Posts Tagged ‘Gray Wolves’

Apr09

Pop Go the Weasel Words

By Bob FerrisPine marten
 
When my wife and I lived in Santa Barbara our house was up a brushy canyon and we had trouble getting fire insurance.  The real estate agent joked about an old saw in the area that goes something like this: It is not “if” your house is going to burn in Santa Barbara but “when.”  
 
This saying is common in the area and our house—after we sold it and left Santa Barbara—did in fact burn to the ground during a canyon fire.  Not only that, but it would have burned a second time had it been rebuilt.  So certainly there was some truth in the saying, but is it too strong considering that some houses do not burn in Santa Barbara?  Perhaps a more cautionary statement with caveats is in order including the use of so-called weasel words?
 
“The key is that suction dredging represents a chronic unnatural disturbance of natural habitats that are already likely to be stressed by other factors and can therefore have a negative impact on fishes that use the reach being dredged.” Dr. Peter B. Moyle 
 
Every scientist who has ever written a recommendation or a report is familiar with the term “weasel words.”  Those are the words that we have been trained to use.  We use them because we have been aggressively taught the necessity to be “right” much more often than we are “wrong.” In this context, we also are all painfully aware that when we test something and are 95% sure that it works that way, 5% of the time it will not.  Pop go the weasel words and we preload our statements with this uncertainty.  
 
“Timber harvesting could possibly cause what is likely an inevitable event to occur sooner.” Noel Wolff, a hydrologist who worked for Washington State writing about the timber harvest above the deadly landslide on the Snohomish River in Washington in the Seattle Times
 

Oso Slide

But those who interpret “may” as “won’t” or “could” as “will not,” do so at great peril (see AP photo of the Oso, Washington mudslide at left).  This becomes even more problematic when we deal with complex, multi-variant natural systems where uncertainty and confusion are accounted for with even more cautious language and phrasing.
 
Interestingly, the level of complexity and the level of consequence often track one another.  Unfortunately, the financial rewards of inaction also track both these measures too.  So the fiscal benefits to the fossil-fuel industry, timber companies, livestock interests and suction dredgers for actively clouding the science on climate change, geological stability, predator-prey relationships and disturbing rivers are incentivized.  Essentially the complexity provides both opportunities and shelter for those wanting to invest profitably in misinformation.  
 
Original Language: "Many scientific observations indicate that the Earth is undergoing a period of relatively rapid change."
 
Modified Language: "Many scientific observations point to the conclusion that the Earth may be undergoing a period of relatively rapid change."
 
Weasel words come from this caution, but they are also frequently injected into documents for political and economic reasons too (see language changes above from 2002 report on climate change).  Climate change policy documents in this country are rife with statements that are altered not by the scientists themselves but by those who edit or provide comments in order to dampen the call for action.  
 
Likewise, many of these documents and the cautions of scientists are removed via the consensus process that is sometimes insisted on by special interests groups.  A good example of this is to compare habitat comments and recommendations relating to forestry and grazing practices in a document prepared by black-tail deer biologists and one completed under a consensus process that included timber and livestock interests in Oregon.   
 
The “take home” messages here are to listen carefully to what scientists say and why.  The insurance industry has done this well and as a consequence was one of the first industries to recognize the perils of climate change.  Some sportsmen groups and hunters are starting to understand that prey species are more often limited by habitat and land management regimes than by predators.  And legislators in Maine recently listened to the message delivered by scientists and will no longer allow suction dredging in Class AA rivers occupied by important salmon and trout species.  Keeping it wild means paying attention to the science–weasel words and all–and letting that point both to peril and also opportunities to make the world a little wilder.
 
 

Apr08

Cascadia Wildlands and Sound Choices

By Bob Ferris
 
The_Rosannas_With Seth Plunkett-Libby Fenstermacher-Andrew Mosman-Joshua Heying
So much of what we do to keep things wild involves sound—embracing the good ones versus fighting the offensive.  For instance, we want wolves howling in the wilderness but don’t want to hear the constant lawnmower-motor burping of suction dredge engines in our wild spaces.
 
Similarly, we much prefer to listen to the wind whistling through tall trees in the Elliott State Forest and the gentle “keer”of marbled murrelets to the rip-snort of a chainsaw.  The same is true for rushing waters and waves as opposed to off-highway vehicles and jet boats.  
 
We all have similar catalogues of good and bad sounds.  What we hear and experience through our auditory senses seems almost as important as what we harvest in wilderness through our eyes, nose, feet and fingers.  
 
