Posts Tagged ‘wolves’

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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Aug26

Lawsuit Takes On Devastating Old-growth Logging Project in Tongass National Forest–Suit Follows Scientist’s Warning That Alexander Archipelago Wolves Are Threatened

For Immediate Release, August 26, 2014 :
 
Gabe Scott, Cascadia Wildlands, (907) 491-0856
Larry Edwards, Greenpeace, (907) 747-7557
David Beebe, GSACC, (907) 340-6888
Randi Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity, (310) 779-4894
Joel Hanson, The Boat Company, (907) 738-1033
Chris Winter, Crag Law Center, (503) 525-2725
 
Lawsuit Takes On Devastating Old-growth Logging Project in Tongass National Forest Suit Follows Scientist's Warning That Alexander Archipelago Wolves Are Threatened
 
PRINCE OF WALES ISLAND, Alaska— Five conservation groups filed a lawsuit today to stop the U.S. Forest Service’s Big Thorne timber project on Prince of Wales Island in southeast Alaska. Big Thorne is by far the largest aawolfU.S. Forest Service logging project on the Tongass National Forest since the region’s two pulp mills closed about 20 years ago.
 
The lawsuit asks the court to find, among other things, that the federal government failed to heed research by Dr. David K. Person, a former Alaska Fish and Game wildlife biologist and foremost expert on Alexander Archipelago wolves. A formal declaration by Person says that Big Thorne would “break the back” of the ecosystem dynamic between the wolves, deer and hunters on the island.
 
The geographically isolated Prince of Wales wolf population is known by state and federal biologists to have dropped sharply in recent years to a low but undetermined number. If the project proceeds, more than 6,000 acres of old-growth forest would be cut into nearly 150 million board feet of logs. This old-growth forest is a mix-aged group of trees, with the oldest approaching 1,000 years of age. What remains of it is increasingly important to wildlife.
 
“Prince of Wales Island is the most heavily logged part of southeast Alaska,” said David Beebe of the Greater SE Alaska Conservation Community (GSACC). “The Big Thorne project would add to the enduring impacts to wildlife from massive clearcuts and about 3,000 miles of logging roads on the island, created beginning in the 1950s.”
 
“Without enough old-growth winter habitat in the forest for shelter, deer populations plummet during deep-snow winters,” explained Gabriel Scott, Alaska legal director for Cascadia Wildlands in Cordova. “And without enough deer to go around, wolves and hunters are direct competitors. That never ends well for the wolf, or for hunters, because deer are the wolves’ primary prey. Big Thorne bites hard into necessary winter habitat.”
 
“The other Big Thorne shoe dropping on Archipelago wolves is more roads,” said Larry Edwards of Greenpeace. “With 3,000 miles of logging roads, a high road density, you get uncontrollable wolf poaching.” Big Thorne’s 46 miles of new roads would add to 580 miles in that project area already; another 37 miles would be reopened or reconstructed. “The Forest Service consistently circumvents its road density standard and guideline,” he said.
 
“Big Thorne is the antithesis of the ‘rapid transition’ out of Tongass old-growth logging the Forest Service promised over four years ago,” said the Center for Biological Diversity’s Randi Spivak. “Time’s up. It’s deeply irresponsible for the agency to proceed in the face of the need to end old-growth logging and of Dr. Person’s dire warning about continuing a failed land-management scheme that will devastate deer and wolf populations.”
 
The plaintiffs expressed outrage at the suppression of science the Forest Service and Parnell administration have committed with this project. Dr. Person first circulated his concerns within the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, where he worked at the time. The comments were buried by the agency and by higher-level state bureaucrats to implement Governor Parnell’s “one voice” policy, which suppresses troublesome science in order to maximize logging.
 
Dr. Person’s strongly held concerns were discovered through public records requests made by the plaintiff organizations. Then, after confronting the Forest Service with the material in comments on the Big Thorne draft environmental impact statement, the agency simply ignored its existence in the final statement and project decision.
 
“That gambit by the two governments backfired,” said Scott. “The project was put on hold for nearly a year while a formal declaration by Dr. Person about Big Thorne’s impacts to deer and wolves was reviewed. The declaration, prepared after Person quit ADF&G, was filed by the plaintiffs in an administrative appeal of the August 2013 Big Thorne decision.
 
A special six-person Wolf Task Force with personnel from the Forest Service, ADF&G and the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, reviewed the declaration. Opinion was evenly split, “unsurprisingly,” Scott said, given political pressure and the state’s one-voice policy. Breaking ranks was a Forest Service biologist who has done wolf research on the island. 
 
