Posts Tagged ‘Washington’

Mar08

The Suction Dredging War Starts in Washington: Gentlemen Do Not Start Your Engines

By Bob Ferris
 

 

The above clip came to mind when I was dealing with a recent posting on a fishing site about suction dredge mining in Washington State.  No one expects the Spanish Inquisition and most are not prepared for the onslaught of vitriol, misinformation, threats and bullying typically unleashed by the suction dredge crowd anytime anyone questions their “rights” to run wild and go motorized in our precious and vulnerable salmon-bearing waterways.  
 
This rapid fire electronic carpet bombing by internet trolls is part of an escalating pattern that we have seen over the past decade or so as the idea of sucking up gravel and silt from the bottom of rivers and streams using noisy machines has gained public scrutiny and attention.  
 
Another element of this pattern are states and federal agencies that are wholly unprepared to deal with this issue.  Collectively they have historically worked to enable and simplify permitting without giving any substantive thought to the need for monitoring, enforcement and a consideration of the cumulative and material impacts of this destructive activity—particularly in waterways with struggling salmonids.  The agencies are as unprepared for this assault as we often are.
 
 
In Washington State the agencies seem much like Bambi—the fawn portrayed above.  They have written a nice pamphlet and have a rudimentary permitting program. They have even formed some ill-advised partnerships with suction dredge miners to undertake mercury removal in spite of strong and repeated evidence that this is not a good idea. And now the “Godzilla” created by the ban in California and the restrictions in Oregon is striding purposely towards them one giant, reverberating footfall at a time.  Boom.
 
And who exactly is this horde presently in and now heading north to Washington State?  If you read the comments section of this site and the steelhead site as well as follow what the miners are doing in Southern Oregon, the answer to that is not positive.  In short, they are generally folks with extreme views and behaviors with a high level of resentment to regulation.  And even though they appear largely without advanced education—as evidenced by spelling, grammar and correctness of expression—they appear to lack a corresponding humility because their frequent claims to know more about law than lawyers and more about fish and fisheries impacts than ichthyologists.
 
Racist Tribe Quote
 
The suction dredge miners are also monumentally unaware.  Cascadia is a region defined by rivers frequently named for and still held sacred by tribes working hard to cling to their aquatic heritage.  These are important and valued characteristics of the region to many of us who work with tribes to fulfill the dream of recovered salmon runs and fully functioning coastal ecosystems.  This is in sharp contrast to the overtly racist tone we frequently see from suction dredgers in comment sections.  The quote above (click to enlarge) from a poster known as Terry McClure is particularly offensive but it is by no means unique.
 

In addition, one of the frequent commenters on the Washington dredge piece is a fellow who dredges throughout Cascadia and also sells dredge concentrates on the internet to those who want to pay $50 a pop to pan for gold.  This dredger’s LLC is called Blue Sky Gold Mining which sounds very close to the title of the song by the Australian rock group Midnight Oil—Blue Sky Mining—that became an environmental anthem highlighting the deleterious impacts of mining.  I wonder if he understands the irony in that name?
 
And I wonder if salmon restoration supporters, the tribes, Washington legislators and the state and federal agencies can come together to deal with the existing issue and the looming increase before our salmon and waterways pay the price of this laissez-faire approach to suction dredgers.  Join Fish not Gold and get active. 
 

Jan16

In Washington, Opposition Mounts to Notorious Federal Program’s Attempt to Grab Wolf-killing Powers

For Immediate Release, January 16, 2014wolf-110006
 
Contacts: 
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463
John Mellgren, Western Environmental Law Center, (541) 359-0990
 
In Washington, Opposition Mounts to Notorious Federal Program’s Attempt to Grab Wolf-killing Powers 
 
OLYMPIA, Wash.— Eight conservation groups representing tens of thousands of Washington residents filed official comments today opposing a controversial federal agency’s attempt to give itself authority to kill endangered wolves in the state. In December the U.S. Department of Agriculture/ APHIS Wildlife Services published a draft “environmental assessment” proposing to broaden its authority to assist the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife killing wolves in response to livestock depredations.
 
Conservation organizations are calling for Wildlife Services to prepare a more in-depth “environmental impact statement” because the less-detailed assessment already completed contains significant gaps and fails to address specific issues that will significantly affect wolves and the human environment. The document prepared by Wildlife Services failed to provide data to support some of its core assertions, including whether killing wolves actually reduces wolf-caused losses of livestock. It also failed to address the ecological effects of killing wolves in Washington, including impacts on wolf populations in neighboring states and on nontarget animals — from federally protected species such as grizzly bears and Canada lynx to wolverines, which are now proposed for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.
  