This importance of good sounds is probably why we at Cascadia Wildlands convene so many events over and around music.  Good sounds bring us together.  Take Pints Gone Wild hosted by Ninkasi Brewery on the first Monday of each month.  That gathering is all about good sounds—old favorites, new artists and those making joyful or innovative noise for the wildlands we love.  All of them generously donating their time to help us keep it wild.
 
_MG_0112But it does not end there because we also have special events such as the upcoming one at Luckey’s Club on April 12 and our barn-burner (figuratively not literally) Hoedown for Ancient Forests on May 10th.  
 
And it is not just about our own music events.  We will also be at the Oregon Country Fair and String Summit again this summer.  So please come to these events and tell your friends. There is really no rule out there that says we cannot have major amounts of fun while taking material actions to keep it wild.  
 
 
 

 

Mar21

Where’s the science? Fish and Wildlife Service must rewrite proposal to strip endangered species protections from gray wolves (an excerpt)

By Paul Paquet and Bob Ferris 
Special to the Mercury News
 
about.paul
Silicon Valley embraces science and loves innovation. Sadly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recently shown contempt for both when it comes to the recovery of gray wolves — particularly in the wilds of Northern California where a lone wolf recently visited for the first time in more than 80 years.
 
Our unflattering assessment derives from the peer review of the service's 2013 proposal to strip Endangered Species Act protections from most wolves in the West. The service's recommendation to "delist" wolves was judged to have ignored and misrepresented the "best available science," which is the unambiguous standard for species listing decisions. We wholeheartedly agree with the peer reviewers' troubling conclusions, and we are disappointed that the service pursued political expediency rather than abiding by the lawful provisions of the ESA.
 
Bob TalkingThat choice was encouraged by state wildlife commissions and agencies blatantly promoting the extremist views of some ranchers and anti-wolf hunting groups. In doing so, these agencies ignored scientific principles and the intrinsic value of species by portraying wolves as needing lethal management and fostering policies that treat them as problems rather than as respected members of the ecological community.
 
Paul Paquet (right) is an internationally prominent wolf scientist and senior scientist at Raincoast Conservation Foundation. Bob Ferris (left), executive director of Cascadia Wildlands, has been a leader in wolf advocacy for two decades.
 
Click Here to Read the Full Piece on the San Jose Mercury site.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Jan09

Cry wolf? Large carnivore decline puts humans at risk , study says

By John Roach NBC NewsLeopold wolf following grizzly bear; Doug Smith; April 2005
January 9, 2014
 
A few years after wolves were reintroduced to the Northern Rockies in 1995, fifth-generation Montana rancher Rick Jarrett gave up on the parcel of federal land near Yellowstone National Park that he grazed for 20 years. The carnivores harassed his cattle so much that they stopped gaining weight. Skinny cattle don't sell.
 
"It wasn't worth being there anymore," he told NBC News. To turn a profit, he now confines his livestock to several thousand acres on and around his ranch in Big Timber, where his cattle and sheep are free to pack on the pounds — for now. The wolves, he said, will eventually get there, too.
 
While Jarrett is bitter about having to live with wolves, such coexistence is increasingly necessary if the world hopes to reverse a downward spiral of its largest carnivores such as wolves as well as lions, tigers, and bears, according to a review study published Thursday in the journal Science
 
As the carnivores decline, ecosystems and food chains that humans depend on for survival are unraveling and, in many cases, adding to the economic woes of everyone from farmers to ecotourism companies.
 
"We should be thinking of ourselves in the end because if enough important species go extinct and we lose enough ecosystem services and economic services, then humanity will suffer," William Ripple, an ecologist at Oregon State University in Corvallis and the study's lead author, told NBC News.
 
What to do?
 
Ripple and 13 colleagues from around the world found that more than three quarters of Earth's largest carnivores are in population declines. Most occupy only a fraction of their historic ranges and more than half are threatened with extinction.
 
African lion occupy 17 percent of their historical range and have experienced dramatic population declines due to killing in defense of humans and livestock, according to the study in Science.
 
The paper's main finding is familiar to wildlife conservationists — large carnivores are in trouble — but pays scant attention to the most important problem: "What are we going to do about it?" Craig Packer, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota who was not involved with the study, told NBC News.
 
"I think that is a huge challenge."
 
Finding solutions is complicated, Ripple noted. The study, he said, is meant to illustrate the plight of carnivores and what humans stand to lose if the creatures go extinct — information that could steer policy via, for example, a global committee focused on carnivore conservation. 
 
In the paper, the researchers argue that humans are ethically obligated to conserve large carnivores — the animals have an intrinsic right to exist on planet Earth. They then back the argument with examples of the way the role carnivores play in the ecosystem help humans.
 
