Posts Tagged ‘Washington’

Aug04

Wolves Being Killed in Northeast Washington

For Immediate Release, August 3, 2016

Contacts: 
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.orgAmaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613, aweiss@biologicaldiversity.org
John Mellgren, Western Environmental Law Center, (541) 359-0990, mellgren@westernlaw.org

Wildlife Agency to Kill Wolves in Northeast Washington
Members of Profanity Peak Pack To Be Targeted in Ferry County

OLYMPIA, Wash.— Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials announced late today they will kill members of the Profanity Peak pack in Ferry County. The kill order was issued following investigations concluding the wolves recently killed three calves and a cow and that three other calf deaths are probable wolf kills. All of the losses occurred on public lands grazing allotments, in territory occupied by the Profanity Peak pack. The decision was made under the guidelines of a new lethal removal protocol that was agreed to this spring by the state Wolf Advisory Group, a stakeholder group convened by the Department of Fish and Wildlife that includes agency staff and representatives from the ranching, hunting and conservation community.

“We appreciate the agency’s use of nonlethal measures to try to prevent losses of both livestock and wolves, and are glad to hear the ranchers in question have been working cooperatively with the state, but we are deeply saddened that wolves are going to die,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We are not part of the advisory group but have made clear to the group that we don’t support the killing of the public’s wildlife on public lands.”

According to the protocol agreed to by the advisory group, lethal removal of wolves is considered after four confirmed depredations in one calendar year, or six confirmed depredations in two calendar years. The protocol also requires that the affected ranchers have employed sanitation measures to avoid attracting wolves to livestock carcasses and have tried at least one proactive measure to deter conflicts with wolves at the time the livestock losses took place. 

“It’s tragic to see wolves killed, and I hope we continue to see growing wolf populations in Washington despite the yearly culling that inevitably takes place, said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands.  “I do not believe it makes sense to spend taxpayer dollars to kill wolves in remote roadless areas on public lands.”

“The decision to kill wolves is always a sad event, and one that should not be taken lightly” said John Mellgren, staff attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. “But it is even harder to stomach when that decision relates to wolves on our publicly owned lands.”

Cascadia Wildlands educates, agitates, and inspires a movement to protect and restore Cascadia's wild ecosystems.  We envision vast old-growth forests, rivers full of salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia Bioregion.  We like it wild.  Join us at: www.cascwild.org 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Western Environmental Law Center is a public interest nonprofit law firm. WELC combines legal skills with sound conservation biology and environmental science to address major environmental issues throughout the West. WELC does not charge clients and partners for services, but relies instead on charitable gifts from individuals, families, and foundations to accomplish its mission. www.westernlaw.org

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Apr04

Fed’s Failure to Protect Wolverines Ruled Illegal

For Immediate Release                                        
April 4, 2015
 
Contacts:    
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Matthew Bishop, Western Environmental Law Center, 406-422-9866, bishop@westernlaw.org  
Bethany Cotton, WildEarth Guardians, 406-414-7227, bcotton@wildearthguardians.org  
 
Wolverine (Guio gulo) adult on a frozen river during winter in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. Captive Animal

Wolverine (Guio gulo) adult on a frozen river during winter in the Rocky Mountains of Montana.

 
Judge Rules Feds Improperly Refused to Protect Wolverines
Orders Reconsideration of Safeguards for Species Imperiled by Climate Change
 
MISSOULA, Mont. – Today, the federal district court for Montana rejected a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to deny protections for wolverines in the contiguous U.S. The court ruled the Service improperly ignored science and violated the Endangered Species Act. A broad coalition of conservation organizations challenged the Service’s refusal to protect imperiled wolverines by listing them under the ESA.
 
“Today’s win is a victory not just for wolverine but for all species whose fate relies on the scientific integrity of the Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “We call on the agency to stop playing politics and start living up to its mandate to protect our country’s most imperiled species.”
 
Often called “southern polar bears,” wolverines are custom built for cold, snowy climates and depend on areas with spring snow for denning and year-round habitat. Science shows climate change may eliminate nearly two-thirds of the snowy habitat needed by wolverines in the contiguous U.S. within 75 years. This means significantly less habitat and/or worsened habitat fragmentation for the approximately 250-300 wolverines that remain in the lower 48 states.
 
The Service originally identified climate change, in conjunction with small population size, as the primary threat to wolverine existence in the contiguous U.S. Published, peer-reviewed research, the larger scientific community – including the Society for Conservation Biology – an independent scientific panel, the majority of experts who reviewed the decision, and the Service’s own biologists all verified this finding. The Service proposed listing the wolverine as a “threatened” species under the ESA in 2013. At the eleventh hour, however, the Service reversed course and chose not to protect wolverine, citing too many “uncertainties” in the scientific literature.
 
