Basin Butte Pack thrives near Stanley, Idaho despite an illegal killing and thousands of cattle and sheep

In June 2006 the new Basin Butte wolf pack killed a cow calf near Cow Camp road north of Stanley, Idaho. I didn’t give it much of a chance; but today it consists of 3 adult wolves, 4 yearlings (5 until the other day) and 5 new pups. It has left the numerous summertime sheep and cattle in the area alone, and has been a source of great pleasure for many local folks near Stanley and elsewhere.

The pack begin in the late winter of 2005 when a dispersing female wolf from the Galena Pack to the south and a big male from parts unknown got together. Sometime later they were joined by another male who is today referred to by locals as “the uncle.” In April 2006 they had a litter of 5 pups somewhere near Basin Butte, a prominent ridge (but not noticed by most tourists) on the east side of Valley Creek. Tourists are looking at the Sawtooths to the west.

I learned about this well behaved pack, doing what it should — eating ground squirrels, killing elk (but not livestock) and eating the abundant road kill — by reading stories in the Idaho Statesman, Mountain Express, reports by Ed Bangs, a local resident of Cow Camp road area, the Western Watersheds Project, and Scott Bragoner of USFWS Law Enforcement.

Despite the grumblings of local anti-wolf activists Ron Gillet and a few of his pals and ranchers, I sense a growing level of support among Stanley residents. A resident of Cow Camp road described how pleased he and his spouse were when the pack killed an elk on their property and they were able to watch it slowly disappear as the wolves dismantled all of it except the stomach, which they strictly avoided (but other scavengers took it). Apparently numerous residents are looking out for the pack and scaring them off if they are near cattle. This type of community effort could represent a bright spot in a state where the governor and the Fish and Game Commission hold attitudes that should have died off decades ago.

Amazingly the only mortality the pack has suffered was the other day when “range rider” George Gilbert illegally shot a yearling female who (according to the federal complaint) was minding her business. Gilbert has been charged with a class B offense. Although it hasn’t been adjudicated, Scott Bragoner of USFWS in Idaho Falls told me the likely outcome would be a $275 fine.

With thousands of cattle pouring into the area, and soon sheep, which will turn the beautiful meadows to dust by the end of the summer, let’s hope the good luck of this pack will continue.

Wolf 313F, “Angel.” Photo courtesy of Lynne Stone. Copyright. 313F was illegally shot.

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Elk herd reduction inside Rocky Mountain NP remains hot issue

The large population of elk, and whether and how to reduce it inside Rocky Mountain National Park, continues to be a political controversy. There is pressure to use “qualified sportsmen,” but, on the other hand, a substantial number of elk migrated out of the national park last year, and of those that left quite a few were taken in the elk hunt.

Herd reduction remains hot issue. By Charlie Meyers. Denver Post Outdoors Editor

Two campgrounds in Wasatch (Northern Utah) closed until troublesome bears caught

It looks like the Forest Service is being super careful now. Story in Salt Lake Tribune.

.  . . and here is a Tribune editorial. Wildlife encounters: Develop and learn strategies for survival 

Posted in Bears. 4 Comments »

Senate rejects coal-to-liquid fuel amendment

Most conservationists are celebrating the defeat of two amendments to the new energy bill that would have authorized $200 million in grants or $10 billion in direct loans for coal gasification/liquefaction projects.

Coal state senators are pushing this as a “clean” method of using the vast coal deposits, many believe use of coal, is not the solution to energy woes due to the high emission rate of of carbon dioxide when coal is used. Proponents of coal liquefaction in Montana and elsewhere have been saying the CO2 can be captured and injected into deep wells, where it will remain. Other doubt this, saying the carbon dioxide will leak out.

Coal mining also has severe environmental impacts, although federal law requires the reclamation of coal surface mines.

Story in the Casper Star Tribune. Senate rejects coal-liquids plans. By Noelle Straub.

