Posts Tagged ‘Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’

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
 
 
 

Jun09

Of Roosevelt Elk, Bacteria, Hooves and Herbicides

By Bob Ferris Elk US FWS
 
Over the last several years through numerous blog posts and comments Cascadia Wildlands has been forwarding two important notions. The first is that state wildlife commissions (and therefore agencies) in the West are too beholding to resource-oriented industries such as ranching, timber, mining and energy interests at the expense of hunters, anglers and our ever-dwindling wildlife legacy (1,2).
 
And, at the same time, western wildlife commissions are too accepting of the ideas forwarded by some extreme hunting groups that increasingly reflect the views of these same resource-dependent industries such as increasing clearcuts, aggressive predator control, protection of public lands grazing and more road creation for access rather than hitting the conservation sweet spots of habitat restoration, wilderness preservation, road retirement and water quality improvement (1,2). In essence, both the commissions and these more trophy hunting-oriented groups have been quietly coopted by the very elements that do damage to the natural resources needed by all wildlife and fish.
 
The most recent and troubling example involves the issue of hoof rot in Washington State’s Roosevelt elk herds. No one knows for sure at this point what is causing the hoof rot in southwestern Washington, but there are a lot of candidates both of a direct and indirect nature. One hypothesis that was put forth recently is that there is some link between combinations of factors that could include herbicide use by the forest products industry and a bacterial infection known as leptospirosis. Leptospirosis often causes severe muscle pain in mammals which might explain the limping observed in these elk as well as the lack of hoof wear on the sore legs. Leptospirosis has been present in Washington for decades.
 
Caution the below video contains images that may be disturbing to some:
 

As a wildlife biologist who frequently looks at complex interactions, I can appreciate a scenario that includes multiple causes such as massive habitat changes and herbicide use that put elk in a vulnerable condition so they present the variety of symptoms we are observing with this hoof rot phenomenon. But the idea of this being driven by leptospirosis or via an herbicide link—either through decreased habitat quality or consumption effects—has been met with apparent resistance in spite of efforts by a retired public health researcher and an expert on leptospirosis detection, Dr. Boone Mora, and hunter Jon Gosch who has written two well-researched blog posts on the topic (1,2).  In addition, farrier Krystal Davies has also made a rather cogent argument for this being laminitis associated with or driven by herbicides.
 
WDFW Herbicide
The above is a screenshot from the WDFW website.  Please note the mentions of NCASI and the University of Alberta as sources. Click here to view U of A study's funding sources. 
 
It is amazing given the volume of public commentary on habitat, herbicides and alternative diseases that the WDFW Hoof Disease power point presentation from October 2013 focused on identifying symptoms and wildly invasive cures rather than dealing with what the root causes might be such as habitat degradation and herbicide use which seem buried deep in the presentation—almost as afterthoughts. You almost get the impression when you view this slide show that the elk are at fault and should bear the brunt of the solution. Why are the root causes being ignored in favor of a narrow band of issues that are more likely symptoms? That is a great question or set of questions.
 
"The National Council for Air and Stream Improvement is an independent, non-profit research institute that focuses on environmental topics of interest to the forest products industry. Membership is open to forest products companies in the U.S., Canada, and beyond." Mission statement of NCASI from website.
 
Part of the answer to the above comes in the form of an obscure but powerful group called the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement or NCASI. Formerly known as the  National Council of the Paper Industry for Air and Stream Improvement, this is the research arm of the timber industry and often their scientific mouthpiece. NCASI seems to enjoy preferred access to Washington's wildlife agency and used as a resource (see FAQ quote above) which is troubling given that the timber industry has a long history of viewing deer and elk as unwelcome pests (1,2,3) and because of NCASI's industry biased spinning of scientific findings, regulations and other phenomena ( 1,2,3,4).
 
"During that outing, Dr. Vickie Tatum, a herbicide specialist for the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, told the hoof disease group that herbicides target specific actions in plants that don’t occur in animals. Dr. John Cook, an elk researcher who also works for the NCASI, pointed out that herbicides are used in Oregon and the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon and there’s no hoof disease there." In The Daily News May 22, 2014
 
Of particular relevance here, NCASI has also been very active in telling the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) that herbicides are not the problem.  This is probably based in part on a report by NCASI written by Dr. Tatum, NCASI researcher Larry L. Irwin Ph.D. and others with assistance from Dr. Cook.  Unfortunately, WDFW seems to be listening to the pro-herbicide rhetoric and they are not the only ones.  
 
“Larry brings decades of on-the-ground work to the table,” said David Allen, RMEF President and CEO. “His studies on elk, other wildlife, and habitat further strengthen RMEF’s resolve to acquire more science-based research and knowledge.” David Allen quoted in NCASI press release April 15, 2013. 
 
Some who have been paying attention might ask: But where is the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in all of this? Shouldn’t they and their members be outraged that the timber industry is compromising elk habitat with herbicides and forest management practices? Aren’t they the ones who should stand up for the elk, elk habitat and support Dr. Mora and Mr. Gosch in their efforts to get answers? Logical questions and some of the answer might come when you look at RMEF board of directors page and right in the middle, wearing a dark brown cowboy hat, a bolo tie and a smile sits the above mentioned Larry Irwin.  And the connection between RMEF, NCASI and Dr. Irwin is a strong one as RMEF has provided significant, long-term funding for a number of projects overseen by NCASI, Dr. Irwin and others in the timber industry (1,2,3)
 
"Improving large mammal browse was a primary focus of the first decade of research on forest herbicides (pers. comm., M. Newton, Emeritus Professor, Department of Forest Science, Oregon State University) and remains an important consideration today." in NCASI pp. 31.
 
As a former ungulate biologist I was particularly concerned with the statements made in NCASI's herbicide paper in the wildlife section on pages 29-31. Reading these pages in the absence of background one would think that the timber industry’s goal was increasing and improving forage for deer and elk and that these ungulates were only minimally impacted because the woody vegetation killed was replaced by grasses.
 