“Allowing a notoriously anti-predator program like Wildlife Services to kill wolves will hobble wolf recovery in Washington, where they remain an endangered species,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wildlife Services is nothing but a killing machine for the livestock industry. There are certainly better options to protect livestock than killing these beautiful animals that are so important to ecosystems.”
 
Wildlife Services is a stand-alone program under the USDA that kills roughly 1.5 million animals per year, including wolves, grizzly bears, otters, foxes, coyotes, birds and many others, with little public oversight or accountability. Thousands of animals killed by Wildlife Services each year are nontarget wildlife species, endangered species and even people’s pets that unwittingly get caught in traps or ingest poisons intended for target species.
 
“There is no place for Wildlife Services in Washington wolf management,” says Nick Cady, legal director with Cascadia Wildlands. “This unaccountable agency program appears to have one mission only — to sanitize the landscape of America’s wild animals that interfere with agricultural operations.”
 
Long criticized as a rogue entity, Wildlife Services was recently the subject of a prize-winning newspaper exposé of its shadowy operations, as well as a documentary containing firsthand descriptions by former program personnel of illegal and cruel practices perpetrated on wildlife and domestic animals. Conservation groups petitioned the USDA in December demanding reform of Wildlife Services’ entire operations. Since then there have been congressional calls for an investigation into the program’s questionable operations, nontransparency and lack of accountability.
 
“Given the pending USDA Inspector General investigation into Wildlife Services, now is not the time to be granting this program new authority to kill wolves in Washington,” said John Mellgren, staff attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. “Broadening its killing authority would introduce new roadblocks to wolf recovery in Washington, and with the use of questionable and inhumane tactics.”
 
Wildlife Services acted in an advisory capacity in the 2012 killing of the Wedge pack by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. In that instance, the department killed seven wolves after depredations of livestock on public lands, despite the rancher’s failure to take sufficient action to protect his cattle. The public, in Washington and across the nation, was outraged, and a Washington state senator called for an investigation into the Wedge pack’s annihilation. 
 
"Wildlife Services consistently fails to consider the ecological value of wolves and other large carnivores to maintaining ecosystem health, integrity and resilience," said Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote. "It's high time Wildlife Services factored in these values and put its money where its mouth is by implementing and emphasizing non-lethal methods to reduce livestock-predator conflicts."
 
Wolves were driven to extinction in Washington in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. They began to return to Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s, and their population has grown to the current 10 confirmed packs and two probable packs. While this represents solid growth, wolves in the state are far from recovered and face ongoing threats. Wildlife Services’ proposal poses a new, significant threat to the full recovery of wolves in Washington.
 
The organizations calling on Wildlife Services to prepare a full environmental impact statement include Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Environmental Law Center, Project Coyote, Predator Defense, WildEarth Guardians, Kettle Range Conservation Group and The Lands Council.
###

Dec09

Problems with the White Knight, Red Queen and Wolves

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

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

 

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

Oct11

Mr. Cady Goes to Washington or Ten Bears and Josey Talk Wolves

By Bob Ferris

I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s and watched Westerns with my dad.  We liked the action, wildness and, at times, the messaging contained in the films about cowboys, mountain men, desperados and the first folks in the Americans.   Somewhere in the proteinaceous filing cabinets of my brain I am sure that I have a collection of favorite scenes and lines.  And one of my favorites is the scene between Clint Eastwood and the late Will Sampson in The Outlaw Josey Wales (below).  
 

I think of this clip because I was just getting briefed on Nick Cady’s trip to Washington to speak before the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf team on behalf of these recovering canids.  Our intent in sending Nick to Olympia was two-fold.  First, after developing a relatively strong Wolf Plan in Washington, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, under pressure from the livestock industry, has been steadily whittling away at protections for wolves.  And clearly the Wedge Pack train wreck still stings and we wanted to make absolutely sure that happenstance was not repeated.

Our second intent was to bring what we have crafted through nearly two years of negotiation in Oregon north so that parties in Washington can benefit from all the hard work and lessons—both good and bad—that we have learned through our efforts in Oregon.  

The message delivered by Nick and others in our collation is much like the movie’s in that it proffers a clear choice between a path of unpleasant and painful, mutual destruction or one where we figure out exactly what we need to do to live relatively peacefully together.  Our preference is for the latter as our experience tells us that the most creative and effective solutions come from situation with similar dynamics, but we are also fully prepared for the former.  