In Africa, for example, loss of leopards and lions has translated to an increase in baboon populations, which in turn are raiding farmers' livestock and crops for food. "In extreme cases, the farm family needs to keep their children home to guard the crops instead of go to school," Ripple said.
 
Other benefits of carnivores noted in the study include control of deer, elk, and moose populations, which in turn keep forest plants healthy for other critters, limit erosion, and enhance water quality. Parks full of wolves and bears also attract tourists, whose dollars boost local economies.
 
Wolf-specific tourism in Yellowstone National Park, the paper notes, brings in $22 to $48 million per year.
 
What's more, the scientists add, regions where carnivores keep other animal populations in check are full of plants that soak up carbon from the atmosphere, helping to slow global climate change. Jarrett, the Montana rancher, doubted such arguments would foster better feelings toward wolves.
 
"Granted carbon sequestration is important," he said, "but the benefit we are going to get from wolves … is so insignificant it isn't even funny."
 
Legitimate fears
The reality, noted Packer, who is an expert on human-carnivore interactions and deeply involved in African lion conservation, is that humans naturally fear these animals, often for good reason.
 
"You cannot expect somebody living in rural Africa or rural Asia to risk being eaten by a lion or a tiger so that your moral sense is gratified back in California or Texas or New York," he said. "Conservationists need to recognize that there are legitimate reasons why people want to get rid of these animals."
 
To reduce human predation on lions, Packer advocates the controversial use of patrolled and maintained fences that serve as a physical barrier between people and wildlife.
 
Ultimately, he said, the conflict among humans about our relationship with carnivores comes down to emotion versus intellect. While arguments such as carnivores' ability to buffer ecosystems against climate change are "interesting," in the end, he said, emotion usually wins. 
 
"You have to find ways that people feel safe and that people benefit economically."
 
 

Dec29

Besmirching the Wolf and Roosevelt’s Ghost

wolf-110006By Bob Ferris 
 
“We’re continuing to see an alarming trend in Western wildlife management. I am calling it the “Predator Death Spiral.” The underlying cause of this phenomina [sic] is when a wildlife agency attempts to hide or “pad” their big game population estimates when over predation begins to take hold. This in turn creates a downward spiral that cannot easily be avoided, and is often not even noticed until the state hits both a financial and PR rock bottom.” Guy Eastman, The Predator Death Spiral 
 
When I was in graduate school in the mid-1980s I sat on a panel that was put together by the faculty of the School of Engineering because of a recognized deficit in the engineering curriculum: ecological literacy.  Our panel was asked what might be reasonable classes for engineering students to take to gain them sufficient grounding in ecology to lead them towards designs and approaches that work with nature rather than against it.  
 
The thinking being that by creating engineers who were aware of and sensitive to ecological considerations that we might have dams that do not exterminate fish, underpasses that facilitate migrations and sewage plants that provide tertiary treatment while at the same time creating needed habitat for fish and waterfowl. These were exciting discussions because we could see some ideas first introduced by folks like Buckminster Fuller and Howard Odum in 1960s finally getting some traction. It was for some, the rolling out of ecological engineering and industrial ecology after the requisite two decades incubation from idea to adoption.   It was for others an uninteresting sideshow to be ignored.  
 
You have a degree in Engineering; have you ever worked in the engineering field?
Yes, I did engineering work for three years when I got out of school from 1997 until 2000. I guess I got sick of punching a calculator and decided that going back into the family business would be a better fit for me.
 
I think about these times, this revolution in design and the wide array of opportunities offered, because of an ill-reasoned, poorly presented anti-wolf blog post from 2011 that was recently resurrected on the I-Fish site.  The blog was written by a person who trained as an engineer a decade after the revolution started and left because he saw engineering as simply pushing too many calculator buttons.  He exited after a three-year “career.”  The person in question is Guy Eastman of the Eastman Outdoors conglomerate.  
 
You are a huge advocate for the hunting of wolves. If you were in charge of managing them, how would you do it?
I am pretty anti-wolf. I think wolves do have a place in an eco-system but not this one. The eco-systems in the lower 48 are much too small for super predators like wolves. We are now finding this out the hard way. I would eradicate almost all of the wolves outside Yellowstone National Park and keep the numbers down to a minimum inside the park if it were up to me. I have lived through the second largest big game animal decline in modern history. The only wildlife crisis larger than this one was the market killings of the 1900s that took out all of our buffalo herds and most of our other wildlife populations. Our ancestors have worked extremely hard to bring these populations back from the brink only to be thanked by a bunch of self righteous want to be book worms that call themselves biologists. They are using "super predators" to destroy our wildlife resource right in front of our eyes. They have in essence created massive tracts of biological waste lands throughout Idaho, Wyoming and Montana with their Frankenstein wolf project. Teddy Roosevelt is rolling over in his grave. As with some much that our government does, the very legislation (the Endangered Species Act) that was built to protect our wild life is being used as the very vehicle to destroy it. I hope I wasn't too clear on this one.
 