“Conversely, herbicidal control of hardwood brush for the establishment of conifer plantations may remove valuable wildlife browse species and habitat.” In Review of the Ecological Effects of Herbicide Usage in Forestry by J.P. Kimmins 1975
 
“Model results suggested that the potential for long-term changes in vegetation composition and resultant ungulate forage availability were most pronounced during winter.” in NCASI pp. 29-31.   
 
The well recognized fly–even by NCASI–in this ointment is winter. Grasses are great in the spring and summer but as they mature and summer transitions into fall these plants take their protein and ship it below ground to be stored for next year. In short, if you have killed off the woody vegetation and are left with nutritionally useless grasses what do the elk eat in winter when stress and caloric needs are high–particularly in females carrying young?
 
I was also concerned with the coverage in this section about the toxic impact of the herbicides on wildlife. Certainly this is the timber industry’s party line, but the public has compelling reasons to be dubious about the rigor of these findings as they apply to wildlife and human health too. These “benign” herbicides are turning out to be more problematic than originally thought.  Adding to this general atmosphere of distrust are stories like the one unfolding at Triangle Lake in Oregon where citizens rightfully want to know what the timber and herbicide industries have put in their waters and ultimately their bodies.   
 
"The group also heard a presentation about herbicides by Anne Fairbrother, a veterinarian and principal scientist with the Exponent research company in Seattle.
 
Herbicides have “no known mode of action in mammals,” Fairbrother said. "They’re practically nontoxic to mammals according to most of the studies that have been done. We haven’t had any observations of direct effect that we’ve been aware of on wildlife and most of these herbicides have been around for several decades.” in The Daily News June 5, 2014
 
"CropLife America represents more than 60 developers, manufacturers, formulators and distributors of virtually all the crop protection products used by American farmers and growers. We are the voice of the industry that ensures the safe and responsible use of pesticides in order to provide a safe, affordable and abundant food supply." CropLife Mission Statement from their website.
 
My nervousness over this herbicide issue is little diminished by the nuanced quote above by Dr. Anne Fairbrother whose company Exponent is a dues paying member of CropLife America along with Syngenta the manafacturer of atrazine (see also attacks on scientists).  It is noteable that Dr. Fairbrother when she was with the US EPA during the Bush II era also supported the EPA's decision to continue to allow the use of atrazine over the objections of many and an existing and growing body of scientific evidence that if anything should have dictated a more cautious approach (1,2,3,4,5,6).  Atrazine is banned in the EU.
 
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Hamlet by William Shakespeare 1602
 
All in all the herbicide users, makers and the minions for both “doth protest too much, methinks” to do anything other than raise serious questions about too tight and too trusting relationships with WDFW and other serious conflicts of interest.  And what about spending just a little bit of time with Dr. Cook’s interesting “proof” about herbicies not contributing to or being at the root of this situation because we are not seeing the same phenomenon is other places where herbicides are used like the Blue Mountains?  We have indeed seen drops in elk populations in the Blues (1,2).  And setting aside the fact that we are dealing with a different subspecies of elk, in different habitats, and under different precipitation regimes, this area also has a full compliment of predators including wolves which are coursing predators that would make quick work of limping elk affected by leptospirosis, laminitis or other diseases.  
 
Getting back to Dr. Irwin, he is coincidentally also a science advisor to our friends at the Oregon Outdoor Council (1,2,3) who have, without caveat or condition, endorsed federal legislative proposals that could greatly increase clearcutting on federal forest lands in western Oregon as well as potentially reopening the door for herbicide use on some of these lands. As we have heard numerous rumors of limping elk in Oregon and leptospirosis has been documented in the state, this really needs to be examined and questioned as it has significant implications for issues like the privatization of the Elliott State Forest and the O&C proposals—both of which could lead to more clearcuts and herbicide use.
 
Embedded in all of this is also the oft repeated cautionary tale of massive habitat changes—human-wrought and natural—leading to short term gains in ungulate populations followed by population crashes and other catastrophic problems. Ecologists and visionary wildlife managers have been trying to raise the alarm about the consequences of these phenomena and related habitat issues for nearly 100 years (see Flathead Game Reduction). Yet we tend to get shouted down, ignored or fired (1,2) both during the elation over increased populations and the ensuing panic that accompanies the crashes.
NCASI Report Tree Illustration
In the latter case of crashes some hunters and wildlife commissioners do not want to hear about solutions—like habitat restoration—that might take decades or even centuries to fully unfold. They want right-now solutions like predator control, vaccines for diseases, and other biological Band-Aids. Population explosions also reset expectations and no one wants to be reminded that succession happens and clearcuts provide good elk food resources for a decade or two before shading out needed understory for nearly two centuries.  And as the illustration above from NCASI's herbicide report shows, the "clearcut bonus" is reduced nearly to zero when those lands are densely replanted with Douglas-firs and managed with herbcides.  
 
In all of this it is important to know the players and their biases. Moreover, it is important to make sure that the solution process is appropriately designed and equipped to provide solutions that solve the root causes of this problem and protect this important public resource for future generations. Towards those ends I would make the following suggestions to the WDFW:
 
1) Get more systems thinkers such as ecologists and also folks with experience outside of laboratories involved in the process.  These need to be people willing to ask tough questions about why this might be happening in the first place and not tied to any agency or industry that might be contributing to the problem.
 
2) Take some time to educate folks on elk habitat needs and the short and long-term consequences of habitat changes, herbicide use, and plant succession on elk populations.
 
3) Be more inclusive of other voices in the process and listen more closely to the concerns of hunters, anglers, and others who own and enjoy these public resources and less to those like the timber industry, herbicie interests or their scientists whose actions tend to decrease biodiversity and ecosystem integrity.
 