Today, the court rejected this excuse, holding the agency accountable for its decision to discount the best available science about climate impacts on wolverine. “[T]he Service’s decision against listing the wolverine as threatened under the ESA is arbitrary and capricious. No greater level of certainty is needed to see the writing on the wall for this snow-dependent species standing squarely in the path of global climate change. It has taken us twenty years to get to this point. It is the [Court’s] view that if there is one thing required of the Service under the ESA, it is to take action at the earliest possible, defensible point in time to protect against the loss of biodiversity within our reach as a nation. For the wolverine. That time is now." Opinion at page 83.
 
The court correctly noted that the ESA directs the Service to make listing decisions based on the best available science, not the best possible science. This means the agency cannot make the perfect the enemy of the good. Instead, it must use and rely on the best science available when making listing decisions, which it failed to do in this case.
 
“The court sent a clear message to the Service: don't let politics trump science,” said Matthew Bishop, a Western Environmental Law Center attorney who represented the conservation groups. “The Service cannot ignore the published literature and advice of its own biologists when making important listing decisions.”
 
Today’s ruling requires the agency to make a new final listing determination for wolverines. The ruling also restores the Service’s proposed rule to list wolverine and the wolverine’s status as a candidate species under the ESA.
 
“Cascadia Wildlands is very encouraged by the court's rejection of political game playing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Nick Cady with Cascadia Wildlands. "As with all species, wolverines deserve conservation and protections based upon sound science. This legal victory sets the stage for further reform of a deteriorating U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the installment of protections for this struggling species across the West.”
 
“We hope the Fish and Wildlife Service wastes no more time in granting wolverines Endangered Species Act protection,” said Keith Hammer, chair of Swan View Coalition. “This rare species deserves all the help it can get as we hit record-setting temperatures here in Montana.”
 
“We need to do everything we can to protect wolverines and wolverine habitat in the face of climate change and a snowballing extinction crisis," said Greg Costello, executive director of Wildlands Network. “Our actions should be rooted in precaution and the best available science—not political nitpicking.”
 
“With only 300 wolverine spread across the Western U.S., it is refreshing to see the court appreciates the precarious state of wolverine populations and confirm the findings of the Fish and Wildlife Service's own biologists that the species merits ESA protection,” said ecologist George Wuerthner.
 
“Wolverines deserve protection, not political shenanigans,” said Arlene Montgomery of Friends of the Wild Swan. “The Fish and Wildlife Service must now do its job to protect and recover this imperiled animal.”
 
“It is reassuring to know that our court system is doing its job, even while other branches of government flounder,” said Larry Campbell of Friends of the Bitterroot. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is apparently willing to illegally sacrifice an awesome species and good science while ineptly playing politics. Go wolverines!”
 
A copy of the decision is available here.
 
A copy of the original complaint is available here.
 
Matthew Bishop and John Mellgren of the Western Environmental Law Center and Sarah McMillan of WildEarth Guardians represented WildEarth Guardians, Cascadia Wildlands, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Cottonwood Environmental Law Center, Footloose Montana, Friends of the Bitterroot, Friends of the Wild Swan, George Wuerthner, Helena Hunters and Anglers Association, Kootenai Environmental Alliance, Native Ecosystem Council, Oregon Wild, and the Swan View Coalition on the case.
 
Additional quotes from the decision:
 
“Why did the Service make the decision [to not list the wolverine]?…Based on the record, the Court suspects that a possible answer to this question can be found in the immense political pressure that was brought to bear on this issue, particularly by a handful of western states.” Opinion at page 56.
 
“This strikes the Court as the essence of arbitrary and capricious decision making.” Opinion at page 61 (discussing climate change claim).
 
“[A]s Plaintiffs’ counsel rightly pointed out … the Service’s stance here borders on the absurd – if evidence shows that wolverines need snow for denning purposes, and the best available science projects a loss of snow as a result of climate where and when wolverines den, then what sense does it make to deny that climate change is a threat to the wolverine simply because research has yet to prove exactly why wolverines need snow for denning?” Opinion at page 67 (discussing climate change claim).
 
“If ever there was a species for which conservation depends on foregoing absolute certainty, it is the wolverine.” Opinion at page 68 (discussing why we don’t need absolute certainty for why wolverine need deep persistent snow).
 
