Home Page Hot Topic

Feb11

Exciting Leadership Transition at Cascadia Wildlands

Dear Cascadia Wildlands Supporters,

Bushwacking through head-high ferns to find the elusive Devil’s Staircase waterfall. Watching salmon thrash upstream to their natal grounds. Hearing the pre-dawn keer of the marbled murrelet high in the canopy. Knowing wolves are reclaiming their rightful place back in Cascadia. Educating and empowering communities to confront power imbalances. These are the things that keep me feeling alive and ever committed to the work of Cascadia Wildlands.

It is an exciting time for me. I’ve recently been asked by Cascadia Wildlands’ Board of Directors to serve as our interim executive director as Bob Ferris phases into retirement.

I’m determined to lead our powerful team into the future and further realize our vision of vast old-growth forests, rivers full of wild salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion.

I’m grateful for what Bob brought to Cascadia Wildlands over the past three years to make us a stronger organization. His expertise in conservation biology, decades of non-profit experience, and his ability to dig up the dirt on and expose the despoilers of wild nature are just a few things that have helped take us to the next level.

Photo taken July 6 2013 of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack. Subadult wolves assist in the raising of the pups. Photo courtesy of ODFWEvery day, I’m amazed at what we have accomplished for a conservation organization our size. I get even more fired up for what we have our sights on. Because 2015 may be the year gray wolves get established in the Kalmiposis Wilderness, northern California, Oregon’s Willamette National Forest, and Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Much of Oregon’s remarkable wolf recovery has been facilitated by our legal challenge that halted wolf killing in Oregon and ensuing landmark settlement agreement that created the strongest wolf plan in the country.

Please dig deep to help Cascadia accomplish this critical work in the 2015 year by making a tax-deductible donation today.

Breathtaking photo of the Tongass National Forest. Photo courtesy David Beebe.With continued determination, we will have a lasting conservation solution for Oregon’s 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest now that we have ground old-growth clearcutting to a halt. This year we hope to put a nail in the coffin of the proposed 150-foot-wide, 230-mile-long liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline and export facility slated for Coos Bay that would wreak havoc for salmon, wildlife and our climate. And we will continue to fight tooth-and-nail against the 6,000-acre Big Thorne old-growth timber sale in Alaska’s fabled Tongass National Forest (image at left) in Cascadia’s northern reaches.

Having been with Cascadia Wildlands essentially since its formation over 15 years ago, I’m excited, rejuvenated and ready to lead the organization into the future. Thanks for believing in us, taking action when called on, and supporting our conservation work over the years and into the future. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any thoughts or questions.

Will you join me in supporting Cascadia right now?

For a wild and free Cascadia,

Josh Laughlin Signature

Josh Laughlin
Interim Executive Director/Campaign Director
jlaughlin(at)cascwild(dot)org

P.S. You can also mail a check or money order made out to Cascadia Wildlands and send it to POB 10455, Eugene, OR 97440.

 

Photo Credits: Top left, Josh Laughlin, Interim Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands, at Devil's Staircase in 2012. (Photo courtesy Cascadia Wildlands.) Middle right, Subadult and pup from the Imnaha Pack, taken July 2013. (Photo by ODFW.) Bottom left, Breathtaking photo of the Tongass National Forest. (Photo courtesy of David Beebe.)

 

Feb02

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)
 
Jan28

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."
                                                            
                                                    ####
 
Jan27

“The Future of Wilderness in Oregon,” a Community Forum on Feb. 4 in Eugene

"The Future of Wilderness in Oregon," a Community Forum
 February 4, 2015, 6:30-8 pm • 110 Willamette Hall, University of Oregon
 
Oregon has long been regarded as a state full of natural treasures with ample forests, rivers and mountains. We rely on Wilderness to provide clean drinking water, wildlife habitat, recreation and solitude. Wilderness is what defines us as a state, and provides us with a high quality of living. And while our public lands belong to everyone, it takes an act of Congress to protect them from logging, mining and human development. Fortunately, the power to designate areas as Wilderness is in our hands. With an uncertain political landscape, the need to protect our remainingWilderness Forum Web Image wildlands has never been greater.  Join us for an evening to learn and discuss the future of Wilderness in Oregon. The event is free and open to the public.
 