“Nonetheless, the Forest Service is again proceeding with the project rather than delve further into the ecology, revise the EIS, and reconsider the decision,” said Edwards. “We are suing to reverse that. And also to force revision of the Tongass forest plan into compliance with law that, if followed, would have avoided Prince of Wales’ ecological mess in the first place.”
 
“People from all continents and walks of life book passage on our educational cruises to see charismatic predators such as wolves in their natural habitat,” said Joel Hanson, conservation program director with plaintiff The Boat Company. “But with this timber sale, the Forest Service proves once and for all that it is blind to the wolf’s value as either a visitor attraction or vital component of a healthy coastal island ecosystem. It sees only trees, and pictures only the benefits of using forests as a commodity.”
 
“This case is the last line of defense,” said Chris Winter, at Crag Law Center who represents the conservation groups. “Otherwise, the Forest Service is going to log these species and the old-growth forests on Prince of Wales Island into oblivion.” Crag Law Center, in Portland, Oregon, is a public interest environmental law firm that works from Northern Alaska to Northern California.
 
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Aug24

Unfolding Huckleberry Pack Tragedy—We Have Been Here Before

By Bob Ferris
 
A little more than 20 years ago I started administering the wolf compensation program for Defenders of Wildlife.  huckleberry_pupsThat meant that every compensation claim during my nearly eight years with the organization had to go through me to get signed and then paid.  That also meant that I had to know the wolf side of the equation and understand the rancher or livestock owner's side as well.  So I look at the Huckleberry Pack (video of pups in 2012 below picture above right) situation through that lens and what I am seeing (and hearing) bothers me.
 

The lack of agency transparency and the clear bias towards the livestock producer’s rights rather than responsibilities is troubling in this situation involving an endangered species, but what irks me most is that I have written this piece before–twice in fact (1,2).  This is the Wedge Pack incidence played out again only with sheep instead of cattle and on private lands rather than public.   
 
Certainly Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has made progress in terms of trying to do what is right by the species under their care, but it is very much a work in progress and very far away from the model we see to the south in Oregon.  The agency has to do better and one way to get them to do that is to respectfully ask Governor Jay Inslee to intercede.  So please click the below button to take action on this critical wolf issue and also spread it around to other activists.  
 
 
 
 
 

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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Aug21

OR-7 The Journey : Film Premiere

"OR-7 The Journey"

September 18, 2014 at 7:00pm

Bijou Art Cinemas on 13th Ave. Eugene, Oregon

 
OR-7 The Journey, documentary film presented by Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild, and film producer Clemens Shenk. Eugene, OR film premiere at Bijou Art Cinemas on 13th Avenue on Sept. 18, 2014 at 7pm

Join Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild on September 18, 2014 at 7pm in welcoming Oregon filmmaker Clemens Schenk for the Eugene premiere of "OR-7: The Journey".

 

 

RSVP HERE on the event page.

 

Buy TICKETS ONLINE.

 

"OR-7: The Journey" is an inspiring documentary chronicling the remarkable dispersal of a young male wolf – OR-7, also known as Journey – from northeast Oregon down into California who has recently formed a pack southwest of Crater Lake to become the first wolf pack in the Oregon Cascades in nearly 70 years.
 
Come celebrate wolf recovery, wildlife, Oregon's conservation values, and OR-7's epic journey. This film tells the story not just of Journey, but also of his species. It is a story of survival and inspiration. But even as most Americans have come to appreciate native wildlife and wild places, 21st century science and values are coming head to head with old prejudices that put the future of wolves – and OR-7 – in jeopardy.
 
  • The showing will be held at the Bijou Theater at 492 E. 13th Ave in Eugene, OR at 7:00pm. 
  • Tickets are $10 and are available through the Bijou’s website HERE. There is limited seating and the show is expected to sell out, purchasing tickets in advance is strongly encouraged.
  • A Q&A session will take place after the movie with wolf advocates and the filmmaker. 
  • Cascadia Wildlands merchandise will be available for purchase at the event.
 
For more info about the movie specifically, please follow this link.
 
Learn more about OR-7.
 

 

Maximize the impact of your donation to our wolf fund today, by taking advantage of the

 

Mountain Rose Herbs Matching Gift for Wolf Donations!
 
