Posts Tagged ‘wolves’


Oregon Wolf Delisting Training

2019372475by Legal Director Nick Cady
You may have heard the terrible news out of northeast Oregon last week that two wolves, the alpha male and female of the newly formed Sled Springs pack, were found dead next to each other.  It is highly likely that these animals were poached; poisoned given the unusual circumstances surrounding their demise, and the absence of bullet wounds.
This pair had just recently given birth to a litter of wolf pups, and now these five-month old pups must survive the winter on their own — a tall order.  The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is reaching out for information concerning the deaths of these wolves, but we are not hopeful.
Recently in Washington, a man admitted to running down an endangered wolf with his truck, and then shooting the animal.  After acknowledging poaching an endangered species, the man was released with a hundred dollar fine and a six month's probation.  (See more on this story here.) Last fall, the alpha female of the Teeanaway pack near Cle Elem was poached.
odfw imageThis tragic sequence of events is occurring in the midst of efforts by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to remove state endangered species protections for the species. Aside from all the practical and legal implications, we are worried this delisting effort will send a message to those out there hostile to wolves that it is open season. 
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission is hosting a hearing on October 9th in Florence, Oregon concerning its proposal to remove wolves from the state endangered species list. Your testimony is welcomed.
Cascadia Wildlands has partnered with Oregon Wild, Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity to host a training in order to give folks interested in testifying a chance to practice their testimony and help them to refine their message.  We will be meeting at the Cascadia Wildlands office in Eugene, 1247 Willamette Street, October 8, 2015 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. 
Food is being generously donated by Falling Sky and Oakshire has donated beverages for the event.  Don't be shy, come meet people working on these issues, and help stand up for wolves in Oregon!
(Washington wolf pup photo by Conservation Northwest)

Wolf Tracks

Willamette Week by Aaron Mesh
May 27, 2015
Nick Cady is thrilled to see the return of gray wolves to Oregon’s Cascade Range. He celebrated when the wolf dubbed OR-7 was spotted south of Crater Lake in 2011, more than 60 years after hunters wiped out the species from the state.
But even as wolves return to Oregon’s southwestern mountains, Cady fears the U.S. Forest Service will authorize logging and road building that could cut off the wolves’ range.
“Federal agencies are supposed to lay out how projects will impact species,” Cady says. “What we’ve seen with wolves is they say, ‘Oh, it won’t impact them at all.’ I don’t think that is true.”
This spring, Cady’s environmental nonprofit, Cascadia Wildlands, filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking all Forest Service plans for protecting wolves while selling off timber and building roads in Oregon and Washington’s national forests. Two months later, the agency hasn’t given him a single document.
So Cady’s group has gone to court, suing the Forest Service in U.S. District Court on May 20 for its failure to respond to Cascadia Wildlands’ records request.
Lawsuits accusing government agencies of violating the FOIA have become a reliable tool for environmental groups trying to watchdog public officials.
Cascadia Wildlands’ suit is the 10th lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for Oregon in the past decade by an environmental group seeking to force the release of public records. It’s the second in less than a month. On April 29, the Northwest Environmental Defense Center in Portland sued to see water-quality records from the Columbia Generating Station in Hanford, Wash.
Cascadia Wildlands says it filed the records request March 12, seeking communications between the Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The suit says Cascadia Wildlands then wrote letters in April and May offering to let the Forest Service release the documents gradually.
The Forest Service responded in May by saying it needed more time to review the request, because it had 20 other records requests ahead of Wildlands’.
Glen Sachet, a spokesman for the Forest Service’s Portland office, declined comment to WW on pending litigation.
Oregon officials estimate 77 wolves live in the state, but just seven of them are in the western half of the state. The largest Cascade Range wolf pack, called the Rogue Pack, includes OR-7, his mate and three pups.
Cady fears that commercial logging could disrupt the wolves’ range, expose them to cars and change the behavior of deer and elk, making it harder for wolves to find food. The group also says building new timber roads makes it easier for hunters to get deep into the wilderness and set wolf traps.
He says his group wants assurances from the Forest Service that the agency’s plans take into account protections for the Rogue Pack and the next generation of Oregon wolves.
“We just hope they’re taking a hard look at the science before proceeding with irretrievable resource damage and road construction,” Cady says. “They might have taken a good, hard look at this. But I don’t think that’s the case. We’ll find out.”
A copy of the complaint can be found here.

