.
 
Gabriel Scott is a spokesman for Cascadia Wildlands, one of the petitioners. He said the conservation groups hadAA wolf mom at den__ADF&G photo from Person & Larson (2013) asked that the annual wolf hunt be suspended for a year, but that request was denied.
 
The federal subsistence wolf hunting season started on Sept. 1, and the subsistence trapping season starts Nov. 15. The state hunting and trapping season opens Dec. 1. The quota for this year, state and federal, is nine wolves.
 
Scott said he’s disappointed that the request to hold off on this year’s hunt was rejected.
 
“Our view is just that it’s reckless to manage a wolf hunt the same way for a declining, very low population as it is for a healthy population,” he said. “The way they operate might be fine for a critter like deer that’s not in danger of extinction, but when you’ve got maybe a few dozen wolves left on the island, you can’t treat it the same way.”
 
A state-run population study, announced in June, indicated that 89 wolves were on Prince of Wales Island and surrounding islands. That’s a steep drop from the previous year’s estimate of 221. That study has prompted increased calls from conservation groups to protect the remaining wolves in Game Management Unit 2.
 
Scott said he can’t predict how long it will take government agencies to respond to the request for an emergency listing for POW wolves. He notes that the federal government has been reviewing a non-emergency request to list the wolves for a number of years. A decision on that request is anticipated by the end of this year.
 
Scott said depending on the results of the various requests regarding Prince of Wales Island wolves, a lawsuit is possible.
 
“Litigation is certainly an option,” he said. “We’d have to evaluate it at the time, but it’s definitely in the cards.”
 
The six conservation groups that signed on to Monday’s letter asking for an emergency listing are Alaska Wildlife Alliance, Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, Greenpeace and The Boat Company.
 
(Alexander Archipelago wolf and den by AK Dept of Fish and Game)
 
 
Aug05

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Northwest Prairie Bird Species

For Immediate Release, August 5, 2015
 
Contact:    
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463, nick@cascwild.org
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org
 
Lawsuit Launched to Gain Stronger Protections for Northwest Bird
Gaping Loophole in Federal Protection Exempts Farming, Spraying, Airport Activities Harmful to Streaked Horned Larks in Oregon, Washington
 
Photo courtesy of US Fish and WildlifePORTLAND, Ore.— Four conservation groups filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today seeking to strengthen protections for the streaked horned lark, which has lost 98 percent its grassland habitat. The lawsuit will challenge an October 2013 decision by the agency to protect the lark as “threatened” rather than the more protective “endangered” status and to exempt all agriculture, chemical spraying, and airport activities from the prohibitions of the Endangered Species Act regardless of whether they harm the lark.  
 
“Protecting the streaked horned lark under the Endangered Species Act means nothing if all of its threats are exempted from protection,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The lark exemption creates a loophole big enough for a combine or a 747. It seriously threatens the survival of these handsome, horned songbirds.”
 
Formerly a common nesting species in prairies west of the Cascade Mountains from southern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon, the lark was so abundant around Puget Sound that it was considered a nuisance by turn-of-the-century golfers. The widespread destruction of its grassland habitats, however, caused cataclysmic population declines. It has been extirpated from the San Juan Islands, northern Puget Sound, Oregon’s Rogue Valley and Canada. In Washington it currently breeds at only 10 sites, including Grays Harbor, Fort Lewis, the Olympia airport and islands in the Lower Columbia River. In Oregon it breeds in the lower Columbia River and Willamette Valley, including at the Portland, Salem, Corvallis, McMinnville and Eugene airports.
     
“The streaked horned lark is already gone from many of the places it used to call home and is continuing to decline,” said Andrew Hawley. “If the lark is going to have any chance at survival, it needs the full protections of the Endangered Species Act.”
 
The streaked horned lark is a small, ground-dwelling songbird with conspicuous feather tufts, or “horns,” on its head. Its back is heavily streaked with black, contrasting sharply with its ruddy nape and yellow underparts. They are part of a growing list of species that are imperiled by loss of prairies in the Willamette Valley and Puget Trough to urban and agricultural sprawl, including the Fender's blue butterfly, Taylor's checkerspot butterfly, Willamette daisy, Kincaid's lupine and others.  
 
