A wide-eyed view of the Red Desert.

This is about one of those places in Wyoming that is wonderful, and being destroyed by the gas industry, while Governor Freudenthal diverts attention to 150 or so wolves that wander a small part of the state near Yellowstone.

A wide-eyed view of the Red Desert. If more people see it, naturalist contends, they will be compelled to save it. AP in the Billings Gazette.

Photo copyright Ralph Maughan. Wild horses beneath Bush Rim in the Red Desert.

I visited in 2004 because I heard the area would probably be destroyed. It was a beautiful high desert. Nearby wildlife, in addition to the horses (in July) from Bush Rim, where I camped, I also saw elk, deer, and pronghorn, including one huge bull elk. Nationally, few people know about this desert elk herd.

Wyoming seeks massive slaughter of non-YNP wolves, expects the federal government to do it.

Wyoming, still hasn’t received permission to manage wolves from the federal government, but they want the number of packs, outside Yellowstone Park, said to be 23, reduced to six. To add insult to injury they don’t want to pay for it. They want the federal government to do it before wolf management is handed over — that is, they want you to pay for it.

Story. Wyo targets wolf packs. By Whitney Royster. Casper Star-Tribune environmental reporter.

The article quotes Wyoming Governor Freudenthal: “In terms of reducing the packs, that’s always been a state objective from the outset,” . . . . “Frankly, it’s essential for both wildlife and domestic livestock that we do that.”

I don’t like profanity, but this guy has got to be an all time lying son-of-a-bitch! Even the head of his Game and Fish Department, Terry Cleveland, recently said the wolves have not hurt Wyoming’s elk numbers (although Cleveland predicted disaster in the near future). The number of livestock killed by wolves in Wyoming is trivial compared to livestock dead from other reasons, including other predators. Furthermore, livestock killed by wolves is largely reinbursed by the private group Defenders of Wildife. Of course, it seems that the wolves always get the rancher’s favorite ewe, so they want extra for their special animals.

Defenders has paid about $160,000 so far in 2006 for livestock losses to wolves in the 3 state area (not just Wyoming). Spread out, this isn’t very much money. Does the governor think that eliminating lets say, being generous, $100,000 worth of largely compensated livestock losses is “essential?” Of course he doesn’t.

Wyoming is a state rolling in money due to the massive destruction of its landscape by the energy industry. Many millions of dollars damage is done to livestock grazing land, not to even mention wildife. Energy development and chronic wasting disease is the real threat to its wildlife. Freduenthal, and the rest of the state’s political oligarchy know these facts damn well, and the destruction of the wolves outside Yellowstone Park will be just a blood ritual to divert attention from the destruction of what was once a beautiful state.

He apparently thinks if he keeps repeating these false charges, the media and the people will believe. Unfortunately, he may be correct because it is the rare story in the main stream media that gives any figures (see some figures below).

In the few places where elk have declined in Wyoming, it is mostly due to deliberately long elk seasons at insistence of powerful ranchers who didn’t want the elk eating the grass they wanted from their livestock. It wasn’t due to wolves, but, of course, these ranchers would like hunters to believe it was wolves.

People should not assume that the wolves inside Yellowstone Park will be safe either, because at least three wolf packs that reside in the Park do leave the Park at various times and live in the adjacent Absaroka Mountains and the area just south Yellowstone (but not in Grand Teton NP).

Here are some statistics on the official livestock losses to wolves in 2005 in Wyoming, 2006 is not available yet, although mortality is up a bit.

Wyoming official losses for 2005: Cattle 61; Sheep 53, dogs 2. These data are from the table at: http://www.fws.gov/mountain%2Dprairie/species/mammals/wolf/annualrpt05/2005_WOLF_REPORT_TOTAL.pdf

It is important to note that most cattle killed are calves, and most of the calves are young calves. There are some losses to wolves that are never found and not reported. The percentage is not known. The graph below assume 9 are lost for every one found–very doubtful. The highest figure I have heard biologists mention is 5 to 1. I doubt it is even 2 to 1.

Because relative numbers as well as absolute figures are important, the graph below shows the relative number of wolf-caused cattle losses comparted to total losses in Wyoming. Remember the USDA assumed actual wolf kills of cattle was 600, not 61.


Given the very high estimate of 600 cattle killed by wolves, nevertheless, that is only 1% of the dead cattle. The largest predatory loss of cattle in Wyoming was dogs. Where is the governor’s outrage about dogs? Shouldn’t he institute a door-to-door search for these terrorist canines?

Yellowstone National Park wolf field notes Dec. 20-29, 2006 (with update Jan. 1)

 Here is another great Yellowstone northern range wolf report by Kathie Lynch.

Of particular important to me was the observation that the Druids seem to have lost their alpha female (there is now a new one). Also interesting is the aggressiveness of the Agate Creek Pack, which is larger than the Sloughs, Druids, or Hellroaring Pack.

It seems possible the Sloughs lost their alpha male, leaving 7 females (no males) in the pack. If so, Lynch and others might have witnessed the start at least of a seminal event similiar to the 21M/40F unification with the Druids years back . . . Ralph Maughan

YNP WOLF Field Notes, Dec. 20-29, 2006, by Kathie Lynch

The Druid Peak and Agate Creek packs have been putting on a “howl”-iday show for the wolf watchers willing to brave the frigid Yellowstone winter weather and treacherous, icy roads. As the cold and snow have driven the elk back down to lower elevations, both packs have made numerous kills within easy viewing distance of the road from Tower Junction east through Little America and Lamar Valley, all the way to Round Prairie.

On Dec. 29, we were treated to the sight of all 11 Druids feeding and frolicking in Round Prairie. Alpha male 480M, full belly almost dragging on the ground, snoozed as the pups played ring-around-the-tree-trunk and tug-of-war with pieces of hide. The pups leapt on each other’s backs and jumped for joy. Dear old 302M slept peacefully in the deep snow with only the tips of his black ears showing as the new gray alpha female wandered watchfully along the tree line.

Sadly, the Druid Peak pack’s number appears to have dropped from last summer’s count of 15 (four adults and 11 pups) to only 11 wolves total now (three adults/2 black, 1 gray and eight pups/4 black, 4 gray). One black pup disappeared before Thanksgiving; and, in the last month, the alpha female (529F) and another two black pups have disappeared. Although 529F was collared, her collar had quit working shortly before she disappeared, so there is no way to tell what became of her. A strong leader and skilled hunter, 529F will be greatly missed by the Druids. The alpha female role appears to have been assumed by her sister, an uncollared gray, who was the only other adult female in the pack. It will now be up to her to carry on the legacy of her father, the great Druid <21M.

The Druids have been spending a lot of time in their traditional homeland, the Lamar Valley. One day they fed on a carcass south of the road near the old picnic area. They were quite uneasy and moved off when cars parked too close for comfort in the nearby turnout. They headed east past their old rendezvous and bedded on the old Lamar River bank. Another day found the Druids lounging on a hilltop east of their old traditional den area, and on yet another day, they were in the Dead Puppy Hill area. Watching them in the Lamar from Jackson Hill above Confluence East or from the Footbridge Turnout in the Soda Butte Valley brought back many memories of the good old days. But, the Druids’ ability to regain control of the Lamar Valley may be seriously challenged by the Agate Creek pack.

The Agates have been everywhere! They have ranged west to scatter the Hellroaring pack wolves, north to the Slough Creek meadows in Slough territory, and east to the confluence of the Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek in traditional Druid territory. The Agates are definitely the new powerhouse pack in the Northern Range. Many of their forays have been lead by the uncollared gray male yearling (quite an independent and interesting character!) and the bold and beautiful black female, GPS collared 525F.

The breaking news for the Agates has to do with the uncollared gray male yearling, who has been the subject of suspicion that he would soon disperse in search of a mate. On Dec. 28, we watched from Dorothy’s Hill in Lamar Valley as he howled in all directions, alone on Jasper Bench. All of a sudden, he jumped up, ran straight down the hill, crossed the mostly frozen river, ran toward us and crossed the road, pausing right behind a car which had stopped to watch him. As soon as he was on the north side of the road, he did an RLU (Raised Leg Urination, usually reserved for the alphas) and disappeared uphill in the general direction of where the Slough Creek pack, which has seven females, were thought to be bedded. How we wish we could have seen what happened after that—it might have been akin to when Rose Creek 21M was accepted into the Druids as the new alpha male in 1997!

The Sloughs have been around, but not very visible, lately. Several mysteries surround them, the biggest of which is—where is alpha male 490M? His collar frequency has not been detected for several days, and it is unknown whether it has stopped working or if he is away from his seven females for some reason (which doesn’t seem likely).

The other huge news is that on Dec. 29, the morning after the Agate uncollared gray male yearling crossed the road looking for love, he was spotted on the snowy hills just east of the Lamar Buffalo Ranch in the company of two Slough females, the gray “Sharp Right” and the black yearling, “Slant.” This could mean that he has indeed dispersed from the Agates, and, if he can keep the Slough females, it may be the genesis of a new pack. None of the other Sloughs were detected nearby, so we don’t know if they had run off or had perhaps been reunited with alpha male 490M far away.

The Agate/Slough trio is suspected of killing an elk just south of the road at Hubbard Hill in Lamar Valley that morning. As we watched the three high on the hill north of the road, someone yelled, “There are lots of wolves behind you!” We turned our scopes to the south and saw all the rest of the Agates chasing elk! They soon gave that up, picked up a scent trail, and charged to the elk carcass, with the silver bullet alpha female, 472F, leading the charge. As they ran full tilt, every one of those 12 tails pointed straight to the sky! It was the most awesome display of power and domination I have seen since the Sloughs vanquished the Druids two years ago. The seven adult Agates have done an amazing job of raising all six of this year’s pups, and the pack is now a force with which to be reckoned.

When they reached the carcass, an unfortunate coyote stayed a moment too long, and within 10 yards, the Agates caught and killed it. They never paid any more attention to the dead coyote, but returned to the elk carcass. We had great viewing from about 200 yards away as they fed, and a couple of incidents cracked me up. As venerable alpha male 113M chewed on the rib cage, alpha female 472F flirted with him and then grabbed the rib cage while he was distracted! (By the way, 113M, now 9 ½ and one of the two oldest wolves in Yellowstone, is looking fit and fantastic, with no signs of infirmity–although he does usually bring up the rear on outings!) Another funny scene involved a pup who was determined to carry away the entire hide with one leg attached. No matter how he tried, he just could not drag that big, floppy, furry thing very far!

The Agates later made a second charge in the direction of the road, and we wondered if they might cross to the north in pursuit of their wayward son and his two Slough female companions. If they had caught them, who knows what would have happened. But, they turned back, and we will have to wait to see what the outcome is. One thing is for sure, every day watching the Yellowstone wolves opens an amazing window into wilderness and the wild world!

Mark Miller got this great shot of seven very confident Agates patrolling the Lamar Valley on Dec. 29

– – – –

Update Jan. 1. Slough alpha male 490M has apparently been found dead in an upper Slough Creek meadow. That leaves a pack composed entirely of female wolves. That won’t endure, and the pack will soon have a new alpha male, or more likely there will be a fairly general dispersal because breeding season is just arriving. . . . Ralph Maughan

Storm damage was tremendous at Mt. Rainier NP

I posted a story on this in November when 18 inches of rain fell. Since then the weather has continued very wet, and the full extent of the damage to the infrastructure is immense.

