Posts Tagged ‘Endangered Species Act’

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."
                                                         ####

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

Apr01

Anti-wolf Forces: It Takes a Thief (Richard M. Mitchell)

 

By Bob Ferris
 
The anti-wolf site Save Western Wildlife recently posted a three-page letter critical of the Northern Rockies wolf recovery process written by Richard M. Mitchell Ph.D. of Alder, Montana—wow, a Ph.D. stepping into the fray.  This is impressive until you take a little time to remember and realize that Dr. Mitchell’s other title is: Convicted Felon.
 
Yes Dr. Mitchell knows about the Endangered Species Act because he was charged under it multiple times while working for the federal government and finally convicted in 1993.  I say finally because he was first charged in the late 1980s and there was considerable political pressure exerted to by politicians—many of whom were members of Safari Club International—to get this first arrest over-turned.  
 
It is interesting given the Tea Party leanings of the anti-wolf crowd that they are willing to overlook the fact that Dr. Mitchell cost the Smithsonian $650,000 in legal fees paid by taxpayers back in the early 1990s when that was real money.  He also materially broke trust with the American public whose money he took to do a job which he did not.  What Dr. Mitchell excelled at was being the crooked-as-a-dog's-hind-leg errand boy for Safari Club International, a job he still seems to take seriously.  
 
 
 

Mar06

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.
 

Mar05

Press Release: 52 Members of Congress Urge Continued Federal Protections for Wolves in Lower 48 States

For immediate release, March 5, 2013

Contacts:
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463

PORTLAND, Ore.— In an effort championed by Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), 52 House members sent a letter today to the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urging an about-face on the agency’s anticipated proposal to remove federal protections for wolves across most of the lower 48 United States.

“We are grateful that these 52 representatives are standing strong for continued federal protections for wolves,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With wolves only just beginning to recover in the Pacific Northwest, California, southern Rocky Mountains and Northeast, now’s not the time for the Fish and Wildlife Service to turn its back on wolf recovery.”

An estimated 2 million wolves once roamed freely across North America, including most of the United States. But bounties, a federal extermination program and human settlement drove the species to near extinction in most of the lower 48. While protected by the Endangered Species Act, wolf populations in the northern Rocky Mountains and the Western Great Lakes states increased; but these regions amount to a mere 5 percent of the wolf’s original range, and in other regions wolves are only just beginning to return.

“The job of wolf recovery is far from over and the members of Congress who have written to the Service are asking that science, not politics, guide federal wolf management,” said Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands. “Maintaining federal protections is critical in allowing wolves to assume their valuable ecological role across the American landscape.”

Since the original wolf recovery plans were written in the 1980s, scientists have learned much more about wolves’ behavior, ecology and needs. Research has shown that returning wolves to ecosystems sets off a chain of events that benefits many species, including songbirds and beavers that gain from a return of streamside vegetation, which thrives in the absence of browsing elk that must move more often to avoid wolves. And pronghorn and foxes are aided by wolves’ control of coyote populations. Protecting ecosystems upon which species depend is a specific goal of the Endangered Species Act — all the more reason for expanded, rather than diminished, wolf recovery efforts.

Bowing to political pressure from wolf opponents, the Service has no plans for wolf recovery in areas beyond those regions it has deemed recovered (the northern Rockies and western Great Lakes). In states where federal delisting has occurred, there are insufficient protections from local pressures to hunt or “control” wolves back to the brink of extinction. In the 18 months since federal delisting began in 2011, more than 1,700 of the 5,000-6,000 recovered wolves in the lower 48 have been killed.

Conservation organizations are hopeful that Interior Secretary nominee Sally Jewell will be a stronger advocate for wolves than outgoing Secretary Ken Salazar, who never called for comprehensive gray wolf recovery across the country.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Cascadia Wildlands is a Eugene, Oregon-based nonprofit conservation organization that educates, agitates and inspires a movement to protect and restore Cascadia’s wild ecosystems.
    