Background:
 
Wolverine number just 250-300 individuals in the contiguous U.S. and are dependent on high elevation habitat with deep winter snows. Imperiled by climate change, habitat loss and trapping, wolverine were first petitioned for ESA protections in 2000. The Service found the petition did not contain adequate information to justify a listing. A federal court overturned that decision in 2006. The Service then issued a negative 12-month finding in 2008, which was challenged in court resulting in a settlement that led to a new finding that wolverine should be protected under the ESA, but that other priorities precluded the listing at that time. A landmark settlement with WildEarth Guardians, which resolves the backlog of imperiled species awaiting protections, then guaranteed a new finding for wolverine. In February 2013, the Service proposed listing the wolverine as “threatened” under the ESA. In August 2014, however, the Service reversed course and issued a decision not to list the species, contradicting its own expert scientists’ recommendations. Today’s ruling is in response to the organizations’ legal challenge to that decision.
 
Image courtesy of © David J. Cox/NaturalExposures.com (high-res version here)
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Jan14

Public Lands Rallies Planned Across Oregon

#RefugeRally Announced for Tuesday, Jan 19th
Public will gather to support Malheur refuge, celebrate national public lands
 
3.10.10_D7C3745OREGON/WASHINGTON- Rallies supporting Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and public lands will be held across Oregon and Washington Tuesday, January 19th at noon.
 
The public is invited to join this statewide event expressing appreciation for national public lands, their public servant caretakers, and the positive collaborative efforts between refuge officials, ranchers, environmentalists, and Native Americans that have been underway on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for a decade. Speakers will highlight the importance of protecting special places like the Malheur NWR that provide integral wildlife habitat, clean water, climate change mitigation, and recreational opportunities available as a benefit to all Americans.
 
Events are listed below, with details and more events across the state currently being planned. Participants can contact Cascadia Wildlands to receive up-to-date event information, and follow the conversation using #RefugeRally.  This page will continue to be updated.
 
Because of the volatile situation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, public lands supporters are strongly discouraged from visiting Harney County at this time.
 
Unless otherwise specified, all events will take place at noon:
 
Eugene
Old Federal Building
211 E. 7th Ave, Eugene
 
Press Contacts:
Oregon Wild – Doug Heiken (541-344-0675) dh@oregonwild.org
Cascadia Wildlands – Nick Cady (314) 482-3746 nick@cascwild.org
Center for Biological Diversity – Jared Margolis (802) 310-4054 jmargolis@biologicaldiversity.org
 
***Also in Eugene, Cascadia Wildlands will be hosting a sign-making party on Monday night prior to the rally.  The event will take place at Cascadia Wildlands office at 1247 Willamette Street in Eugene at 5:30pm.  Pizza and beverages will be provided, come help us think up some clever slogans!  More on that event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/446690202205647/
 
Portland
Holladay Park
NE 11th Ave, Portland
 
Press Contacts:
Oregon Wild – Arran Robertson (971) 241-0103 ar@oregonwild.org
Portland Audubon – Bob Sallinger 503 380 -9728 bsallinger@audubonportland.org
Center for Biological Diversity – Tierra Curry (928) 522-3681 tcurry@biologicaldiversity.org
 
Bend
Riverfront Plaza
Brooks St, Bend
 
Press Contact
Oregon Natural Desert Assoc – Dan Morse, (541) 330-2638 dmorse@onda.org
 
La Grande
Pro-Public Lands Potluck
105 Fir St Suite #327
 
Press Contact: Hells Canyon Preservation Council – Darilyn Parry Brown (541) 963-3950 darilyn@hellscanyon.org
 
Seattle:
Federal Building / GSA
Seattle’s Henry M. Jackson Federal Building, 915 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98104
             
           Press Contact: Conservation Northwest – Chase Gunnel (206) 675-9747
 
Corvallis:
TBD
Dec21

Huge Legal Victory for Washington’s Wolves

For Immediate Release December 21, 2015
 
Contacts:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Timothy Coleman, Kettle Range Conservation Group, 509-675-3556, tcoleman@kettlerange.org
Bethany Cotton, WildEarth Guardians, 406-414-7227, bcotton@wildearthguardians.org
John Mellgren, Western Environmental Law Center, 541-525-5087, mellgren@westernlaw.org
 
Conservationists deal blow to Wildlife Services in landmark WA wolf case
Court rejects indiscriminate wolf killing
 

OLYMPIA, Wash. – In response to a challenge brought by a coalition of conservation organizations, a federal court rejected plans to escalate cruel wolf killing in Washington state by the secretive federal program dubbed "Wildlife Services." Federal District Judge Robert Bryan held that Wildlife Services should have prepared a more in-depth environmental analysis of the impacts of its proposed wolf killing activities, finding the program’s cursory environmental assessment faulty because the proposed actions would have significant cumulative impacts that are highly controversial and highly uncertain.

Wildlife Services is a controversial program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service responsible for killing millions of wild animals every year, including wolves, grizzly bears, otters, foxes, coyotes and birds, with almost no oversight or accountability.