“Many people don't even know that prairies were once a common feature in both the Willamette Valley and Puget Sound,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “If we save the lark, we are protecting an important part of the Northwest's natural heritage.”
 
The groups on the lawsuit are the Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, and Oregon Wild.  
 
Find a copy of the Notice of Intent here.
 
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Jul11

Of Race Cars and Banked Tracks (Elk and Wolves)

By Bob Ferris
 
“At issue is how wildlife is managed in this country. Our belief is based on more than 100 years of the most successful wildlife management model in the world that our state agencies are to manage wildlife within their respective borders. That includes management of gray wolves along with other predators.” David Allen letter to Congressman Peter DeFazio dated July 10, 2014 
Elk US FWS
 
An Open Letter to David Allen of the  Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
 
July 11, 2014
 
Mr. David Allen
President and CEO
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
5705 Grant Creek
Missoula, MT 59808
 
Dear Mr. Allen,
 
As much as I enjoy reading your declarative statements about complicated issues you clearly know very little about, I find that I must interrupt that pleasure and interject a few comments.  Again, as I have before (1,2,3,4,5).  
 
There is a lot to criticize in your letter starting with the disrespectful and unprofessional omission of the “Dear” in the salutation to a sitting Congressman (here are some helpful tips on writing to elected officials), but I want to set all of that aside and focus on this gem of a paragraph at the top of this page and also your general invoking of science.    
 
Ignoring the question about whether or not wildlife in your first sentence should be treated as a plural in this context (i.e., multiple species and in multiple settings) and setting aside the fact that the following sentence is poorly written, this whole paragraph demonstrates that you are laboring under a tall tower of misconceptions as jumbled as your second sentence.  And while it might seem advantageous for you to pull a state’s rights page out of the Cliven Bundy handbook at this point, you should take some time and actually look at conservation history in this country before acting the expert as you have.  
 
While completing that exercise you would come to understand that market hunting—what caused your elk to decline precipitously in the first place—was largely allowed or inaffectively opposed by the states. But it wasn’t until the federal government stepped in with the Lacey Act in 1901 and other similar federal legislation as well as international treaties (Heaven forbid, Edna, he’s talking Agenda 21) that market hunting finally took a powder.
 
Certainly there were actions from both levels of government, but it is a complicated relationship.  And my sense is that you seem to have problems with these complex relationships like, for instance, why wolves and elk are seemingly at odds but really need each other to prosper in the long run.  All this led me to believe that perhaps no one has taken the time to explain these relationships in terms that you can understand—you do, after all, lack grounding in ecology and any direct experience in conservation or natural resources policy.  I have taught ecology, worked as a biologist and participated in policy for more than 30 years, so let me take a stab at that. 
 
You come from NASCAR so let’s start there.  NASCAR is a sport born out of bootlegging and running from federal revenuers.  The best initial drivers were the ones that ran more ‘shine faster and kept it on the road.  So we have a good example of natural selection here as those who did not were removed from the population by running into trees, rocks or handcuffs.  
 
In essence this sport involves running a car at high speeds around a banked track (my wife’s family once owned a tire company and stock cars so she is coaching me).  The car, driver and engine provide the speed and excitement while the banked track—for the most part—keeps cars and drivers from spinning out of control with potentially fatal repercussions.  If you think of the cars and drivers as the "states" and the banked track as the "federal government," this analogy works for the North American model of wildlife management and why it has functioned as it has over the years.  As much as you want to invoke the 10th Amendment you cannot have a successful model without both parties playing and it is folly to think so (see also this analysis on the North American Model).
 
