Posts Tagged ‘Oregon’

Mar23

Cascadia Halts Huge Public Lands Clearcutting Outside Eugene

Press Release
For Immediate Release

March 23, 2015

Contact:
Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746
Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator, Oregon Wild, 541-344-0675

Conservationists Halt Public Lands Clearcutting Outside of Eugene
BLM Pulls Decision After Lawsuit for Largest Lane Co Clearcut in 20 Years

EUGENE, Ore.— Public opposition and a legal challenge from Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild has prompted the Eugene Bureau of Land Management to place on hold its plans to clearcut 259 acres of public lands just outside of Springfield, Oregon near Shotgun Creek.  The “Second Show” timber sale would have been the largest clearcut on federal lands in Lane County in 20 years.

This logging proposal elicited over 700 public comments, largely in opposition to the proposed clearcutting .  Local residents raised concerns about clean water, Chinook salmon, and logging some of the last old forests in an already degraded watershed.

“I am extremely relieved that these mature trees may now have a chance to become a real old growth forest. They are located very near the BLM Shotgun Park and Recreation Area and I believe the BLM should focus on preserving our public lands for wildlife, recreation, and future generations,” said Ellen Furstner, a Marcola resident who commented on the sale.  “Protecting the old forest that is left should be our priority to fight global warming. It’s just a shame our federal agencies do not see it that way.”

After the BLM’s decision to move forward with logging, Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild filed a “protest” with BLM but BLM failed to pick up their mail at the post office and refused to consider the protest. Seneca Sawmill then purchased the sale, and Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild were forced to file suit in federal court arguing that the BLM neglected to analyze the effects of clearcutting in conjunction with ongoing commercial logging and road construction in the same area.  BLM withdrew their decision to log the Second Show timber sale on March 19 before answering the complaint and before the court could rule on the merits of the case.

“Our federal timber lands have been hammered by reckless clearcut logging for the past 90 years.  Salmon and spotted owl populations are plummeting, water quality is terribly diminished, and our federal timber lands have more roads than Los Angeles,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Yet despite the science and public opposition, the BLM continues to target mature forests.  The agency refuses to open its eyes.”
 
Decades of past clearcutting has resulted in federal lands that are now overstocked with dense young Douglas fir plantations.  Conservation groups have been working with the BLM for the past decade to meet timber targets by commercially thinning these younger forests.

“The Second Show proposal is a big step backward,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild. “Restoration thinning has allowed the agency to meet its timber goals without clearcutting and without doing undue harm to wildlife habitat and watersheds. Clearcutting public lands should be put in the dust-bin of history where it belongs.”

The Second Show decision has been pulled, but the agency may again elect to proceed with the controversial logging after revising its analysis documents.  The revision process will be open to the public, and the BLM will respond to public concerns and questions about the proposed logging.  

For a copy of the complaint click here.

Mar17

Cascadia Wildlands Defeats White Castle Clearcutting in Court

Press Release: March 17, 2015

Contact: Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746

Judge Rejects "Eco-Forestry" Clearcutting on O&C Lands

Controversial "variable retention regeneration harvest" clearcuts in White Castle timber sale declared illegal; conservationists win on all counts.

A US District Court judge has ruled in favor of white castle treesconservation groups Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands in their legal challenge of a controversial clearcut logging project on public lands in Douglas County. At stake in the case was the Bureau of Land Management’s “White Castle” logging project which proposed clearcutting 160 aces of 100-year old trees using a controversial methodology developed by Drs. Jerry Franklin and Norm Johnson referred to as “variable retention regeneration harvest” sometimes referred to as “eco-forestry.” In her ruling, Judge Ann Aiken found that the BLM’s environmental review fell far short of fully considering the full range of harm that could result from clearcutting.

“This ruling proves that BLM can’t just re-name a clearcut something else and then expect it to suddenly be acceptable,” said Sean Stevens, Executive Director of Oregon Wild. “The White Castle timber sale was a test to see if eco-forest clearcutting could pass legal muster or public scrutiny, and it failed.”