4-6) Conduct research, research and more research. This may seem facetious, but there is so much that we do not know, yet we are acting in a manner that suggests that we do. The impacts of herbicides and the interactions between various products as well as their "inactive" parts needs to be fully investigated before the issue is dismissed and the public told that these chemicals are safe for wildlife and humans. The full range of bacterial and immunotoxic causes and symptoms need to be examined and considered before they are ruled out. And the human health implications of handling and consumption of infected elk need to be fully addressed as well. There are others, but this would be a great start.
 
As I mentioned above, I do not know what is causing this phenomenon. But I do know that if the process and players lack openness and are preloaded to a certain realm of answers, the solution will reflect this. If you agree with these concerns click below to request that WDFW modify their current approach and remember that they are in the elk business not in the timber and herbicide game.
Roosevelt and Muir
 
My last comment has to do with the value of citizen activism and picking effective campaign partners by shared goals and benefits rather than appearance or perceived politics. I have written volumes about the campaigns of some with ties to the resource industries to drive wedges between natural allies in the conservation and environmental communities. Instead of rehashing what I have already said let me end with this. Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir—arguably the father of modern conservation and the king of the tree huggers—were friends and effective colleagues. They did not always agree on issues—in fact they had some pretty monumental battles.  But when they worked together they accomplished amazing things that are still talked about and revered more than a century later. Perhaps this is an issue where we can all work together again and not only do something exceptional on this front but set the stage for another and much needed push to ensure the future of wildlife and wild places and, at the same time, make our future more secure. 
 
 

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?

 

Dec01

Oh Deer: Reading between the O&C Lines

By Bob FerrisBob and Deer
 
Before I even thought about wolf and bear advocacy, I worked on deer (at right).  In those pre-wolf times I fully immersed myself in all things Wallmo, was the first through the gate of Clover traps and pioneered some tranquilizer dart capture techniques for black tailed deer. Some of this is rusty now after nearly 30 years but it is coming back quickly as I sort my way once again through the complicated minefield of deer biology from the informative and authoritative to the twisted and spun.  All of us need to do this as we consider the O&C packages and what the timber industry wants you to believe about deer in relationship to clearcuts, herbicide use, replanting regimes and the value and function of old growth.  
 
To sort this out for myself I looked at three primary documents and then spent a lot of time on Google Scholar.  The core documents were: 1) Habitat Guidelines for Black-Tailed Deer: Coastal Rainforest Ecoregion (2008) written by the Mule Deer Working Group (MDWG) and sponsored by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies; 2) Oregon Black-Tailed Deer Management Plan (2008) written by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) staff with heavy input from a myriad of stakeholders including hunting, agricultural and timber interests; and 3) Wildlife in Managed Forests: Deer & Elk written for the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) by a two-person consulting firm in Hillsborough, Oregon with strong connections to the forest industry whose founder recently wrote that "deer and elk are controversial" (see page 13).
 

I have thought a lot of how best to characterize these three documents so that folks will understand their significance and their fundamental, but sometimes subtle differences.  The best I could come up with—and I understand that it borders on hyperbole—is to think of the above clip from the movie Jaws.  When you watch this piece think of Richard Dreyfuss as the MDWG trying to put forth science and commonsense.  Then think of Roy Schneider’s character as the ODFW trying to hold onto the concepts of science and commonsense while negotiating the desires of stakeholders who might not fully understand either.  And then there is Vaughn played by Murray Hamilton—think of OFRI as Vaughn: the entity that represents the financial interests involved and will not tolerate the public disclosure of any information that might be detrimental to economic activity regardless of the impacts.  
 
This impression of a scientific and commonsense spectrum—from rigorous to weak—is only reinforced when one goes to the literature cited sections of the three documents.  For instance, the MDWG work written by deer scientists—mainly with graduate degrees—cited more than 120 different papers and studies in its 47-page document (2.63/page).  This is followed by the ODFW work that justified their declarative statements with 80 separate works in their 53-page opus (1.51/page).  Then there is the OFRI work that employs a scant 15 cites in its 27-page document for a density of about one cite per every two written pages (0.55/page).
 
And while the literature density issue is telling in the OFRI document, there are several other measures to look at that are illustrative of the relative quality of the scholarship employed.  For example, fully one third of the documents cited have the same lead author indicating a narrowness of investigation and less than a third are from peer-reviewed scientific journals with the rest being from what is generally called “gray literature” including a popular website.  Certainly there will be those who see these criticisms as picky, but when dealing with complicated and contentious issues pickiness, depth of scholarship, and the credentials and biases of the authors are important.  
 
"Forestlands used primarily for the production of wood fiber have many characteristics that more closely resemble agricultural lands with intensively managed, even-aged, monocultures and understory plant species that are controlled with herbicides, rather than unaltered forest habitats. Collectively, these characteristics come at the detriment of black-tailed deer in the Coastal Rainforest Ecoregion." (MDWG report page 15)
 
"The results suggest that current commercial forestry practices are compatible with the maintenance of ungulate forage species."  (OFRI report page 12)
 
The above two quotes demonstrate the fundamental disconnect between the MDWG and OFRI worlds.  This is really not surprising when you consider that the former values deer populations and considers them ecological assets while the latter vacillates between viewing them as economically damaging pests and tolerated players (i.e., controversial).  There is no true mystery as to why each party embraces their interpretation of the dynamics but this is really not a case of equally valued “he said-she said” positions because one is broadly employing a methodology to find answers while the other is using a narrower and less complete approach to justify their desired actions (i.e., clearcuts, herbicide use, dense replanting regimes and short rotations).  
 
I fully acknowledge that this is complicated stuff and most of that complication comes from the multi-dimensional nature of black-tailed deer habitat and life-cycle needs as well as their adaptability.  If you are looking for something that can be distilled down into a simple x and y axis then black-tailed deer ecology should probably not be your field of endeavor.  
 