But there is more.  In the western states a lot of the wild habitat is owned by the federal government so they become even more important in this relationship, not less, as your paragraph has characterized.  In addition when you look at Montana, Wyoming and Idaho where the flow of federal money is positive (i.e., more federal monies flow into the states than flow out in federal taxes) the folks who are paying to maintain and keep those habitats are from all over the country and therefore federal in nature.  And since what we are talking about in this proposal by Congressman DeFazio is mostly federal forest lands perhaps a more open and welcoming attitude in this should be exercised by you.  (Just a suggestion.)  
 
The funny thing is that the relationship between elk and wolves is very similar and the NASCAR model works here too.  Wolves prevent elk populations from spinning out of control by overshooting the carrying capacity of their habitat; being too numerous or concentrated thus more subject to disease; and accumulating too many of the wrong kind of alleles (variants of genes) that normally would be selected against just like the bad bootleggers referenced above by the process of natural selection.  These seem to be foreign concepts to you as you continually mischaracterize what is happening in Yellowstone though your organization has paid for and been briefed on the science by folks like Dr. Arthur Middleton. 
 
Moving on to the topic of science, your condemnation of Congressman DeFazio’s lack of scientific justification is ironic coming from someone who has called for a reduction of all predator populations in the absence of any scientific justification for that collection of actions.  This is made even more ironic given your organization’s tight relationships with the cattle and timber industries both of which through grazing and herbicide use displace elk and degrade elk habitat.  And the science on the increased likelihood of disease transference when wildlife populations are concentrated at supplemental feeding stations that are supported by you and RMEF further calls into question your dedication to science, scientific principles or even prudent wildlife management.
 
Perhaps you and others in your organization have trouble with complex analyses or dealing with data in general.  That was certainly apparent when you rolled out your page on wolves and elk using truncated graphs that were purposely misleading.  Your constant arguing that wolf populations are too high because they are well above minimum recovery goals may sound like science to you and many of your adherents, but it is not.  These were simply numbers indicating when the shift from federal recovery management to state recovery could happen.  Nothing more, nothing less.
 
Are wolf numbers too high in the Northern Rockies states as you have repeatedly claimed and inferred? Probably not.  Right now the wolf densities in these states are about one fifth of what we see in British Columbia with about the same land area.  Certainly there are habitat and human density differences between BC and the Northern Rockies states but there is unlikely a five-fold carrying capacity differential and there are many in BC who think that their wolf density is too low.  
 
And while you are madly trying to claim this scientific high ground, there is nothing in your rhetoric that shows any acknowledgement of the ecological value of wolves, their impact on other predators such as cougars and coyotes, and any appearance of a mental governor on your talking points as evidence emerges of the importance of maintaining social structure in packs and the need for large numbers of wolves across a broad landscape in order to realize the promised benefits of trophic cascades and meso-predator release.  
 
Circling back to the original premise for your letter, I will not tell you that Yellowstone wolves killed outside the Park will cause population calamity as that would be just as disingenuous and unfounded as  your claims that science dictates that predators—particularly wolves—need to be controlled and that their current levels are too high.  That said, these near-park boundary mortalities do impact the population.  
 
My concern, which is science-based, has to do with the value of these animals as part of a well-studied population free from interference.  Now you might—having never conducted scientific research yourself—not consider these animals and the data their continued existence contributes to our overall understanding of complex predator-prey relationships valuable but many of us do.  And quite frankly I long for a day when the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is once again led by someone who might similarly value research and understand that successful conservation is more about appreciating the complexity of these natural systems and all their parts and less about marketing fear and innuendo like a pair of jeans or stock car race.  
 
Now granted some of the above is certainly facetious in nature and somewhat patronizing.  And I would be annoyed and offended if something similar was done to me.  But at some point, Mr. Allen, you have to ask yourself which is the greater sin, the facetiousness and patronizing tone I employ or your misstatements and missteps that make this sort of response not only appropriate but necessary?  
 