Attorney Jennifer Schwartz argued on behalf of the conservation plaintiffs and repeatedly highlighted the scientific dispute surrounding the project and “variable retention harvest,” especially its implementation in older forests and spotted owl critical habitat. The Court ultimately determined that “The [spotted owl’s] Recovery Plan, the [spotted owl’s] critical habitat proposal, comments from the public and scientists, and Franklin and Johnson's own reports demonstrated the existence of ‘a substantial dispute’ casting ‘serious doubt upon the reasonableness’ of BLM's decision to harvest forest stands over 80 years old.”

By the BLM’s own admission, the White Castle sale was intended as a prototype for greatly expanding clearcutting on other BLM O&C lands, a factor that weighed heavily in the judge’s ruling. The judge found the precedential nature of the project worthy of greater scrutiny: “Project materials describe the pilot projects as test of new harvest methods and ‘new policies’ that could supplant BLM's current ‘risk-adverse strategy’ of avoiding regeneration harvesting and other ‘active management’ methods.[] Approval of the White Castle Project will not have binding impact on future projects, but it will, by design, shape BLM forestry methods and strategies moving forward.

“The scariest part of this project was its potential to set the tone for logging across 2 million acres of Western Oregon BLM,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “The project was mired in scientific uncertainty and was the obvious result of political pressure to bail out county politicians by returning clearcutting to our public forests. I hope this ruling convinces the BLM to revisit its intentions for our public lands.”

The proposed timber sale lies within publicly-owned forest in the South Myrtle Creek watershed, near the community of Canyonville. The Roseburg BLM District proposed the controversial “eco-forestry” logging method as justification to clearcut over 187 acres, including 160 acres of trees over a century old.

Bulldozing roads and other destructive activities associated with the project would also have targeted additional trees over 150 years old. Federal biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have acknowledged nearly 200 acres of habitat for threatened wildlife would be damaged or destroyed by the logging. In her ruling, the judge found the likely effects of this clearcutting to require the BLM to conduct a much more rigorous environmental analysis than they have done thus far.

buck rising white castleDespite the fact that BLM has been largely meeting its timber targets for the last 15 years, primarily through non-controversial thinning of young forests, the agency has recently pursued more controversial projects as a way to increase logging. BLM claimed that clearcutting the White Castle forest would benefit the environment by removing mature trees in order to favor shrubs and brush, even though such habitat is not rare like old forest. As part of the same planning process, Roseburg BLM carried out a similar and related clearcutting project in younger forests, known as Buck Rising. Conservationists did not challenge the Buck Rising project in court but they were not pleased with the results.

“BLM claims that since they intend to retain a few patches of standing trees , it isn't really a clearcut,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild . “Anyone who has seen the aftermath of logging at Buck Rising would have a difficult time explaining the difference between acres of stumps and rutted earth created by eco-forestry and those created by old style clearcutting.”

 

A copy of the legal decision can be found here.

Photos of the White Castle forest can be found here. (please credit to Francis Eatherington)

Photos from the BLM's Buck Rising clearcuts can be found here. (please credit to Francis Eatherington)

Feb11

Exciting Leadership Transition at Cascadia Wildlands

Dear Cascadia Wildlands Supporters,

Bushwacking through head-high ferns to find the elusive Devil’s Staircase waterfall. Watching salmon thrash upstream to their natal grounds. Hearing the pre-dawn keer of the marbled murrelet high in the canopy. Knowing wolves are reclaiming their rightful place back in Cascadia. Educating and empowering communities to confront power imbalances. These are the things that keep me feeling alive and ever committed to the work of Cascadia Wildlands.

It is an exciting time for me. I’ve recently been asked by Cascadia Wildlands’ Board of Directors to serve as our interim executive director as Bob Ferris phases into retirement.