Judge Bryan vacated the program’s analysis, stating "Wildlife Services shall not take any further wolf management actions in Washington under the proposed action alternative, but shall observe the status quo in place prior to the environmental assessment and [finding of no significant impact]."

"Wildlife Services has long asserted that it need not comply with our nations’ federal environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, but this decision rejects those arguments and requires Wildlife Services to comply with all federal laws, not just those it finds convenient to comply with," said Western Environmental Law Center Attorney John Mellgren.

A 2013 internal audit revealed that Wildlife Services’ accounting practices lacked transparency and violated state and federal laws. The program employs incredibly cruel tools to kill wildlife including aerial gunning, leghold traps, snares and poisons.

"It is long past time that we base wildlife management decisions on the best available science, not on antiquated anti-wolf rhetoric and myth," said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. "Wildlife Services needs to come out of the shadows, update its analyses and adopt practices in keeping with modern science and values about the ethical treatment of animals."

The environmental assessment prepared by Wildlife Services failed to provide data to support several of its core assertions. For example, Wildlife Services claimed that killing wolves reduced wolf-caused losses of livestock, yet recent peer-reviewed research from Washington State University directly contradicts this conclusion, finding that killing wolves actually leads to an increase in wolf-livestock conflicts. The environmental assessment also fails to address the ecological effects of killing wolves in Washington, including impacts on wolf populations in neighboring states and on non-target animals, including federally protected grizzly bears and Canada lynx.

"This decision is so incredibly encouraging," said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. "We have been working for over a decade to hold Wildlife Services accountable for its blind, reckless lethal control programs. This decision paves the way for meaningful analysis of the program’s impacts and hopefully a meaningful look at whether or not this wolf killing is worth it."

Washington has experienced Wildlife Services’ wolf killing program firsthand. In August 2014, Wildlife Services snipers shot and killed the Huckleberry wolf pack’s alpha female during a helicopter gunning operation. The death of the Huckleberry pack’s breeding female threatens the future of the entire pack.

Wildlife Services also "advised" the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in the contentious 2012 killing of Washington’s Wedge wolf pack. In that instance, WDFW killed seven wolves after predation of livestock on public lands, despite the rancher’s failure to take sufficient action to protect his cattle.

"The Court made a wise and prudent decision that safeguards the legal right of citizens to know what their government is doing in their name," said Timothy Coleman, executive director of Kettle Range Conservation Group. "The so-called Wildlife Services cannot just grant itself authority to execute an endangered species absent the public interest or best available science."

Wolves were driven to extinction in Washington in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. The species began to return to Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s and the wolf population in the state has grown to 13 confirmed packs. Despite this growth, wolves in the state are far from recovered and face ongoing threats. According to WDFW, Washington currently has at least 68 wolves in 16 packs.

The organizations, Cascadia Wildlands, WildEarth Guardians, Kettle Range Conservation Group, Predator Defense and the Lands Council were represented by the Western Environmental Law Center.

A copy of the decision is available here.
 
A copy of the original complaint is available here.
 
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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.)

 

Aug28

With Huckleberry Wolf Pack in Crosshairs, Conservation Groups Appeal to Gov. Inslee to Require Rules Limiting Killing of Washington’s Endangered Wolves

For Immediate Release, August 28, 2014
 
Contacts: 
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746
John Mellgren, Western Environmental Law Center, (541) 525-5087
Tim Coleman, Kettle Range Conservation Group, (509) 775-2667
 
With Huckleberry Wolf Pack in Crosshairs, Conservation Groups Appeal to Gov. Inslee to Require Rules Limiting Killing of Washington’s Endangered Wolveshuckleberry_pups
 
OLYMPIA, Wash.— Eight conservation groups filed an appeal with Governor Jay Inslee today to reverse the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission’s denial of a petition asking for enforceable rules limiting when wolves can be killed in response to livestock depredations. The petition seeks to limit when the Department of Fish and Wildlife can kill wolves and require livestock producers to use nonlethal measures to protect their stock. Rules similar to those requested by the petition are in place in Oregon and are working to encourage ranchers to enact nonlethal measures; there, the number of depredations has decreased dramatically, and the state has not killed wolves in more than three years.  
 
“All we’re asking for are some very reasonable standards on what ranchers need to do to protect their livestock and when the state can step in and kill an endangered species,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Many, many questions about the circumstances that led the Department to secretly move to kill wolves in the Huckleberry pack this past weekend — on top of the disastrous killing of the Wedge pack in 2012 — highlight a clear need for such rules.”
 