I can already see one political issue emerging. A large portion of the main entrance road washed away and is now the river. The build-around route would require construction in the Mt. Rainier designated wilderness. That would be clearly illegal under the Wilderness Act.

Story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. By Debera Carlton Harrell

Other national parks in Washington were damaged too. So was Glacier NP in Montana by the same storm.

Mt. Rainier NP flood page (a NPS web site).

Posted in national parks, wilderness roadless. Comments Off on Storm damage was tremendous at Mt. Rainier NP

Roadkill higher than usual in Jackson Hole this winter

Here is the story by Whitney Royster. It is isn’t just deer/vehicle collisions.

Posted in Motor vehicles wildlife, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Roadkill higher than usual in Jackson Hole this winter

Chronic Wasting Disease spreads east of Sundance, Wyoming to Muddy Gap

More bad news from Wyoming. Chronic Wasting Disease (“mad elk” and “mad deer” disease) has spread further in the state. Fortunately, it was not detected moving further west this year – toward the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

Story in the Casper Star Tribune. By Brodie Farquhar.

Posted in Deer, wildlife disease. Comments Off on Chronic Wasting Disease spreads east of Sundance, Wyoming to Muddy Gap

Muzzle wolf official?

It looks like Mitch King, regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to undo a bit of damage he did recently because it certainly sounded like they were trying to muzzle Ed Bangs as the Service was trying to work out a deal with Wyoming, and a Wyoming state representative was telling them to shut Bangs up. The earlier article reported  the kind of quotes that just might get a federal judge’s attention should there be a lawsuit.

Here is the latest as written by Whitney Royster of the Casper Star Tribune. Muzzle wolf official?

Here is the earlier story. “Let the Public be Part of the Wolf Talks

Regulations Fence Out Successful [Mexican] Wolf Reintroduction

The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit Dec. 14 to compel the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to implement reforms to the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program that a scientific panel had urged back in June 2001.

This was a wolf restoration program that was designed in a way that it could not possibly succeed. Imagine the Northern Rockies wolf restoration if the wolves had been confined to the boundaries of Yellowstone Park, and a Yellowstone Park with fewer elk, and full of cows managed by indolent ranchers.

Here is the story on the lawsuit by Michael J. Robinson of Center for Biological Diversity.

A successful lawsuit will help, but the parameters for this program are incompatible with recovery. There will never be but a token population of Mexican wolves unless fundamental changes are made.

Kathleen Clarke, head of the BLM has resigned.

As ePluribus Media says “There’s got to be more to this story.

We see the head of the largest of the national lands systems resign, and there’s just a tiny story on a slow media day, heading into New Year’s weekend.

Clarke was in the dig-it-up, tear-it-up-mould of Gale Norton; and like Norton, left a whiff of corruption.

Added Dec. 29 from the Salt Lake Tribune (Clarke was from Utah).BLM’s top job: Utahn is out after 4 years. Praised for effectiveness, Clarke also was called too pro-industry.” By Joe Baird. And here is the AP/Casper Star Tribune story.BLM Chief Resigns.” She got praise from one of Wyoming’s most obnoxious livestock politicians . . . “Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said Clarke “has been a great friend of the public land livestock industry.” “She’s been very accessible to us,” he said. “She has been a staunch defender of keeping responsible livestock grazing on BLM land.”

“Responsible” to Magagna and his anti-wildlife buddies, I suppose.

Added on January 3, 2007. Conservation Group Questions BLM Leader’s Legacy. KCPW News.

Gale Norton will join Royal Dutch Shell

Is anyone surprised?

Story: Norton will join Royal Dutch Shell.
The former Interior secretary has taken a job in Colorado as a general counsel in the unit working to recover oil from shale.
By Steve McMillan
Denver Post Staff Writer

Here is Todd Wilkinson’s take on it in New West. Former Bush Interior Secretary Takes Job As Attorney For Shell.

She’s BAAAACK from Goat, the High Country News blog.

High levels of carbon dioxide around Yellowstone thermal vents help scientists predict effects of our future atmosphere on plants

A number of the thermal vents in Yellowstone release high levels of carbon dioxide, the very gas that is building up in our atmosphere.

Carbon dixoide is a crucial element for photosynthesis, and some have argued that the growing levels of this gas will make the world greener, better. Unfortunately they tend to work for energy companies. Now scientists are checking out the plants that grow next to the vents. Preliminary evidence is that they photosynthesize less efficiently and lose more water to the air.

Story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. Park is a crystal ball for CO2 emissions. Yellowstone researchers study plants near vents for insight into future of life on earth. By Corey Hatch.

Posted in Climate change, national parks. Comments Off on High levels of carbon dioxide around Yellowstone thermal vents help scientists predict effects of our future atmosphere on plants

Bush Administration proposes listing the polar bear as a threatened species

Most listings nowadays, and in the past, have come from conservation groups forcing the species onto the “list,” but in an unusual move the Bush Administration has proposed listing the polar bear, which is suffering the effects of warming in the Arctic. That melts the ice the bears need to hunt from. The polar bear also suffers a huge load of toxic chemicals because the polar vortex concentrates and traps pollutants from the industrialized countries to the south.

Story in the Washington Post. By Juliet Eilperin. “U.S. Wants Polar Bears Listed as Threatened.

Added on Dec. 28. Here is more (including links to the proposal) from the Carnivore Conservation blog.

Nap Time For Yellowstone Bears, But Others Still Awake

Brodie Farquhar muses about hibernation and and two recent stories about it.

Nap Time For Yellowstone Bears, But Others Still Awake. New West

He wishes he could talk to Yellowstone grizzly biologists to see if warming is causing the bears to hibernate for shorter periods. I don’t know, but I do know that the availability of wolf kills of winter weakened bison in the Pelican has resulted in the bears coming out early to share and often take the kills from Mollies Pack.

We helped fund the Pelican late winter study for a couple years.

If the availability of food wakes them up, then I would think that warming will have, and probably has had, the same effect.

Posted in Bears, Yellowstone wolves. Comments Off on Nap Time For Yellowstone Bears, But Others Still Awake

USDA accepts Idaho’s roadless area plan

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Secretary has accepted Gov. Jim Risch’s plan for the 9.3 milion acres of national forest roadless area in Idaho. It is now slated to be become part of the Code of Federal Regulations.

While such a regulation is not as hard to change as a law passed by Congress (as designated Wilderness areas must be), it is very difficult to alter such a rule. My guess is that Risch’s plan will put a strongly direct the general management of this huge swatch of roadless areas, the most national forest roadless area of any state.

On the surface Risch’s plan doesn’t look that bad, especially compared to states like Utah. Only 500,000 acres would be open for permanent road building and logging. Of course, you have to consider why Idaho has 9.3-million acres of roadless area — the land is generally steep, rocky, too cold, too arid, and/or too inferile to manage for timber production. Even in the past, most of the national forest timber sales south of the Salmon River (which flows east to west across the middle of Idaho) lost money, i.e., were taxpayer-subdized timber sales.

The plan essentially alows no development of 3.1 million acres. Temporary road-building could take place 5.5 million acres, under rules that would allow entry for “forest health.” It should not noted that “forest health” and activities that foster it or prevent unhealth have no objective standard. So those 5.5-million acres may or may not be protected. My guess is that future politics will determine that as well as appropriations to the Forest Service. Whenever there is a bad forest fire season, there tends to be a lot of talk about forest health.

Story in the Idaho Statesman. AP. Here is a link to Idaho’s plan http://gov.idaho.gov/roadless_petition.html

Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson to take new route on wilderness bill (CIEDRA)

Here is an analysis of what it may take to get the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Area bill through the new Democratic congress.

They are worrying that Custer County might jump ship, but I’d say for every bit given to Custer County (unless it is money) more needs to be given to conservationists. A designated Wilderness isn’t enough (unless maybe if it is huge).

There is also the misperception that Custer County means the county seat of Challis and the Custer County commissioners, but I think the opinion of folks in Stanley (which doesn’t take back seat to Challis anymore) counts too.

Story in the Idaho Falls Post Register.  Corey Taule

World’s largest pit mine planned for SW Alaska

I hadn’t heard about this until I read the Denver Post today.

Proposed mine could have dreadful impact. By Charlie Meyers. Denver Post

The project would have a huge impact on wild salmon fisheries in Alaska. It also involves two dams, one larger than the Three Gorges Dam in China.

As usual in the Bush Administration, the BLM is facilitating the matter even as opposition in Alaska and elsewhere grows.

Here is a link to one of many grassroots opponents of the mine, the Renewable Resources Coalition. “Pebble Mine- Bristol Bay, Alaska: The Pebble Open Pit Gold & Copper Mine puts at risk the most spectacular and abundant ecosystem in North America.”

Let the public be part of the Wyoming wolf talks

The sudden aboutface by the federal government on Wyoming’s proposed (and yet to be formally revised) wolf management plan was not the product of Ed Bangs (as some had suggested).

It clearly came from the top, as this editorial in the Casper Star Tribune complains. Wolf conservation groups were not involved. Basically no one was involved except the stockgrowers and the highest levels of political leadership in Wyoming and in the USFWS (and my guess, higher than that).

Editorial. Let the public be part of the Wyoming wolf talks. Casper Star-Tribune Editorial Board

From the editorial (regarding Bangs)

“Another mistake by the state occurred when [Cody’s Wyoming’s state representative Pat] Childers asked top Fish and Wildlife officials to keep their wolf recovery coordinator, Ed Bangs, from speaking publicly about wolves.

Bangs is the expert who has been spearheading wolf reintroduction in the West since it occurred a decade ago. He has a reputation for openness that often irritates his detractors. Still, he shares Wyoming’s desire to see wolves removed from the endangered species list.

Childers indicated more public statements by Bangs could hinder efforts to resolve the conflict, or could inflame controversy and result in disruptive litigation.

‘Some duct tape on Mr. Bangs’ mouth would probably help,’ Childers said.

Mitch King, Fish and Wildlife’s regional director, indicated he would do his best to silence Bangs. If so, he’ll be muzzling one of the few players in the wolf saga who has shown the willingness and spine over the years to conduct an open discussion on this highly controversial issue with the public.”

I think such open indication of coercion of a public servant by the appointed political leadership argues strongly in favor of conservationists winning a lawsuit on the Wyoming wolf plan.

Added later. It’s from New West. “New Wolf Plan May Be Dead On Delivery.” By Brodie Farquhar

Photos of Galena Pack near Stanley

Like like last May, the Galena Pack has come down out of the White Cloud Mountains in the vicinity of Stanley, ID.

Lynne Stone sent the photos below, taken on Dec. 21. Some happy folks from Stanley were standing in the bad weather watching as well as some employees of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area as 3 members of the Galena Pack, probably including the alpha male, ate the elk they had brought down.