I’m determined to lead our powerful team into the future and further realize our vision of vast old-growth forests, rivers full of wild salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion.

I’m grateful for what Bob brought to Cascadia Wildlands over the past three years to make us a stronger organization. His expertise in conservation biology, decades of non-profit experience, and his ability to dig up the dirt on and expose the despoilers of wild nature are just a few things that have helped take us to the next level.

Photo taken July 6 2013 of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack. Subadult wolves assist in the raising of the pups. Photo courtesy of ODFWEvery day, I’m amazed at what we have accomplished for a conservation organization our size. I get even more fired up for what we have our sights on. Because 2015 may be the year gray wolves get established in the Kalmiposis Wilderness, northern California, Oregon’s Willamette National Forest, and Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Much of Oregon’s remarkable wolf recovery has been facilitated by our legal challenge that halted wolf killing in Oregon and ensuing landmark settlement agreement that created the strongest wolf plan in the country.

Please dig deep to help Cascadia accomplish this critical work in the 2015 year by making a tax-deductible donation today.

Breathtaking photo of the Tongass National Forest. Photo courtesy David Beebe.With continued determination, we will have a lasting conservation solution for Oregon’s 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest now that we have ground old-growth clearcutting to a halt. This year we hope to put a nail in the coffin of the proposed 150-foot-wide, 230-mile-long liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline and export facility slated for Coos Bay that would wreak havoc for salmon, wildlife and our climate. And we will continue to fight tooth-and-nail against the 6,000-acre Big Thorne old-growth timber sale in Alaska’s fabled Tongass National Forest (image at left) in Cascadia’s northern reaches.

Having been with Cascadia Wildlands essentially since its formation over 15 years ago, I’m excited, rejuvenated and ready to lead the organization into the future. Thanks for believing in us, taking action when called on, and supporting our conservation work over the years and into the future. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any thoughts or questions.

Will you join me in supporting Cascadia right now?

For a wild and free Cascadia,

Josh Laughlin Signature

Josh Laughlin
Interim Executive Director/Campaign Director
jlaughlin(at)cascwild(dot)org

P.S. You can also mail a check or money order made out to Cascadia Wildlands and send it to POB 10455, Eugene, OR 97440.

 

Photo Credits: Top left, Josh Laughlin, Interim Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands, at Devil's Staircase in 2012. (Photo courtesy Cascadia Wildlands.) Middle right, Subadult and pup from the Imnaha Pack, taken July 2013. (Photo by ODFW.) Bottom left, Breathtaking photo of the Tongass National Forest. (Photo courtesy of David Beebe.)

 

Jan15

Cascadia Challenges BLM Clearcutting Just Northeast of Eugene

Press Release
For Immediate Release
January 15, 2015

Contact:
Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 541-434-1463
Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator, Oregon Wild, 541-344-0675

Conservationists Challenge Largest Eugene BLM Clearcut in 20 Years

EUGENE, Ore.— Conservation organizations filed a lawsuit today challenging the largest clearcut approved on federal land in Lane County in twenty years. The Second Show timber sale proposes 259 acres of public lands clearcutting and is located on public Bureau of Land Management lands just outside of Springfield, Oregon near Shotgun Creek.  Clearcutting will have significant impacts to the watershed, which is already degraded, and will impact a popular recreation area.                                            

“It is a shame to see the BLM moving forward with this sale after the incredible amount of public opposition it received,” said Nick Cady, legal director with Cascadia Wildlands. “This sale could have real and devastating consequences on watershed health, salmon, and clean water for the surrounding communities.”

Despite the large scope of the project, the BLM neglected to analyze the effects of the project in conjunction with its ongoing commercial logging and road construction in the same area.  A basic tenant of environmental law is that federal agencies cannot evaluate projects in a vacuum, they must take into account the additive impact to the surrounding community based upon current ongoing or proposed projects.  In this case, the BLM has already moved forward on 1500 acres of commercial logging and over 25 miles of logging and access roads. The Second Show sale proposes clearcutting one of the few healthy, maturing stands remaining in the area.