In 2012 the Department killed seven wolves in the Wedge pack despite the fact that the rancher had taken little action to protect his stock. A similar situation is now taking place in southern Stevens County with the Huckleberry pack. The pack has been involved in multiple depredations of sheep, but there are many questions about the practices of the rancher in question. In particular, the rancher is grazing 1,800 sheep in highly dissected terrain in close proximity to a known wolf rendezvous site. Reportedly, the sheep have been protected merely by four guard dogs since a sheep herder quit roughly a month ago and was not replaced. Additionally, sheep carcasses have been left in the area, serving as a potential attractant to wolves.  
 
Once depredations were discovered, the Department advised the Commission that the sheep were being moved, a range rider was being deployed and that agency staff were on-site to help deter further depredations, but before these actions were fully implemented, the Department secretly put a helicopter in the air to shoot wolves. To date, one wolf has been killed and the sheep still have not been moved.  
 
“This is exactly the type of situation where, if strict, enforceable rules were in place to implement the state’s wolf plan, the sheep owner’s lax practices and the failure of the Department to follow through would have kept the Huckleberry pack safe from the knee-jerk kill order that has been issued against them,” said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands.
 
Last Wednesday the Department issued an order authorizing agency staff and the sheep owner to kill any of the Huckleberry pack wolves in the vicinity, instead of using rubber bullets or other hazing tools. It has also come to light that the Department failed to accept offers of assistance from a Washington State University wolf researcher to help get sheep carcasses out, implement more nonlethal measures, and help monitor the situation. It also failed to accept an offer from a conservation group of special predator-deterrence lights used elsewhere in conflict situations. Instead, without notice to the public or even to the stakeholder advisory group the Department consults with to implement the state’s wolf plan, the Department launched a secret aerial gunning campaign over the weekend with the aim of killing up to four of the pack’s wolves. One young wolf, which may have been a pup from this spring’s litter, was killed from the air and after more unsuccessful airtime, the helicopter was grounded but efforts continue by the Department to trap and euthanize up to three more wolves.
 
“When the Commission denied our new petition, one reason they gave for the denial was that wolf-livestock conflicts are complicated,” said John Mellgren, staff attorney with Western Environmental Law Center, “but that’s precisely why clear rules must be adopted. When the Department shoots from the hip, as they have these past two weeks in dealing with the Huckleberry pack situation, the outcome is tragic for the wolves and a public-relations nightmare for the Department.”
 
Conservation groups filed a similar petition in the summer of 2013 but withdrew it based on promises from the Department to negotiate new rules governing lethal methods of wolf management. A year later, with no negotiations having taken place, the Department gave notice to the Commission it was going to introduce its own, far-less-protective lethal wolf-control rule, leading the groups to refile their petition.
 
“The Department’s actions have been extremely controversial and we know that Gov. Inslee’s office has received thousands of emails and phone calls just this week since the helicopter sniper took to the skies,” said Tim Coleman, executive director of the Kettle Range Conservation Group. “So we think he is fully aware of how much Washington residents care about the state’s endangered wolves and how badly it is needed for the Commission to adopt legally enforceable rules to prevent this from ever happening again.”
 
In 2011 the Commission formally adopted the state’s wolf plan, which was crafted in a five-year process with input from a 17-member stakeholder group, more than 65,000 written comments from the public, and a peer review by 43 scientists and wolf managers. However, Commission and Department officials have publicly stated that they view the plan as merely advisory. Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. Since the early 2000s, the animals have started to make a comeback by dispersing into Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia. But wolf recovery is still in its infancy. According to the Department’s annual wolf report, Washington’s wolf population grew by only one wolf, from a population of 51 wolves to 52 wolves from the end of 2012 to the end of 2013. 
 
The appeal to Gov. Inslee was filed by groups representing tens of thousands of Washington residents, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, Western Environmental Law Center, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, The Lands Council, Wildlands Network, Kettle Range Conservation Group and the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club.  
Upon receipt of the appeal, the governor’s office has 45 days to respond with a final decision.
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Aug22

Washington Wildlife Agency Urged to Revoke Kill Order for Huckleberry Pack

For Immediate Release, August 22, 2014
 
Contacts: 
 
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613
Mike Petersen, The Lands Council, (509) 209-2406
Suzanne Stone, Defenders of Wildlife, (208) 861-4655
Tim Coleman, Kettle Range Conservation Group, (509) 775-2667/(509) 435-1092 (cell)
 
Washington Wildlife Agency Urged to Revoke Kill Order for Huckleberry PackWashington Wolf
 
OLYMPIA, Wash.— Eight conservation organizations, representing hundreds of thousands of Washington residents, are calling on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to rescind a kill order issued earlier this week for wolves of the Huckleberry pack. The order authorizes agency staff and a sheep operator to shoot any wolves seen in the vicinity of a band of sheep that has incurred losses due to wolves over the past few weeks. In a letter to the Department, the conservation groups urged the agency to continue efforts to deter wolves from killing more sheep using nonlethal means rather than killing wolves, as it did two years ago when seven members of the Wedge pack were killed.
 