 
 
 
Donations_Wolf_MtnRoseHerbs_graph_DRAFT_C.3_21AugTry

Aug17

Wolf Control in Idaho by Rubber Stamp and Shortsightedness

By Bob Ferris
 
 
As I look at the announcement from last month that Idaho Governor Butch Otter appointed the last two people to his wolf control committee, I am quite frankly torn. I am torn not because I want to support his good faith effort to follow science and do what is right for wildlife, but over which video clip I will use to parody this transparent attempt to make the human equivalent a rubber stamp that says “kill the wolves” look like a legitimate determinative body.
 

In the end I decided to use all three (so enjoy). I did so because each is as ridiculously silly as this shameful process in Idaho and each plays on the theme of too many people with the same name which mimics the Governor’s wolf team that is philosophically monolithic and congruently myopic when it comes to wolves.
 

Certainly this team gets the idea that wolves eat elk and certainly eat cattle and sheep occasionally, but the idea that wolves are driving this system becomes an interesting exercise when one looks at the relative numbers of players on the landscape. I have expressed the below verbally on numerous occasions but it seems to not hit home until you see it graphically and see the scale of it.
 
Cattle and Wolf Numbers in Idaho
 
 

Jul20

I am Wanda. Hear me Howl!

By Wanda
 
wanda
[Editor’s note: Wolves do not speak directly to humans nor do they type their thoughts on computers, but what if they did? What if Wanda spoke?]
 
I am the wolf you know very little about.  I came out of nowhere and jumped into the hearts and minds of people around the world by simply doing what wolves do: Traveling great distances during dispersal.  
 
I found the wolf known as OR-7 or Journey by doing the four-step wolf waltz so known to young wolves of walk, pee, sniff and howl.  It worked and now I have a partner.  And this spring I had Journey’s pups. 
 
I grew up in the wilds where the night air was sometimes filled with howls of others and now it is not.   We hear nothing but each other and soon our pups will learn to call in the manner of our pack.   
 
As our pups grow, we will roam where our noses and prey take us.  And we will still continue the waltz, but now it has a different purpose.  Now it defines our land, our home and our future.  
 
Follow me on facebook here
 
Contact me soon at: wanda[at]cascwild.org
 
 
 
 

 

Jul11

Of Race Cars and Banked Tracks (Elk and Wolves)

By Bob Ferris
 
“At issue is how wildlife is managed in this country. Our belief is based on more than 100 years of the most successful wildlife management model in the world that our state agencies are to manage wildlife within their respective borders. That includes management of gray wolves along with other predators.” David Allen letter to Congressman Peter DeFazio dated July 10, 2014 
Elk US FWS
 
An Open Letter to David Allen of the  Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
 
July 11, 2014
 
Mr. David Allen
President and CEO
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
5705 Grant Creek
Missoula, MT 59808
 
Dear Mr. Allen,
 
As much as I enjoy reading your declarative statements about complicated issues you clearly know very little about, I find that I must interrupt that pleasure and interject a few comments.  Again, as I have before (1,2,3,4,5).  
 
There is a lot to criticize in your letter starting with the disrespectful and unprofessional omission of the “Dear” in the salutation to a sitting Congressman (here are some helpful tips on writing to elected officials), but I want to set all of that aside and focus on this gem of a paragraph at the top of this page and also your general invoking of science.    
 
Ignoring the question about whether or not wildlife in your first sentence should be treated as a plural in this context (i.e., multiple species and in multiple settings) and setting aside the fact that the following sentence is poorly written, this whole paragraph demonstrates that you are laboring under a tall tower of misconceptions as jumbled as your second sentence.  And while it might seem advantageous for you to pull a state’s rights page out of the Cliven Bundy handbook at this point, you should take some time and actually look at conservation history in this country before acting the expert as you have.  
 
While completing that exercise you would come to understand that market hunting—what caused your elk to decline precipitously in the first place—was largely allowed or inaffectively opposed by the states. But it wasn’t until the federal government stepped in with the Lacey Act in 1901 and other similar federal legislation as well as international treaties (Heaven forbid, Edna, he’s talking Agenda 21) that market hunting finally took a powder.
 
Certainly there were actions from both levels of government, but it is a complicated relationship.  And my sense is that you seem to have problems with these complex relationships like, for instance, why wolves and elk are seemingly at odds but really need each other to prosper in the long run.  All this led me to believe that perhaps no one has taken the time to explain these relationships in terms that you can understand—you do, after all, lack grounding in ecology and any direct experience in conservation or natural resources policy.  I have taught ecology, worked as a biologist and participated in policy for more than 30 years, so let me take a stab at that. 
 