“These forests are older than your grandpa and are developing fine habitat if we leave them alone.  Every indication is that we need to protect forests like this for fish, wildlife, water quality, and to protect our climate,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild.  “We have worked with BLM for the last decade helping them meet timber targets by thinning dense young forests.  Now they are reverting to the destructive clearcutting practices of the past. It feels like a slap in the face.”

Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild officially raised these concerning issues to the Bureau of Land Management numerous times, but the Bureau neglected to respond due to purported mistakes by the Springfield postal service.  

For a copy of the complaint click here: Second Show Complaint

Oct08

Annual Bear Cub Orphaning Hangs on Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Vote

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
Media Contact: Nick Cady: 541-434-1463; nick@cascwild.org
 
Annual Bear Cub Orphaning Hangs on Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Voteblack bear and cub
 
(September 8, 2014) – Cascadia Wildlands and a coalition of conservation groups are urging Gov. John Kitzhaber and the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to reject the “Siskiyou Plus” proposal to expand springtime black bear hunting in southwest Oregon, during a time in which mother bears are nursing dependent cubs. The coalition of local and national conservation groups sent letters in advance of the commission vote.
 
Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands said: “Expanding the spring bear hunt and putting mother bears with young cubs at risk is simply nonsensical. Orphaning more bear cubs in the state will lead to higher levels of human/bear conflict and result in an increased cost to taxpayers.”
 
In Oregon, it is unlawful to kill cubs less than one-year-old or mother bears with cubs less than one-year-old. However, by increasing the number of tags offered during the spring nursing season, the likelihood of accidentally taking mother black bears is also increased. Since cubs are dependent on their mothers for survival for 16 to 17 months, orphaned cubs will likely die from starvation, exposure to the elements or predation.
 
Scott Beckstead, Oregon senior state director for The Humane Society of the United States, said: “If this dangerous proposal passes, the chances of orphaning bear cubs in Oregon will greatly increase. Mother bears regularly forage at great distances from their cubs, which may cause hunters to mistakenly believe they’ve shot a lone female, dooming the cubs.”
 
The Siskiyou Plus bear hunt seeks to open up a new geographic area in southwestern Oregon to spring bear hunting, and will offer more than 200 additional bear-hunting tags.
 
Sally Mackler, Oregon carnivore representative for Predator Defense, said: “It is disingenuous to hold spring bear hunts and at the same time prohibit killing cubs less than a year old. Spring bear hunts inevitably result in the killing of mother bears and their cubs being subjected to prolonged and painful deaths.”
 
Oregon voters have twice favored providing strong protection for bears in statewide ballot contests. Liberalizing spring bear hunting would be at odds with voter sentiment in the state.
 
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Sep11

Female wolf is Northwest descendant: Trail cameras first spotted OR-7’s black female companion in May (an Excerpt)

By Lacey Jarrell
Klamath Falls Herald and News
September 6, 2014 
 
The mysterious female wolf that mated with OR-7 is a confirmed descendant of Northwest wolves.Potential OR-7 mate
 
According to a press release, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has received the results of scat samples sent to the University of Idaho for analysis. The samples, collected in Southwest Oregon in May and July, identified OR-7’s mate and two of the pair’s pups as wolves.
 
************
Cascadia Wildlands Executive Director Bob Ferris dubbed OR-7’s female companion “Wandering Wanda,” or just Wanda for short, in a June blog post for his organization.
 
“We got tired of calling her the uncollared wolf that came from nowhere,” Ferris said. “Wanda probably wandered as far as OR-7 and her story is probably just as remarkable as his.”
 
Ferris said although Wanda is just a nickname, he believes it’s a reasonable solution to talking about a well-known animal that doesn’t have anything to call it by. ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said biologists don’t name wolves; however, as a function of being collared, wolves are given an identification, such as OR-7’s. Dennehy said “OR” represents the state — Oregon — and “7” indicates he was the seventh wolf collared in Oregon.
 