If you are still game, let’s start with some suppositions about their optimal habitat.  If polled, most deer biologists would probably agree that black-tailed deer do best in a diverse matrix of old-growth forest punctuated by small openings created by fire or blow downs with the former providing cover, security and protein-rich winter food and the latter abundant food for the rest of the year.  Certainly the ones involved with the MDWG subscribe to this or something very similar.  
 
"Thus, disturbances such as logging, fire, and windthrow can stimulate forage production. In the absence of management, succession towards closed canopy forest leads to decreases in overall understory biomass, until gap-phase dynamics associated with old growth stands yields patchy increases in understory production within the canopy gaps. Heavy restocking of stands, as is typical of commercial timberlands, can drastically reduce the period of post-disturbance understory proliferation. Modeling of stand dynamics and forest succession at a landscape scale in western Washington suggested that ungulate forage production peaked in the 1960s and declined thereafter through the recent past (Jenkins and Starkey 1996)." (MDWG report page 14)
 
Forestry proponents would smile at my description of what black-tailed deer need and claim that this is wonderful as their modern management provides clearcuts next to maturing forests.  Perfect, right? Well that would be partially true except that the deer take a hit when the clearcuts are large (>50 acres), planted with 400-450 Douglas fir per acre, and sprayed with herbicides.  Moreover, maturing forests if they are less than 200 years old and have a fairly closed canopy may provide some cover but do not have the robust understories that provide the needed high-protein browse necessary for winter survival.  
 
"Instead of eating large quantities of low quality forage like grass, deer must select the most nutritious plants and parts of plants. Because of this, deer have more specific forage requirements than larger ruminants." (MDWG report page 3)
 
For deer, food quality is equally as important as quantity.  Deer like other ruminants have multi-chambered digestive systems that are marvels of evolution, but the systems have their processing limits and if the food quality is low in terms of nutritional factors like protein then deer will have full stomachs but they essentially starve.
 
Herbicide Impact on Black-Tailed Deer Food
“Nonetheless, some impact of herbicides is intuitive when various types of commonly used herbicides, their target species, and intended effects are compared to a partial list of plants comprising the diet of black-tailed deer (Table 1 [see above], Brown 1961, Crouch 1981a, U.S. Forest Service 1987, Rue 1997).” (In MDWG report page 16)
 
“Black-tailed deer roam forested areas of western Washington and Oregon, but some say their numbers are declining. Scientists suspect that’s because these deer are having trouble finding food to eat.” Managing Black-Tailed Deer Through Their Diets by Courtney Flatt in Northwest Public Radio, June 1, 2012
 
 “Now, after logging, herbicides are used to kill the competing vegetation and the forest plantations are re-seeded heavily.
 
“The broadleaf shrubs, trees and forbs eliminated by these efforts [herbicide use] are the very plants that comprise the blacktail deer diet,’’ Holman said.” Blacktail Deer Populations Hanging On, But There's Reason for Concern by Allen Thomas in The Columbian, October 9, 2009
  
“Basically, Westside deer do well in varied habitats that aren’t sprayed with herbicides…” More On Western Washington Blacktail Study by Andy Walgamott in Northwest Sportsman November 19, 2012 
 
When herbicides—which are not prohibited in the O&C bill approved in the House—are used the timber folks will argue: 1) that deer do not avoid vegetation sprayed with herbicides; 2) that deer will absorb the chemicals, but that does not matter to the deer or us; and 3) that the biomass of palatable vegetation stays the same in the switch from leafy and woody vegetation to grasses and forbs (weeds). But food quality is not addressed in any of this.  
 
Fortunately multiple studies are underway in western Washington to look specifically at herbicide use and its impact on black-tailed deer. While we await the findings of these studies, there is ample evidence of risk and impacts that prudence would demand that no acceptable O&C bill should allow for herbicide use.  
 
 "Similarly,because public sentiment generally perpetuates the view that any timber harvest is good for deer, management objectives or regulations that would benefit deer habitat are largely absent from forest management. An emphasis on deer habitat conservation and improvement should be incorporated into all forms of land use planning activities." (MDWG report page 39
 
So what is the take home message here?  I think the core message—if you are concerned about black-tailed deer (and elk too)—is to be very, very wary of any legislative proposals that turn large portions of the O&C lands over to anything approaching commercial-style management without express consideration and mitigation of the impacts of large clearcuts, herbicide use, and restocking densities. Moreover, if these schemes do not include well-defined mechanisms to increase understory production and dedicate significant stands within these logging areas to longer rotations through a system of distributed stands with old-growth characteristics then, from a black-tailed deer perspective, they should be questioned or opposed.  
 
In all of this I would also urge folks to be cautious of sportsmen’s groups arguing that black-tail deer declines are the result of the spotted owl or the resultant Northwest Forest Plan–they clearly have not looked at the issue long term.  Similarly, groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation that seem to walk in locked step with the timber industry or claim that the problem is a lack of clearcutting need to spend a little time in the literature.  For just as hunting is not always conservation, in spite of claims to the contrary, timber management is not usually done for the benefit of wildlife–quite the opposite is true.  
 

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.  

 

Sep20

Jerod Broadfoot of the Oregon Outdoor Council and His Wife Under Investigation for Wildlife Violations

Jerod Broadfoot of the Oregon Outdoor Council and His Wife Under Investigation for Wildlife Violations
For Immediate Release David Allen and Jerod Broadfoot
September 20, 2013
 
Contacts: 
Bob Ferris 
bob@cascwild.org
541-434-1463
 
949-887-0793
 
Correction: An earlier version of this press release indicated that Mr. Broadfoot and his wife were charged by the Umatilla District Attorney's Office.  This conclusion was erroneous and based upon our receipt of internal case numbers from the District Attorney's office indicating an on-going action with potential charges.  We apologize for any confusion this might have caused.  
 