Lawsuit Challenges Plan to Log Old-growth in Alaska

Mail Attachment-6 copy

Cascadia Wildlands yesterday filed suit against the Forest Service challenging approval of the Mitkof Island timber sale, a 4,117-acre old-growth logging project on the Tongass National Forest, near Petersburg in Southeast Alaska.

This lawsuit comes close on the heals of our challenge to the Big Thorne timber sale, another big old-growth sale that is currently on appeal before the 9th Circuit. These cases, along with a proposed revision to the overarching Forest Plan, represent a critical turning point on the Forest.

Long story short, the era of profitable old-growth logging is over, but the Forest Service and a handful of influential logging industry die-hards have been working overtime trying to prop it back up. Timber sales like this one on Mitkof Island are a last gasp of a dying industry.

The industry is dying—there is little doubt about that—but the question is whether it will leave enough healthy forest behind to sustain the wildlife and subsistence opportunities that rural Alaskans have traditionally enjoyed. The ecosystem is at a tipping point. 

Mitkof Island is a microcosm for the legacy of Tongass logging and habitat loss. Extensive areas have been clearcut on the National Forest, and (even worse) clearcutting on adjacent privately owned land.

One result is that the local deer population has crashed and is not recovering. Without enough old-growth providing shelter, the herd starves in winter. Petersburg residents no longer can go hunting out their back door. 

And, the result of that is that the State of Alaska is pursing ‘predator control,’ aiming to cull the wolf population by 80%. Without adequate habitat, the whole predator-prey system (of which humans are a part) comes crashing down.

In spite of huge controversy, on Mitkof the Forest Service determined that their logging project would have “no significant impact” on the environment, so conducted only a cursory environmental review. This is rare, and extraordinary. As the environmental consequences intesify, why would the agency be paying less attention to them?

Contrary to that claim, our lawsuit catalogues a number of significant impacts:

  • Loss of winter habitat for deer, further stressing the local population;

  • Harm to subsistence hunters, particularly low-income residents who cannot afford to travel to distant islands for deer;

  • Threats to the Alexander Archipelago wolf, which is currently being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act, from loss of deer habitat and the likelihood of increased trapping;

  • Damage to the Queen Charlotte goshawk, a raptor that relies on old-growth forest.

As Rebecca Noblin, the Alaska director for our co-plaintiff Center for Biological Diversity, said, “I suppose that if you don’t look for problems then you’re not going to find them.”

The case was filed on behalf of Cascadia Wildlands, Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, Greenpeace, Center for Biological Diversity, and the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, in federal district court in Anchorage. Cascadia’s staff attorneys are joined by the superhero lawyers at CRAG law center arguing the case. 

You can read a copy of the suit here.


Living in the Age of Returns and Firsts


By Maya Rommwatt, Communications and Development Intern

On February 13th, comments are due to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the Jordan Cove LNG project.  The potentially catastrophic project includes both a pipeline and a terminal for the purpose of transporting fracked natural gas and liquefying it for export to Asia.  Similar to other proposals to transport gas and coal for the purposes of export, this project refuses to consider the impacts it will have on climate change, which now stands between us, and a livable future.

We’re living in an age of returns and firsts.  Just recently, photos confirmed the presence of an extremely rare Sierra Nevada red fox in Yosemite National Park.  There have been no sightings of the elusive creature there for ninety-nine years.  And closer to home, we learned of activity of what appears to be another one or two wolves near Crater Lake, in addition to the burgeoning Rogue Pack. I never thought I would be able to speak of Western Oregon wolves, and yet here they are, pups and all. 

But as this encouraging story unfolds, we make plans for pipelines and exports that will guarantee a future governed by catastrophic climate change.  That future has no room for recovering species.  This, as the EPA announces Canadian tar sands will only be developed if the Keystone pipeline is built, now that oil prices have dropped.  While the Keystone pipeline may soon be a receding threat, the more local Jordan Cove project is a wholly different beast.  The project would assure the export of inefficient fracked natural gas for decades to come, and once the Boardman coal plant shuts down, it will be Oregon’s biggest polluter.  This doesn’t even factor in the emissions associated with obtaining the natural gas, nor does it consider the burning of the gas by its consumers in Asia.  And yet, Oregon moves closer and closer to the LNG terminal.  We have not even begun to ask what a future with the project might look like.  If an accident were to happen with this project, say a spill, we taxpayers would likely be forced to help foot the cleanup bill, as the history of corporate settlements shows (corporations forced to pay punitive damages often deduct their settlement costs from their taxes).Two pups from the Rogue Pack, June 2014