 
 
Aug21

A Clearcut Decision

By Bob Ferris
 
Francis Eatherington and I walked some timber sales yesterday near Roseburg (these are her pictures).  It was good for us to spend time together because we do not often get to do that—particularly where we get to walk in the Bob in the Foresttrees and talk in that way that people do when walking in the woods.
 
In the grand scheme of things neither of the sales was particularly horrendous or anything that made us happy in any way.   Did we like them?  No.  Could they have been better conceptualized? Yes.  Were we going to make our feelings known? Yes.  Would we sue? Probably not.  
 
Bob and Incense CedarOn one site we measured two huge trees (one Douglas Fir and one Incense Cedar) in the 5.5 to 6 foot in diameter range (DBH).  Real beauties whose post-harvest future seemed bleak.  We took pictures and rubbed our hands with dirt when we encountered the ubiquitous pitch on the surfaces we grabbed as we slipped down the slope and looked for big trees.  
 
I had walked timber sales before and seen clearcuts along with other massively destructive forestry acts, but the whole exercise helped me understand how my world differs from Francis’ work in that I work to protect and restore and she has a smoking boot applied as a brake on a runaway stage coach.  My world is largely depressing but her world seemed potentially debilitating.  (Clearly forests can make me reflective.) 
 
I also had a thought while looking up the hill towards these timber sales.  My gaze drifted across the barren expanse of a clearcut on private lands replanted with something approaching 600 seedlings per acre and an emerging flora that only seems to make sense to an herbicide enabled 2X4 but not to anything that would want to live on those slopes.  My thought had to do with land ownership.  
Myrtle Creek Clearcut
I have owned large tracts of land (and even harvested timber on those lands) and many members of my family have held that same responsibility.  And there is invariably a time when you hold your cup of coffee, day-end cocktail or partner and stare out across your acreage.  The words running around in your head differ but generally they are about some kind of pride about the fact that you own the land and are managing it well and responsibly.  
 
The pride-fullness swells most when you know that you are managing the land so that it supports your needs and values as well as not being the aesthetic and ecological disaster that looms in the darkest recesses of your human and wild neighbors’ nightmares.  If your end result does not meet or exceed these fairly modest criteria—whether you are an individual or corporation—you really ought to ask yourself why not?  Now you can rationalize your actions by claiming that it is cheaper, the trees grow straighter or it will all grow back, but you cannot get around the fact that had you done it responsibly that we would not be wrestling now over owls, murrelets, and salmon.
 
It may seem like an overly simplified notion and far too obvious, but these species did not just voluntarily jump off a cliff.  They have been pushed and pushed hard over that precipice.  Perhaps as we rush headlong into these must-pass bills to accelerate this "speeding stage coach," we should stop to look at this image of a clearcut and ask ourselves collectively if this fills us with pride and demonstrates our responsible stewardship of lands.  Did I mention that walks in the woods make me reflective?  
 
Jul28

Cruising Through a Three Dog (Pup) Night

By Bob Ferris
 
In conservation there are always turning points. Yo-YoFor instance, I remember working on a swan project in the 1990s that involved ultra-light aircraft and imprinting young Trumpeters to teach them a migration route.  My boss at the time, Rodger Schlickeisen (below left at left), turned to me the morning of the first leg of the trial migration and said: Do you think this is going to work? 
 
In the time leading up to that point I had not given failure much thought, but I did then.  We had invested more than two hundred thousand dollars in the project and I was getting more and more nervous as the ultra-light cruised back and forth and none of the swans rose to follow.  All our months of efforts selling the Atlantic Flyway Council on the idea, getting the permits, and training the swans came down to this one moment in time. 
 