Pendleton, OR—The Umatilla District Attorney’s Office has issued case numbers (13-272 and 13-223) and assigned an attorney to consider prosecution Jerod Broadfoot and his wife Jennifer Ross Broadfoot on misdemeanor charges stemming from the illegal taking of deer in Umatilla County.  The charges were the result of an investigation launched by the Oregon State Police-Fish Wildlife (OSP) after they received a video of Mr. Broadfoot from a former business partner allegedly killing three deer in a 24-period in the fall of 2010 as well as from evidence collected during a July visit to the couple’s home in Pendleton.
 
Mr. Broadfoot (pictured above with Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s David Allen) has been a prominent voice in the hunting community for a decade representing groups such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Safari Club International on campaigns often arguing for the control of predators such as wolves and cougars.  Mr. Broadfoot has been known for making strong statements in regards to predators, poaching and what we characterized as the anti-hunting movement.
 
Mr. Broadfoot and the Oregon Outdoor Council became a more visible earlier this year when ethical and legal questions were raised about the operations of both the Oregon Outdoor Council and Oregon Outdoor Council Foundation.  The Oregon Department of Justice is investigating these allegations which include personal use of non-profit funds.
 
“I raised many questions about Mr. Broadfoot’s actions as an officer at OOC—including his lobbying legislators to pressure OSP to drop a bear poaching investigation against his father-in-law—during  my tenure on OOC’s board “ said Steven Chapman former OOC treasurer and co-founder. “I was asked to leave the board for objecting to these ethical and legal lapses.  These charges and investigations as well as those to come in the future give absolute credence to my concerns and serve as a vindication.”
 
Mr. Broadfoot is a state employee working in the Building Codes Division as the Eastern Regional Coordinator as well as the owner of Broadfoot Media and an AdvoCare distributor.  State employees are held to higher legal standards than other citizens.  
 
“If anything good comes out of this whole messy episode I think that it will be that a very divisive and disruptive voice will be removed from the natural resource debates,” said Bob Ferris Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands.” Hopefully freed from the name calling and vitriol launched by this group, members of the broader conservation community which includes hunters and anglers but also environmental interests can work together once again to tackle those issues that materially impact the natural resources we all love and enjoy.”
#######
 
Background Attachments: 
 
 
 
 

Sep20

Statement of Steven K. Chapman and Bob Ferris Regarding the Investigation Of Jerod Broadfoot and the Future of the Oregon Outdoor Council and Oregon Outdoor Council Foundation

Correction: An earlier version of this statement indicated that Mr. Broadfoot and his wife were charged by the Umatilla District Attorney's Office.  This conclusion was erroneous and based upon our receipt of internal case numbers from the District Attorney's office indicating an on-going action with potential charges.  We apologize for any confusion this might have caused.  
 
September 20, 2013David Allen and Jerod Broadfoot
 
Over the past several months we have made numerous public statements and comments regarding ethical and legal issues relating to Mr. Broadfoot (pictured at right with David Allen CEO of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation), the Oregon Outdoor Council (OOC) and the Oregon Outdoor Council Foundation’s (OOCF) programmatic and administrative actions.  As a result we have received volumes of feedback—both positive and negative.  We appreciate the former and are willing to accept the latter because we hold that our actions are wholly justified and necessary.  In fact, our allegations and evidence have prompted an on-going Oregon Department of Justice investigation.  
 
Our commentary has also acted as a catalyst for other individuals who have stepped forward and offered additional information supporting our claims.  The most significant offering was made recently when a former business partner stepped forward with evidence indicating that OOC Executive Director Jerod Broadfoot poached at least two trophy deer in the fall of 2010—allegedly shooting a total of three deer in a 24-hour period.  
 
We strongly feel that poaching needs to be curtailed and we caused this evidence to be submitted to the Oregon State Police (OSP).  In early July 2013 OSP officers visited Mr. Broadfoot’s home and collected further evidence.  The result of all these activities is that the District Attorney of Umatilla County is considering charging Mr. Broadfoot with wildlife violations.  His wife Jennifer Ross Broadfoot is also under investigation on related issues.  
 
Poaching is epidemic and needs to be curtailed, but this entire situation is troublesome for two additional reasons.  The first is that Mr. Broadfoot in addition to being the driver behind OOC’s programmatic and administrative actions is also a State of Oregon employee and as such should be held to a higher standard of behavior.  It is unclear at this point exactly how much of Mr. Broadfoot’s non-state activities were conducted during times when he was being paid as a state employee but these actions during normal business hours are substantial and need to be examined.
 
The other troubling aspect is the apparent vulnerability of our legislative system to individuals like Mr. Broadfoot who make compelling arguments that are unsupported by facts or science.  Moreover, there should be some concern that once facts began to emerge about ethical and legal lapses at OOC (see Predatory Non-Profit) that no efficient mechanism seemed to exist to communicate those developments to legislators so they could make take those factors into account.  
 
Political pressure unethically and inappropriately applied is particularly troubling to us. Both of us, for instance, have heard that senior members of the Oregon Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus were lobbied by Mr. Broadfoot to intervene in an active Oregon State Police poaching investigation involving Mr. Broadfoot’s father-in-law.  This request is problematic on a number of different levels but the fact that these legislators reportedly acted on the requests should also be examined and addressed.  We cannot envision a scenario where legislators enabling poaching at the behest of a poacher could be in the best interest of hunters, anglers or our precious natural resources.
 