Sincerely,
 
bob's signature
 
 
 
Bob Ferris
Executive Director
 
 
 
Jul11

Press Release: Bull Trout Harmed by Years of Agency Inaction, Legal Action Initiated

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746
John Meyer, Cottonwood Environmental Law Center, 406-587-5800
Travis Bruner, Western Watersheds Project, 208-788-2290
Sarah Peters, WildEarth Guardians, 541-345-0299
 
Bozeman, MT – Nearly four years after critical habitat protection was granted to bull trout, federal land management agencies have still not determined whether existing land management plans are compatible with protecting the fish. Today, conservation groups Cottonwood Environmental Law Center, WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, and Cascadia Wildlands sent a notice of intent to sue to both the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service over failures to properly evaluate the consequences of actions taken within bull trout critical habitat.
 
Bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) formerly ranged throughout the Columbia River and Snake River basins, extending east to headwater streams
bull_trout (US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Bull trout require cold, clear water for survival. (Photo by USFWS)

in Montana and Idaho, into Canada, and in the Klamath River basin of south-central Oregon. Unfortunately, human activities have driven the trout close to extinction. Activities adjacent to streams, such as logging, grazing, road construction, and off-road vehicle use, increase water temperature and add sediment to bull trout habitat. Of all fish species found in western rivers and streams, bull trout need the coldest and cleanest water, making them particularly vulnerable to water quality impacts.
 
“It isn’t just the logging, grazing, road construction and ORV use that threatens these fish,” said John Meyer, Executive Director of Cottonwood Environmental Law Center and attorney on the case. “Those threats are compounded by increasing water temperatures due to climate change. The agencies really must address impacts in critical habitat if bull trout are going to survive.
 
Bull trout were protected as a threatened species in 1999 and critical habitat was designated in 2010. Designated critical habitat for the bull trout includes 19,729 miles of stream and 488,251.7 acres of reservoirs and lakes in the States of Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, and Montana. With this designation, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management were required to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service. Consultation requires the agency to take a step back from on-going and proposed management actions to make sure bull trout are recovering in these specially protected areas.
 
 “Unfortunately, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have continued with business as usual,” said Travis Bruner, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project “We hope that this notice causes them to change course and start protecting bull trout.”
 
“Bull trout are the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for water quality and water quantity in western states,” said Sarah Peters of WildEarth Guardians. “Protecting them protects a whole suite of aquatic species as well as the watersheds on which human communities increasingly depend.”
 
 "The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management need a 'time out' until they talk to fish  experts about the impacts of their landscape management projects on the imperiled bull trout," says Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands. "Otherwise, this iconic fish will continue its perilous journey towards extinction."
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Jul08

US Fish and Wildlife Service: The Leadership and Vision Vacuum

By Bob Ferris
 
"A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." Aldo Leopold A Sand County Almanac, 1948
 
WolverineSnow
I have been spending a lot of time lately reading scientific justifications and policy statements emanating out of the US Fish and Wildlife Service such as the new policy on “significant portion of its range” (see Society for Conservation Biology Comments) for the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the leaked documents on the wolverine ESA listing tangle.   This is a painful process because these documents and other related works are often so tortured and mind-numbing.  
 
Well worded and grammatically correct these pieces are so covered with political fingerprints, cripplingly bent by special interest hip-checks and too liberally doused with an absence of courage that you have to keep going back to the title page to remind yourself that these were written and issued by an agency with public trust responsibilities (i.e., the folks who are supposed to protect our natural resources for future generations, including making sure that species do not blink out and that ecosystems still function naturally and not like grand, but woefully inadequate, zoo enclosures.)
 
Being older I have the opportunity in all this for hindsight and vision.  And what we are seeing in these type-rich decrees is not reflective of the former and shows little or none of the latter.  They are, in short, the ministrations of bureaucrats told to fit a square and wondrous peg into a hole of a disastrously diminishing diameter and taking pride in the process.  
 

Being older I also remember the peril we were experiencing in the 1960s and the promise expressed in our cornerstone environmental laws—The National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act as well as the cavalcade of initials that followed.  These were supposed to take us from peril to promise and beyond.  They were meant to stop the rivers from burning, help us breathe, bring back declining and disappearing species and basically stop Iron Eyes Cody (above) from crying.  And they made progress for a while.  But older folks forgot that diligence is always required and younger people never knew what was lost or what could be recovered.  
 