“We appreciate the agency’s efforts to work with the rancher and use nonlethal means to protect sheep from further losses,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But the wolf kill order needs to be rescinded right away. Killing wolves is just not an effective means of protecting livestock.”
 
Between Aug. 11 and 12, 14 sheep were confirmed as killed by members of the Huckleberry Pack in southwestern Stevens County, and four more sheep have been killed by wolves since that time. Provided the rancher was using sufficient nonlethal deterrence measures at the time, he will be eligible for compensation from the state for the loss of the sheep. The Huckleberry Pack, with six to 12 members and no prior history of livestock conflicts, spends most of its time on the Spokane Reservation, but satellite data from the alpha male’s radio collar indicate he was present at the time the sheep were killed. 
 
All of the details are still not clear, but the rancher’s sheep herder had apparently quit some weeks before the incident, and the sheep were thus unattended some or all of the time. The rancher does have four guard dogs. Nine additional sheep were killed earlier in the month, but were discovered too late to determine the cause of death. 
 
“Before the state moves to killing wolves, it needs to ensure that all nonlethal measures have been exhausted,” said Mike Petersen, executive director of The Lands Council. “Subsequent deaths might have been averted if conflict-prevention strategies had been put into place earlier, though we are glad to hear reports that the sheep operator is fully cooperating with the agency to implement deterrence methods now.”
 
The agency is in the process of helping the rancher move his sheep to an alternate location, has multiple staff on site to help deter wolves from approaching the sheep, and has brought in a range rider to help monitor the sheep, along with the operator’s four livestock guard dogs. But the four most recent sheep deaths occurred before many of these measures were in place. Despite this fact Washington Department of Wildlife Director Phil Anderson issued the kill order for the wolves Wednesday.
 
“This is not a situation where the agency should yet be engaging in lethal control,” said Shawn Cantrell, Northwest office director for Defenders of Wildlife. “While the agency’s actions are a huge step up from how they handled the Wedge pack in 2012, there’s much more it could be doing before it authorizes the killing of wolves.”
 
A news report Thursday evening from Seattle’s NBC news affiliate King5 News included an onsite interview with an agency staffer, who described the conflict-prevention tools the agency was using, including nonlethal rubber bullets, human presence and guard dogs, and emphasized that the agency is focusing on nonlethal conflict deterrence methods. In addition, this week Defenders of Wildlife sent the Department several “foxlights,” a new tool from wildlife coexistence operations in Australia that is already successfully deterring wolves and grizzly bears from livestock in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Canada. This makes the agency’s issuance of a kill order all the more troubling to conservation groups. 
 
“The agency knows that killing wolves doesn’t stop conflict and in fact the recent science is showing that killing wolves can result in more conflict because of the breakdown it causes in the social structure and size of wolf packs,” said Tim Coleman, executive director of the Kettle Range Conservation Groups. “If the agency is going to tell the public on TV news that it is focusing on nonlethal, it should put its money where its mouth is, pay attention to what science tells us and rescind the kill order.”
 
Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. Since the early 2000s, the animals have started to make a slow comeback by dispersing into Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia. But wolf recovery is still in its infancy, with only an estimated 52 wolves at the end of 2013. In 2012 the Wedge pack was killed in a highly controversial agency lethal control action over wolf-livestock conflicts on public land. 
 
“It is essential that more wolves are not lost from the state’s tiny wolf population because of state-sanctioned lethal control actions that ignore the proven, nonlethal methods of conflict prevention,” said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. 
 
The letter to the department was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, The Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Western Environmental Law Center, Wolf Haven International, Kettle Range Conservation Group and The Lands Council.
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Aug01

State Fish and Wildlife Commission Denies Petition to Require Nonlethal Steps to Manage Washington Wolves

For Immediate Release, August 1, 2014
 
Contacts: 
 
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746
Tim Coleman, Kettle Range Conservation Group, (509) 775-2667
Rebecca Wolfe, Washington Chapter of Sierra Club, (425) 750-4091
 
State Fish and Wildlife Commission Denies Petition to Require Nonlethal Steps to Manage Washington Wolves
Eight Petitioning Groups Will Appeal to Governor
 
2019372475
OLYMPIA, Wash.— The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission today denied a petition filed by eight conservation groups seeking to limit when wolves can be killed in response to livestock depredations, and to require livestock producers to exhaust nonlethal measures to prevent depredations before lethal action can be taken. The petition was filed to prevent lethal actions such as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 2012 decision to kill seven wolves in the Wedge Pack despite the fact that the livestock producer who had lost livestock had taken little action to protect his stock. Petitioners plan to appeal the commission’s decision to the governor.
 