And then Yo-Yo the swan (at right above) took flight and the others followed.  I was ecstatic.  The project had pivoted on the wing beats of a young and improbably named swan who simply did what swans had done for hundreds of thousands of years—took off after the “leading parent” and started its first long flight. 
 
Rodger and swans
My wife and I were getting ready to return from a family trip to California, when I got the news that Wanda and Journey had at least three pups rather than the two that we had originally thought (see one of the pups below right and more photos on our facebook page).  This welcome news put the frosting on an already delicious cake and reminded me of that feeling so many years ago sitting by that frosty field when Yo-Yo took off. 
 
We hit Dunsmuir, California about 10PM and for some reason we just started to Wolf Puphowl.  Perhaps it was the glow off Mount Shasta or the acknowledgement of what was happening wolf-wise to the north of us. 
 
Or maybe it was just the joy of turning this important corner in western wolf conservation.  We were hoarse but happy when we reached Oregon and we came within legitimate howling range of Journey, Wanda and crew, but I am not sure that mattered to us in the least.
 
 
 
 
 
Jun25

A Trip to Washington DC

By Francis Eatherington

francis in DC

 
During the week of June 16, representatives of Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild, and KS Wild traveled to Washington DC to discuss two bills, one from Senator Wyden and one from Representative DeFazio. Both mandate an increase of logging on western Oregon BLM lands.
 
We had over 21 meetings with agency staff, senators and representatives. We pointed out that if laws like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) are weakened in Oregon (as both the Wyden and DeFazio bills propose) it sets a precedent nation-wide.
 
Both bills claim western Oregon BLM districts are in litigation “gridlock” because of environmental troublemakers. It’s not true. There is no gridlock. In December 2013 the BLM released information going back 6 years showing the BLM has been meeting its timber targets when averaged over all western Oregon districts. For instance, in 2012, the timber target for the 6 BLM districts with O&C land was 203 mmbf (million board feet). The exceeded that by offering 205.4 mmbf of mostly non-controversial, non-litigated timber sales. It is hyperbole to call this “gridlock.” Instead, the problem is that the BLM Districts with dryer forests (Medford and Roseburg) haven’t been able to meet their targets, which were set too high. But that is made up by the BLM districts with wetter forests (Coos Bay, Salem and Eugene) that have exceeded their target volume.
 
The Oregon congressional delegation is being pressured by counties who have such low tax revenue (and low tax rates) that they want to return to the days when they reaped in a huge share of BLM logging revenue.
 
We pointed out that reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools legislation would solve that problem on the federal level, while we recognized that state and county governments need to address the funding crises at local levels. For instance, the large percentage of private land in Oregon owned by the timber industry has a far lower tax rate than rural families pay. And if a timber corporation owns more than 5,000 acres, they pay even less taxes. Added to those tax gifts is the fact that industry has no fees on the large amount of raw-log exports from Oregon, unlike the payments required from industry in California and Washington State on raw-log exports.
 
On our last day in DC we discussed with legislators our concerns over exporting Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). Veresen, a Canadian corporation, wants to use southern Oregon to export fracked gas to Asia. Veresen claims that if they can’t export, they will have to stop fracking. They want to take property from over 300 Oregonians for a pipeline to Coos Bay to feed a proposed LNG terminal in a tsunami and earthquake subduction zone.
 
While the staff of Senator Wyden seemed concerned when they met with us, they could offer no explanation to Senator Wyden’s statements that he “applauds” this project. They will get back to us on if he meant he applauds condemning his constituents lands, or he just applauds the release of huge amounts of methane in fracking, as methane is 100 times more polluting than coal when released unburned into the atmosphere. I’ll be sure to let you when they get back to us.
 
Jun24

The Hopes in a Howl and Science

By Bob Ferris0462_wenaha_male_wolf
 
One of the distinct advantages for me of working in a small organization versus a large one in DC with security doors and receptionists, is that I get to talk with people and see how they are impacted by our work.  Yesterday was a prime example. 
 