You come from NASCAR so let’s start there.  NASCAR is a sport born out of bootlegging and running from federal revenuers.  The best initial drivers were the ones that ran more ‘shine faster and kept it on the road.  So we have a good example of natural selection here as those who did not were removed from the population by running into trees, rocks or handcuffs.  
 
In essence this sport involves running a car at high speeds around a banked track (my wife’s family once owned a tire company and stock cars so she is coaching me).  The car, driver and engine provide the speed and excitement while the banked track—for the most part—keeps cars and drivers from spinning out of control with potentially fatal repercussions.  If you think of the cars and drivers as the "states" and the banked track as the "federal government," this analogy works for the North American model of wildlife management and why it has functioned as it has over the years.  As much as you want to invoke the 10th Amendment you cannot have a successful model without both parties playing and it is folly to think so (see also this analysis on the North American Model).
 
But there is more.  In the western states a lot of the wild habitat is owned by the federal government so they become even more important in this relationship, not less, as your paragraph has characterized.  In addition when you look at Montana, Wyoming and Idaho where the flow of federal money is positive (i.e., more federal monies flow into the states than flow out in federal taxes) the folks who are paying to maintain and keep those habitats are from all over the country and therefore federal in nature.  And since what we are talking about in this proposal by Congressman DeFazio is mostly federal forest lands perhaps a more open and welcoming attitude in this should be exercised by you.  (Just a suggestion.)  
 
The funny thing is that the relationship between elk and wolves is very similar and the NASCAR model works here too.  Wolves prevent elk populations from spinning out of control by overshooting the carrying capacity of their habitat; being too numerous or concentrated thus more subject to disease; and accumulating too many of the wrong kind of alleles (variants of genes) that normally would be selected against just like the bad bootleggers referenced above by the process of natural selection.  These seem to be foreign concepts to you as you continually mischaracterize what is happening in Yellowstone though your organization has paid for and been briefed on the science by folks like Dr. Arthur Middleton. 
 
Moving on to the topic of science, your condemnation of Congressman DeFazio’s lack of scientific justification is ironic coming from someone who has called for a reduction of all predator populations in the absence of any scientific justification for that collection of actions.  This is made even more ironic given your organization’s tight relationships with the cattle and timber industries both of which through grazing and herbicide use displace elk and degrade elk habitat.  And the science on the increased likelihood of disease transference when wildlife populations are concentrated at supplemental feeding stations that are supported by you and RMEF further calls into question your dedication to science, scientific principles or even prudent wildlife management.
 
Perhaps you and others in your organization have trouble with complex analyses or dealing with data in general.  That was certainly apparent when you rolled out your page on wolves and elk using truncated graphs that were purposely misleading.  Your constant arguing that wolf populations are too high because they are well above minimum recovery goals may sound like science to you and many of your adherents, but it is not.  These were simply numbers indicating when the shift from federal recovery management to state recovery could happen.  Nothing more, nothing less.
 
Are wolf numbers too high in the Northern Rockies states as you have repeatedly claimed and inferred? Probably not.  Right now the wolf densities in these states are about one fifth of what we see in British Columbia with about the same land area.  Certainly there are habitat and human density differences between BC and the Northern Rockies states but there is unlikely a five-fold carrying capacity differential and there are many in BC who think that their wolf density is too low.  
 
And while you are madly trying to claim this scientific high ground, there is nothing in your rhetoric that shows any acknowledgement of the ecological value of wolves, their impact on other predators such as cougars and coyotes, and any appearance of a mental governor on your talking points as evidence emerges of the importance of maintaining social structure in packs and the need for large numbers of wolves across a broad landscape in order to realize the promised benefits of trophic cascades and meso-predator release.  
 
Circling back to the original premise for your letter, I will not tell you that Yellowstone wolves killed outside the Park will cause population calamity as that would be just as disingenuous and unfounded as  your claims that science dictates that predators—particularly wolves—need to be controlled and that their current levels are too high.  That said, these near-park boundary mortalities do impact the population.  
 
My concern, which is science-based, has to do with the value of these animals as part of a well-studied population free from interference.  Now you might—having never conducted scientific research yourself—not consider these animals and the data their continued existence contributes to our overall understanding of complex predator-prey relationships valuable but many of us do.  And quite frankly I long for a day when the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is once again led by someone who might similarly value research and understand that successful conservation is more about appreciating the complexity of these natural systems and all their parts and less about marketing fear and innuendo like a pair of jeans or stock car race.  
 