Stone said the wildlife is abundunt if you can brave the cold. It is has been down to -30 F. Also scavenging the kill were ravens, of course, and a golden eagle, a bald eagle, and a wary coyote.

Stone said, that if you would like more info on wolf watching on the SNRA, contact her at bwcc@wildwhiteclouds.org. There are two motels in Stanley and she suggests trying to stay at Jerry’s Store and Cabins in Lower Stanley because you might see wolves from your window.

Three of the Galena Pack Wolves . Copyright Lynne Stone galena-pack2-dec06-stone.jpg
Two Galena Pack wolves (B277 with the collar, 18 months old, and a larger wolf, maybe the alpha male). And ravens flying in to wait. Copyright Lynne Stone.

B277 takes a chunk of meat and leaves. The larger wolf stands over the kill and eyes the waiting ravens. Copyright Lynne Stone.

Idaho wolves face delisting, hunting season (Idaho Mountain Express)

Here is another newspaper article on delisting. “Idaho wolves face delisting.” It is the Idaho Mountain Express, written by Steve Benson.

I’m posting it because it has different quotes and new figures not given in earlier articles. For example, Steve Nadeau, the state’s large carnivore manager, said wolves had not hurt elk numbers. He also said the state would not knock wolf numbers down to 15 packs.

My take on Tim Treadwell-

My take on Tim Treadwell-
By Ralph Maughan

Few stories on this web page gain more readers than those about Tim Treadwell’s death, and that of his girlfriend Amie Huguenard.

In the great scheme of things, the death of two people isn’t much. It’s the way they died. People are fascinated and horrified, but not satisfied. They want to know more because they are hungry—not for flesh, but hungry for the unusual. Their appetite will be satisfied when the story is digested in the juices of their own life experiences and their prejudices. Not many people get eaten by wild animals anymore, so talking about it, writing about it, and watching a documentary is a feast.

Maker of “Grizzly Man,” Werner Hertzog is little different than the rest of us except he has the knack of telling about the unusual in a visually compelling way.

I draw on my experiences as a life long explorer of Western wilderness areas. The best wilderness is where the scenery is magnificent, where human presence is distant, and where death in a violent but unusual fashion is a real, if still unlikely possibility. Death not by cancer, death not in dementia, death not by vehicle accident, death not by mugging, but death instead by a slip, a mistake, a failure to read natural dangers. Most unusual in our overpopulated world is death by what we see as our lessers—big animals.

An unfound body would be best. The saddest thing about the grizzly that ate Treadwell and Huguenard was that it was found, killed, and worse, their partially digested remains were mostly recovered. Would it have been their abandoned camp found and nothing else.

Country with grizzlies has a special tingle. Unlike Treadwell you don’t have see them. I try not to. “Hey bear” I shout when I approach a patch of willows. I don’t camp on bear trails. I carry pepper spray.

I remember every detail of my four close encounters with grizzlies. Only one was truly dangerous. Alone on Hellroaring Slopes in Yellowstone, I crested a rise. About 75-100 feet away was a sow with her two cubs digging for rodents. Their backs were toward me and I was standing next to the only tree in the meadow. Fortunately, it was a Douglas fir with branches like stair steps, which I immediately climbed. So quickly she was just below me. I must have climbed 40 feet and waited, not able to see her, let alone her eyes, for all the foliage. A couple hours later I came down and looked in all directions before I continued along the Yellowstone River.

It’s hard to get people to hike or backpack with you in grizzly country. I want to thank my friends who have, especially my wife Jackie and my friend Lee Mercer, whose ashes now flow down the Greybull and reside in the elk taken by the Greybull Pack and in the bears in this high country.

Mostly I am by myself. This kind of wilderness journey stirs the body and mind. Dark thoughts about the pillagers of the Earth are common when you are out of range of the politicians, preachers, and advertisers. It’s good not to have a video with sound when I think of these purveyors of fakery in the world of hyperreality. Unfortunately, Treadwell had a video his last several years, and Herzog edited it.

I don’t know if there were poachers near Treadwell’s summer home, or if he was just basking in the sun and rain. How real was the story of his past? I don’t know. Did he “get what he deserved” as his antagonists proclaim? After thirteen glorious summers doing pretty much “everything wrong” I’d say “yes he did!” Twelve out of thirteen ain’t bad!

Of Annie Huguenard, I can’t say. But my experience is that outdoors women are as brave, probably more than men, and they are wise enough not to push things.

Before feasting on all the wonderful video Treadwell shot over the years, ethically speaking, Herzog should have been required to camp alone among the bears for a week. Then he would have some status to tell us what he saw in a grizzly’s eyes.

Copyright © Ralph Maughan

Buffalo Field Campaign, update from the field. Frigid Weather, Empty-handed Hunters

The first period of Montana’s ill-conceived, and poorly planned buffalo hunt comes to a close on Dec. 31st. So far, four bull buffalo have been shot in the Gardiner area where only five permits were issued for the first period. In the West Yellowstone area, where twenty permits were issued for the first period, only four buffalo have been killed. With only the four bulls in Yellowstone Village out of the Park and no other buffalo close to the border, the chances are growing that some hunters will get skunked. Unlike other hunts where hunters often can’t find an animal, in the buffalo hunt, hunters get skunked because there simply are not buffalo in the state.

A combination of factors seems to be causing the relative dearth of buffalo beyond the border. Although it is cold, there has been relatively little snowfall. According to one report, no more than 14 inches of snow are on the ground well into the Park’s interior. The Park Service recently released a report stating that the vast majority of buffalo are still on their summer ranges. Weather is one of the greatest factors determining when and how many buffalo will move out of the Park. Last year the buffalo moved in response to an early snowfall. This year, the migration is delayed. The second factor, of course, is that there are over 1000 less buffalo in Yellowstone this year due to the Park Service and DOL’s massive slaughter last winter and spring. With less buffalo in the Park, there is less pressure for buffalo to move and more unoccupied spaces to move into before leaving the Park’s boundaries.

So as the hunters go home steaming mad, with no buffalo, a lot less money, and a distasteful feeling for the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission and their decision to issue too many permits given the current management circumstances, BFC volunteers are enjoying this quiet time in the winter cold with our four large friends in Yellowstone Village. But our minds and hearts are not quiet. Our thoughts often turn to the 47 buffalo calves held hostage at the quarantine facility in Corwin Springs, Montana. How do we stop this from continuing? How can we prevent them from getting their greedy hands on 100 more innocent buffalo calves? What can we do to protect the 47 calves if the experiment is stopped? Will they just slaughter them anyway? That threat has already been made. Will they keep them and use them as “research animals” for some other ghastly purpose?

Twice a week now, we meet to discuss the quarantine and make plans to bring attention to this atrocity. In the meantime, letters to newspapers are being written, video footage is being edited, contacts with buffalo advocates are being renewed and revitalized around the issue, and events are being planned for the near and more distant future. This issue is crucial to the future of the buffalo and is so much a telltale sign of how the agencies view the buffalo and wildlife in general. To them, the buffalo are “seeds” to be harvested from a tainted source, cleaned up, and domesticated so as to be more easily manipulated, and replanted elsewhere. The source, one of the most unique wildlife populations in the world, the spiritual center of North America, is to them a dirty place. In their minds, it is a cesspool, a reservoir of disease. It must be “disinfected” at any cost. But if they can extract some of the buffalo genes and replant them somewhere else, then at least all is not lost. What a valiant effort! Why don’t we understand? How can we oppose quarantine? It’s the only way.

Ah, the mind of the scientist, bureaucrat, and manager. Always looking for the complex solution. Missing what’s right in front of their noses. Assigning blame to the subject, rather then examining the overall picture. So willing to sacrifice, as long as the hardship is borne by the other. The buffalo don’t have any problems of their own. They are one of the most well-adapted species on the planet. Yet they are always the subject of the harshest management decisions. Experiments are conducted as if the buffalo need help, need science and technology. What they really need is to be allowed to be buffalo. They need the scientists, the bureaucrats, and the managers to leave them alone. They are the wild and we are their advocates, speaking the words that we see in their eyes and feel in our hearts; LET US BE!

Roam Free!


* Potential Changes to the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP)

The efforts of buffalo advocates from throughout Montana, across the country, and around the world are beginning to bear fruit. Buffalo Field Campaign has recently learned that the five agencies that “manage” Yellowstone’s wild buffalo have come to agreement on several “adaptive” changes to the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP). The agencies met several times during the summer as result of Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer’s request that the agencies agree on some changes to the Plan that allow for more tolerance of buffalo. Whether these changes are all the Governor has in mind is unknown. Certainly, there is still a long way to go for the Governor to fulfill his campaign promises of two years ago.

Hopefully, this is merely the first step toward substantive change that truly benefits buffalo for future generations. The adaptive changes to the IBMP are as follows:

1. Strategic Hazing: This applies to all buffalo out of the Park but within Zone 2 of the IBMP from October 15 through May 15. At the discretion of the State Veterinarian, buffalo will be hazed from “higher risk” areas to “lower risk” areas outside the Park. Risk is defined in terms of brucellosis transmission and property damage. The logic here is that buffalo may be hazed to public lands outside the Park from private property instead of hazing them all the way back into the Park.
2. Tolerance for Bulls: Single or small groups of bull buffalo may be tolerated, at the discretion of the State Veterinarian, within Zone 2 from October 15 through May 15, if the risk of brucellosis transmission and property damage is deemed low. The logic here is that bulls present a lower risk of brucellosis transmission than female buffalo and therefore should be allowed greater tolerance. The difference between this and strategic hazing as described above is that the determination of risk will be based more on the individual buffalo than on the particular space they occupy.
3. 3000 Population: All agencies admit that 3000 is NOT a target population or population goal for the Yellowstone buffalo herd. The agencies agree that 3000 is to be viewed only as a trigger point for additional management options. This change is more symbolic than practical in terms of agency actions. The agencies will still use the 3000 number to justify the slaughter of buffalo without brucellosis testing. However, the agencies, particularly the Montana Department of Livestock, will no longer publicly state that the herd is above population objectives when it numbers more than 3000.

As you can tell, these “adaptive changes” are no panacea for the buffalo, who will continue to be hazed, captured, and slaughtered based on the perceived risk of brucellosis transmission. The Montana State Veterinarian still has the ultimate authority to determine if buffalo will live or die in Montana. The truth is that there are NO high risk areas or high risk buffalo. There has never been a documented transmission of brucellosis from wild buffalo to domestic cattle. The agencies are still focused on managing the buffalo rather than managing the cattle, a more easily controlled element.
However, these are steps in the right direction and the agencies promise more to come. There is currently an IBMP meeting scheduled for January 31st from 4 to 8 PM in Bozeman where the agencies will announce these changes and accept public comment. Stay tuned for more details, including the meeting location, which has yet to be announced. Buffalo Field Campaign will be there to participate and document and we encourage anyone in the area to attend and advocate for the buffalo.