Before I charge off in some too obscure reminiscences, let me return to the Aldo Leopold quote at the top of this piece.  Because when you carve away all of the extraneous parts of any of these documents and melt them down in the crucible of intent they should always have as their immutable backbone the sentiments espoused above by Dr. Leopold.  Always. 
 
If they do not, we should not accept them.  If they do not, we should challenge them until they do.  If the leaders of this agency and others are not insisting that under their watch more is going to be protected and recovered in their quest to do what is right then why would we accept them as leaders?  Any fool can continue to accept species declines, dilute the intent of the ESA, embrace inaction, and make things worse, but we should really expect more from our leaders.    
 
Now the US FWS will claim there are reasons for not taking the above position and ignoring or significantly softening Dr. Leopold’s dictum.  Congress will cut our funding.  The ranchers and timber interests will not like us.  The wolf-110006Koch brothers will finance another anti-wolf video.  But these are not reasons, they are excuses.  The bad news is that while excuses give us comfort and shelter, experience tells us that waiting or avoidance only makes the eventual consequences worse.  
 
Perhaps in reference to the above, the US FWS should consult with their sister Interior agency the Bureau of Land Management and ask them if they could go back in time and remove Cliven Bundy’s cattle in the early 1990s whether that would have brought a better result than our current situation.  Certainly rolling over and peeing on oneself saves you a little immediate grief, but in the long term it just earns you more bullying and beatings—both literal and figurative.  
 
Am I asking for the impossible here, that a director of the US FWS would embrace the above quote and try to brave the “slings and arrows” shot by Congress and industry?  No.  When I first worked in DC I spent time with John Turner, Mollie Beattie and Sam Hamilton—all former directors of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and all folks who stood up for species even when it was less than comfortable.  
 
John Turner
 
“John Turner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director under the previous Bush administration, said in a telephone interview, he and others developed the program that Babbitt carried out to reintroduce wolves and allow killing of problem animals.
 
Other Republicans, going back to William Penn Mott, National Park Service director under Reagan also pushed for wolf reintroduction.
 
"This is a bipartisan issue," said Turner, a friend of President-elect Bush and president of The Conservation Fund.” In Official urges West to find space for wolves:
Babbitt confident animals will thrive
by Rocky Barker 
 
turner_eagle_500I met John Turner roughly 20 years ago when we sat together on a wolf panel at a National Cattlemen and Beef Association forum in Washington, DC—the two of us in suits surrounded by a sea of cowboy hats.  While it was logical that I was there because I had recently taken over the wolf programs at Defenders of Wildlife and was administering the organization’s compensation program, Mr. Turner’s presence was a little less logical.  You see, John was a Republican who had just left the director’s position at the US FWS to take the leadership slot at The Conservation Fund and he was also a multi-generational Wyoming rancher and outfitter complete with a missing finger joint from a roping accident.  Yet he was voluntarily there talking with ranchers (his peers) about the need to protect and recover wolves.  
 
"Economic incentives are the bridge between what we are doing now and what we should be doing for endangered species," said Bob Ferris of Defenders of Wildlife
 
As we are both biologists, our messages were largely similar in that we each argued that the wolf had a place in the West.  Our messages were also similar in that we were simultaneously looking at traditional and creative ways to minimize friction.  I was new to this arena and John helped me through some of the tougher questions on administrative details and history where I had some gaps.  We later collaborated on our shared interest in creating economic incentives for endangered species conservation on private lands.   
 
Mollie Beattie 
 
“In the long term, the economy and the environment are the same thing. If it's unenvironmental it is uneconomical. That is the rule of nature.” Mollie Beattie in Woman of the Woods: Mollie Beattie, a Natural as Fish and Wildlife Chief by Ted Gup  
 
My interactions with Mollie were too few and mainly were more conversations than working together in any traditional sense.  We sat next to each other at a few events and talked about wolves, but I will say that she DirmollieBeattiesimultaneously exuded serenity and a principled nature.  More importantly she was courageous—not only through her illness—but when dealing with Congress.  
 