Aug15

On Becoming a Wolf Activist—Do the wolf waltz

By Bob Ferris

“Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor.” Ginetta Sagan
 
The title of a recent opinion piece in a Utah paper nailed it: Making War on Wolves.  Because what we are seeing out there is truly a war waged on a wildlife species. And like with most wars there is a parallel public relations campaign making outlandish and unsupported claims against the “enemy” to justify and encourage actions that would normally be considered unethical or inhumane.  
 
Poll after poll shows that anti-wolf forces are in the minority, but their myth and fear-based campaigns can only be countered by a loud and resounding voice of compassion and rationality.  We, who believe that wild places are better off wild, need to speak up and urge others to do the same.  And we need to do that before October 28, 2013. 
 
So what do we need you to do?
 
1—Send a personal letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell (click here for draft language and addresses)
 
2—Add you name to petitions (click here) and share those petitions widely through all your social networks (please use the share this buttons at the bottom of this post).  
 
 
3—Share the following tweet (below) as Sally Jewell is active on Twitter and her staff are monitoring hash marks (simply click on the link and Twitter does the rest).
 

 
4—Support your favorite wolf advocacy organization.  (We hope it is Cascadia Wildlands but others need support for what will be a protracted campaign)
 
 
 
Follow these four easy steps—almost like a wolf waltz—and we will put these incredible creatures on a solid pathway to recovery.
 

Jul19

State of Washington Petitioned to Better Protect Wolves: Seven Groups Ask State Wildlife Agency to Follow, Enforce Wolf Plan

For Immediate Release, July 19, 2013
 
Contacts:  
 
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613
John Mellgren, Western Environmental Law Center, (541) 525-5087
Bob Ferris, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463
Greg Costello, Wildlands Network, (206) 260-1177
 
State of Washington Petitioned to Enforce Wolf Protections
 
Seven Groups Ask State Wildlife Agency to Codify Wolf Plan Into State Law
 

OLYMPIA, Wash.— In an effort to stop the indiscriminate killing of Washington’s wolves, seven conservation groups filed a petition today calling for the state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission to make the state’s wolf-management guidelines legally binding. The new push to codify provisions put in place in 2011 comes after the state killed seven Wedge Pack wolves last year — a decision that ignored Washington Wolf Conservation and Management Plan provisions governing when lethal control of wolves is allowed. 

In a comprehensive five-year process, Washington’s wolf plan was crafted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife 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 from outside the state. Yet despite the plan’s formal adoption by the Fish and Wildlife Commission in December 2011, department officials have publicly stated they view the plan as merely advisory and have recently proposed numerous amendments to Washington’s Administrative Code that significantly depart from the wolf plan’s provisions.

“Despite years of hard work to develop this wolf management plan with buy-in from all concerned stakeholders, when it came to the Wedge Pack, the state failed miserably,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity.  “The state’s killing of seven wolves last year was tragic, unnecessary and violated the wolf plan. But Fish and Wildlife got away with it because the wolf plan isn’t currently enforceable. Wolves — and Washington taxpayers — deserve better.”
 
“Making the wolf plan legally binding will help avoid future confusion and mistrust over how wolves are being managed and will prevent the occurrence of such clear departures from the plan’s provisions, as happened last year with the Wedge Pack,” said John Mellgren, a staff attorney with Western Environmental Law Center.  
 
Wolves were driven to extinction in Washington in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. They began to return from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s, and their population has grown to 10 confirmed packs today. This represents solid growth, but wolves in the state are far from recovered and face ongoing threats. The state Fish and Wildlife decision last fall to kill the entire Wedge Pack in northeastern Washington for livestock-related conflicts resulted in a firestorm of public controversy; the department issued its wolf kill order despite conflicting opinions from experts about whether the initial livestock losses were due to wolves and despite the livestock owner’s refusal to take adequate proactive steps to prevent losses.
 
“The reestablishment of wolves in Washington is still in its infancy, and the species needs ongoing, adequate protections and certainty in management actions to recover and conserve a sustainable wolf population here,” said Josh Laughlin, conservation director for Cascadia Wildlands. 
 