* Mourning Buffalo: a BFC Patrol Journal
Friday Will and I hiked down to Koelzer’s gate. Two nights before, away from our watchful eyes at dusk, a bull buffalo was shot on the property. The bull had had a younger bull in his company. We were now searching for this younger, surviving, bull. We saw the blood stains of his fallen companion and feared that he would return to the kill site to seek his friend. We saw no sign of him, so we trekked through the snow to find him or his sign. The day was warm and the snow too sticky to ski. We trudged along Duck Creek and into the Park, seeing no buffalo. As we approached a stand of willows Will spotted tracks and a dropping and we knew a buffalo had recently been there. We started heading north for Sandy Butte when suddenly a frisky bull buffalo came crashing through the trees, heading in our direction.

We were startled and the buffalo seemed less than thrilled with our presence. His friend and mentor had just been killed by members of our species. The bull sparred with the trees and danced around and we knew we should get out of his way. I have never held any fear for the buffalo, but this one was pained and clearly did not appreciate our presence. We moved out of his way, knowing he was stressed at the loss of his fellow bison.

The wind was howling, adding energy to the bull’s dance. We stood aside and watched from a respectful distance. Will climbed a nearby tree and watched the bull dancing, sparring, running, and making his way west, toward the kill-site. We followed at a distance, respecting his confusion and observing his anger and grief. When he got to a thicket of firs, he stopped to graze and we watched him. When he moved we moved too, fearing he was heading to Koelzer’s and not knowing what other buffalo killers might await him there, as we knew there were other gunners in town.

We watched him walk through the gate and head straight for the bloody snow that was all that was left of his companion. He sniffed, then licked, the blood. Just as he did this, the weather changed dramatically. The wind picked up a notch and the temperature dropped. The bull continued to sniff and lick the buffalo blood-stained snow. Snow started falling, pelting us in the wild wind. Will continued to shoot video though his hands and eyes were freezing. The bull kept at his ritual. He would stop and lift up his head and open his mouth as if in wonder and sudden understanding. He licked more blood, eating the red snow, and turned in slow circles. Where was his friend? This was the spot where he had last seen him alive. Heard the fire sticks crack… he bolted only to find himself alone.

The bull stood in the storm, tail lifted, a look in his eyes belonging only to the persecuted buffalo… He was in his mourning ritual. He swayed in that gory spot for what seemed years. I sang a song to let the buffalo know that they are loved and that we wish them well and will continue to fight like hell for them to be wild and free. I sang a song for the fallen buffalo to help him on his way.

And the young bull mourned. He circled, sniffed, licked, ate the snow, and lifted his head high and opened his mouth. Will videotaped in awe as I sang too softly for human ears. The and bull walked on, down the bloody trail marking where his friend’s body was dragged by the gunners. On toward the trap that has tortured too many of his sacred relatives. The storm intensified. Will and I donned another layer of clothes and moved up the hill along the fence-line, watching the buffalo search for his friend. To the North of the trap he paused, stopped by a locked metal gate. Suddenly he bolted as if under pursuit; but nothing visible chased him. Did he find his friend’s heart and the stomach full of all the good grass they had grazed together? The storm pressed on, pinging us with ice and wind so strong we had to turn away from our vigil four times. The buffalo broke to a slow walk and back toward the kill site to pay one last respect before carrying his great young bulk into a dense thicket of trees in the relative shelter of Yellowstone.

The next day I went back with Brock. We didn’t find the buffalo but we did find his lonely trail and we only can hope the bull’s loneliness brought him back to the company of his own.

We pour our hearts out and send love and strength to him and all his kind with the passion of great dreamers who will see buffalo roaming wild and free.


– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Media Coordinator

Buffalo Field Campaign

PO Box 957

West Yellowstone, MT 59758

(406) 646-0070



BFC is the only group working in the field every day

to defend the last wild herd of buffalo in America.
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Posted in Bison. 1 Comment »

Feds want more WY gas wells even as deer decline

I posted this article as part of a comment yesterday, but it deserves its own post. The natural gas industry is the major threat to elk and deer in Wyoming (and, of course, chronic wasting disease). I have always thought the state’s anti-wolf rhetoric was mostly designed to divert attention away from the industialization of much of the state’s ungulate winter range.

Jackson Hole News and Guide.  “Feds want more wells even as deer decline. BLM eyes increase in drilling as study links Snow King deer to Sublette County habitat.” By Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Wild Bill writes about “the most pro-wolf state of them all.

Wyoming, he says, although he is making a larger point.

The most pro-wolf state of them. Bill Schneider. New West.

My guess is that the delisting is really the courtesy of Dirk Kempthorne, former governor of Idaho, now Secretary of Interior; and I suspect that Wyoming never really thought they would get their wolf extermination, state wolf plan approved until it suddenly fell into their hands.

Idaho Statesman editorial worries about wolves under Idaho’s governor-elect

Idaho’s largest newspaper has this editorial this morning.

Our View: Otter should tone down wolf rhetoric. Idaho Statesman.

Note added on January 14, 2007. Although the link above has expired, it turns out that the Statesman was absolutely correct in its worries.

Federal Biologist Faces Firing For Emailing Environmentalists

This is a story from PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility). It looks like it may be another case of Bush Administration’s illegal politicization of the executive branch bureaucracy. Numerous laws have been passed over the years to make the non-appointed public employee immune from partisan poltical pressure and retaliation.

Federal Biologist Faces Firing For Emailing Environmentalists.

Fortunately the new House majority back in Washington is gearing up numerous investigations of possible wrongdoings in the past six years. Justice may be on its way.

Ending endangered species protection for wolves could give hunters a shot at predators by 2008

“Idahoans could be hunting wolves within 12 months, when Gov. Jim Risch and state wildlife officials take over managing the state’s wolves as federal officials proposed Tuesday.” This article is in the Idaho Statesman today. It’s by Rocky Barker and Roger Phillips.

Deal is reached with Wyoming on delisting wolves

So the USFWS caved in. Here is a brief story in the Idaho Statesman. 2:33 p.m. Wolves move closer to delisting status. Idaho Statesman

KIFI, Local News 8. Fish and Wildlife to move ahead on wolf delisting in Idaho, Montana

Will Northern Rockies wolf delisting result in huge kill-off of wolves?

The Sawtooth Mountains at Stanley, Idaho. Photo by Ralph Maughan. June 2006. Will wolf delisting in the Northern Rockies allow the state of Idaho to wipe out all the wolves in the scenic area where the public can actually see them?

Idaho has 650 or so wolves. The state’s vast backcountry and wildlife resources have allowed wolves to prolifterate more than in Wyoming and Montana. There is no good evidence these wolves have reduced Idaho’s elk herds, but the very modest recovery goal set by the Idaho wolf plan would allow the state to reduce the the wolf population to about a dozen packs, which would be from 60 to about 150 wolves. Idaho has done a good job managing wolves until now, but Idaho’s Fish and Game Comission and the state’s political leadership (which went backwards in time with the last election) doesn’t like wolves.

Wyoming and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hold “landmark meeting” on Wyoming wolf plan

Huge reduction in wolves could be the outcome of proposal.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service met Monday with Governor Dave Freudental and Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming and others in Cheyenne, to discuss the details of a new plan that would give Wyoming management of all wolves in the state outside of the national parks. The plan would dramatically reduce wolf protection and is expected to lead to the direct killing of many packs of wolves.

Leading the discussion for the federal government was U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall, not Ed Bangs, the Northern Rockies wolf coordinator. Hall, who is the new head of the Service, was widely criticized when he was regional director of the Service in the Southwest for his antagonism toward wolves and ordering biologists his region to avoid using genetic analysis when making decisions about species. Conservation organizations who opposed his nomination said that he had politicized science in the Southwest, a common complaint about the Bush Administration

Story by Jared Miller. Casper Star Tribune.

At the present there are 23 groups of wolves in Wyoming outside Yellowstone Park. Wyoming, and folks in Wyoming would be allowed to reduce this to just seven packs, and they could kill all of the wolves outside of some yet-to-be revealed boundary line in NW Wyoming. Approval of the plan would probably lead to direct aerial gunning down of wolves by the government. This would be relatively easy because, unlike the big wipeout of wolves a hundred years ago, now most packs have at least one radio collar.

To accommodate this, Wyoming legislature still needs to amend their proposed state wolf plan and talks may yet break down. Wyoming’s wolf plan had been rejected by the Service several years ago for its failure to protect wolf recovery. Since then Wyoming has sued several times.

Some folks on this blog have suggested the Ed Bangs was behind this sudden change toward killing off wolves, but the presence of Hall indicates a decision at a higher level. I think a much higher level. This may be a “friendly” settlement of the lawsuit. That means the government backs off of its ability to prevail over Wyoming in the current lawsuit because it no longer believes in recovering wolves. This is what they did with the original lawsuit over the Park Service banning snowmobiles in Yellowstone Park. The Park Service could have easily prevailed, but the new Bush Administration said, “let’s settle out of court.”

Approval of a Wyoming statw wolf plan, would also pave the way for Idaho to reduce its strong wolf population. Many expect the Idaho Fish and Game Commission to eventually put forward a plan to reduce the current 650 wolves to around 150 wolves or 15 packs. Many expect those allowed to remain would reside mostly in the state’s wilderness areas, dramatically reducing opportunities for people to see the wolves (and for the state of protect those that remain).

The article indicates Wyoming expects to be paid to “manage” the wolves, and negotiations may yet break down over that, plus negotiations to further reduce area where wolves will shot on sight.

If this plan is adoptioned, it will be a rapid retreat from recovery. The government’s direction will become maintenance of token populations of wolves outside of Yellowstone and probably Montana, a state has a much more contemporary wolf management plan than Idaho. Because the Endangered Species Act requires recovery, not token populations, what is likely to be proposed may be illegal.

Montana wilderness bill still elusive despite Democratic takeover

Back in the 1980s almost every state with U.S. Forest Service land got a statewide Wilderness bill. Two states that did not were Idaho and Montana. Idaho had, and still has, more unprotected roadless national forest land than any other state. Montana has less, but it has a lot.

A statewide wilderness bill for Montana passed, but President Reagan vetoed it, one of the few vetoes ever cast against a wilderness bill.

With political changes, efforts at designating Wilderness in Montana are stirring again, although it is more likely to be a regional approach, that is, regions of the state as in Nevada and Idaho. The product of these regional “conversations” varies, with Idaho’s CIEDRA the best, or the least bad, depending on one’s point of view.

The article below describes what is going on in Montana. The major effort so far is a proposal developed by the Montana Wilderness Association and timber interests for a deal on the Beaverhead National Forest (SW Montana) that would designate a lot of Wilderness and allow a lot of timber cutting, but would end one of the big objections to timbering,–logging roads left open.

Montana wilderness bill still elusive despite Democratic takeover.

Wet meadow in a roadless area near the crest of the Tobacco Root Range, MT. A prominent range west of Ennis. Photo copyright Ralph Maughan

One thing all of these bills should have in addition to Wilderness designation and benefits for anti-wilderness or non-wilderness interests is additional side payments to conservation. Wilderness designation is not enough in today’s unravelling landscape. If conservationists don’t ask for more than some wilderness up in the rocks, like in the photo above, they are taking a fool’s bargain.

GOP Congress leaves little mark on environmental law

If ever there was a time to worry about the future of wildlife and our natural environment, it was at the beginning of 2006 with Congress full of anti-conservation Republicans. Republicans weren’t always that way, but over the years that had become the water carriers for all the extractive and abusive industries as well as those religionists who believe the end is near, so trash the planet.