“Washington needs to make legally enforceable commitments to ensure the state’s vulnerable, fledgling wolf population is treated like the endangered species that it is,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The state has made some headway, but without clear rules to prevent the department from pulling the trigger too quickly, Washington’s wolves will be at great risk.”
 
Conservation groups filed a similar petition in the summer of 2013 but withdrew it based on promises from the department to negotiate new rules governing lethal methods of wolf management. A year later, with no negotiations having taken place, the department gave notice to the commission it was going to introduce its own, far-less-protective lethal wolf-control rule, leading the groups to refile their petition.
 
“The conservation community has asked the department to engage an outside, unbiased, professional mediator so that stakeholders can negotiate rules language to address wolf-livestock conflict prevention and produce standards for the department to adhere to before resorting to lethal control of wolves,” said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “Until that mediated negotiation has taken place, we will continue to send a message to the state that Washington residents want their wolves protected.”
 
In 2011 the Commission formally adopted a state wolf plan, which was crafted in a five-year process with input from a 17-member stakeholder group, more than 65,000 written comments from the public, and a peer review by 43 scientists and wolf managers. However, commission and department officials have publicly stated that they view the plan as merely advisory. Its lack of legal enforceability resulted in the department’s mishandling of the Wedge pack in 2012 and in the adoption of rules by the commission in 2013 that allow wolves to be killed under circumstances the wolf plan does not permit.
 
“It’s time to put a stake in the ground and stop the state’s backsliding on the wolf plan,” said Tim Coleman, executive director for The Kettle Range Conservation Group. “We can all see what happens when nonlethal conflict prevention methods are used — they work.” 
 
Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. Since the early 2000s, the animals have started to make a comeback by dispersing into Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia. But wolf recovery is still in its infancy.  According to the department’s annual wolf report, Washington’s wolf population grew by only one wolf, from a population of 51 wolves to 52 wolves from the end of 2012 to the end of 2013. In the past year, three wolves were killed by mountain lions, one wolf was illegally poached, and another was killed by a deer hunter. In the face of these threats, it is essential that more wolves are not lost from the state’s tiny wolf population because of state-sanctioned lethal control actions that ignore the proven, nonlethal methods of conflict prevention.  
 
“Wolf-livestock conflicts are so rare and, what’s more — they are preventable,” said Rebecca Wolfe, Wolf Advisory Group member for the Washington Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Let’s get some rules in place to reflect that reality and also to recognize that lethal control of an endangered species should be an absolutely last resort.”
 
The petition to ensure protections for wolves was filed by groups representing tens of thousands of Washington residents, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, Western Environmental Law Center, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, The Lands Council, Wildlands Network, Kettle Range Conservation Group and the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club.
 
Petitioners have 30 days from receipt of an official commission document denying the petition to file their appeal with Governor Inslee. Upon receipt of the appeal, the governor’s office has 45 days to respond with a final decision.
 
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Jun29

Rachel, Rachel Where Art Thou?: The Need for a Noisy Spring

By Bob Ferris
 
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This past April marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Rachel Carson.  And while I certainly bemoan her absence and miss her rachelcarson_binocularsiconic Silent Spring voice, I mourn more for the fact that her life’s work and sacrifice on our behalf has apparently taught many of us little or nothing.    Exhibit “A” in this thesis is the list of herbicides contained in a 2012 private forestry spraying application for a 3,416 acre unit near the Willapa Headwaters in southwestern Washington (thank you, Jon Gosch). 
 
"If man were to follow the teachings of Miss Carson, we would return to the Dark Ages, and the insects and diseases and vermin would once again inherit the earth." Robert White-Stevens American Cyanamid biochemist
 
Rachel’s story is a powerful one and too often repeated.  Here’s how it goes: A systems thinker (in her case a marine biologist) noticing trends and problems in the natural world compiles evidence that establishes correlative links between a chemical or chemicals and a natural or human health issue and then brings it to the public’s attention.  These are not “proofs” in the traditional scientific sense but rather concrete rationales for further investigation—in short these are the building blocks of testable hypotheses.  
 
“Miss Rachel Carson’s reference to the selfishness of insecticide manufacturers probably reflects her Communist sympathies, like a lot of our writers these days. We can live without birds and animals, but, as the current market slump shows, we cannot live without business. As for insects, isn't it just like a woman to be scared to death of a few little bugs! As long as we have the H-bomb everything will be O.K.” Letter to the editor of the New Yorker
 
But once these building blocks form and become known, a storm of industry-led criticism always follows.  We know the pattern: Credentials and motivations are questioned; industry scientists rush in to defend the safety of products; new brochures addressing criticisms are prepared; and those offering the hypotheses are quickly and roughly kicked to curb for being un-American, job-killers, communists or worse.  In all of this we have to really wonder where the sin lies in raising legitimate and justifiable concerns.  And when exactly did poisoning our wildlife and future generations become an American value?  
 