Hosted by the University of Oregon Outdoor Program, Environmental Studies Program, Oregon Wild, Sierra Club, Cascadia Wildlands, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, and Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson. For more information, contact Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541.434.1463.
 
Jan17

Suit Aims to Stop Clearcut Logging Near Springfield

The Register-Guard by Diane Dietz
January 16, 2015
 
A pair of environmental groups filed suit in U.S. District Court on Thursday to halt a series of clear-cut-style timber harvests totaling 259 acres on federal land along Shotgun Creek, about 25 miles north of Springfield.
 
Seneca Sawmill Co. in ­Eugene bought the timber for $4.2 million in December from the federal Bureau of Land Management and got the green light to begin logging preparations this winter, the agency said.
 
The project is a step toward the bad old days of large-scale clear-cuts on public land, said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “This time they are only leaving two trees per acre. It’s going to look like private land clear-cutting in Oregon,” he said.
 
Environmental nonprofits Cascadia Wildlands  and Oregon Wild, with 22,000 members between them, are seeking an injunction from a federal judge in Eugene.
 
BLM spokeswoman Jennifer Velez declined comment on the lawsuit.
 
The suit comes as logging proponents advocate for clear-cutting on federal lands as an essential tool for meeting increased demand for lumber as the homebuilding sector recovers nationally.
 
Velez said the sale — called Second Show — would keep some trees, some in groups, some dispersed, on the logged terrain. The logging would be done on roughly a dozen tracts, all near each other but with some strips of forest left between them.
 
The cuts “will appear as ‘skips’ and ‘gaps’ on the landscape with scatterings of individual trees and small groupings of trees throughout,” she said in an email.
 
But the environmental groups say that the Second Show’s extensive logging and road building would damage quality and be hard on salmon, including spring chinook.
 
Shotgun Creek flows into the Mohawk River, which pours into the Mc­Kenzie River — and then into the Willamette.
 
“This is a drinking water supply,” Cady said. “It’s a watershed that runs directly into Springfield. We haven’t seen large scale logging on public lands right next to a community the size of Springfield in a really long time.”
 
The environmental groups are asking the court to halt the Second Show because the BLM failed to account for the cumulative effects of logging in the watershed and failed to account for the environmental groups’ objections in the environmental approval process.
 
About one-quarter of the Mohawk watershed is publicly owned BLM land, and the remainder is mostly owned and used as industrial timberlands, according to the lawsuit.
 
“The Mohawk watershed is already degraded by private land logging. It’s already classified as ‘not properly functioning,’ which is the lowest classification for watershed health,” Cady said.
 
The BLM failed to analyze the cumulative impact of another logging sale — for 1,500 acres for commercial thinning — nearby, the lawsuit said.
“Federal agencies cannot evaluate projects in a vacuum,” the lawsuit said. “They must take into account the additive impact to the surrounding community based upon current ongoing or proposed projects.”
 
That requires that the BLM produce an environmental impact statement that includes input from the National Marine Fisheries Service, Cady said.
 
The lawsuit also contends that the BLM failed to evaluate the environmental groups’ objections, because the agency improperly ruled that the groups missed the deadline for submission.
 
The groups mailed their objections in a certified letter with days to spare, Cady said, but agency officials weren’t available to receive the letter until after the deadline. Agency rules require the BLM to accept the postmark date as the time of submission, according to the lawsuit.
 
Jan15

Cascadia Challenges BLM Clearcutting Just Northeast of Eugene

Press Release
For Immediate Release
January 15, 2015

Contact:
Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 541-434-1463
Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator, Oregon Wild, 541-344-0675

Conservationists Challenge Largest Eugene BLM Clearcut in 20 Years

EUGENE, Ore.— Conservation organizations filed a lawsuit today challenging the largest clearcut approved on federal land in Lane County in twenty years. The Second Show timber sale proposes 259 acres of public lands clearcutting and is located on public Bureau of Land Management lands just outside of Springfield, Oregon near Shotgun Creek.  Clearcutting will have significant impacts to the watershed, which is already degraded, and will impact a popular recreation area.                                            

“It is a shame to see the BLM moving forward with this sale after the incredible amount of public opposition it received,” said Nick Cady, legal director with Cascadia Wildlands. “This sale could have real and devastating consequences on watershed health, salmon, and clean water for the surrounding communities.”