"What a country chooses to save is what a country chooses to say about itself.” — Mollie Beattie, former Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (1947-1996) 
 
My strongest memory of Mollie was during some hearings in the newly re-named Resources Committee in the House (nee Natural Resources) chaired by Don Young of Alaska.  All during the hearing Congressman Young  (R-AK) who referred to his female colleagues Barbara Cubin (R-WY) and Helen Chenoweth (R-ID) as his “sled dogs” waved a walrus baculum (i.e., penis bone) at the then Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  But Mollie held her ground, defended the Endangered Species Act and stood up to those in Congress attacking this and other bedrock environmental laws.  
 
“So Mollie calmly informed Congressman Young that the ESA was basically a good law, and that she intended to uphold and improve it. Did the Chair have any constructive suggestions?”  Vermon Law School Lawyer and Faculty member Patrick Parenteau in She Runs With Wolves: In Memory of Mollie Beattie  
 
Sam Hamilton
 
Sam Hamilton Phil Kloer Tenn NWROf the three I probably spent the most time with Sam Hamilton (at left at left) who also had the shortest tenure of the three as Secretary succumbing to a fatal heart attack while skiing in the Rocky Mountains mere months after his confirmation.  
 
I met Sam initially through the Black Bear Conservation Coalition that met each year in Louisiana.  Our meetings about black bear conservation when he worked for the US FWS out of the Atlanta office eventually led to other discussions at professional meetings like North American’s and those of the Wildlife Society.
 
It was at The Wildlife Society meeting one year when I ran into a bob white quail and turkey biologist from the Southwest who talked to me about issues of game bird recruitment and expanding coyote populations.  The biologist and I brought Sam into the equation when we started discussing red wolves as a possible solution in Mississippi.  As a result, Sam helped us set up a meeting in Yazoo City, Mississippi with local landowners and decision-makers.  We picked this site because of this area’s proximity to large tracts of public lands (i.e., Delta National Forest, Panther Swamp Wildlife Refuge and the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge), the low human density and the absence of a significant livestock population.   Sam worked hard on this and we got very, very close to pulling it off.  He saw the opportunity here as he did in the Everglades to do something remarkable for willdlife in the true spirit of cooperative conservation.  Who knows what Sam would have accomplished if he had lived (or Mollie for that matter), but if his past was a mirror of his future we expected great things.  
******
These are three people from three very different parts of the country and with different experiences and political persuasions.  Yet all three of them took their jobs at the USFWS seriously and while there supported the Endangered Species Act—including taking affirmative and courageous actions for wolves.   Perhaps the current leadership—many of whom were present during the tenures of these three—will use this and them as an empowering touchstone for their own leadership.  Maybe then they will remember that their jobs should be looking for ever-increasing ways to save species rather than looking for ways to avoid taking steps needed to “preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community” under their stewardship. 
 
Send a message to Director Dan Ashe by clicking this button:
 
 
 
 
Mar06

Press Release: Washington Wildlife Agency Urged to End Support for Abolishing Federal Wolf Protections

For Immediate Release, March 6, 2014
 
Contacts:
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463
Suzanne Stone, Defenders of Wildlife, (208) 861-4655
Tim Coleman, Kettle Range Conservation Group, (509) 775-2667/(509) 435-1092 (cell)
Rebecca J. Wolfe, Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club, (425) 750-4091
 
OLYMPIA, Wash.— Eleven conservation organizations representing hundreds of thousands of Washington residents sent a letter to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife today urging the agency to rescind its support for stripping wolves of federal Endangered Species Act protections. The department has repeatedly expressed support for dropping the federal safeguards, most recently in a letter sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Dec. 13, 2013. The delisting runs counter to the best available science and ignores the values of the vast majority of Washington residents who want to see federal wolf protections Leopold wolf following grizzly bear;Doug Smith;April 2005maintained.
 