In addition to provisions regarding conflict-prevention strategies and the specific circumstances when lethal control of wolves is allowed, the plan also sets forth requirements for ongoing monitoring of the health and sustainability of wolf populations in Washington; the publication of annual reports to keep the public updated regarding the status of wolf recovery and conservation; and meeting specific population goals before regional delisting of wolves within the state can take place. But because the plan’s provisions have not been codified into law, none of them are enforceable; they can be changed by the department or commission at any time without public input.
 
The petition to increase 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, Kettle Range Conservation Group, The Lands Council and Wildlands Network.
 
Today’s filing of the petition with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission starts the clock ticking on a 60-day statutory period within which the state must respond.
 
### 
 

For additional information and background please see:

 
 
 

 

 

 

Jun07

USFWS Draft Wolf Delisting Rule Exit Strategy not Recovery Plan

Statement of Cascadia Wildlands:
 
We are exceedingly disappointed in the Obama Administration, Department of Interior and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for abandoning science and the intent of the Endangered Species Act in their draft delisting proposal of the gray wolf in the lower 48 states. The USFWS's pandering to the livestock lobby and involvement in political games will certainly impede or altogether block the wolf's continued recovery throughout the West. 
 
This political maneuver by the USFWS not only threatens the gray wolf, but places in jeopardy any species that poses difficulty for a powerful DC lobby. The Endangered Species Act was a law built to uphold science and biology, but sadly the agency tasked with enforcing it has become a political tool. 
 
For Cascadia Wildlands this additionally unsatisfactory as we watch our landmark settlement on wolf management in Oregon come to fruition—ready to serve as a shining model of what should be.  Where are similar plans in place for California, Colorado, Nevada, Utah and Washington?  As many renowned wolf biologists have already pointed out, this rule as it stands is a politically expedient “exit strategy” rather than a scientifically defensible recovery strategy.  We expected better.
 
 
Bob Ferris
Executive Director
Cascadia Wildlands
 
 

Jun03

NYT: After Years of Progress, a Setback in Saving the Wolf

By Verlyn Klinkenborg

June 1, 2013

The 1973 Endangered Species Act provides federal protection — breathing space, in a very real sense — to plants and animals threatened with extinction. Had this task been left to the states alone, almost none of the species that have returned to health would have done so.

But the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service now plans to remove wolves from the endangered list in all 48 contiguous states and transfer control over their fate to the states. This may save the department from running battles with Congress, state officials and hunters about protecting the wolf. Whether it will save the animal is another matter.

Thanks entirely to federal protections, wolves have rebounded remarkably in some places. There are now about 4,000 in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and 1,600 or so more in the Rocky Mountain states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Interior has gradually delisted the wolves in all these places because, it says, their numbers are enough to guarantee survival. And it is not necessary to their survival, the service says, to protect wolves elsewhere.

Link to full article

Mar06

Congress Members Seek Continued Wolf Protections

Peter DeFazio » Congress members seek continued wolf protections

Associated Press By John Flesher Mar. 5, 2013 
 
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Dozens of U.S. House members urged federal regulators Tuesday to retain legal protections for gray wolves across most of the lower 48 states, saying the resilient predator could continue expanding its range if humans don't get in the way.
 
A letter signed by 52 representatives urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service not to drop wolves from the endangered species list in areas where it hasn't already been done. The wolf has been designated as recovered in the western Great Lakes and the Northern Rockies after rebounding from near-extinction in the past century.
 
The comeback is "a wildlife success story in the making," the lawmakers said in a letter distributed by Reps. Peter DeFazio of Oregon and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, both Democrats. But it added that because of lingering human prejudice, "federal protection continues to be necessary to ensure that wolf recovery is allowed to proceed in additional parts of the country."
 
The Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to return wolves to the Southwest, despite court battles and resistance from ranchers. It's also reviewing the status of wolves and their potential habitat in the Pacific Northwest, where perhaps 100 of the animals are believed to roam, and in the Northeast, which has no established population although occasional sightings have been reported.
 
"The outcome of these reviews will identify which, if any, gray wolves should continue to receive protections under the Endangered Species Act outside of the boundaries of the recovered populations and the Southwest population," agency spokesman Chris Tollefson said.
 
A recommendation is expected in the next few months, he said.
 
An agency report last year proposed dropping the wolf from the endangered list in most locations where none are known to exist. In their letter, the lawmakers said that could prevent wolves from migrating to places where they once lived and where enough habitat and prey remain to support them.
 
They noted that lone wolves have wandered into northern California, Utah, Colorado and several Northeastern states. If re-established there, they would help restore ecological balance and boost the economy by drawing tourists, DeFazio said in a phone interview.
 