We undertook all of these actions because we share five principles regarding non-profits; hunting and angling; and wildlife law enforcement: 1) Non-profits should be run ethically and legally; 2) Wildlife managers need to focus on the most pressing problems as directed by facts and science not by myths and fear; 3) Productive dialogues within the conservation community and our allies need to be courteous and not dominated by divisiveness and name calling; 4) Angling and hunting are sports and for them to remain vibrant and publicly acceptable participants—particularly leaders—need to obey and enforce the ethics and laws of our pursuits; and 5) The Oregon State Fish and Wildlife Police needs to be allowed to do their job—especially as it applies to poaching—free from political interference.  Our actions were a result of Mr. Broadfoot and elements of OOC’s current leadership materially violating all of these important tenets.
 
 
Stan Steele – President
Retired OSP Fish and Wildlife Officer
Mike Vallery – Board Member
Safari Club International 
Dominic Aiello – Vice President
Self-employed
Wendell Locke – Board Member
Oregon Hunter’s Association
Wayne Endicott – Secretary Treasurer
Owner—The Bow Rack Springfield, OR
Bryan Richardson – Board Member
Duane Bernard – Board Member
Oregon Hunter’s Association
Ross Day – Legal Counsel
Day Law Group, P.C.
 
To be crystal-clear on our motivations and long term goals: We only want what is best for the hunting and angling community.  Therefore, we see no reason for OOC to dissolve or disappear, but OOC cannot continue or move forward with their current leadership—many of whom enabled some of these behaviors and turned a blind eye to others (see board list above).  If OOC is to continue they should take a long moment to absorb the gravity of these happenstances and then take appropriate steps to make sure this never happens again.  We would also suggest that the organization take time to examine all the false rhetoric and divisiveness embedded in its programs and messaging in order to begin the process of building or rebuilding the relationships with natural and necessary allies that have been grievously alienated through the first two years of operation.  We wish the future leadership luck in this process.  
 
Steven K. Chapman 
Founding Board Member OOC
Former Treasurer OOC
Bob Ferris
Executive Director 
Cascadia Wildlands

 

Background Information and Related Links:

Predatory Non Profit?

Cougar Crisis?

An Unnatural State of Fear: Oregon Outdoor Council versus Lions, Tigers (Wolves) and Bears

The Wedge Group Recipe

 

May16

An Un-Natural State of Fear: Oregon Outdoor Council versus Lions, Tigers (Wolves) and Bears

By Bob Ferris

The Onion has some brilliant satire and some that bites a little too deep.  One that is just right was a recent one they did about wolves and the millions of people killed each year by this rapacious predator that stalks people at copiers and coffee bars and rips their throats out in a heartbeat (see: Study: Wolf Attacks Still Leading Cause Of Death In U.S.).   Yes, I read it in the Onion so it must be true.
 
This is on my mind at this point because I recently spent too much time on the phone with Jerod Broadfoot executive director of the Oregon Outdoor Council (OOC) after talking to a peeved former insider at OOC who gave me an earful on Jerod and the shady goings-on at his operation.
 

The Onion piece echoed in my brain because Jerod peddles fear.  Fear of mountain lions, bears, coyotes and wolves.  Whether he actually believes the Onion-esque tales he tells the public or not he has lobbied for bear baiting, cougar hunting with dogs, and pushed to allow bow hunters to carry pistols or rifles because the risk of cougar attacks is so high. The risk for cougar attacks in Oregon is so high…How high?.. Well it could happen, but has not.

But just to show that Mr. Broadfoot works all sides of the street, he also lobbied to get the criminal penalties for cock fighting lowered from a felony to a misdemeanor.  Now more fighting cocks will have the opportunity to fight and profit from their efforts.  And he also lobbied—it appeared—to allow minors to handle explosives because there seems to be a shortage of children playing with matches and high explosives. (Sorry, once the Onion gets into your head.)
 
For Broadfoot Camouflage is a Fabric of Deception
 

It should be remembered that Mr. Broadfoot (shown with RMEF CEO David Allen above) cut his lobbying teeth at PacWest Communications.  PacWest is somewhat notorious in lobbying circles for their ends-always-justify-the-means and take-no-prisoners approaches.  Over the years PacWest has formed fake “astro-turf” groups, reached deeply and often into their bag of dirty tricks, and stands firmly with the giants of misinformation such as The Heritage Foundation and the Competitive Enterprise Institute who have brought us illustrious campaigns on second hand smoke and climate change.

Mr. Broadfoot’s own personal forte is the miss-direct.  He has employed it ably with the OOC by serving up an All-American 2nd Amendment hot dog wrapped in a bun of predator hatred.  He hopes that this will camouflage what is probably his real intention which is a wider opening of the door to logging, mining, ranching and energy interests.  When confronted with this he claims it is not true but he is a little like the child who raided the cake and with chocolate glazed cheeks claims innocence.  His actions and past speak much louder than his protestations.  
 
Headed to Vegas
I will be presenting to the SCI-Foundations Conservation Committee on a project I am doing for them about wildlife conservation and energy production being able to coexist to benefit wildlife and our domestic energy needs. Broadfoot Media Site
 
So what chocolate does he have on his face? Jerod comes from a timber family and he lives in a ranching community.  He has lobbied on behalf of the oil and timber industries for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and on the Healthy Forest Initiative.  Both were priorities set by the Bush Administration that Mr. Broadfoot as chair of the Oregon Sportsmen for Bush worked so hard to get into office.  
 
Although one could argue what’s past is past, with Jerod that is not the case. His current rhetoric and that of his colleagues and friends is decidedly pro-industry.  He regularly advocates for more timber harvests to “enhance” wildlife habitat and condemns those who might think about rules and regulations to stem habitat loss and degradation.  The attacks on Sally Jewell’s record are perfect examples.  Certainly these commentaries are salted with phrases like “anti-hunting” but given the material thrust of the actions–regarding logging, mining and energy–this is really no more than camouflage.  
 