gordon eastmanThe above interview and the blog post in question are hard for me to reconcile with the Eastman legend on so many levels.  The first mental speed bump for me is that Guy is the grandson of Gordon Eastman who made a little movie called The Savage Wild in 1970 about his experience raising a set of wolf pups in the Yukon for eventual release.  The film is interesting in that the senior Eastman has a sort of implied epiphany in that he acknowledges that he once shot wolves for bounty and memorializes his walking towards the light by portraying trappers intent on killing his pups as villains and eventually killing them off in the story line.  Gordon also did work for Disney on their set of nature films that likely served as cinematic gateway drugs to a generation of field biologists coming of age as environmental awareness blossomed during the 1960s and 1970s.
 
Gordon’s work was pretty progressive given the times.  I made a trip in the mid-1960s in that direction visiting Wells, British Columbia among other places.  Wells at that point was pretty much a frontier town with all wooden sidewalks and I remember walking down Main Street past rack after rack of black bear and wolf skins that could be had for $20 or so.  Supporting trappers of predators was the norm in the area at that time.
 
Given the above, Guy’s attitudes and his anti-wolf as well as his anti-Endangered Species Act (ESA) screeds seem to simultaneously exhibit a lack of perspective and a shortage of self-awareness.  Born shortly after the passing of the ESA, he probably lacks an understanding that the ESA is not only about the species recovery successes since enactment, but it is also about where we could have been had we not taken action.  To fully appreciate the true value of this Act as well as the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act one had to experience or take time to investigate the species and environmental trajectories observed during the latter part of the 1960s.  His statements clearly reflect a lack of this perspective.
 
In addition, in his interview and blog post he authoritatively talks about ecological principles as if he has knowledge or experience in these areas.  Unfortunately—for the reasons cited in the opening of this post—he comes off sounding a lot like the youngsters in the popular AT&T commercials explaining to the deadpanned adult why faster is better.  His answers while entertaining are wrong and he is so confident in the sanctity of his bully pulpit that he feels absolutely no obligation to provide supporting evidence for his comments.  
 
Take, for instance, his statement about the size of ecosystem in the lower 48 states.  Experience and nearly 70 years of biological speculation and modelling disagree with his characterization.  Perhaps if he had taken some time and done some research then he would see that there are dozens of habitat and population viability analyses done by PhD biologists and ecologists that indicate that there is an abundance of room for wolves in the lower 48 states (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10).  Moreover, his claim that he has lived through the second largest big game decline in modern history is just plain silly when you compare it to overall elk population numbers and trends which are a mixture of good and bad news but overall much larger than a generation ago (1,2,3,4,5).  
 

His comment about “biological wastelands” is painfully ironic and is similar to the "raisins to grapes" argument in the above video.  Had Mr. Eastman taken a few courses in basic ecology at Purdue he would understand that the classic examples of wastelands—i.e., many Western rangelands, sea urchin barrens, deer on the Kaibab Plateau, and rabbit-chewed landscapes in Australia—are all examples of herbivores destroying ecosystems in the absence of predators.  Evidently the top element of the trophic pyramid in Guy’s world floats above other levels buoyed by some form of ecological anti-gravity rather than supporting levels of increasingly broad consumer groups.  
 
The comment regarding Teddy Roosevelt spinning in his grave is an interesting one.  My sense is that Guy mistakenly sees an roosevelt readingally in Roosevelt when it comes to hating wolves.  Certainly Roosevelt had no love for wolves, but then who did in the late 1800s when he wrote about them? But Roosevelt was also a Harvard-educated progressive and a first adopter of scientific ideas who was a bookworm (see picture of him speed-reading Dickens at right) and frequently carried a worn copy of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in his saddle bags when he rode off on hunts.  He was an amateur scientist who spent time with scientists and was treated as a peer.  He would therefore likely bridle at Guy’s caustic dismissal of voracious readers and biologists.
 