About mid-day yesterday an animated woman came into our office semi-out-of-breath and beaming. She had a story to tell.  She had just come back from camping in rural part of Cascadia about 150 miles from where a certain very famous wolf couple (i.e., Journey and Wanda) is currently thought to be tending to their pups.
 
“We heard them,” she said. 
 
OR-7And what followed was a discussion about wolves and wolf howls—how they sound and how they differ from coyotes or dogs.  We talked about the deceptiveness of distance and a little wolf biology and then I asked her, “Did this enhance your camping experience?“
 
Of course I knew what her answer would be even before it came bubbling out because I’d had this conversation hundreds of times before.   I did not have to listen to words because excitement was written all over her face and in the tone of her talk.  I cannot say for certain what she heard and whether or not it was a wolf, wolves or “the wolves” and it really does not matter.  She—like so many before her and many to follow—was excited simply by the hope of wolves.  

This concept of excitement over the existence of something that is not seen and often not experienced has been discussed and debated for the two decades that I have worked on this creature of myth and mystery.  The concept of existence value, though demonstrated repeatedly by hundreds of people lining the roads in Algonquin Provincial Park near the US-Canada border hoping to hear a wolf howl (you have to listen very, very closely) or thousands sending comments from New York City on wolf recovery, is a little like the wolf itself; either you get it or you don’t.  
 
The above operates on the emotional and my wife frequently ponders why we even bothered to hire a wedding photographer, because my expression is always the same. It is her way of saying I am a scientist and while I like the howls, I am excited on a deeper level by the ecological implications of the wolf and all that we are learning about this amazing critter. And I may not have been at that campground and heard that howl but I have been reading the literature and the last month or so has been pretty amazing with four papers of note.
 
The first one out of the chute is that paper about the BC coastal wolves and how diet and habitat might be creating genetic separation between fish-eating coastal wolves and their inland neighbors.  I am still digesting this but had a short conversation with one of the co-authors, Paul Paquet, about this when we were writing our piece on the ill-advised delisting proposal by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This is an interesting and thought provoking development and it brings to mind long ago, rancorous arguments in the scientific community about the possibility of species living with or near each other diverging in a process called sympatric speciation.  Good stuff.
 
The second piece in this series has to do with a theme of much interest and debate: trophic cascades.  Thomas Newsome and William Ripple out of Oregon State are the authors of a study that looked at fur trapping records across a broad expanse of Canada to see how wolf populations impact coyote and fox populations.  This article puts the punctuation mark on the idea that trophic cascades—the trickle-down economics of the animal world (only this actually works)—need lots of apex predators across a broad area to work.  
 
Cristina Eisenberg and I have had discussions about this idea that there is a critical mass required for trophic cascades.  It seems key when we look at how broadly we have to recover wolf populations to get the benefits that we need to accrue.  
 
The third article is the one on cougars and wolves.  The research found that cougars tended to avoid areas occupied by wolves.  This makes sense and addresses, in part, the concern that wolves act as an additional predator on the landscape when the story is likely more complicated than that.  Here again, the functional outcome probably has a lot to do with density and distribution and argues against the notion that a few wolves in a few places is sufficient.  
 
The last piece is fun.  It looks at the speculative function of face design and eye prominence in the dog family or canids as it relates Sierra_Nevada_Red_Fox_Keith_Slausen_US_Forest_Service_2010to sociality.  Wolves are the hands down, look-me-in-the-eye champs in this followed by foxes (at right) where we see the eyes but not pupils and then solo wild dogs where it is even hard to see the eyes.  Who knew “gazing” could be so interesting and what are the possible implications here for the social function of face and eye make-up in humans?  All very interesting so enjoy!
 
Without your help, wolf recovery will remain a shrinking shadow of a promise.  We need your help to move beyond this concept of isolated wolf refuges surrounded by hostile territories.  So whether you gravitate towards wolves because of the howl or hopes of howls or the science grabs you or both, get engaged in the process and please get active.
 
 
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