“Another priority for the OOC is to ensure state management of wolf populations including allowing ranchers to protect their families and livestock without bureaucratic red tape and lawsuits from anti-hunting organizations.” OOC Press release posted on i-Fish
 
Mr. Broadfoot has denied links to ranching, but then he also seems convinced that folks are more interested in what he says rather than his actions.  His advocacy for control of wolves and increased logging could be construed as being pro-hunting if he also acknowledged that those de-forested areas should be cattle-free, but he does not.  OOC’s facebook page in fact questions the impact of grazing on wildlife.  What? [1,2,3]
 
Science, Science Everywhere…? 
 
"Wolves have wiped out elk and deer herds in Idaho and have a current population growth of 24%." Oregon Outdoor Council website
 
My conversation with Jerod was at times surreal.  When I challenged him on his misstatements about predators (see above) he claimed that all statements were reviewed by their science team.  So then I asked: Who is on your science team?  His response was telling, the only name he remembered was Larry Irwin, but he urged me to look at his website.  (By the way, I would think that any leader of an organization that was actually driven by science would know who was on his science advisory team.)
 
So what did I find?  OOC’s scientific team consists of three people. One is indeed Larry Irwin PhD with the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Inc. that bills the organization as an independent, non-profit research institute focusing on environmental topics of interest to the forest products industry.  The Council’s roughly $14 million budget comes mainly from timber company dues.  This hardly lends credence to the Mr. Broadfoot’s argument of distance from the timber industry.
 
The other scientific experts are Richard K. Stroud DVM, MS and James O. Pex MS D-ABC.  The former is a retired forensic veterinarian for the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the latter is a forensic expert on blood spattering often called in on criminal trials. Neither of them are wildlife biologists, ecologists or experts on conservation or predators.
 
And just as Batman has Robin
 
Just as Batman has Robin, as a dedicated compatriot, Mr. Broadfoot has Dominic Aiello as his side kick.  Mr. Aiello is the new vice president of OOC’s board–replacing Jerod–and appears to spend a great deal of his time looking to do electronic battle with the anti-hunting evil doers of the world.  His fervor has gotten him expelled from a few facebook pages including ours, but his rhetoric and dedication—even with the help of Mr. Broadfoot and his media machine—was unable to garner him the vice president slot at the Oregon Hunter’s Association.  (Reports from insiders say that the vote was not even remotely close.)
 
Mr. Aiello also spends a lot of time on the I-Fish network and while his comments are amusing they are also illustrative of the inherent operational and philosophical conflicts at OOC.  His political philosophies, lack of knowledge, and inexperience keep him and his organization in a constant state of defense bordering on embarrassment.  
 
How so?  Two examples are his recent celebration of a timber industry victory on the regulation of roads and his defense of suction dredging as a legitimate use on Oregon Rivers.  When the more informed posters pointed out that elk needed road-less areas and that this was not a victory for elk or hunters he just kept right on going without self-editting.  
 
Likewise, his defense of the right of suction dredgers to tear up river bottoms on a post calling people to a hearing on a moratorium raised hackles (sorry) and drew comments.  His response was to attack the motivation of a respected fishing guide—the fishermen were not amused.  His comments are troubling both for the supreme confidence he has in his own opinions and the lack of any real basis or grounding backing up his assertions.  While I am sure that his A.A. degree in Business Administration from Henry Ford Community College affords him some expertise applicable to selling Aflac insurance and some of his other enterprises, it seems scant preparation to serve on the board of any state-wide organization or hold authoritative debates on complex ecological relationships.
 
Of Bibles and Bandoliers 
 
“Our featured speaker is Dominic Aiello, who is Vice President of Oregon Outdoor Council, whose mission is "To promote and protect outdoor pursuits in Oregon including hunting, fishing, trapping, wildlife management, habitat and species management, public access, outdoor recreation and gun ownership." As you can see, Dominic's responsibilities cover nearly every aspect of our outdoor experience. CrossTrackers website under April Events
 
So who all is drinking this proffered Kool Aid?  One group who was pleased to have Mr. Aiello as a guest speaker and he seemed pleased to be there is the Cross Trackers.  This group “exists to glorify God by walking beside men while enjoying His creation through hunting and fishing.”  
 
 
Now my parents took me to church when I was a child but I must have slept through the part about concealed weapons being part of the religious dogma, particularly on a Sunday.  It might just be me, but praying for your quick-draw shoulder holster to not malfunction seems fairly inconsistent with the turn- the-other-cheek lessons I seem to remember.  
 
 
And while Mr. Aiello’s jubilation following the Cross Tracker’s event at meeting Todd Hoffman of Gold Rush certainly cements his membership in the 18-49 year old male demographic and the “we like machinery and tearing things up” club, it hardly speaks to his environmental and conservation street cred as the water quality and fisheries impacts of gold mining are well known and notorious.  This also demonstrates a monumental insensitivity to his potential colleagues in Oregon and also Alaska who are embroiled in fights against suction dredge mining in Oregon and the Bristol Bay mine in Alaska.
 
Poor Attention to Accounting and Legal Issues Means Poor Performance in a Non-Profit
 
 
Financially, OOC and OOCF are not significant enterprises.  A little money here and a little money there with most of their funding coming from a single check from Oregon Hunters Association.  What is significant is how they spent the money and failed to heed the legal and accounting advice of their professionals.  I have seen the ledger sheets so I could go into chapter and verse about how Jerod Broadfoot submitted questionable and poorly documented expenses as well as blew through IRS limits for lobbying expenses without blinking.  He also traveled with his wife (on OOC's dime) to places like Las Vegas and stayed in a luxury boutique hotel room like the one pictured above during a DC trip, but it is easier to just let their former secretary/treasurer Steve Chapman tell the tale.  
 
 
Now I may not always agree with Mr. Chapman on predator-prey ecology or some esoterica associated with hunting and fair chase, but both of us agree that 1) non-profit monies need to be used for non-profit purposes; 2) the rationale for any non-profit expenditures needs to be well documented; 3) board members have explicit fiduciary responsibilities which include avoiding the appearance of conflict of interest; and 4) the fundamental imperatives of acting responsibility, telling the truth, and obeying the law are paramount.   These principles do not appear to be embraced by the current leadership at OOC and OOCF and that is likely to cause them legal and political problems in the near future.
 