"I put Cooper higher than you do," Roosevelt would write to the novelist Josephine Dodge Daskam when he was vice president of the United States. (Page 40)
 
"Cooper's alter ego, Natty Bumppo, firmly believed that the unecessary slaughter of wildlife was a crime against God." (Page 41) 
 
 
Teddy and his good friend and Audubon Society creator George Bird Grinnell founded the Boone and Crockett Club that was one of the first organizations to forward concepts like “fair chase” principles.  My sense is that both Roosevelt and Grinnell picked Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett as exemplars because they had some nostalgic connection to these flintlock and percussion era, iron-sight hunters who struck out into the wildest of wildernesses with a cherished firearm, skinning knife, tomahawk, possibles sack and not much more.  Roosevelt was also a fan of James Fennimore Cooper and read the Leatherstocking Series from start to finish.  Roosevelt’s fair chase ideals were probably influenced by this quintessential American writer who loved woodscraft artfully employed, felt forests were jewels and who abhorred wasteful killing without purpose. 
 
It is hard to imagine what this monumental man and former President—who loved science, championed land preservation, advocated for game laws and embraced Cooper—would think about virtually eliminating a species like the wolf from the lower 48 states in today’s context.  Particularly considering that his current library would now include works by Aldo Leopold, Olaus Murie and Harvard professor E.O. Wilson as well as articles indicating that elk were so abundant in some areas that they were displacing his beloved birds–particularly in areas where cattle were grazed or climate change impacts were present or simulated (1,2,3,4) .
 
Likewise, I doubt that this man who championed fair chase (i.e., in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such animals) would support the gadget-rich, engine-dependent and scope-driven type of trophy hunting advocated by the editorial staff at Eastman’s publications or their myriad advertisers.  (And to those who might defensively say that their guided and catered trophy hunts on private ranches are just like those that Teddy experienced, I would suggest that they read Candice Mallard’s excellent book The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey and think again.)
 
I have gone on too long when my main points were simply that Guy Eastman’s blog post and his interview are intellectually and factually challenged.  My advice to Guy would be to take some time to read about Roosevelt before claiming ownership of his allegiance and also dig into some tomes by or about Leopold (1,2,3), Murie (1), Wilson (1) and Cooper (1,2) before rambling on about super predators, ecosystems or the underlying philosophies of our precious avocation.   He might just be surprised by what he finds and the exercise would certainly improve his writing in terms of tone, content and maturity.  It would likely also help with the some members of the hunting public’s impression of Guy and his publications.  
 
I will close by saying that the paranoid part of me reacts when I read illogical and uninformed drivel like what Guy is shoveling or what we read coming out of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and others who are dependent on ranching, timber and energy interests for access to hunting lands, moneyed clientele for trophy hunts or cold-cash for donations.  My sense is that these associations come with significant blinders that prevent entities from seeing or speaking out about the wildlife impacts of these commercial activities.  I suspect too that the associations generate a certain amount of obligate empathy that calls for endorsement of actions such as predator control, timber harvests in excess of ecological need and road building.  Maybe this was why Teddy was really spinning?

 

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

Dec09

Problems with the White Knight, Red Queen and Wolves

By Bob FerrisGibbon wolf pack standing on snow;Doug Smith;March 2007
 
I have been working in the wolf arena for most of my post-college career and so I watched with great interest the crowds at the various wolf hearings which by all accounts and in all places leaned towards continued federal-level gray wolf protections.  At the same time I have also watched as the condemning comments from the national and international scientific community have become more pronounced and wide spread and the vitriol and tactics from the anti-wolf forces have escalated and become more reckless.  
 

Given all of this I felt the necessity to comment because we are nearing the wire at the end of the comment period on federal gray wolf delisting (December 17th), but it is sometimes a problem to think about these things when your wife is in the living room listening to golden oldies including Jefferson Airplane’s classic White Rabbit.  So some key elements emerged for me somewhere between the “pill that makes you larger” and “feed[ing] your head.”
 
“Safari Club International may have been the only organization backing the FWS, a somewhat unusual position for the service to be in. But if FWS officials Gary Frazer and Mike Jimenez felt uncomfortable, they didn’t show it, as the large number of speakers stretched the hearing well past its scheduled finish of 8:30 p.m.” Endangered Species and Wetlands Report October 1, 2013
 
 “But more than 350 wolf advocates, who paraded from a nearby hotel and dominated the hearing, oppose the federal push to lift protection. They favor continued federal protection so that wolves that wander beyond their current stronghold in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho will have a better chance of survival.”  Denver Post November 20, 2013
 
“Public comments on a pair of proposals by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that would affect gray wolf recovery efforts nationwide ran about 2 to 1 in favor of expansion of the wolf recovery program, but cattle and sheep ranchers said the program is a failure and needs to be discontinued.” Albuquerque Journal November 21, 2013
 
“In the meantime, wolf advocates have been showing up in force at the federal hearings, along with a smaller number of ranchers. About 350 wolf advocates marched from a nearby hotel and dominated a hearing Tuesday in Denver, The Denver Post reported.
 