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Feb15

More than a Mile of Dead Wolves Need Your Attention Now

by Bob Ferris

When I was in high school the Viet Nam conflict was still in full swing and so was the draft.  And as we neared graduation our guidance counselors had us take aptitude tests.  Invariably  all the aptitude test results for males—regardless of input—indicated a suitability for the military.  I think about it now, because as I look at actions and legislation coming out of many of the wolf-occupied states in the West, regardless of the complex, multi-layered conditions or scientific input implicating non-wolf causes for elk and other prey declines, we keep seeing the same answer: We need to kill more wolves faster.  
 
This becomes more pertinent as yet another study comes out on elk that indicates that what might be driving elk reproductive success and also winter survival is the quality of summer elk habitat.  This is almost painfully obvious as fat content in females drives reproductive success in mammals.  And if you are not well fed and fat when you go into winter, you are going to come out of winter literally skin and bones—and nothing else (i.e., dead).  
 
When we look at the factors effecting summer range in the above article we see a few mentioned but two critical ones are absent.  The first is climate change.  Prolonged draught has in some areas reduced the amount of grasslands and shortened the time that vegetation is green and most useful to elk (please see here and here).  This should not be surprising as we are seeing the same climate effects for agriculture.
 
I have heard that this green season has been shorted in some places as much as seven days which means roughly a 5-10% reduction.  This may not seem like much until you throw in the other factor: Cattle grazing.  Elk may very well be able to weather (sorry) this drop but not if they are already feeding on steeper slopes and in lower quality habitats because they have been displaced by cattle or their grasses have already been eaten by domestic sheep.
 
These important alternative hypotheses to the localized reductions in elk or other prey populations that are supported by research seem to be ignored by many decision makers, but they are by no means the only ones that contradict the mantra of the anti-wolf crowd. Other research, for instance, has talked about the long term impacts of too many ungulates (native, wild or both) on the habitat as well as the impacts of other predators—cougars, grizzlies and humans—playing a more important part in these declines.  Natural succession or the tendency for habitats to mature and become less ungulate-friendly as they transcend from grassy to brushy to forest has also been mentioned as an influence on elk populations.  But none of these factors or alternatives seem to enter into the debate when there is this easier management off-ramp in livestock industry-influenced legislations and wildlife agencies: Kill more wolves faster (KMWF).
 
Right now where this KMWF answer is most dominant—the Northern Rockies—we are losing nearly a wolf and half a day or more than one mile of wolves laid nose to tail over the last two years—at a minimum.  In the absence of science and restraint, the well intentioned delisting experiment in the Rockies is failing miserably, cruelly and embarrassingly.  And the whole world is watching.  
 
Because of the above and the opportunities to learn from this tragic mistake, Cascadia Wildlands and a host of other science-driven conservation organization are promoting a congressional colleague letter being circulated by Congressmen Peter DeFazio and Ed Markey.  The letter urges the Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe to listen to scientists and wildlife advocates who believe that federal protections for the wolf must be maintained in order to allow recolonizing wolves to reclaim viable habitats—mainly on federal lands—in the Pacific Northwest, California, the Southern Rockies and elsewhere.  They are currently collecting member signatures for this letter.
 
We all should continue to fight for wolves in the Northern Rockies and also urge our own congressional representatives to sign on to this letter.  Please ask them to stand up for wolves, science, and supporting the original intent of the Endangered Species Act.  Please click here to take action.

Nov16

Lawsuit Chops Down Logging Plans on the Elliott

The Roseburg News-Review by Don Jenkins
November 15, 2012
 
A lawsuit filed by conservation groups has caused the Oregon Department of Forestry to sharply scale back logging plans in the Elliott State Forest for 2013, a year in which the state planned to ramp up timber production in the 93,000-acre coastal forest.
 
The three groups that brought the suit released a statement Wednesday hailing a decision by the department to defer most timber sales planned for next year.
The department, according to a Sept. 19 memo from District Forester Jim Young, suspended the sales because of the federal lawsuit filed in May.
 