Story in the Charleston Gazette. Senate rejects liquefied coal. Backers split over proposals; environmentalists hail votes. By Ken Ward Jr. Staff writer.

Here is a news release the Sierra Club just put out:

Senate Says Firm No to Liquid Coal. Vote Puts the Public Interest Ahead of Special Interests.

Statement of Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director

“In spite of Herculean efforts by the coal industry and its friends in Congress, the Senate today delivered a very important victory in the fight against global warming by decisively voting against jumpstarting a new massively expensive, massively polluting liquid coal industry–twice.

Senators showed that they understood that we need to leave behind the failed policies of the past–and past Congresses.

“At a time when we need to get on the path to achieving an 80 percent reduction in our global warming emissions by 2050–an achievable annual reduction of 2 percent–the level scientists tell us is necessary to avoid the most catastrophic effects of global warming, business as usual is no longer acceptable. Liquid coal produces nearly twice the global warming pollution as conventional fuel and Senators were right to turn their backs on it.

“Though Senators successfully blocked these damaging liquid coal provisions, they now need to turn their attention to breaking a filibuster led by Senator Domenici that is preventing a fair up or down vote on the Bingaman Renewable Electricity Standard amendment. Senators must also block attempts by Senators Levin, Bond, and Pryor to further weaken the CAFE compromise in the bill.

“We thank Senators for their leadership on this important vote and hope they will continue to make the changes necessary to make this bill one that we can truly be proud of.

Posted in Climate change, Coal. Comments Off on Senate rejects coal-to-liquid fuel amendment

Corrupt number 2 at Dept. of Interior trying to get out of doing time

I have been reporting for some time about the corruption in the Bush Department of Interior, the major land-management department of the federal government. One of those reported was J. Steven Griles, number two in DOI under Gale Norton. He was recently convicted for has dealings with corrupt lobbying Jack Abramoff. Now he is trying to get out of doing time for his crime. Instead he wants to do public service for an anti-conservation group involved with those recreation fees we are being changed to use our public lands.

Story. J. Steven Griles did the crime but doesn’t want to do the time. Former Interior Department Deputy Secretary who pleaded guilty earlier in connection with Jack Abramoff looking for ‘sentence’ of working for anti-environmental group instead of five years in the pokey. Bill Berkowitz. Media Transparancy.

Rocky Barker’s blog today tells how Idaho’s largely anti-conservation governor, Butch Otter, is going to bat for Griles. Rocky Barker’s blog: Otter asks for leniency for riding buddy. By Rocky Barker – Idaho Statesman

Oregon: Man stumbles upon bears killed during tree damage season

There is an emerging controversy in Oregon. Hundreds of bears are killed each year for the timber industry because some bears damage trees.

A man stumbled upon what they had been hiding. Man stumbles upon bears killed during tree damage season.

. . . and the followup

Oregon to bury remains of bears killed for damaging trees. AP. It looks like the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has a stupid public relations person. The department said they will see that the bears are buried, but the department expresses concern for the poor coyotes and buzzards who won’t have the bear carrion to feed on. . . gag me.

More from Goat, blog of the High Country News. Kill a bear, save a … pine tree??

The right thing to do is not to give the timber industry a free ride on this. They should develop methods of deterring the tree damage. Because it appears this bear behavior is learned, they should hire researchers to develop methods of non-lethally stopping this behavior.

It is so typical of livestock and timber to just shoot whatever gets in the way of their corporate profits.

Update 6/21. There is an article about the killing of bears to appease the timber industry at the Daily Kos. “Green” Oregon’s Timber Industry Slaughters Bears Cubs. By Nulwee

Posted in Bears. 3 Comments »

Grandfather of Utah bear victim blames feds for “surreal nightmare”

“The grandfather of an 11-year-old boy who was killed by a black bear blamed authorities today for not warning that the hulking animal was believed to have harassed another group of campers at the same site hours earlier.” Story in the Statesman-Journal.

Posted in Bears. 4 Comments »