The turnout was similar Friday in Sacramento. The ranchers who spoke were often met with skeptical outbursts from the crowd. Those who called on federal officials not to delist the gray wolf as an endangered species received loud applause and cheers.” Sacramento Bee November 23, 2013
 
When the men (and women) on the chessboard 
Get up and tell you where to go (Listen)
These consistent majorities for continued federal protections for wolves are encouraging but not the total story.  So let’s review.  We now know that a significant body of scientists including the American Society of Mammalogists and most of the public (i.e., the owners of the wolves and the public land where they are recovering most of the time) oppose the premature delisting of gray wolves in the US.  So the popularity footrace is won and the questions being raised nationally and internationally about the science indicate that the USFWS position is far from being without scientific controversy.  
 
We also know that the opposition to delisting consists mainly of the livestock industry and some, but not all hunters.  What’s more these hunters are generally from the trophy hunting community that has been treated to a nearly constant barrage of anti-wolf rhetoric based on myths, half-truths and quite a few outright lies.  Likewise we understand that these two narrow, but historically powerful interests have worked hard to convince some western fish and wildlife agencies to make statements supporting delisting.   While some agencies have acquiesced to this pressure and issued statements, the prudence and appropriateness of these proclamations in the absence of inclusive public processes is being questioned by state legislators in places like Washington as well as by citizens who are engaged in the process.  
 
The White Knight really is Talking Backwards
There is also ample evidence that the USFWS has historically exerted a greater geographic scope of effort for other species recovery efforts such as bald eagles, brown pelicans, peregrine falcons, American alligators, and grizzly bears making their geographically restricted stance on wolves arbitrary and nonsensical.  The Service’s exit strategy appears even more ethically and ecologically irresponsible as we observe state management actions post-delisting in the Northern Rockies and the Great Lakes that are not scientifically justified or even rational in some cases.  
 
And study after study indicates that there is significant appropriate habitat in the Pacific Northwest and Southern Rockies as well as the need for other populations to insure the necessary connectedness between populations and the genetic dynamic that all populations need to thrive.  In all of this we fully acknowledge that there have been great changes and developments in the way we look at species and populations.  And yes it is complicated.  Genetic analyses that are commonplace now and concepts such as minimal viable populations (MVPs) or habitat viability analyses (HVAs), for instance, did not exist when the wolf was first listed in 1973.  But many forward looking leaders and scientists at USFWS understood that these concepts were coming which was why the federal listing was modified taxonomically and geographically in 1978.  The current agency stance takes us back in times rather than forward.  
 
The Red Queen cannot say “Off with their Heads”
While we are encouraged by the outpouring of all who have attended the meetings and submitted comments both from the advocacy community and from the halls of science, we are still very concerned as this is a decision that ultimately rests with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell—the veritable queen of wildlife in this country.   We need to make sure she knows that the prevailing science and public opinion both hold that this delisting is ill-advised and premature.  And we need to be loud and articulate enough to be heard over the mad hatters and march hares that are currently whispering in her ears.
 
We Need to Take the Pill that Makes Us Larger 
All this means that we cannot sit back and be complacent.  We really need one more final and "larger" push before the comment period ends on December 17th.  We know all of have been working so hard on this for more than six months, but in the USFWS’ current world view, “logic and proportion” do seem to “have fallen sloppy dead.”  Logic needs to awakened.  So please make sure that you have filed comments with us or the USFWS.  And help make us "larger" by sharing this post or similar pleas with friends and family.  Exert a little extra effort and give the wolves a true gift this season.  
 

 

[Author's Note: Before the cards and letters start flowing, I am really not making any statements in the above about taking pills or eating mushrooms one way or another, but I am advocating engaging in the type of advocacy some of us experienced in the 1960s or are trying to encourage during these times of needed change.  Be the "White Rabbit" for the wolf and I look forward to seeing many of  you at the auction this coming weekend.  Bob]

Dec04

Jim Beers Speaks and America Dies (a little)

by Bob FerrisMt.-Emily-Pack-Pups-2013
 
I am angry.  Maybe it is the weather and looming winter darkness, but I suspect it is something else entirely or maybe two things.  Oh yes, now I know.  I am upset that the US has slipped below average in science, math and reading.  This is incredibly tragic and makes the job of getting people to understand the value of predators and the complexity of ecological interactions even harder.  Our national tendency to think of ourselves as exceptional and right really works so much more effectively, if we are exceptional and right.  We are compromised and gullible when we lose our edge, which brings me to the second thing.
 