Despite the large scope of the project, the BLM neglected to analyze the effects of the project in conjunction with its ongoing commercial logging and road construction in the same area.  A basic tenant of environmental law is that federal agencies cannot evaluate projects in a vacuum, they must take into account the additive impact to the surrounding community based upon current ongoing or proposed projects.  In this case, the BLM has already moved forward on 1500 acres of commercial logging and over 25 miles of logging and access roads. The Second Show sale proposes clearcutting one of the few healthy, maturing stands remaining in the area.

“These forests are older than your grandpa and are developing fine habitat if we leave them alone.  Every indication is that we need to protect forests like this for fish, wildlife, water quality, and to protect our climate,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild.  “We have worked with BLM for the last decade helping them meet timber targets by thinning dense young forests.  Now they are reverting to the destructive clearcutting practices of the past. It feels like a slap in the face.”

Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild officially raised these concerning issues to the Bureau of Land Management numerous times, but the Bureau neglected to respond due to purported mistakes by the Springfield postal service.  

For a copy of the complaint click here: Second Show Complaint

Jan06

Time to Get the Lead Out

By Bob Ferris
 
Over the past few years I have had a number of conversations with hunters, scientists, veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitators about lead bullets, fragmentation and how fragments are entering the food chains of raptors and other lead_eagle_390858_7scavengers (see here).  These exchanges have been helpful in sorting out this complicated issue.  
 
"Ninety-four percent of samples of deer killed with lead-based bullets contained fragments, and 90% of 20 offal piles showed fragments: 5 with 0–9 fragments, 5 with 10–100, 5 with 100–199, and 5 showing >200 fragments. In contrast, we counted a total of only 6 fragments in 4 whole deer killed with copper expanding bullets." In Bullet Fragments in Deer Remains: Implications for Lead Exposure in Avian Scavengers 
 
Is there strong evidence this is happening?  Yes.  Can it be traced specifically to lead bullets? Yes.  Is this something that needs to be dealt with?  Yes. Are there viable alternatives? Yes. Is there room for respectful and fact-based debate relating to this issue and how specifically to deal with it?  Absolutely.  
 
Bullet Fragments
 
In terms of evidence one only has to go to Google Scholar (where the scientific papers live) and search under the terms “bullet+fragments+wildlife+mortality.” This action will get you 6500 results.  If you do the same switching morbidity for mortality, you get 884 results.  All of these articles are just dealing with the narrow issue of bullet fragments and not with the much, much broader issue of lead from other sources including lead shot which yields results in the million records range.  It is in fact hard to look at this issue without colliding with a mountain of studies.
 
“Our results confirm that ravens are ingesting lead during the hunting season and are likely exposed to lead from rifle-shot big-game offal piles.” In Blood Lead Levels of Common Ravens With Access to Big-Game Offal
 
The problem with lead and lead poisoning is much like climate change in that the science is a combination of compelling correlations, limited experimentation and a good deal of scientific triangulation.  That it is complicated leads some to doubt and deny the problem.
 
 
The whole situation and the actions of certain players reminds me a little of the story of Typhoid Mary.  Mary Mallon was an itinerant cook early in the last century who had asymptomatic typhoid—she carried the disease but did not show symptoms.  Her existence was discovered by a typhoid investigator who was hired by a wealthy family to find out why typhoid was popping up in New York where it was unlikely to occur–the houses of the rich.  The one and obvious commonality found by the investigator was this cook named Mary.  When confronted, Mary rejected the idea that she was the source and locked herself in a bathroom refusing to provide urine or stool samples 
 
Hunters and shooters intent on “going to the mattresses” over lead bullets should spend some time with Mary Mallon’s story because it is one of denial and obstinacy leading to a harsher outcome.  Folks were willing to work with Mary and there were viable and admittedly less desirable options, but those were still better than her ultimate fate of repeated incarceration.   
 