The Jordon Cove LNG project is a disaster we can’t afford on a number of levels.  It’s foolish to think we can both recover species and build the natural gas pipeline.  Will we choose the path to recovery and growth, returns and firsts?  Or will we choose the path of negligence and loss?  Help us show the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission we stand on the right side of history, that we respect other species, and are not working in opposition to them.  We have not spent countless hours and resources building a narrative with a future, only to wash it away so a Canadian corporation can make a profit at our expense and the expense of OR-7 and the Rogue pack, the wolverine, and the remaining ancient carbon-storing forests of the Pacific Northwest. No LNG Rally, photo courtesy of Francis Eatherington

Now is the time to submit our comments; we have until noon on Friday the 13th for online comments or postmarked mailed comments.  If you haven’t already done so, you can submit your comments beginning here.


More information on the pipeline can be found here.


Photo Credits: Top left, Two pups from the Rogue Pack, June 2014. (Photo by ODFW).  Bottom right, No LNG protest. (Photo courtesy Francis Eatherington).                              






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

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.)



Deja Vu, the Corrupt Bastards Club, and the Fabled Tongass National Forest

by Gabe Scott, Alaska Field Rep.
Do you ever get the feeling you’re running in circles?
That sense of déjà vu has been strong with me lately as we do legal battle over the Big Thorne and other massive old-growth timber sales in Southeast Alaska’s rainforest.
For all the progress we’ve made on the ground reforming forest policy over the last couple decades, it is frustrating that the same good old boy’s network can still get traction re-hashing debates that should have been put to bed long ago.
The sense of déjà vu first hit me a few months ago, when I learned that Jim Clark was drumming up support from impoverished local Mail Attachment-9governments to pay his law firm to intervene in the Big Thorne litigation.
It’s no surprise industry would intervene—of course they would – but Clark’s name took me aback. The last time I’d seen that name was several years ago, when he was pleading guilty to serious federal corruption charges stemming from the “Corrupt Bastards Club” bribery debacle. Clark at the time was Chief of Staff to Governor Frank Murkowski, and had got caught up in a massive bribery scandal surrounding a controversial bit of oil tax legislation. Clark swiftly pled guilty, publicly apologized, and, I had supposed, wouldn’t be allowed to practice law anymore.
As it turns out Clark’s charges were later dropped. The Justice Department, in their zeal to take down sitting U.S. Senator Stevens, goofed the evidence so badly that most of the charges against most of the defendants in the scandal ended up being dismissed. We watched secret video surveillance of bribes being handed out, and DOJ still managed to botch the case. Clark was among those retroactively let off the hook. In street lingo, he got off on a technicality.
OK then, whatever. These things can be complicated, and there is a lot we don't know and never will. I’ve never been one to let a past guilty plea to a serious federal crime come in the way of giving a guy the benefit of the doubt.
The feeling of being back on la-la land intensified though when Clark’s old boss, Frank Murkowski, wrote an op-ed taking us to task for the Big Thorne lawsuit. We environmentalists don’t really care about the Alexander Archipelago wolf, which doesn’t really even exist anyway. Frank figures deer don’t really need forests, and wolves don’t really need deer. We’re making all that up for our “selfish” reasons.
Oh, Frank. Disgraced politicians say the cutest things.
What I noticed about the op-ed wasn’t the misinformation so much, as the fact that his arguments matched, almost word for word, arguments included in the intervention briefing filed by Mr. Clark’s group.
Is the band is getting back together?
Now, all of this so far is relatively harmless. Frustrating, but harmless. Lawyers with suspicious pasts are a dime a dozen, and nobody in Alaska or anywhere else really takes the elder Murkowski seriously anymore.
What is not harmless is that Frank’s daughter, Lisa, seems to be picking up the old torch and running with it. Lisa got appointed to the U.S. Senate by her dad back when he was elected governor. (Seriously, who does that!?). With a lot of help from post-Citizens United PACs, she was re-elected and now sits atop the Senate Natural Resources committee. For an Alaska politicians she’s pretty moderate, but her public pronouncements on forest policy are starting to sound a lot like they were ghost-written by industry lobbyists like Clark.
Look, I get it. Ignorant bluster and demonizing environmentalists is a reliable political formula on the Frontier. But when this rhetoric finds its way into actual policy, we all should pay attention.
From her current position of power in the new Republican Congress, Ms. Murkowski seems keen to apply that frontier formula to forest policy on a national scale. Take the difficult conundrum of funding local schools and government in the rural Pacific Northwest. Ms. Murkowski recently stated that problem would simply disappear if the Forest Service would actively manage forests.
That kind of statement is par for the course in rural Alaska, but in the rest of the country it is laughably off-point. There are disagreements aplenty over these issues, but nobody seriously believes that just ramping up more timber sales could solve the problems. Oregonians left, right and center all pretty much accept certain physical realities. Endless expansion of resource exploitation just isn’t in the cards. The forest, even the youngest schoolchildren can tell you, does not in fact stretch on into eternity.
I’ll leave you with one final, terrifying point. In the aftermath of the Corrupt Bastards Club scandal, the political force that moved in to clean up the mess was a fresh new face named Sarah Palin. She was, conservatives and liberals at the time agreed, a “breath of fresh air” that restored integrity and sanity to government. Her most vigorous opposition came not from the left, but from the good old boy’s network epitomized by Clark, Murkowski and Murkowski. Palin absolutely demolished, absolutely humiliated that old order. It was delightful to watch.
Now Palin is the disgraced former politician, and Clark, Murkowski & Murkowski are back in business.
Am I the only one feeling dizzy?
(Tongass National Forest photo by David Beebe)