Wolves Kill Female Hikers, Liberals Cover It Up
 
The above headline is making the internet rounds and is being pushed by a group called the Western Center for Journalism.  Who, you might ask?  Well, this is a group run by Floyd Brown who was the founding chairman of a little organization called Citizens United—as in that little Supreme Court decision that changed the face of American politics.  He is also notable—according to his biography—for his role in producing the infamous “Willie Horton Ad” and a TV campaign in support of Clarence Thomas’ candidacy as supreme court justice (a connection perhaps?).  And now he resurfaces heading up this group that claims that it is "the place to go to read news exposing media bias and learn the truth."  (Please pardon any typos at this point, because I am shaking uncontrollably.)
 
So back to the story about the female hikers and the liberal cover-up, is there any “truth” to that?  Yes, two women went missing in the Craters of the Moon National Monument near Boise, Idaho.  One was found in September and officials believe that she died of hyperthermia and exposure.  The second woman was just found and they are doing toxicology studies to pin down cause of death.  But nowhere in the legitimate press is there any mention of wolves.  This appears for all intents and purposes to be a case where two good friends hiked too far and died as result (see article here).   Our condolences go out to their families and loved ones. 
 
“Retired US Fish & Wildlife Biologist Jim Beers (jimbeers7@comcast.net) and other area citizens fear that a marauding wolf pack or other predators like a bear or a cougar may have attacked, killed and eaten the women.  “Distortions of the evidence to exonerate the wolves” may serve the larger aim of the feds who want the Gray Wolf to remain listed on the Endangered Species registry.”  Wolves Kill Female Hikers, Liberals Cover It Up by Suzanne Eovaldi December 2, 2013 
 
OK, so now I get it.  This is what would be considered an “anti-Onion” story: One that is so bad, so fact-challenged and so poorly reported that it actually seems like a parody, but it is really someone’s lame attempt at journalism. This factual travesty would be almost funny were it not for the fact that this bitter, hate filled “journalist” teamed up with a bitter and discredited wildlife biologist with the express purpose of dropping a myth bomb right on the tail end of the comment period for federal gray wolf delisting. And they used this awful, awful tragedy for this misguided political purpose.  It is extremely hard to imagine what could possibly motivate Ms. Eovaldi and Mr. Beers to employ this unspeakable and underhanded tactic.  
 
"US citizens nationwide are being urged by Western residents to comment at this address: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=FWS-HQ-ES-2013-0073 by the December 17, 2013 deadline for public comments.  Two talking points include the fact that the Gray Wolf is not in danger of extinction. In fact, populations now far exceed the numbers originally proposed for the recovery effort.  Beers warns that wolf populations have inundated the states of MT, ID, OR, and WA.  AZ and NM are slated to receive more wolf populations, courtesy of the feds, and CA, CO, UT, & TX are facing forcible injections of wolves.  Very dangerous wolf-hybrids are being sighted from IL, MO, and the Dakotas into OH & PA!"  Wolves Kill Female Hikers, Liberals Cover It Up by Suzanne Eovaldi December 2, 2013
 
Some say that the ends justify the means, but I do not really buy that.  The Citizen’s United decision in a big way and this piece in its own small way are killing America.  When someone is so driven by their political and philosophical beliefs that the truth and methods mean nothing, then freedom becomes meaningless.  

 

Nov16

RMEF: Mutiny and the False Flag

By Bob Ferris
 
I often read historic fiction about the time when big sailing ships ruled the seas.  One frequent theme of these novels is mutiny.  The more I think about the situation at the Rocky Mountian Elk Foundation, the more it reminds me of a ship where a mutiny has taken place.  But instead of those below decks rebelling and placing the officers in the brig, we have the marketing department locking up and gagging the scientists.  And these mutinous ships often flew false flags to fool the casual observer, but under close examination with spyglasses those on the quarterdeck were seen for what they truly were–pirates in the making.  
 
wolf recovery graph_final       
Northern-Yellowstone-Elk-Herd-Trends
RMEF's False Flag   The Flag the Rest of US Use 
 
I think of this analogy because I stumbled on to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's revamped “Get the Facts” page this weekend.  (I wasn’t looking for trouble, I was actually looking for…facts.)  The page is interesting for several reasons not the least of which is that the comments from their own community are largely not positive.  Though I do commend them for allowing criticism to stay on their page, my hope is that they will experience more constructive criticism and perhaps even do something about it.  
 