When you look at the evidence of bullet fragments poisoning wildlife they tend to fall into general categories and operate collectively much like evidence presented in a criminal trial or the epidemiology involved in Mary Mallon’s case.  First there are studies that show that animals near shooting ranges and other concentrations of spent bullets have higher levels of lead in their blood (1,2).  This essentially demonstrates that environmental presence leads to poisoning.
 
Then there are studies that show that bullet fragments are present in big game animals killed with lead bullets (1,2).  There are similar studies that show that species that eat lead bullet-killed big or small game animals—including humans—have higher levels of lead in their blood (1,2).  In addition, there are studies that show that the incidence of lead poisoning increases during deer hunting season (1,2,3).  
 
And to put a punctuation point on it there are even studies (1,2) that examine lead-tainted blood samples from wildlife and are able to determine the sources of that lead by looking at the lead isotopes contained in the blood and matching them with the differing isotope signatures found in objects like fishing weights, lead shot or lead bullet fragments.  If the concept of isotopes makes you queasy or uncomfortable, a good example of an isotope is the so-called Carbon-14 used in the carbon dating process.  Carbon 14 or radio-carbon has 6 protons, 6 electrons and 8 neutrons rather than the normal 6—these additional neutrons change the atomic number or mass of the atom but do not change its chemical properties.  
 
Now I can appreciate a healthy amount of apprehension from big game hunters and their desire to pull the political equivalent of a Mary Mallon because they see any efforts to control lead bullets in any manner as simply another step in the march to take their guns.   But I would urge them to take a deep breath, look at the substantial body of evidence and then become a productive part of the solution.   Because there is nothing in these studies that argues for continued tolerance for spraying the landscape with this toxic element and much that argues that its use should be discontinued or seriously curtailed.  
 
 
 
Dec19

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.  
 
 
Dec16

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
2008937557
 
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.
 
 
Dec11

State Starts Process of Hunting up Buyer for Elliott State Forest

 

Associated Press, by Jeff Barnard

 

December 9, 2014
 
The state of Oregon is looking for an unusual buyer for Elliott State Forest — someone willing to pay a good price, respect the needs of threatened fish and wildlife, and leave areas open to hikers and hunters.Elliott rainforest (photo by Cascadia Wildlands)
 
At a meeting Tuesday, the State Land Board directed its staff to develop a proposal to elicit offers from public or public-­private entities to buy the 90,000-acre forest in the Coast Range.
 
Parties could include the federal government, a tribe, state agency or local government.
 
Board spokeswoman Julie Curtis said a purchase proposal could be ready in time for the board’s June meeting.
 
The board — comprised of the governor, secretary of state and state treasurer — is looking for a way to maximize forest revenue to benefit schools. But court rulings upholding protections for threatened birds and salmon have stymied timber sales.
 
Revenue from Elliott State Forest once contributed up to $8 million a year for schools but has turned into a $3 million expense.
 
Bob Ragon of Douglas Timber Operators said he was disappointed the board did not endorse a proposal from his organization that would keep the forest as a Common School Fund asset while seeking someone to manage it to produce timber for sale and meet environmental laws.
 
“It could take them a long time to get that sorted out,” he said about the board decision to sell the forest. “I don’t know how much time they really have.”
 
Josh Laughlin of the conservation group Cascadia Wildlands said the board’s choice fit within his group’s vision for the forest, decoupling it from the Common School Fund while maintaining conservation value.
 
He said a potential buyer could be a public land trust — a nonprofit organization that raises money to buy property then turns it over to a public entity.
 
“I think they have come to the realization that clear-cutting older forest to fund schoolchildren doesn’t work any longer,” Laughlin said. “They need to get creative to meet their fiduciary mandate and work within the public interest.”
 
we like it wild. Follow us Facebook Twiter RSS