May16

Predatory Nonprofit?

 

Fight over cougars and finances

By Camilla Mortensen
May 16, 2013 
 
It all seemed so easy to businessman Steven Chapman — an avid hunter, he wanted to influence the Oregon Legislature on its hunting bills. The deer and elk herds in Oregon are too small, Chapman said, and wanted to do something about it. It takes millions of dollars in California to influence legislation, according to Chapman, but only thousands in Oregon. 
 
In only a few years, the lobbying group he helped form, Oregon Outdoor Council (OOC), shot from obscurity to a legislative force, but now Chapman finds himself pitted against fellow hunters as he alleges misspent money and ethical wrongdoings by the lobbying-oriented OOC and its non-lobbying partner, the Oregon Outdoor Council Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Chapman says he wants to expose OOC and OOCF because he feels that he created a “haphazard” group that isn’t targeting the real source of problems for the animals he hunts.
 
Together with Pendleton-based media-group owner Jerod Broadfoot, Wayne Endicott of Springfield’s Bow Rack and others, Chapman formed OOC with goals that included repealing Oregon’s Measure 18, which keeps hunters from chasing cougars with dogs. OOC was also behind a push on Oregon House Bill 3437, which required that gubernatorial nominees to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission have held some form of fishing or hunting licenses for 10 consecutive years. This would leave nonhunters out of wildlife decisions. 
 
Chapman, OOC and the long-established Oregon Hunters Association (OHA) all share similar goals — to improve the herds for hunters in Oregon — but Chapman says he is no longer 100 percent certain that targeting predators and pushing bills allowing hound hunting or bear baiting are the answer. The problem lies with lands lost to grazing and roads built for logging, he says, not cougars and wolves. That’s not a popular stance to take among conservative hunting organizations that have long blamed and targeted predators.
 
But Chapman’s stance on what could be reducing deer and elk herds isn’t what has him at odds with the nonprofits that he was once part of. Chapman alleges that the OOC and the OOCF unethically misspent funds, misrepresented information and are not acting “in the best interests of hunting, angling or wildlife,” and he lays out a litany of problems. 
 
Chapman says that OOC got $25,000 from the Oregon Hunters Association to conduct a poll in support of legislative initiatives and a potential constitutional amendment, and that part of the reason OOC got the money was because Broadfoot told the group and the OHA that $500,000 in donations would be coming in from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Safari Club International. That money never materialized. Chapman further alleges that Broadfoot misrepresented the results of the poll. Chapman says this damages OOC’s credibility.
 
Chapman, who was the OOC’s secretary-treasurer, also worries that the foundation, OOCF, jeopardized its nonprofit status when out of its $33,000 budget in 2012, it spent $16,000 on a poll relating to a prospective ballot initiative and legislative actions. The IRS limits small nonprofits to spending less than 20 percent of their budget on lobbying. 
 
Chapman also alleges that Broadfoot diverted nonprofit funds for personal use for himself and his wife on a trip to Las Vegas where they stayed in a luxury hotel, pointing to posts on the Broadfoot Media Group website. He had an accountant review the books, and the CPA wrote that “it appears that proper expense authorization and follow up procedures are not being followed carefully, if at all” and called some of the expenditures “highly questionable.”
 
When asked for comment, Broadfoot referred EW to OOC’s attorney Ross Day. Day is also Chapman’s personal attorney, and when asked if that was a problem due to a conflict of interest, Day said,  “Not that I’m aware of.” 
 
Chapman has contacted the Department of Justice over the money issue and says that in turn, OOC board members have sent a state police officer to Chapman’s doorstep.
 
Day says the OOC board has concluded that Chapman’s allegations are unfounded and that “We have a disagreement here, whether or not money was spent, I don’t want to say wisely, but as efficiently as possible. It doesn’t mean anything untoward has occurred.”
 
But in a July 2012 email to the OOC board, Day wrote “when OOC pays for a trip to attend a conference, speaking engagement, whatever, the person can only be there on OOC business, not promoting any other organization/business/cause or otherwise. When money from a c(4) is spent, it can only be spent on purposes related to the c(4). If someone goes to a conference, for instance, on OOC’s dime, and then promotes another organization (say, Oregonians In Action), there could be problems down the road with the IRS (which I, as OOC’s lawyer, am responsible for avoiding).” 
 
Later in August, Day wrote, “It is my job to advise OOC on how to avoid enforcement actions by agencies like the IRS and the Oregon DOJ. The easiest and surest way to avoid enforcement actions is by making sure your books are clean to begin with; that way you do not have to agree to ‘follow the law’ if and when the government comes knocking at your door.”
 
The July email from Day also detailed a report from former Republican state senator-turned NRA lobbyist Roger Beyer, who had been asked to join the OOC board but declined. Beyer discussed a “breakdown” in the relationship between OOC and OHA, citing among other things the claims of funding that didn’t materialize and that the OHA was given only abstract data from the poll and not the actual poll results. Broadfoot had sent an email to the OOC board saying, “Do not share. We need to discuss this tonight. Numbers are not good overall but it does provide us with good information to move forward with.”
 
Day says, “Taken out of context I know what that email looks like,” but says OOC was under no obligation to release the results of the poll. Duane Dungannon of the OHA says that there were “differences of opinions about the results that were obtained” but that OHA thought it made sense that the poll results would be held close and not sent out to wind up in the hands of opponents or on websites.
 
But in the end, whether OOC survives and whether it works with OHA on future hunting legislation or not, Chapman says he feels culpable for having created an organization that by targeting predators and not the true culprits — grazing and road building — is doing a disservice to the hunting community. 
 

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