RMEF Comments from LIfe MemberThis page is purely orchestrated spin.  It is at its core “cherry-picked” and misleading just as the first commenter pointed out (please see RMEF graph at the top left of this piece and compare it to the longer term trends in the second graph to the right).  We see this same strategy used by climate deniers who grab a section of a graph that proves their point while ignoring the larger picture which does not. While we understand that deniers are intellectual outliers and often the minions of economic interests, we expect better from organizations like the RMEF who claim to embrace science.  
 
The intellectual slight-of-hand regarding elk numbers is fairly heavy handed and transparent in spite of RMEF's investment in graphics. It is a well painted false flag and the addition of the wolf population trends implying causation when independent research funded by RMEF does not draw this conclusion is a nice touch, but it is still what it is: False and meant to deceive.  
 
“In spite of years of litigation on wolf management, the population numbers identified by this team of highly qualified scientists has never been disputed or changed by the courts.”  RMEF “Get the Facts”.  
 
The graph ploy is clumsy but some of the other arguments they put out are crafty and nuanced such as their arguments regarding population goals (see above). This is designed to make the reader believe that the courts have reviewed the science and found it sound. The only problem is that courts are not scientific bodies and do not review or make decisions on the strengths or weaknesses of science.  In fact under the iconic Chevron Decision the courts grant nearly automatic deference to the government in terms of science. RMEF either has not followed the heated debate about these population numbers in the scientific community, does not understand the legal system or is purposely trying to mislead.  My sense is that it could be all three.
 
As we approach the final extended comment period for the USFWS gray wolf delisting proposal on December 17th it is important for all of us to stand up and take out our spyglasses so we can identify the false flags and mutinous ships that we may see before us.  We need for the USFWS to follow the course of sound science and not let these modern day pirates lead them astray or give them cover should the political faction within the USFWS elect to imprison their scientists and promulgate a similar mutiny themselves.  
 

Oct21

USFWS’s Wolf Delisting Fiasco (Last Chance for Comments)

By Bob FerrisPhoto by Scott Flaherty

Last June when the US Fish and Wildlife Service submitted a proposal to essentially delist gray wolves in the Western States they compromised the credibility of the Agency, ignored the public will and opened themselves to what has become global criticism from the scientific community.  This latter shortcoming was epitomized by the recent letter in the international publication Nature called Grey wolves left out in the cold: US plan to remove federal protection elicits howls of protest.  

“I apologize for telling you that you were on the project and then having to give you this news. I understand how frustrating it must be, but we have to go with what the service wants.” Line from letter to one of the expelled peer-review scientists from AMEC, the USFWS contractor for the peer-review.  

Now all of this reflects on the content of the proposal and whether it passes the giggle test which is does not.  In addition, there are also numerous process issues.  First and foremost is the Agency’s selection of a foreign consulting firm with ties to the energy and development communities as a contractor to deal with scientific peer review and enabling them to purge dissenting scientists.  This issue of Agency bias and them forcefully walking this proposal to a predetermined outcome was further exacerbated by the Agency’s over-reliance on agriculture and trophy hunter-dominated fish and wildlife agencies and legislators in the West as surrogates for the public they serve and as a back-up choir to their premature delisting proposal.   This is particularly problematic when we have graphic and gruesome examples of the actions of the three Northern Rockies states post-delisting.  

While we are rolling out shortcomings of the US FWS proposal we also urge the Agency to take a hard look at criteria five listed in section 4(a)(1) of the Endangered Species Act which goes like this: There are other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.  The agency should realize that wolf bigotry in many instances is manmade and that it is and remains a factor that affects the wolves’ continued existence in places where they are and is a barrier to their continued recovery.  While the Service is aware of this significant factor they have done really very little to address it and have left this task up to conservation groups and other to counter the myth promulgated by organizations like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, and a variety of other "wedge" groups.

While the US Fish and Wildlife Service is demonstrating their anxiousness to step away from gray wolf recovery in the West, they have materially failed to provide a scientifically defensible proposal, polluted the process with bias, and neglected to address one of the core reasons for the imperilment of this important ecological actor.  And this situation is only made worse by the woefully inadequate number and scope of public hearings and the government shut down.  The Service needs to go back to drawing board and come back when they have made legitimate attempts to set and meet defensible recovery goals in the rest of the Pacific Northwest and the Southern Rockies, dealt realistically with these manmade factors, and broadly engaged the scientific community and addressed their issues. 

If you are upset by this proposal and want to do something for wolves, please sign our petition, submit your own comments by October 28, 2013 (see Do the Wolf Waltz for details) and support our work to protect this important species and the habitats that wildlife need to survive and thrive.  

 

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