Cascadia Wildlands Statement on Wolf Recovery Announcement by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Press statement
January 28, 2015
Contact: Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 314.482.3746
                 Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 541.844.8182
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife just announced it is moving to phase II of its wolf recovery plan in eastern Oregon after state wildlife biologists confirmed that there were seven breeding pairs in the state in 2014. The wolf plan states that when there are four breeding pairs for three consecutive years in each respective part of the state, wolf management moves to phase II in that zone. This means livestock producers will now have more management flexibility in dealing with wolf/livestock conflicts in eastern Oregon. Wolves in the state’s western recovery zone will still be managed under phase I.
In 2012 Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild negotiated a landmark settlement agreement with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife andWalla Walla_odfw the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association after securing a legal injunction against wolf killing in Oregon. The settlement requires that during phase I livestock producers use proactive, non lethal methods to deter conflict between wolves and livestock, like cleaning up bone and carcass piles and utilizing human presence, before any lethal control on wolves can be used. It also sets a threshold of four livestock depredations by the same wolf or wolves in six months in order to trigger lethal control. The settlement also greatly increases agency transparency in its wolf management program. No wolves have been lethally controlled in Oregon since the settlement agreement was signed.
"Cascadia Wildlands is encouraged by the ongoing success of wolf recovery in Oregon, but it is not the time to let up," said Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands.  "It is our hope that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife continues to implement the state’s landmark wolf management plan and rules that have served as a recovery model for other states while preventing burdensome conflict."
“While it is exciting that wolf populations in Oregon continue to expand, it is critical that the state remain vigilant in ensuring statewide recovery objectives are met,” said Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “Much of western Oregon’s wildlands remain devoid of wolves and will be relying on robust populations in eastern Oregon to disperse into new territories.”
“Oregon's wolf management rules incentivize non-lethal measures aimed at preventing wolf/livestock conflict and provide necessary tools and financial assistance to livestock producers,” explained Cady.  “The plan has kept conflict down and headed off the constant political battles that have hampered recovery efforts in neighboring states like Washington."