Now granted some of the above is certainly facetious in nature and somewhat patronizing.  And I would be annoyed and offended if something similar was done to me.  But at some point, Mr. Allen, you have to ask yourself which is the greater sin, the facetiousness and patronizing tone I employ or your misstatements and missteps that make this sort of response not only appropriate but necessary?  
 
Sincerely,
 
bob's signature
 
 
 
Bob Ferris
Executive Director
 
 
 

Jul08

US Fish and Wildlife Service: The Leadership and Vision Vacuum

By Bob Ferris
 
"A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." Aldo Leopold A Sand County Almanac, 1948
 
WolverineSnow
I have been spending a lot of time lately reading scientific justifications and policy statements emanating out of the US Fish and Wildlife Service such as the new policy on “significant portion of its range” (see Society for Conservation Biology Comments) for the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the leaked documents on the wolverine ESA listing tangle.   This is a painful process because these documents and other related works are often so tortured and mind-numbing.  
 
Well worded and grammatically correct these pieces are so covered with political fingerprints, cripplingly bent by special interest hip-checks and too liberally doused with an absence of courage that you have to keep going back to the title page to remind yourself that these were written and issued by an agency with public trust responsibilities (i.e., the folks who are supposed to protect our natural resources for future generations, including making sure that species do not blink out and that ecosystems still function naturally and not like grand, but woefully inadequate, zoo enclosures.)
 
Being older I have the opportunity in all this for hindsight and vision.  And what we are seeing in these type-rich decrees is not reflective of the former and shows little or none of the latter.  They are, in short, the ministrations of bureaucrats told to fit a square and wondrous peg into a hole of a disastrously diminishing diameter and taking pride in the process.  
 

Being older I also remember the peril we were experiencing in the 1960s and the promise expressed in our cornerstone environmental laws—The National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act as well as the cavalcade of initials that followed.  These were supposed to take us from peril to promise and beyond.  They were meant to stop the rivers from burning, help us breathe, bring back declining and disappearing species and basically stop Iron Eyes Cody (above) from crying.  And they made progress for a while.  But older folks forgot that diligence is always required and younger people never knew what was lost or what could be recovered.  
 
Before I charge off in some too obscure reminiscences, let me return to the Aldo Leopold quote at the top of this piece.  Because when you carve away all of the extraneous parts of any of these documents and melt them down in the crucible of intent they should always have as their immutable backbone the sentiments espoused above by Dr. Leopold.  Always. 
 
If they do not, we should not accept them.  If they do not, we should challenge them until they do.  If the leaders of this agency and others are not insisting that under their watch more is going to be protected and recovered in their quest to do what is right then why would we accept them as leaders?  Any fool can continue to accept species declines, dilute the intent of the ESA, embrace inaction, and make things worse, but we should really expect more from our leaders.    
 
Now the US FWS will claim there are reasons for not taking the above position and ignoring or significantly softening Dr. Leopold’s dictum.  Congress will cut our funding.  The ranchers and timber interests will not like us.  The wolf-110006Koch brothers will finance another anti-wolf video.  But these are not reasons, they are excuses.  The bad news is that while excuses give us comfort and shelter, experience tells us that waiting or avoidance only makes the eventual consequences worse.  
 
Perhaps in reference to the above, the US FWS should consult with their sister Interior agency the Bureau of Land Management and ask them if they could go back in time and remove Cliven Bundy’s cattle in the early 1990s whether that would have brought a better result than our current situation.  Certainly rolling over and peeing on oneself saves you a little immediate grief, but in the long term it just earns you more bullying and beatings—both literal and figurative.  
 
Am I asking for the impossible here, that a director of the US FWS would embrace the above quote and try to brave the “slings and arrows” shot by Congress and industry?  No.  When I first worked in DC I spent time with John Turner, Mollie Beattie and Sam Hamilton—all former directors of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and all folks who stood up for species even when it was less than comfortable.  
 
John Turner
 
“John Turner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director under the previous Bush administration, said in a telephone interview, he and others developed the program that Babbitt carried out to reintroduce wolves and allow killing of problem animals.
 
Other Republicans, going back to William Penn Mott, National Park Service director under Reagan also pushed for wolf reintroduction.
 