Their plans for gutting the laws protecting land, water, air, and wildlife were largely defeated. Bettian Boxall discusses it in the Los Angeles Times (here reprinted in the Jackson Hole Star Tribune). “GOP Congress leaves little mark on environmental law.”

An uprising of grassroots Americans, including traditional hunters and anglers made much of the difference.

The major threat in the near term is now the Bush Administration which has the power to rewrite the rules and regulations derived from existing laws. They are doing it at furious paste because they suspect their days are numbered. New rules on grazing and national forest planning are just some of the areas where they are active. Fortunately the grazing changes have been stalled for now in the federal courts. I was very pleased to be the lead plaintiff in one of these cases.

The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund wants to kill thousands of Yellowstone area bison and elk

The powerful livestock organization R-CALF has written to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture urging that a program be implemented to rid the Greater Yellowstone area of brucellosis. This includes Yellowstone Park. The means they suggest for doing this are draconian.

According to a story today by Brodie Farquhar in the Casper Star Tribune they include:

  • Mandate brucellosis testing of bison in the Yellowstone ecosystem.
  • Work toward eradication of brucellosis in Yellowstone bison by multiple means, including but not limited to trapping, testing and vaccinating bison in that area.
  • Work with the National Park Service and USDA Wildlife Services to control the size of bison and elk herds in the Yellowstone ecosystem.
  • Continue brucellosis testing, vaccination and surveillance where it already occurs and implement surveillance in all states where cattle are present.
  • Maintain a national brucellosis surveillance/vaccination program for livestock disease traceback purposes.
  • Redirect funding for an animal ID program to pay for ongoing and existing brucellosis surveillance/vaccination programs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Preserving park bison gene pool a tough job

This is a laudatory story on the operation and intent of bison quarantine facility a few miles north of Yellowstone Park at Corwin Springs, Montana.

Preserving park bison gene pool a tough job. By Scott McMillion. Bozeman Chronicle.

Study says national parks pay their way.

Actually they do much better than just pay their way.

Story in the Casper Star Tribune. “Each dollar spent on a national park generates at least $4 of value, but despite that clear economic payoff the parks suffer from underfunding, a new study says.”

A good question is, why does Congress underfund the national parks year after year, and most Presidents too recommend less than they need?

Posted in national parks, politics, public lands. Comments Off on Study says national parks pay their way.

Ed Bangs comments on possible Wyoming wolf deal

Ed Bangs, the federal Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, commented on the possible deal on delisting Wyoming wolves. Wyoming’s official plan for state conservation of a recovered wolf population has been rejected by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wyoming has sued to get it accepted.

In his latest Gray Wolf Recovery Progress Report, Bangs wrote:

WY newspapers (Wyoming Livestock Roundup, Casper Start Tribune, Jackson Hole News) reported that the FWS & WY are beginning to discuss a possible option that would allow approve of Wyoming’s wolf management framework and could allow delisting to be proposed for the northern Rocky Mountains.

The concept included a permanent trophy game area in NW WY that is smaller than the larger one adopted in Wyoming’s 2003 wolf management plan. That area would be enough to assure that recovery would be maintained while also allowing predatory animal status for the rest of Wyoming.

WYGF would manage for 7 wolf packs in that trophy area. If adopted in Wyoming’s regulatory framework it would allow Wyoming to immediately take advantage of the new more flexible 2005 experimental population rule and for the FWS to propose delisting.

At this point these discussion are informal and are simply part of the FWS’s continuing search for resolution of a very complex and emotional issue. Meanwhile the FWS administrative record was filed with the Wyoming District Court on the 11th, regarding the Wyoming vs DOI lawsuit which is ongoing.

Bang’s comments about it actually sound worse to me than what I had read about it in the newspapers.

– – – –

Dec. 16 More in the Casper Star Tribune today. Feds intend to offer Wyoming compromise on wolf management. “Jim Magagna, spokesman for the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said his group objects to including private land between Meeteetse and Cody and elsewhere in the federal agency’s proposed permanent wolf area.”

If private land is excluded, this would be a truly awful proposal. Magagna, is a powerful livestock politician, so we have to speculate about his real aims.

Bacterial? infection fells 2000 mallards in southern Idaho

Grizzly bear payments were down in Montana for ’06 – record high in Wyoming

Only $9000 paid in Montana in 2006, but the State of Wyoming paid $110,000. The direct explanation for the difference is far fewer livestock killed in Montana than Wyoming. Indirectly, however, the Wyoming compensation formula for grizzly losses is so generous that there is no incentive to protect livestock from grizzlies. A grizzly loss can be a lucky event for the owner of the livestock in Wyoming.

Story in the Billing Gazette. By Mike Stark.

Posted in Bears. Comments Off on Grizzly bear payments were down in Montana for ’06 – record high in Wyoming

Judge orders new 3-state in dispute over grizzly habitat

This is a big victory for those trying to protect the imperiled grizzly bear populations in extreme NW Montana (the Cabinet-Yaak population) and in the Panhandle of Idaho and NE Washington State (the Selkirk grizzly population).

Story. By Perry Backus in the Missoulian

Yellowstone domes rising at ‘really pronounced’ pace

Parts of the Yellowstone Caldera are swelling rapidly. The Sour Creek Dome just east of Haden Valley is rising 6 centimeters a year as (likely) magma flows in under it.

Story in the Billings Gazette. By Mike Stark.

Posted in national parks, public lands. Comments Off on Yellowstone domes rising at ‘really pronounced’ pace

Feds propose wolf deal for Wyoming

Right now wolves are allowed to range throughout Wyoming, but almost all of them are in Northwest Wyoming. The deal would let Wyoming have its way with wolves . . . kill them all outside of NW Wyoming. Wolves would be managed to maintain the required population in NW Wyoming.

I have always believed Wyoming political and economic elites basically wanted to keep nature confined to NW Wyoming, and this is a clear example of that thinking.

Story in the Jackson Hole Daily. By Cory Hatch.

Note: the link was broken, now fixed. RM

Stanley, Idaho prohibits winter feeding of elk

Stanley Basin is naturally poor elk winter range because it is the coldest inhabited town in Idaho and most of the grass is eaten by cattle in the summer, leaving very little for wintering elk. Stanley sits at the head of the Salmon River Canyon, and big game that migrates 5 or ten miles down into that canyon find an abundance of winter forage. Before feeding began, and continuing today, a few elk winter near Stanley on the high, wind-blown ridges. There, the grass peeks out of the snow and high location reduces the likelihood that cattle will found it first.Because of Gillet’s vociferous opposition to wolves, some Stanley residents have worried what might happen if wolves show up and chase the struggling band of elk that are being fed. The general area around Stanley now has two wolf packs, the long-time Galena Pack and the new Basin Butte Pack. If the elk head down into the canyon, the wolves will follow and not hang around town.

Lately the winter has been mild, with rain melting much of the previous snow, and the elk are not down in Stanley Basin.


Elk cows and calves eat hay near Benner Street near Stanley city
limits. Feb 1, 2006. Photo: Lynne K. Stone

Update on Dec. 15. It turns out that Gillet may have access to an odd shape of property that is outside the Stanley city limits and may yet be able legally feed elk.

Wyoming cougars dead of plague

Bob Caesar called my attention to this story story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Cougars die from Plague by Cory Hatch.

A mother cougar and her kitten died of plague. Two other cougars were found dead of the plague. This is rare in Wyoming, plague being more of a threat in the Southwest, but it not as uncommon as thought. Five people have died of plague in Wyoming since 1978, according to the article.

Posted in wildcats, wildlife disease. Comments Off on Wyoming cougars dead of plague

New Forest Plan Rule Nukes NEPA

Perhaps the most important environmental decisions the Forest Service makes is the 15-year (on the average) forest plans for each of national forests. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) has always been at the core of the forest plans. NFMA, the National Forest Management Act, requires the forest plans and their updating, but it’s NEPA that guarantees they have to truly consider the public’s opinion (including the opinion of the timber industry, and extractive groups). It is also NEPA that guarantees that their data is accurate, reality-based, so there won’t be made-up figures to satisfy some local or state politician.

Now the Forest Services has issued a final rule that lets the Service ignore NEPA when amending or writing new forest management plans.

This means the Forest Plans won’t have any scientific analysis to support them, and they won’t apply until and if future decisions are made. It makes the Forest Service blind and renders the Forest Plans meaningless.

Was it happening is the standards of politicized intelligence gathering and interpretation that led the United States into Iraq to get those “terrible WMDs” will now be applied to the pride of American public lands, the National Forests.

Brodie Farquhar has the news in New West.

I imagine these new regulations will be struck down in court, but it shows the spirit corruption so typical of the old Congress and the hatred of science so typical of the Bush Administration lives on in the Department of Agriculture of which the Forest Service is part.

– – – – –

Related New Controls on Publishing Research Worry USGS Scientists. AP. International Herald Tribune. “The Bush administration is clamping down on scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, who study everything from caribou mating to global warming, subjecting them to controls on research that might go against official policy.”

So information about grizzly bears, elk, and climate change is going to be subject to censorship by political commissars, just like in any totalitarian country, although I have not heard of despots censoring information about wildife before.

Related too. The A to Z Guide to Political Interference in Science. Union of Concerned Scientists

Wild Bill says Rocky Mountain Front has not been saved

Stopping the oil and gas leasing is not enough,  Bill Schneider. New West.

The Forest Service is not protecting the area from off-road vehicles and parts of the Front could fill up with trophy homes.

An ominus sign on the Rocky Mountain Front. Montanans will recognize that is not “Buffalo Hill,” but famous landmark Haystack Butte in the distance. Photo copyright Ralph Maughan

Wisconsin DNR: 9 Wolves Shot & Killed During Deer Hunting Season

Story AP.

The Great Lakes states have been much more tolerant of the recovering wolf population than the Western States. It may be cultural and it may also be due to the incredible number of deer in the Great Lakes.

The deer hunt in the Great Lakes, like the deer and elk hunt in West, provides a lot of extra nutrition for wolves as they feed on the gut piles and take down the escaped wounded ungulates.

Nine dead wolves should be put in perspective. I suspect more than that are shot in Idaho than that during hunting season.  While some advocate a wolf hunt, in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana there has been a de facto wolf hunt year round. It is illegal, but its effects should be recognized.

A Reply to Robert Wharff. Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife-Wyoming.

Robert Wharff, executive director of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, Wyoming (SFW-WY) recently posted in response to some criticism of the organization on this blog.

In the same thread as Nate Helm (SFW-ID) commented, Wharff did likewise. Here is Robert Wharff’s post:
Read the rest of this entry »

My Reply to Nate Helm. Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife-Idaho

Nate Helm, executive director of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, Idaho (SFW-ID) recently posted in response to some criticism of the organization on this blog.

I had posted a news release of theirs, “Sportsman For Fish & Wildlife To Announce Petition Drive To Delist Wolves.” In the followup comments, SFW-ID and SFW-WY were criticized.