Lethal Control of Predators: Of Science, Scapegoats and Icebergs

By Bob Ferris
I have been looking at the issue of lethal predator control for many, many years and the longer I look at it and 2019372475the more science I read and assimilate, the more convinced I become that lethal control of predators is more punitive than practical.  It is an activity and a supporting attitude that simply does not wash in the light of what we know and have tested. 
I know some will argue that lethal control is still needed for situations of chronic livestock depredation and where predators are dampening prey or endangered species recovery.  But even in these instances our opting for trigger, trap or poison is really more about our inability to admit that we are often raising the wrong animals in the wrong way in the wrong places and also our reluctance to recalibrate our expectations in regards to our ability to harvest, destroy and neglect our natural resources at unsustainable levels without consequence. 
Three wolf examples come to mind when I think of prime illustrations of the above: the Huckleberry pack control action, continual calls for wolf control in the Lolo National Forest to save elk and the killing of wolves in Alberta to save caribou. 
With the Huckleberry incident in eastern Washington—which we have written about repeatedly (1,2,3)—you  basically have too many of the wrong animal (i.e., sheep including rams) placed in poor habitat with little or no supervision near an area of known wolf activity.  Certainly livestock losses are regrettable and we have sympathy for the rancher who has to move his or her animals to alternative pasture, but the question hovers: Was this choice of stocking levels, location and inattention to non-lethal alternatives prudent given the situation?  One thing to think about in this context is the idea that anyone can leave roughly $180,000 worth of assets on any landscape without providing some measure of presence or protection from mishap.  In any event, this set of circumstances seems to not be a compelling argument for lethal control of a species recently released from federal protection and still under Washington State protection. 
The elk population decline in the Lolo has been offered up far too often as the poster child for the need for wolf control regardless of the fact that the decline started long before wolves came on the scene.  And biologist after biologist has pointed to this decline being associated with habitat succession (i.e., open areas transitioning to brush land and then to forests).    Certainly wolves are causing this decline to linger longer but at the end of the day this elk population is still habitat limited and will remain so as the availability of early seral habitat continues to decline.  Elk are creatures of disturbance and when the logging is done or fires put out the ticking clock of transition from good elk habitat to bad starts.  The State of Idaho is pursuing lethal control of wolves in this area but they are unlikely to get any awards for sound science or innovative management out of this endeavor (see here).  
Woodland caribou in Alberta are in terrible shape and getting worse (1,2,3).  The main reason for this decline is the explosion of tar sand development as well as tradition gas and oil development in the province.  Yet when searching for solutions, the province did not look to restrict fossil fuel operations, set up refugia or restore habitat they felt the “logical” approach was to cull wolves.  I suppose on some level this illogical of wolf culling is easily dwarfed when looking at the totality of this tar sands lunacy where wilderness is being sacrificed so we can accelerate climate change, ocean acidification and a host of other ills that compromise our ecological support systems.  
Alberta’s wolf cull strategy is not only wrong-headed but it may turn out to be an ironic choice as wolf biologist Robert Hayes reported in his excellent book Wolves of the Yukon that smaller packs had to kill more prey per capita because they lack the numbers to effectively protect their kills from crows, ravens and other scavengers.  Hayes’ observations are illustrative of the problem faced by lethal control proponents who only look at the obvious iceberg tip of predator-prey relationships and do not see the more important aspects below the surface that are not seen by the casual observer.  
The latest nail in the coffin of the lethal control illogic is Rob Wielgus’ recent findings that culling wolves likely does more harm than good.  This is solid and well-reviewed work, but it is by no means unique in sending the message that lethal control is generally a flawed approach.   In 2012, for instance, the American Society of Mammalogists issued a strong letter to USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service—where USDA Wildlife Services is housed or hidden—heavily criticizing the program’s overdependence on and use of lethal control.  And investigative journalist Tom Knudson of the Sacramento Bee wrote an excellent set of articles examining problems with USDA Wildlife Services as well as lethal control in 2012 (1,2,3,).
At this point there are likely some who are asking: If science has shown that lethal control of predators—particularly via random culling programs—is generally ineffective or often deleterious then why does it continue? The answer to this question is that livestock producers, energy developers, and timber interests want access to natural resources on public lands and the presence of predators—particularly legally protected predators—often inhibits their ability to fully exploit and derive maximum benefit from these public lands.  Yes there are groups that also support predator control, but if you scratch the surface of most of the groups with anti-wolf or anti-predator leanings you do not have to look too hard to also find connections between those groups and these industries either through funding, governance or association (see here).  
Moreover, for wildlife managers, scientists and politicians, there is real peril in questioning the lethal control model.  Both Rod Sando (1) in Idaho and Ken Mayer in Nevada (1,2) lost their jobs as directors of their state wildlife agencies, in part, because they took a principled and scientifically defensible position on the lethal control of predators.  Likewise Dr. Wielgus’ work—before it was even completed—was attacked and his objectivity questioned by the livestock producers’ front group the Science First Coalition (which has since taken down their website).  And Congressman Peter DeFazio who has long championed reform of Wildlife Services and wolf recovery as well as opposing predator derbies has taken considerable lumps from the above crowd.  Being principled is a perilous course and frequently comes at a price.  
SCCA Talking Science
I met with the leadership of Wildlife Services in DC roughly 20 years ago armed with a stack of literature that questioned the efficacy of lethal control actions particularly as they applied to coyotes and we also talked some about wolves.  The agency and the approach has changed some since then because of public pressure, legal actions and congressional attention, but only cosmetically such as not stenciling an airplane with a wolf silhouette each time you kill one.  Lethal control continues not because there is a lack of science or inadequate evidence of problems but because the myths and fear continue to be promulgated by the same interests and industries (see above).  
As you enter the holiday season and think about this coming year and those in the future, please take some time to think about how you can help all of us turn the tide on this monumental effort to bring facts and science to wildlife management and public perceptions—particularly in rural areas.  We need to break the strangle-hold and undue influence these industries have on our wildlife agencies, public lands policy and the minds of our children.   Our future and the future of what we hold dear depends on it, so please support groups that work in this area, vote for candidates who embrace science, and educate where you can with fact-based and scientifically defensible arguments.  