Now I cannot say conclusively, for instance, that forestry herbicide use on private lands is directly causing hoof rot in elk in southwestern Washington.  That said, I know that the chemical cocktails being sprayed have some impact because herbicides directly lower available food supplies and that stresses elk (and deer) making them generally more vulnerable to any infections.  
 
And I have good reasons to suspect additional impact from glyphosate herbicides like RoundUp or Rodeo because they often control the availability of trace metals and micronutrients to plants, soil microbes, and thus bigger critters through a complicated process known as chelation that undoubtedly alters metabolic functions and other systems at each step up the food chain (see 1, 23)  And then there are some concerns about the immunological and thyroidal impacts of some herbicides. So this is not so much a debate about whether or not herbicides are contributing to this current elk affliction, but how far this class of chemicals moves the needle from zero (no impact) to 100 (proximate cause).
 
“The New York Times reported that in 1996, "Dennis C. Vacco, the Attorney General of New York, ordered the company to pull ads that said Roundup was "safer than table salt" and "practically nontoxic" to mammals, birds and fish. The company withdrew the spots, but also said that the phrase in question was permissible under E.P.A. guidelines."  Under “Legal Cases” in Glyphosate Wikipedia listing 
 
I suspect that many in America believe that the establishment of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the passing of theAutism_and_Glyphosate_correlation Clean Water Act have worked together to reduce herbicide use since the 1960s when things were really “bad.”  These are after all the pollution cop agency and a bedrock piece of environmental legislation.  The reality is that while many chemicals were eliminated from use, many more emerged with a lot of them being herbicides.  At the same time lots of wildlife issues such as difficult-to-identify diseases, deformities and population drops are manifesting themselves with similar things happening in human communities too.  Certainly there are multiple factors involved in any wildlife or human health syndrome but the incidence of these problems and the rise of herbicide use seems to track well enough that serious questions should be asked (see glyphosate use and autism graph at right).
 
Now herbicide proponents will be quick to point out that these are only correlations and not causation.  True enough, but like Rachel Carson’s work these correlations are and should be the vibrant roots of hypotheses that we must pose and follow to their conclusions.  And before the charges of scare tactics are deployed and my ethics questioned, my sense is that it is much more responsible to ask legitimate questions arising from a well-constructed correlation, even if it might elicit fear and caution, than to agressively deny that fear and condemn that caution in the absence of adequate and conclusive testing.  And if there is one thing that you learn from plowing through mountains of primary literature on herbicides it is that there is much we do not know and the number of studies that end with a desperate call for more studies is astounding.  
 
It should also be clear to those in the pro-herbicide camp by now that curiosity met with swift denial only leads to suspicion.  And ultimately this becomes distrust if legitimate concerns are ignored or dismissed without visible investigation.  They should also understand that suspicion and distrust can easily snowball into campaigns.  This brings us to our present state which is not quite a broad campaign but more like isolated prairie fires across the rural western landscape that are starting to send sparks back and forth to each other. 
 
These efforts include those by non-traditional folks like hunters and citizen activists Jon Gosch (1,2,3) and Bruce Barnes working on the elk hoof rot issue in Washington; wildlife rehabber Judy Hoy in the intermountain West trying to figure out deformities in deer, elk and antelopes; and Josh Leavitt’s emerging efforts in Utah to serve as a research destination and clearinghouse.  They also include the fine work of groups like our soon-to-be-ex-across-the-hall-neighbors, the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides or NCAP that fight this battle daily. (You see, Kim, I was listening and we will miss your shining faces and having Edward's organic eggs just a few steps away).  They should give us all hope that the brave spirit of Rachel Carson lives. 
 
But there is a second part of the Carson lesson and that is the grassroots part of the equation.  For the US EPA to not think it is alright to characterize RoundUp similarly to table salt and for state agencies in charge of our forests, waterways, wildlife and health not to cavalierly sign off on the chemical carpet bombing enumerated at the top of this piece, we all have to speak up.  Carson’s efforts were initially successful because you, your parents or grandparents spoke up in the 1960s and, therefore, for these current efforts to be successful you, your children and your grandchildren have to be vigilant and not think that the first Earth Day was the end of the battle but rather the beginning.  Let’s get to it.  The below action is one to get started, but more will follow from us or other "prairie fires" in the West.
 
 
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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