Then Nathan Helm  in comment 13, December 11th, 2006 at 6:22 pm wrote:

It is with great hesitancy that I enter this discussion. I am always a willing participant when someone questions an actual position our organization takes. However, I feel great reservation when I enter the discussion between folks who haven’t done much to understand who and what SFW-Idaho represents. You know it is going to be bad when my having worked for Senator Craig is used to categorize the organization I now contract with.

Nevertheless, here are my two cents.

You can read all of the original post and comments here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mountain lion confirmed in Missouri

There is always breaking news about cougars in the mid-West and east, and can be found at the Cougar Network.


Story about the Missouri mountain lion in the Missouri paper. Mountain Lion Sighting Confirmed. Chillicothe Constitution Tribune. Tuesday, December 12, 2006

CIEDRA is dead, fails to get attached to last minute congressional bill

Unlike protection for the Rocky Mountain Front and the dubious Nevada Lands Bill, the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act, or CIEDRA, which would protect parts of Idaho’s White Cloud and Boulder Mountains as Wilderness, and make side payments to anti-wilderness interests, failed. It was not attached to “Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006” as so much else was.

Rocky Barker tells the story of the last minute efforts to move the legislation “Simpson work on wilderness all for naught.” Idaho Statesman.

The article says Idaho’s Representative Simpson might try to attach it to the fiscal year 2007 budget bill that the out-going Congress failed to pass, but Democrats just anounced they will not take up the Republican budget, which will be 5 months late in January. They will fund the government with a continuing resolution for the entire year.

The last time Congress passed a budget on time (Oct. 1, the beginning of the federal fiscal year) was in 1994, when the Democratic Congress sent the budget bills to President Clinton before Oct. 1.

Simpson says he will reintroduce CIEDRA. Conservationists believe that the bill will have to be more public lands friendly if it is to pass a Democratic Congress.

Added Dec. 13. from the Idaho Mountain Express. “CIEDRA killed by 109th Congress. Legislation will be resurrected next month. By Steve Benson.

House Resources Committe to become the Natural Resources Committee.

In the old days, it was the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs.” The Democrats eventually changed it to the House Natural Resources Committee, but the Republicans changed it to just Resources Committee.” Now the Democrats will put “natural” back in the title.

Much more important is the sea change in personnel holding power and the policies that are likely to pursue. It is much more than Pombo being gone.

ePluribus Media reports on the good news (note: there are crossposts to and from several blogs).

House Natural Resources returns.

– – – – –

Related news from the Las Vegas Sun. Mining laws dating to 1872 may be in for big changes. By Lisa Mascaro. Note that the new Democratic Leader (Majority Leader of the US Senate) Harry Reid of Nevada is a big champion of the mining industry. Nevada’s open pit gold mines are badly polluting Idaho and Utah with toxic mercury that is carried by the weather from the pits.

Montana guv not convinced mine won’t drain scenic lakes

Just when it looked like the long fight (20 years) over the Rock Creek mine under the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness in NW Montana (grizzly bear habitat) would finally end with the mines’ approval, Governor Brian Schweitzer stepped in. He said Montana will not issue a permit for the mines unless they can prove the underground workings will not drain the alpine lakes above in the designated Wilderness.

Story in SL Tribune. AP

Posted in mining, public lands, wilderness roadless. Comments Off on Montana guv not convinced mine won’t drain scenic lakes

EPCA II and what you can do about it (from another blog)

The BLM has released a new inventory of oil and gas resources on 99 million acres of public lands of the West. It is a deceitful report, and the report will be a major weapon the oil and gas industry is going to use to turn the West into an industrial wasteland.

Anyone who spends time in the big open country of Utah, Wyoming or New Mexico knows this report is a bald lie, but how did they do it?

I had meant to write about this deceptive report, but fortunately I found another blog has done an excellent job.

EPCA II and what you can do about it. From Unbossed.

Posted in oil and gas, politics, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on EPCA II and what you can do about it (from another blog)

Wolves and Alligators: A view from the fascists

American fascists like to imagine they know about animals, guns, the West, and the outdoors, so folks might find the columnist in this rag amusing.

Wolves and Alligators, The American Spectator.

Denver Post says “Wrangling over roadless areas is endless.”

Editorial on roadless areas by the Denver Post.

This is a fairly good editorial, but I want to point out that battling over these areas will never really end because the bastards keep coming back with their subsidized, destructive, nature-hating proposals. These people just have bad values.

Keeping the outdoors in intact will always require a constant effort, and in my view, folks who don’t help run the bastards off, don’t deserve to use the outdoors (although, of course, they will).

If you want to be an ethical outdoorsperson, everytime you come back from a major trip you owe it to write a letter, give a donation, try to convince friends, etc.

Horrible news from the Congressional wrap-up . . . Nevada ughh!

I had meant to discuss this too, but KT just posted a detailed comment on the awful White Pine County, NV lands bill that did pass. This measure, which was attached to the omnibus bill,  designates over 500,000 acres of scenic desert mountains as Wilderness, but outside the Wilderness it is privatization of our public lands and a lot of other awful stuff. Let KT tell it. . . . Ralph Maughan

White Pine Designs: Chopping Up the West, County By County


Harry Reid and John Ensign’s White Pine Rider, with all of its land privatization schemes, was attached to the “Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006”.

This can be found at:


The “White Pine County Conservation, Recreation and Development Act” starts at page 264. It includes:

Rapid sale of 45,000 acres of BLM in White Pine County. (Note: This was preceded by the Reid and Ensign Lincoln County Bill that authorized selling off around 100,000 acres of BLM land to the south in the same Bill that legislated the water pipelines rights-of-way for Las Vegas in both Lincoln and White Pine counties).

The sale of our public lands is then to be used to provide: 10% for County use (fire protection, law enforcement, education, public safety, housing, social service, transportation and planning) –All made more costly through fast-track development of BLM lands sold off, development of an OHV trail that will increase human-caused wild land fires, etc.).

The remainder of the BLM land sale proceeds go to:

  • reimbursing BLM for surveying and appraisals on the land to be privatized
  • cultural surveys (necessary for the land sales, also to clear the way for the purposeful burning, chopping, chaining, biomassing, etc. under this Bill’s Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition provisions below
  • a “study” of routes for the Silver State OHV Trail
  • developing and implementing the Silver State OHV Trail
  • maybe developing “conservation plans” for “at risk” species (and the risk just got considerably greater for these species as their habitats are fragmented by development and OHV Hells under this Bill)
  • maybe a study of non-motorized recreation .

Water Rights:

The Bill continues “because of the unique nature of the land designated as wilderness … it is possible to provide for proper management and protection of the wilderness … by means other than a federally reserved water right”. Reid and Ensign must have been chuckling over this provision! Their Lincoln County Bill legislated the Las Vegas aquifer-sucking pipelines and wells that will de-water the same aquifers that underlie the wilderness areas – making the lands unique, indeed!

Silver State OHV Trail: EXTENDS the OHV Trail designated under the Lincoln County Bill with a spur running north (to Elko County and the Spruce Mountain Trail no doubt) and west (to Utah).

Eastern Nevada Landscape Restoration Project: This is Bush’s Healthy Forests Initiative on steroids, and applies to both White Pine and Lincoln Counties.

Fearmongering over wildfire concerns (with fire risk increased considerably from development to be spawned by public land privatization, OHV trails, etc.), the Bill unleashes large-scale taxpayer-funded manipulation of public lands.

It enables the Eastern Nevada Landscape Restoration Project, spawned by the Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition (ENLC), to “reduce hazardous fuels” and “restore” rangeland and woodland, and perhaps a local “research” facility to study the effects of the public land treatments.

The White Pine Bill authorizes the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to make grants to this private non-profit ENLC (largely livestock and other local interests with token enviro presence). Millions of dollars are going to be handed over to this local group to chop, chain, chip, burn, “masticate”, turn into biomass, and otherwise alter pinyon-juniper and sagebrush habitats across 12 million acres – and kill woody vegetation to benefit of the public lands cattle and sheep industry. This also makes a large function of the BLM and Forest Service irrelevant, and privatizes management of public lands. And of course, with an ENLC middleman, costs will increase, local cronies will get project bids, etc.

The White Pine Bill is also likely to accelerate global warming and desertification (see Un Report!!!!), as lands (including in the new Wilderness areas) are deforested by the ENLC to grow cattle and sheep grass.

A close parallel to this – and quashed even in Idaho in the 1990s – was the Federal Lands Task Force, where National Forest land management would be turned over to state ‘collaborative’ groups – to facilitate logging. A chief spokesman for the Task Force idea was Willam G. (?) Myers III, the cattle industry lobbyist, and thwarted Bush Ninth Circuit nominee.

Now, the Democratic majority leader-to-be in the 110th congress has just bullied this privatization and local control scheme as part of a Rider onto the last act of this Congress.

The Bill also designates 12 “unique” no water rights new Wilderness areas (where ENLC burning and other manipulation is likely to occur) totaling 558,000 acres– in by and large the last threatened, rocky, rugged areas of White Pine County. Other provisions: Military can do whatever it wants over Wilderness. WSA Releases: Bill releases BLM WSAs (no maps available on-line that I have seen). Wildlife: NDOW can do pretty much whatever it wants in wilderness. Other BLM land conveyances and privatization, and a direct conveyance of land to White Pine County for sale, including for “non-residential development”.

As a biologist, I’m outraged at the loss and fragmentation of public lands under this latest quid pro quo deal.

Will Harry Reid as majority leader end up legislating more OHV Trails, privatizing BLM lands so coal-fired power plants can be built, turning tax dollars over to local cronies, and selling off public land under cover of Wilderness? A national spotlight needs to shine very brightly on doings in Nevada right now, so that the public can be better informed about just how “green” the Democratic leaders may be.

Juniper and pinyon pine burn on Cherry Creek Mountain, White Pine County Nevada. We will see a lot more of this now that the bill has passed. What is wrong with this? The area is being cleared for livestock use. They think it will grow grass and claim it will restore the landscape. Look at its fertility. It coarse sand. It will grow a bit of grass–cheatgrass

Note that pine nuts come from pinyon pine, and they are probably more valuable than the meager amount of livestock that can be raised in the area. Meanwhile the United States imports pine nuts from China.

Rocky Mountain Front (MT) finally protected from oil and gas in massive catch-all bill

This Congress finally died (adjourned sine die) after passing a massive bill full of good, bad, and mixed, but almost entirely unrelated matters–“Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006”.

Among the good items was a legislative ban on new oil and gas leasing along the 100 mile long Rocky Mountain Front to the south of Montana’s Glacier National Park. The bill also includes a financial incentive to retire the 60 or so outstanding leases. Many folks believe the Front is the jewel of Montana, where the plains and the mountains dramatically meet and grizzly bears still wander well out into the plains.

Although the vote on the final catchall bill is hard to interpret, it is telling the Montana’s lone U.S. Representative thought the area should drilled because “drilling is needed at a time when the United States is struggling to meet its energy needs.”

This might sound plausible to folks who don’t know the potential of the Front as a percentage of U.S. energy demand, don’t know the lowest cost source of new energy (efficiency), don’t all the other areas in the Rockies that have been sacrificed to oil and gas, and don’t realize that no country has an objectively identifiable quantity of energy demand called “its needs.”