America’s Choices: Hysteria and Hyperbole or Hyper-volumes and Curiosity

By Bob Ferris
“…the more ignorant we become the less value we set on science, & the less inclination we shall have to seek it.” Thomas Jefferson May, 1795
I remember a time in the late 1990s when I was interviewed by a writer for the New York Times. We had a long conversation about lynx restoration in Colorado and whether or not it would work or was worthwhile. At the end of the conversation he asked me where I got my PhD. I told him that I did not finish my PhD program and his response was that the New York Times only quoted PhD-level scientists on technical matters.
We continued to talk some about my education, experience and standing in the conservation community. We discussed some of my research efforts as well as restoration projects that I had worked on for wolves, swift foxes, prairie dogs and trumpeter swans. In the end, he included me in the article, but I had to work for it and prove that I belonged.
Flash forward to present times and we see ABC and NBC putting forth pieces on the manufactured wolf controversy in eastern Washington and the predator control paradox offered up by Dr. Rob Wielgus’ work. Both these pieces prominently feature quotes by folks who lack relevant education, experience and standing to qualify as “expert” voices in complicated, science-based debates. Unfortunately, these two media networks are certainly not alone in their current use of the non-experts—often with huge and glaring conflicts—to counter the statements of scientists working in a broad range of areas from wolf recovery and climate change to vaccine safety and water pollution.
Certainly comments coming out of these non-experts are entertaining and provide a countering view on these issues, but at some point we have to ask ourselves whether news is really supposed to be entertaining or is it meant to inform a citizenry trying to make tough decisions and support public policies that lead us forward towards a better future or past towards failed and destructive modes of existence.
Wolves are a pretty good piece of societal litmus paper in this regard. Understanding the function and value of wolves takes a certain level of intellectual curiosity. I remember being both blown away and intrigued early on in my study of ecology by the concept of niches—the often subtle ecological positioning and separation of roles of organisms—being defined as hyper-volumes. These hyper-volumes are basically abstract representations of all the various biotic and abiotic factors that influence a particular species.
Why “hyper-volumes?” When we talk about dimensions we tend to talk about length (x), width (y) and depth (z) as defining volume. Hyper-volumes are n-dimensional so instead of just having three axes (plural of axis) they could have a nearly infinite number of axes or dimensions. That means that required space, time, moisture, feed, intra and interspecies competition, vegetative cover, weather, and thousands of other factors that define their place in the grand ecological scheme could all be used as axes or dimensions to describe their niche. And a good number of these dimensions interact so if one or a group of elements changes then so do others. In short it is both complicated and dynamic at the same time.
The “n” in this is unknown as we do not know with certitude all that influences a particular critter or plant. We do know that the number is large so if you are only looking at those dimensions associated with predator-prey relationships or even just the disease transmission elements, you are clearly missing most of the picture and are basing decisions on a myopic perspective. Where the litmus test comes in here is how you feel about the above information. If it stimulates and excites you and serves as a catalyst for thinking—even if you do not completely understand it—then that is great and we have hope for the future and for a return to American exceptionalism.
“Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.” Benjamin Franklin
If, however, you see it as more scientific mishmash because you already know what you know and you see no problem with non-experts sharing “opinions” on highly technical matters in a “he said-she said” format with PhD level scientists (or others with grounding and experience), then you are essentially the anchor dragging us down the slippery slope of mediocrity. If you think that I overstate this then please give me examples of economic or intellectual advances that were led by people with stifled curiosity and closed minds. These traits lead to acrimonious and anonymous electronic comments but not to progress, innovation and prosperity.
The anti-wolf rhetoric, rumor spreading, and fear-driven messaging coming out of eastern Washington and Idaho is distressing not only in regards to the wolf but because it also represents the worst America has to offer as well as our bleak and getting bleaker prospects. That we allow it to happen and that it is enabled by any institution in this country is the wart on the nose that tells of deeper, more profound health problems. I am encouraged that there are those who speak up in the face of this juggernaut of witlessness (1,2,3), but others need to speak up on this matter as well as on other issues like climate change.
Our current conservation peril—represented by these anti-scientific postures and our in-coming Congress—like the above referenced wart is only a symptom of larger problems. I cannot help but think that if we make a concerted effort in our own actions and rhetoric to call out those who ignore or degrade science and intellectual curiosity that we might be taking steps to heal and enrich our country as well. These are some things to think about during this holiday season and as we ready ourselves for the legislative challenges to come—we do have a choice and we should exercise it.