"This is a bipartisan issue," said Turner, a friend of President-elect Bush and president of The Conservation Fund.” In Official urges West to find space for wolves:
Babbitt confident animals will thrive
by Rocky Barker 
 
turner_eagle_500I met John Turner roughly 20 years ago when we sat together on a wolf panel at a National Cattlemen and Beef Association forum in Washington, DC—the two of us in suits surrounded by a sea of cowboy hats.  While it was logical that I was there because I had recently taken over the wolf programs at Defenders of Wildlife and was administering the organization’s compensation program, Mr. Turner’s presence was a little less logical.  You see, John was a Republican who had just left the director’s position at the US FWS to take the leadership slot at The Conservation Fund and he was also a multi-generational Wyoming rancher and outfitter complete with a missing finger joint from a roping accident.  Yet he was voluntarily there talking with ranchers (his peers) about the need to protect and recover wolves.  
 
"Economic incentives are the bridge between what we are doing now and what we should be doing for endangered species," said Bob Ferris of Defenders of Wildlife
 
As we are both biologists, our messages were largely similar in that we each argued that the wolf had a place in the West.  Our messages were also similar in that we were simultaneously looking at traditional and creative ways to minimize friction.  I was new to this arena and John helped me through some of the tougher questions on administrative details and history where I had some gaps.  We later collaborated on our shared interest in creating economic incentives for endangered species conservation on private lands.   
 
Mollie Beattie 
 
“In the long term, the economy and the environment are the same thing. If it's unenvironmental it is uneconomical. That is the rule of nature.” Mollie Beattie in Woman of the Woods: Mollie Beattie, a Natural as Fish and Wildlife Chief by Ted Gup  
 
My interactions with Mollie were too few and mainly were more conversations than working together in any traditional sense.  We sat next to each other at a few events and talked about wolves, but I will say that she DirmollieBeattiesimultaneously exuded serenity and a principled nature.  More importantly she was courageous—not only through her illness—but when dealing with Congress.  
 
"What a country chooses to save is what a country chooses to say about itself.” — Mollie Beattie, former Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (1947-1996) 
 
My strongest memory of Mollie was during some hearings in the newly re-named Resources Committee in the House (nee Natural Resources) chaired by Don Young of Alaska.  All during the hearing Congressman Young  (R-AK) who referred to his female colleagues Barbara Cubin (R-WY) and Helen Chenoweth (R-ID) as his “sled dogs” waved a walrus baculum (i.e., penis bone) at the then Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  But Mollie held her ground, defended the Endangered Species Act and stood up to those in Congress attacking this and other bedrock environmental laws.  
 
“So Mollie calmly informed Congressman Young that the ESA was basically a good law, and that she intended to uphold and improve it. Did the Chair have any constructive suggestions?”  Vermon Law School Lawyer and Faculty member Patrick Parenteau in She Runs With Wolves: In Memory of Mollie Beattie  
 
Sam Hamilton
 
Sam Hamilton Phil Kloer Tenn NWROf the three I probably spent the most time with Sam Hamilton (at left at left) who also had the shortest tenure of the three as Secretary succumbing to a fatal heart attack while skiing in the Rocky Mountains mere months after his confirmation.  
 
I met Sam initially through the Black Bear Conservation Coalition that met each year in Louisiana.  Our meetings about black bear conservation when he worked for the US FWS out of the Atlanta office eventually led to other discussions at professional meetings like North American’s and those of the Wildlife Society.
 
It was at The Wildlife Society meeting one year when I ran into a bob white quail and turkey biologist from the Southwest who talked to me about issues of game bird recruitment and expanding coyote populations.  The biologist and I brought Sam into the equation when we started discussing red wolves as a possible solution in Mississippi.  As a result, Sam helped us set up a meeting in Yazoo City, Mississippi with local landowners and decision-makers.  We picked this site because of this area’s proximity to large tracts of public lands (i.e., Delta National Forest, Panther Swamp Wildlife Refuge and the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge), the low human density and the absence of a significant livestock population.   Sam worked hard on this and we got very, very close to pulling it off.  He saw the opportunity here as he did in the Everglades to do something remarkable for willdlife in the true spirit of cooperative conservation.  Who knows what Sam would have accomplished if he had lived (or Mollie for that matter), but if his past was a mirror of his future we expected great things.  
******
These are three people from three very different parts of the country and with different experiences and political persuasions.  Yet all three of them took their jobs at the USFWS seriously and while there supported the Endangered Species Act—including taking affirmative and courageous actions for wolves.   Perhaps the current leadership—many of whom were present during the tenures of these three—will use this and them as an empowering touchstone for their own leadership.  Maybe then they will remember that their jobs should be looking for ever-increasing ways to save species rather than looking for ways to avoid taking steps needed to “preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community” under their stewardship. 
 
Send a message to Director Dan Ashe by clicking this button:
 
 
 
 

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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