Story on the Front. AP

Rocky Mountain Front near the Sun River. Google Earth

Poachers in West Hunt Big Antlers to Feed Big Egos

I think poaching of trophy animals and the impetus to have fenced encloses where people can shoot bull elk and other big game (turned into livestock) comes from the same motivation–get those antlers by “hook or crook.”

The increase in poaching may be due to the underfunding of wildlife law enforcement. The New York Times article below suggests that, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the biggest poachers, or those involved in facilitating it, are local political leaders in these states, thus explaining in part the poor funding for law enforcement.

New York Times. Poachers in the West Hunt Big Antlers to Feed Big Egos. By Randal C. Archibold.

Simpson and Craig feud over wilderness bills; time runs out today

Idaho Senator Larry Craig and second district Idaho Representative Mike Simpson are feuding over CIEDRA and the Owyhee Initiative.

Craig came up with a last minute insistence on money to fund the buyouts in the measures, which he knew would kill them because Congress couldn’t even pass a budget this year.

I’ve been telling every conservationist who would listen for two years that Craig would do something to screw up the process, and it’s likely for the better because these proposals need to be much improved to pass a Democratic Congress. Many conservationists opposed both as they are currently written.

Story in the Idaho Statesman. By Rocky Barker.

Posted in politics, public lands, wilderness roadless. Comments Off on Simpson and Craig feud over wilderness bills; time runs out today

Pre-mining predictions of mines’ effects on water quality almost always too rosy

The results of this study probably won’t surprise anyone, but that doesn’t mean that the same thing won’t happen the next mine. The “rosy scenario” has many more lives than we do.

Story in Helena Independent Record. By Eve Byron. “Past predictions on mining impacts to water quality often were faulty, which led to increased pollution, risks to public health and costly taxpayer-funded cleanups, according to a report released Thursday.”

Posted in mining, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Pre-mining predictions of mines’ effects on water quality almost always too rosy

Escaped Idaho elk tests positive for red deer genes

One of Rex Rammell’s escaped elk has tested positive for red deer genes for the second time, and so one of the major fears that prompted the emergency elk hunt was warranted.

Story in the Idaho Falls Post Register.

Posted in Elk. 1 Comment »

Wolf management takes addition and subtraction — ed from Missoulian

The Missoulian has an editorial lauding the current wolf management regime.

However, I fundamentally disagree that wolf management requires active management, killing wolves if there are too numerous and proping them up if the numbers fall too low.

The best way to manage wolves is to make sure there is good habitat for elk and deer and other prey. Eliminating knapweed and starthistle, stopping backcountry sub-divisions, and reforming and reducing the grazing of livestock on public lands is the kind of wolf management that is needed because that will benefit elk, deer, bighorn sheep, moose, pronghorn, etc.

Some folks who haven’t thought through basic ecological relationships believe that people who promote wolf recovery don’t like elk or deer, and that you have to choose, but that is a false choice. What’s good for the prey is good for the predator. My original support for wolf restoration, and much of it still is on behalf of the many positive ecological effects (side effects of the wolves). One of those is improving the condition of elk, making them less like livestock, making them wary.

Unfortuntely, there are some hunters who think the secret is to feed elk and eliminate anything that might eat them, and  keep them tame so they can waddle out to their ATV and hopefully get a shot from a backcountry road with no recognition that hunting should be a total experience.

Posted in Elk, Wolves. 7 Comments »

“Wild Bill” says “the America the Beautiful Pass sends a strong message”

. . . and the message is a negative one.

Read his column in New West.

He points out that the entire newly imposed structure of fees to fund recreation on our public lands has been established by “midnight” riders to appropriations bills, “temporary programs” that somehow became permanent, or provisions buried deep within complex legislation. There was never a straight up or down vote in Congress to see how members of Congress really stood on making this fundamental change, so contrary to past traditions.

I’ll say it’s an affront to democracy, and yet another reason why Congress needed the big housecleaning it got, and maybe need still more. Meanwhile, pony up to buy your “America the Beautiful Pass.”


Here is government information (web site) on the pass that goes on sale Jan. 1, 2007

“Feds praise disease efforts” !!?

Yes that’s headline in the Casper Star Tribune in a story that Wyoming has regained its “brucellosis free” status from the federal agency Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

The Star-Tribune said that Jerry Diemer, associate director of veterinary services for APHIS “congratulated the Livestock Board, the governor’s brucellosis task force, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the state’s cattle producers “ ‘for all your hard work. I want you to know that that work is recognized by other states.’ ”

The rest of the article is full of notes of caution, indicating this may be temporary (I agree) because the conditions that caused the spread are still there and Wyoming seems politically incapable of action that would rid the elk of this livestock disease. I mean Wyoming Game and Fish keeps feeding the elk at winter feedlots, drawing them into unnatural proximity, and like a cold in crowded school classroom, the disease is spread.

However, they don’t test children for antibodies for past colds and shoot those that test postive, but last winter Wyoming experimented testing elk that way and shooting them. The rest were allowed onto the feedgrounds where it is likely the “false negatives” passed the actual disease on to some of those elk with no antibodies.

Of course we need to remember the real theat to elk in Wyoming is wolves, who not only eat the elk but push them off the winter feedlots. 😉

Oh, here’s the story in the Casper Star-Tribune. Feds Praise Disease Efforts.

[Idaho] Sportsman For Fish & Wildlife To Announce Petition Drive To Delist Wolves

For Immediate Release
Contact: Nate Helm, 208-899-3122 December 6, 2006

Media Advisory


(Boise) Sportsman for Fish and Wildlife – Idaho will hold a press conference Thursday, December 7th at 1:30pm to announce the details of a petition drive to delist wolves protected under the Endangered Species Act in the Gold Room on the 4th Floor of the Idaho Capitol Building.

Marv Hagedorn, Vice Chairman of the group, will announce the petition drive details. Governor Jim Risch, the Idaho Congressional Delegation and members of the Idaho Legislature have been invited to comment.

For more information, contact Nate Helm at 208-899-3122 or nhelm@spro.net.


Close Wolf Encounters; Brushes Between Kids and Lobos Leave Parents Fearful

This time it’s from the Southwest. Wolves circle some people and they decide the wolves were about to attack. As the recent postings on the Yellowstone photographers, the bow hunter who said he was trapped in his tent, and the several cases of wolves “following people” in the last year in Idaho, what is being reported is not wolf behavior so much as how people perceive wolf behavior. That perception depends on their level of knowledge and the culture they are from.

Story on the fearful parents, etc. Albuquerque Journal. Note that the link has expired. . . .  webmaster

House blocks Southern Utah lands bill

 Perhaps the worst of the crop of “wilderness with side payment” bills is dead, although this one is a more straight forward development and privatization bill with a thin veneer of wilderness.

I won’t give the details because they have been hashed out earlier in this blog.

US House blocks Washington County [Utah] lands bill. By Robert Gehrke. Salt Lake Tribune.

. . . and the next day, reaction. Local leaders react to shelved bills. By Scott David Johnson. The Spectrum. This is reaction to the failed land bill, and the recognition that it needed some element of real protection in it. The rest of the article is about the failure of Utah to get a 4th House seat, a deal which would give the District of Columbia a seat too, temporarily raising the size of the House of Representatives from 435 to 457.

Posted in privatization, public lands, public lands management, wilderness roadless. Comments Off on House blocks Southern Utah lands bill

Jackson Hole residents strongly oppose drilling, ORVs in critical wildlife habitat at Bridger-Teton forest plan meeting

Posted in public lands, public lands management, vehicles. Comments Off on Jackson Hole residents strongly oppose drilling, ORVs in critical wildlife habitat at Bridger-Teton forest plan meeting

Tougher odds next time? (commentary about CIEDRA).

Randy Stapilus is a keen observer of Idaho and Pacific Northwest politics. His blog has a view on the prospects for CIEDRA in the next Congress.

Tougher odds next time? Ridenbaugh Press

It should be noted that it was Idaho’s Senator Larry Craig who ended up killing the bill, as I predicted he would some time ago. There will be incredible pressure on conservation groups who have gone along with CIEDRA this year, as it has gotten worse, to demand more next year. Larry Craig will never support any wilderness bill anyway, so why cater to him?

As for Idaho’s new congressman, Bill Sali? He won’t be a player. He will be a joke, out there embarrassing Idaho.

Grace at Carrizo Plain?

Here is an interesting post on the Western Watersheds Project blog.

Grace at Carrizo Plain?

Posted in Grazing and livestock, Logging, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Grace at Carrizo Plain?

Failure to pass in this Congress might improve the two Idaho “wilderness bills’

The next Congress will have to take up these bills afresh — from the start. With Democrats now in control, the Times-News opines that the bills may have to get more conservation friendly to puss muster.

Read: Delays may help both Idaho wilderness plans. Twin Falls Times-News. I have characterized these bills (and a lot of copycat bills for other states) as “wilderness designation with side payments.” These are side payments to non-wilderness and anti-wilderness folks. Unfortunately, these side payments confer real non and anti-wilderness political gifts, while all that the wilderness designation does is draw a line around an already existing area of land that is wilderness in fact, but not protected as such by law.

In terms of real conservation it’s what happens on the ground that counts, not what happens on on a map. Some conservation groups don’t recognize that, however, and end up agreeing to symbolic victories while the real, tangible, material rewards go to others.

I would propose that if these bills are to continue they need to become “wilderness designation” with sidepayments to conservation as well as non-conservation interests. For example, in CIEDRA which would designative wilderness in Idaho’s Boulder and White Clouds Mountains, the bill that passed the House has only gifts of privatized public land offered to Custer and Blaine County and gifts to off-road vehicle folks. As Representative Simpson introduced it, however, it had a buyout of grazing in the roaded East Fork of the Salmon River and also inside what would become designated wilderness. This would be a real change, not a change on paper. Simpson dropped this, however, when Richard Pombo, the committee insisted.

Pombo is now defeated, and this side payment to conservation should be added back and more side-payments should be proferred, such as a buyout of grazing in nearby Copper Basin. This is not a roadless area, but with the livestock removed, Copper Basin could become a wildlife rich area like the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone, only more scenic (which may seem impossible to hard core Lamar Valley veterans) with thousands of elk, and hundreds of moose and pronghorn, wolf packs that don’t get shot, and many more beaver than can survive under the current oppressive regime of heavy cattle and sheep grazing all the way past the timberline to the bare rock of the stunning Pioneer Mountain range (stunning if you don’t look at the ground).

Copper Basin and the Pioneer Mountains. This high mountain valley has the Pioneer Mountains (Idaho’s 2nd highest range) on three sides, and the White Knob Mountains on the other (east side). Copyright Ralph Maughan. Cattle graze the Basin and the mountains up past the timberline, all the way to the rock line. Maybe elimination of cattle could be a way to coax conservationists to support a Boulder/White Clouds Wilderness bill in the next Congress.

Agents, landowners killing more wolves

Yes, they are killing more wolves after livestock attacks. This will not reduce the wolf population unless, other things being unchanged, the mortality rate reaches 30 to 40% a year.