"I think a heck of a lot of Americans would be thrilled to hear or see a wolf in the wild," he said. "It's part of our natural heritage."
 
About 2 million wolves once lived in much of North America but were all but wiped out in the lower 48 states by the mid-1900s. The areas where they have recovered represent only 5 percent of their original range, said Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity.
 

Nov16

USFWS Catch 22: Embrace Flawed and Dated Science or Do the Right Thing for Wolves

By Bob Ferris
 
Catch-22 (Logic)
 
A catch-22 is a paradoxical situation in which an individual cannot or is incapable of avoiding a problem because of contradictory constraints or rules.  Wikipedia
 
In Joseph Heller’s classic book Catch 22 the protagonist was caught between the horns of a dilemma.  He, Captain John Yossarian, was a B-25 bombardier attempting to get out of his service in World War II on the grounds that he was crazy, but if he wanted to leave he was not technically crazy.  Wolf Recovery in the United States is often not that different from a war, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, like Captain Yossarian, is not to blame for wanting to get out.  However, in order for the US Fish and Wildlife Service to remove itself from wolf recovery and avoid the controversy, they must demonstrate that the wolf is recovered.  There would be no grounds for controversy, if the wolf has truly recovered.  Nevertheless, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is attempting to make this claim, a claim that is not technically or morally defensible and full of Catch 22’s.
 
Catch 22s you ask? Take the Northern Rockies wolf program, for example.  This recovery plan was originally constructed around the concept of recovering a subspecies of wolves.  The recovery area and therefore the recovery goals were predicated on the historic range of this particular subspecies of wolf.   Subsequent morphometric (species determinations derived from skull or body part measurements) and genetic analyses have clouded this once crystal-clear picture from a classic taxonomic tome.  What’s more, the population goals were determined prior to the wide-spread acceptance and use of minimum viable population analyses (MVPs) in looking at recovery goals.  MVPs or population habitat viability analyses (PHVAs) are now commonly used to estimate needed populations.
 
So, if the US FWS is arguing that they have recovered this “subspecies,” then they need to take steps to protect and recover the other subspecies in the Pacific Northwest and the Southern Rockies.  But if they quietly sweep the subspecies argument under the rug and make a “Canus soupus” argument (i.e., wolves are wolves), common sense as well as science would argue that recovery goals would have to be adjusted to reflect the greatly enlarged recovery area, not just the Northern Rockies.  Regardless, nowhere in these scenarios is there a scientific justification for the USFWS to step away from wolf recovery in the Western US.  In short, they like Heller’s Yossarian cannot simply opt out of an unpleasant situation, because they no longer want to be there.
 
Continued federal involvement also makes sense because the threats that led to endangerment—as evidenced by behavior in the Northern Rockies states—has not diminished or been corrected.  Then there is the mobile nature of the wolf and wolf packs which frequently cross state and international borders and spend a good portion of their time on the matrix of federal public lands that dominate the western landscape.  Both these conditions are strong arguments for continued federal oversight and protections.  Add to these two arguments the fact that recovery of the wolf in the West is really a federal public lands issue (please see Oregon, California, and Washington map)
 
But there is another argument here that is rarely raised and that is the question of responsibility and past sins.  The US FWS—through their precursor the Biological Survey—was the agency largely responsible for endangering the wolf in the first place.  Their agents did not stop until wolves were truly and nearly annihilated in the lower 48 states.  This historic exuberance by the agency should be mirrored in recovery.  Brave and innovative wolves are trying diligently to restore themselves to their former haunts in the Pacific Northwest and Southern Rockies and their efforts need to be supported by like courage and adherence to the best available science by the US FWS.  The mission is not yet accomplished.  
 
For all of the above reasons and more, we ask that wolf supporters in the US and elsewhere join with us to send a clear message to the US FWS that the wolf recovery job in the West is not finished.  Federal protections must remain in place and wolves expanding into western Washington and Oregon as well as northern California need and deserve federal protection.  And we feel the same way for wolves recolonizing Colorado and Utah.  Therefore we ask that wolf supporters sign a petition to that effect here.  
 
Thank you.  Working together we can fully recover the wolf in Cascadia and other promising areas.  Pioneering wolves like OR-7, also known as Journey, should not become immediate targets because the road to recovery difficult and political expediency trumps science and compassion.  Let's work for wolves and keeping it wild.
 

 

we like it wild. Follow us Facebook Twiter RSS