“Most people in Washington want wolves protected. The state department’s perplexing stance is out of step with the science and the values of local residents,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolves are just beginning to recover in Washington and face continued persecution. Federal protection is clearly needed to keep recovery on track.”
 
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in June 2013 proposed to remove federal endangered species protections for gray wolves across most of the lower 48 states, including in the western two-thirds of Washington. The science underlying the proposal has been sharply criticized by many scientists, including a peer review panel contracted by the federal agency, which unanimously concluded the proposal was not based on the best available science.
 
“The department should have never endorsed the delisting given the extremely controversial and political nature of this issue,” said Nick Cady of Cascadia Wildlands.  “The department should instead be focused on ironing out significant shortcomings within its own wolf program, in order to prevent future regretful decisions, like the extermination of the Wedge pack.”
 
Washington’s wolf population has grown from zero wolves in 2007 to roughly 51 wolves in 10 packs at the start of 2013, with new numbers to be announced this week. The recovery has largely been driven by federal Endangered Species Act protections, which led to the reintroduction of wolves in adjacent Idaho and made it against the law to kill wolves. Wolf recovery in Washington was almost upended when several members of the state’s first pack, known as the Lookout pack, were poached. In 2011 the poachers were caught and prosecuted under federal law and the pack has started to make a comeback. In 2012 the Wedge pack was killed in a department lethal control action over wolf-livestock conflicts on public land. The mass killing resulted in public outrage that the department had acted in violation of the state wolf plan and that the rancher involved had refused to adequately protect his cattle.
 
In February, a wolf was found illegally shot and killed in Stevens County.
 
“The scientific peer review panel was unified in rejecting the federal government’s scientific basis for proposing the national delisting of gray wolves,” said Suzanne Stone with Defenders of Wildlife. “Washington state should withdraw its support of the Service’s delisting proposal and instead advocate that the Service follow the best available science, as required by law, to chart a sustainable recovery path for wolves in Washington and throughout the U.S.”
 
The Department’s support for dropping federal protections for wolves runs contrary to the sentiments of Washington residents, nearly three-quarters of whom oppose delisting, according to a September 2013 poll. That matches the strong support nationwide for continued federal wolf protections demonstrated in a national poll conducted in July 2013.
 
“The protection of wolves as part of our Washington state wildlife is a public trust issue,” said Rebecca Wolfe of the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club. “It is the duty of the department to care for the wildlife entrusted to them by the people.”
 
“It’s time for the department to lead, governed by science, not pandering to special interests, mythology, science fiction or their desire to sell hunting licenses,” said Timothy Coleman, executive director of Kettle Range Conservation Group. “Gray wolf reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park showed the species is essential to ecosystem health.  Washington citizens strongly support gray wolf recovery and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife should do all it can to make that happen.”
 
The letter to the department was filed by groups representing hundreds of thousands of Washington residents, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, The Humane Society of the United States, Western Environmental Law Center, Defenders of Wildlife, Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club, Wolf Haven International, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, Kettle Range Conservation Group, The Lands Council and Wildlands Network.
                                                                 ###
 
 
Dec17

Press Release: Over 100,000 in Northwest Oppose Gray Wolf Delisting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 17, 2013

CONTACT:
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, 707-779-9613
Jasmine Minbashian, Conservation Northwest, 360-671-9950 x129
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541-844-8182
Joseph Vaile, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, 541-488-5789
Lauren Richie, California Wolf Center, 443-797-2280
Pamela Flick, Defenders of Wildlife, 916-203-6927
Rob Klavins, Oregon Wild, 503-283-6343 x210

SEATTLE— Demonstrating Americans’ broad opposition to the Obama administration’s plan to strip Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves, members of the Pacific Wolf Coalition submitted 101,416 comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today favoring continued wolf protections. The comments on behalf of the coalition’s members and supporters in the Pacific West join 1 million comments collected nationwide expressing Americans’ strong disapproval of the Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to remove federal protections from gray wolves across most of 0462_wenaha_male_wolfthe continental United States.