A more significant question is “does this do any good and is it cost-effective?” Does it make economic sense to call out the Wildlife Services “air force” and spend $20,000 killing a wolf or wolves that did $1000 damage?

Another questions is, are these revenge shootings or efforts to solve a problem?

One of the most significant parts of the article below, by Mike Stark of the Billings Gazette, is this

“A University of Calgary study published earlier this year said killing problem wolves is only a temporary solution to livestock attacks. Once the offender is removed, another eventually moves in to take its place.

“Wolves are being killed as a corrective, punitive measure – not a preventative one,” Marco Musiani, one of the study’s authors, said earlier this year.

A better approach, he said, is to look at when and where depredations occur and take steps like changing grazing patterns and using guard dogs, fencing, wolf repellants and other measures”

Stark also wrote:

“Coyotes kill 28 times more sheep and lambs than wolves, according to figures compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Foxes, dogs, bears and even eagles also rank higher, and that’s not to mention weather, diseases and lambing complications.”

Story today in the Billings Gazette.

Sheep-killing mystery canid might not have been a wolf

The large canid that killed sheep for over a year in northeast central Montana and which was finally shot about a month ago, might not have been a wolf afterall, but the possibility that it was a wolf has not been ruled out.

As in life, controversy continues over the animal’s nature and origin even with its carcass in hand. Its markings and color are different from the now native wolves of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, suggesting it is a wolf hybrid, but then again it might have been a wolf migrating in from Minnesota.

DNA analysis should tell the story.

Officials don’t know if predator was wolf or where it came from. By Mike Stark. Billings Gazette.

Story of its shooting back on Nov. 3, 2006. “NE Montana mystery canid finally killed after a year.”

Posted in Montana wolves, Wolves. Comments Off on Sheep-killing mystery canid might not have been a wolf

Wolves In and Around Yellowstone (course Feb. 1-4, 2007)

Wolves In and Around Yellowstone
Start: February 1 at 7 p.m.
End: February 4 at 4 p.m.
Location: Gardiner, Montana
Instructors: Nathan Varley, Ph.D. Candidate & Linda Thurston, M.S.
Limit: 19
Credit Pending

The wolves in Yellowstone annually attract thousands of visitors hoping to see and hear these top predators. Are wolves as welcomed beyond the park’s borders? Find out by contrasting the major social, economic, and management issues encountered on different landscapes with different management agencies. You’ll observe wolves inside the park while discussing research and ecology, and you’ll meet local people- such as ranchers and outfitters– whose livelihoods are affected by wolves. Explore this challenging topic with instructors who work inside and outside the park with wolves and the people they affect. Be prepared with very warm boots and clothing for extended periods outdoors on cold winter days.

Posted in Yellowstone wolves. Comments Off on Wolves In and Around Yellowstone (course Feb. 1-4, 2007)

Voters put ‘conserve’ back in conservative

Voters put ‘conserve’ back in conservative. By Blaine Harden. The Washington Post.

There has been a lot of this happy talk lately. I hope it’s true, but certainly haven’t seen anything in the agencies or on the ground to indicate that anything has changed except that the Western outdoors is being destroyed at an increasing rate by the energy companies, sub-divisions, overgrazing, lawless all terrain vehicles.

They are still feeding wintering elk in Wyoming, and as a result, chronic wasting disease keeps marching across the landscape. Montana won’t let bison leave Yellowstone. Despite blistering editorials to tear down the dams, the salmon killing, pork-barrel dams on the lower Snake River in Washington State still keep decimating the salmon that struggle back to Idaho. The national parks are underfunded, the national forests are unfunded, and every where you turn there are fees now.
The grizzly bear is being delisted and the states are talking about new ways to kill the great bear. Snowmobiles will be let back into the range of the endangered woodland caribou (pop. 20) of northern Idaho. The desert aquifers of Nevada, 2/3 the way to the Idaho border, are being mined to fuel endless growth of Las Vegas.

A few really awful new things, like privatizing the public lands in its most blatant form, have been killed.

There is a lot of talk about the new “consensus groups,” which so far have resulted in proposals for a little bit of wilderness designation of lands here and there, but these lands are already wilderness in fact, if not by law. In return the “consensus” will spawn new development, lucrative buyouts of ranchers, and photos for politicians.

Wolves retain protected status in Europe

Switzerland has a population of 3 or 4 wolves and apparently wanted a “hunting season.”

European Commission refuses to downgrade wolf protected status in Europe. WWF newsroom. This article appears in a number of other places too.

Posted in Delisting, Wolves. Comments Off on Wolves retain protected status in Europe

Sportsmen for “feeding and whining” proposes supplying food on National Elk Refuge

SFW Wyoming wants to supplement the alfalfa pellets fed elk and bison on the National Elk Refuge at Jackson, WY, with hay.

The National Elk Refuge has all the alfalfa pellets it can possibly use. Hay was abandoned in favor of pellets many years ago. Hay is more likely to spread disease because, unlike the pellets, it is spread into just several locations while the pellets are evenly spread over a large area of the Refuge, but worry about disease has never deterred this bunch of “sportsmen” and their attitudes out of the 1940s and 50s.

This is a publicity stunt.

Story in Casper Star Tribune.

2-decade effort has kept the black-footed ferret alive

The black-footed ferret, which preys exclusively on prairie dogs, was thought perhaps to be extinct 25 years ago when it was rediscovered living on a large ranch west of Meeteetse, Wyoming.

The result of this discovery has been a shaky recovery of the species. The article below tells the story.

Story in the Billings Gazette. By Ruffin Prevost. 

Sundles said to plead guilty of trying to poison wolves with poison meatballs

Tim Sundles from the Salmon, Idaho area will plead guilty next week to spreading poison meatballs on the Salmon-Challis

National Forest in an effort to illegally poison wolves. Back in 2004 a number of poison meatballs turned up and dogs were killed or sickened..

Story in Reuters.

Added on Dec. 6. There is more on Sundles in High Country News blog. “Wannabe Wolf Poisoner Confesses.” The blog points out that there were many attempts at wolf poisoning that winter, not just around Salmon, Idaho, but also (especially so) in NW Wyoming.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service makes another 2006 wolf pop. estimate

This is the second wolf population estimate this year. The official final figures will be released about next March or April 2006.

The estimate is for wolves in the 3-state Northern Rockies “experimental, non-essential” wolf population area. That means Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Yellowstone National Park is mostly in Wyoming, but part is in Montana and a very small portion inside Idaho.

Here are statistics Ed Bangs, Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator for USFWS just released.

Data presented at our 2006 interagency annual meeting on Nov. 28/29 suggested that the wolf population, livestock loss, and lethal wolf control statistics were higher in 2006 than in 2005. We estimate the 2006 MT, ID, WY wolf population will be around 1,264 wolves in +163 groups of 2 or more animals, and +86 of those will probably be classified as breeding pairs [adult male and female raising at least 2 pups until Dec 31]. Livestock losses until late Nov. 2006 were 170 cattle, 344 sheep, 8 dogs, 1 horse, 1 mule, and 2 llamas. Lethal control removed 152 wolves.
No wolves were confirmed living in other NW US states.
Estimates for MT were 300 wolves in 59 packs, and 25 breeding pairs- 35 cattle, 133 sheep, 4 dogs [2 guard 2 pet], 2 llamas confirmed killed by wolves and 47 wolves removed.
In ID there are about 650 wolves in +70 packs, and + 36 breeding pairs- 24 cattle, 173 sheep, and 4 dogs [3 hounds, 1 guard] were confirmed killed and 61 wolves were removed.
In WY [including YNP at 140 wolves, 14 packs, 12 are breeding pairs] there are around 314 wolves in 34 packs and 25 of those will probably be breeding pairs- 111 cattle, 38 sheep, 1 horse and 1 mule were confirmed killed by wolves and as a result 44 wolves were killed in control actions.
More intensive radio-tracking flights, additional investigations and incidents, and analysis of data in December will improve the final estimates that will appear in the 2006 annual report.

Note that the boldfacing above is mine, not Bangs.

Notice that the cattle loss rate/per wolf is the lowest in Idaho and highest in Wyoming. The wolf “control” (killing) rate is lower in Idaho than Montana and Wyoming (the latter two being about the same). However, this is distorted by Yellowstone Park (no livestock, no control killing) which means that the actual wolf control rate and livestock depredation rate is higher in Wyoming than in Montana or Idaho.

Rearing cattle produces more greenhouse gases than driving cars, UN report warns

The excerpt below is from the report, dramatic data on the toll cattle are having on our climate and our future. . .

When emissions from land use and land use change are included, the livestock sector accounts for 9 per cent of CO2 deriving from human-related activities, but produces a much larger share of even more harmful greenhouse gases. It generates 65 per cent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2. Most of this comes from manure.

And it accounts for respectively 37 per cent of all human-induced methane (23 times as warming as CO2), which is largely produced by the digestive system of ruminants, and 64 per cent of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain.

Read the full news release

Western ski areas get their annual environmental quality/damage rating

Every year Ski Area Citizens rates the Western ski areas.

This year the very best one was a tie between Aspen Mountain and Buttermilk, both in Colorado. The very worst was also in Colorado–Breakenridge, followed closely by Copper Mountain.

For the compete rundown 

Posted in public lands, Uncategorized. Comments Off on Western ski areas get their annual environmental quality/damage rating

What’s everyone’s favorite wilderness or roadless area?

So, this is an opportunity to discuss them, share information, and learn something. Visiting these areas has been a big part of my life. At one time I hoped to visit every last one of them in Idaho, where I live. Because Idaho has more unprotected roadless area than any other state, my goal, happily proved infeasible.By the way, currently at his blog, Mike is featuring the Crazy Mountains (unprotected) roadless area in Montana.


Just added because folks are talking a lot about the Dunoir

This pond is on top of Bonneville Pass (elev 9923′). The pass is a broad, beautiful swale between the Continental Divide to its north and the Pinnacle Buttes (in the photo) to the south. Just past this pond the trail abruptly drops 1000 feet to Dundee Meadows. The Continental Divide is the southern boundary of the Teton Wilderness (and further east, the Washakie Wilderness). All the country in this photo and much more (I think about 50,000 acres) is called The Dunoir Special Management Unit. It should be added to the Washakie Wilderness. Photo copyright Ralph Maughan

A great sign on the trail just as it starts to drop down to Dundee Meadows.
Photo copyright Ralph Maughan

Dunoir Butte (the Continental Divide). Copyright Ralph Maughan

Requirement of guides has reduced snowmobile stress on Yellowstone wildlife

A technical document, part of the current draft environmental impact statement on Yellowstone snowmobile use tells that the requirement that snowmobilers have guides has reduced, but not eliminated, the stress snowmobiles create on the wintering wildlife.

Bald Eagles are the species that show the most stress, followed by elk and coyotes. While the grooming of roads affects bison, especially those bison deep the in the Park, the bison was the animal that showed the lowest stress response of those studied.

Story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. By Corey Hatch.

Posted in Motor vehicles wildlife, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Requirement of guides has reduced snowmobile stress on Yellowstone wildlife