Conservationists allege plans to increase timber harvests by 60 percent in the Elliott violate the federal Endangered Species Act by jeopardizing the marbled murrelet.
 
The state is contesting the lawsuit, and there’s been no ruling. But for now, the forestry department will suspend plans to log 914 acres, slashing from next year’s harvest plan 46 million board feet of timber with a gross value of $16 million.
 
Instead, the department plans to log 13.8 million board feet, with an estimated gross value of
 $4.1 million.
 
Cascadia Wildlands spokesman Josh Laughlin said Wednesday the conservation groups hope the pause in logging will lead to the state reconsidering how it will manage the Elliott.
 
“This clearly provides some much-needed interim relief for the imperiled marbled murrelet,” he said. “Our goal with the case is to work with the state to balance its plans.”
 
The Center for Biological Diversity and the Audubon Society of Portland joined Cascadia in the lawsuit.
 
The three groups and the state are in a dispute over logging in Oregon’s largest state forest, spread over portions of Douglas and Coos counties.
Conservation groups sued after the State Land Board approved increasing annual timber harvests in the Elliott from 25 million board feet to approximately 40 million board feet.
 
In recent years, timber harvests have raised $6 million to $8 million a year for schools and the two counties. Forestry officials estimated $9 million to $13 million would be generated through increased harvests. Under the scaled back plan, the common school fund will net an estimated $3.7 million, forestry department spokesman Dan Postrel said today.
 
The department estimates that each 1 million board feet of timber cut in the Elliott creates 11 to 13 jobs with an average annual wage of $36,000.
Citing the pending litigation, Postrel declined to elaborate on why the department voluntarily deferred timber sales.
 
State Rep. Tim Freeman, who supports increased logging on the Elliott, said he was initially surprised the department chose to suspend logging. He said forestry officials explained to him that the department hoped to strengthen its position in court by voluntarily waiting for the suit to be resolved before increasing timber harvests.
 
“I’m not saying it was the right decision, but I understand why they’re doing it,” said Freeman, a Roseburg Republican. “If it works, it’s a great choice.” In the meantime, the state will lose revenue and jobs, he said. “There is a cost to waiting.”
 
Postrel said the department will continue to look for ways to increase logging that won’t run afoul of the allegations contained in the lawsuit.
 
Laughlin said the conservation groups are not opposed to increasing the “controversy-free volume” of timber by thinning younger tree stands to make them healthier.
 
“We want to see the jobs created restoring the forest,” he said.
 
A timber industry spokeswoman, American Forest Resource Council Vice President Ann Forest Burns, hesitated to second-guess the state’s legal strategy, though she said the advocacy group generally opposes agencies halting logging “just because they’ve been sued.”
 
“That accomplishes the purpose of the lawsuit without a ruling on the validity of the lawsuit,” she said.
 
“There’s also a definite question about the responsibility to the taxpayers who paid for the work that went into the harvest plan. I would hope the department would stand behind their work,” she said.
 
The State Land Board — made up of Gov. John Kitzhaber, Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Secretary of State Kate Brown — OK’d a plan that requires forest managers to avoid disturbing marbled murrelets, while opening up the possibility of logging on older portions of the Elliott. Almost half the forest is covered with trees 90 to 145 years old, Postrel said.
 
Conservation groups argue the state should designate areas in the forest as marbled murrelet habitat as part of a long-range plan to revive the bird’s population.
 
Freeman said the Legislature should make clear to federal courts the state’s wishes by passing legislation to require annual harvests of a certain percentage of new growth in the Elliott.
 
The department of forestry estimates 75 million board of feet of timber grows in the Elliott State Forest each year.
 
The lawsuit is Cascadia Wildlands v. Kitzhaber and was filed in the U.S. District Court of Oregon.
 
• City Editor Don Jenkins can be reached at 541-957-4201 or djenkins@nrtoday.com.

 

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