“The gray wolf is one of the most iconic creatures of the American landscape and wolves play a vital role in America’s wilderness and natural heritage,” said Pamela Flick, California representative of Defenders of Wildlife. “Californians, Oregonians and Washingtonians want to see healthy wolf populations in the Pacific West. In fact, recent polling clearly demonstrates overwhelming support for efforts to restore wolves to suitable habitat in our region. Removing protections would be ignoring the voices of the majority.”

The strong support for maintaining wolf protections was apparent in recent weeks as hundreds of wolf advocates and allies turned out for each of five public hearings held nationwide. At the only hearing in the Pacific West, Nov. 22 in Sacramento, Calif., more than 400 wolf supporters demanded the Fish and Wildlife Service finish the job it began 40 years ago.

"Gray wolves are just beginning their historic comeback into the Northwest, and they need federal protections maintained at this sensitive time," said Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director with Cascadia Wildlands. "Politics shouldn't trump science during this critical recovery period."

Wolves are just starting to return to the Pacific West region, which includes the western two-thirds of Washington, Oregon and California. This area is home to fewer than 20 known wolves with only three confirmed packs existing in the Cascade Range of Washington and a lone wolf (OR-7) that has traveled between eastern Oregon and northern California. Wolves in the Pacific West region migrated from populations in British Columbia and the northern Rockies.

“Wolf recovery has given hope to Americans who value native wildlife, but remains tenuous on the West Coast,” said Rob Klavins, wildlife advocate with Oregon Wild. “Wolves are almost entirely absent in western Oregon, California and Washington. Especially as they are being killed by the hundreds in the northern Rockies, it's critical that the Obama administration doesn’t strip wolves of basic protections just as recovery in the Pacific West begins to take hold.”

“The current proposal by the Fish and Wildlife Service to prematurely strip wolves of federal protection would limit recovery opportunities for the Pacific West’s already small population of wolves,” said Lauren Richie, director of California wolf recovery for the California Wolf Center. “Scientists have identified more than 145,000 square miles of suitable habitat across the region, including California, where wolves have yet to permanently return.”

“It’s a powerful statement when nearly 1 million Americans stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the nation’s top wolf experts in their conviction that gray wolves still need federal protections,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolf recovery on the West Coast is in its infancy, and states where protections have been lifted are hunting and trapping wolves to bare bones numbers.”
 
To promote gray wolf recovery in the Pacific West and combat misinformation, the Pacific Wolf Coalition has launched its new website — www.pacificwolves.org. The site, which offers easy access to factual information and current wolf news, is part of the coalition’s ongoing work to ensure wolf recovery in the West.

“OR-7’s amazing journey shows us that wolves can recover to the Pacific West, if we give them a chance” said Joseph Vaile, executive director of Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center.

“Americans value native wildlife. Spreading the word on what is happening with wolves here and across the country has never been more important. That is why the Pacific Wolf Coalition is using the end of the public comment period as an opportunity to launch our new website,” said Alison Huyett, coordinator of the Pacific Wolf Coalition. “The website will provide the public with current, reliable information on what is happening with wolves and describe how citizens can become involved in protecting this majestic and important animal.”

                                                                    – # # # –

The Pacific Wolf Coalition represents 29 wildlife conservation, education and protection organizations in California, Oregon and Washington committed to recovering wolves across the region, and includes the following member groups:

California Wilderness Coalition – California Wolf Center – Cascadia Wildlands – Center for Biological Diversity – Conservation Northwest – Defenders of Wildlife – Endangered Species Coalition – Environmental Protection Information Center – Gifford Pinchot Task Force – Greenfire Productions – Hells Canyon Preservation Council – Humane Society of the U.S. – Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center – Living with Wolves – National Parks Conservation Association – Natural Resources Defense Council – Northeast Oregon Ecosystems – Oregon Sierra Club – Oregon Wild – Predator Defense – Project Coyote – Sierra Club – Sierra Club California – Sierra Club Washington State Chapter – The Larch Company – Western Environmental Law Center – Western Watersheds Project – Wildlands Network – Wolf Haven International

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