Jamie and the Amazing Wolf Hatred Echo Chamber

By Bob Ferris
WARAW Billboard
In my twenty-five years working on wildlife issues I have rarely seen anything as reprehensible as the above billboard slated to be displayed in Spokane, Washington.  Those involved should be ashamed not only for the content and imagery but also for being part of so transparent a propaganda device.  
What we see above is part of what is known as an “echo chamber.”  How does it work?  Someone or a small group wants a certain message to reach the public so they put it out and then bounce it off other like-minded groups until it is amplified and appears larger and more meaningful than it really is.  Volume in this instance is meant to correlate with truth.  Often times with each “bounce” the message gets shriller too as we see above.  And when there are not enough groups to bounce off to have the appearance of diversity you manufacture those groups—Washington Residents Against Wolves (WARAW) and the Science First Coalition are good examples of this deceptive strategy.
Eastern Washington Anti-Wolf Echo Chamber
The echo chamber associated with the billboard consists of the above groups and was likely orchestrated by Jamie Henneman who is the communications guru or spokesperson for many of the groups spouting similar messages—including WARAW.  When you look at the members and leaders we start to see many familiar names including the Dashiell brothers—Dave of Huckleberry pack fame and Don who signed the anti-wolf resolution coming out of Stevens County.  These gentlemen are also active in Cattle Producers of Washington and the Science First Coalition respectively.  And so the net gets more entwined and the actual constituency smaller as original voices are separated from the resulting echoes. 
Education and Certificates
When you look at Ms. Henneman’s profile on LinkedIn, the story on this becomes clearer.  Although she has worked for small market newspapers, her proof-reading skills (see above) and ethical behavior are not those of a trained journalist.  What we do see here and what is consistent with this “echo chamber” approach is her coursework at the on-line institution American Military University which includes a course entitled Deception, Propaganda and Disinformation (INTL653).  And if you visit the current syllabus for that course you will see that this course covers important topics such as “dirty tricks.”  Add that to her emphasis on social media and the sudden explosion of websites and Facebook pages—all with anti-wolf messaging—in this sector makes sense.
"Hedquist noted that the parasitic disease that affects an estimated 2–3 million people and results in an annual monetary loss of over $750,000,000 worldwide. Incidents of human infection increase as exposure to the canine feces that carry the parasite also increases. The Centers for Disease Control and every state where wolves are present, except Washington, warns the public of the dangers via public information campaigns." WARAW Press Release
The intemperate and misleading comments by Luke Hedquist in the press release associated the launch of the above billboard are somewhat surprising as he—in the absence of anything resembling any apparent grounding in Science First Coalition New Membersscience beyond his high school  coursework—is suddenly expounding authoritatively on a very complicated issue of parasite epidemiology.  It is not surprising that he got it wrong (see Little Worms, Big Lies) Moreover, his use of global figures is purposely done to induce panic when the reality is that hydatid disease in humans is extremely rare in North America and the incidence in the lower 48 states is so rare that individual cases generally rate a journal article and typically are about people coming to the US with the disease.  But this constant overstatement of risk is what we have come to expect from this fear machine.
All in all, the participants in this broader effort to promulgate biological bigotry in eastern Washington from the various cattlemen’s associations and these shadow “groups” should take some time to see where their moral compasses are pointed, because there is nothing about this complicated web they have constructed that bespeaks of integrity, principle or much in terms of stand-up character.  The choice is fairly simple:  Do you want to be known for being honest brokers or for your dirty tricks?
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