Skyland and Ahorn Fires Explode in Montana

These two fires to the south of Glacier NP (Ahorn mostly in the Bob Marshall Wilderness) exploded Monday. In the Great Falls News it said flames up to 500 feet high were reported to have been seen! Highway 2, which follows the southern boundary of Glacier NP is closed.
Skyland fire rages into wall of flames. Eric Newhouse. Great Falls News (MT)

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Senators Craig, Crapo, and Governor Otter blow hot air about the Murphy Fire

This is about the news conference these three had yesterday. It’s on the WWP blog with a short video of an especially revealing segment.

Story in the Idaho Statesman. Idaho politicians blast federal fire management. By Heath Druzin. The dynamic trio didn’t get quite the spin they may have expected in the Statesman.

Update. LTE by Bert Brackett (rancher often mentioned in these stories). Times-News. Fire Fueled by Failed Range Management.

Reply to Brackett. Sent to Times-News by Max Hatfield

Bert Brackett’s Readers Comment Slandering Jon Marvel today was just about the most contrived self serving pile of rhetorical cow manure I have ever read. I sent the following letter to the editor in response.

Bert “Einstein” Brackett’s Rhetorical Cow Manure

Is your neck red enough and are you stupid enough to buy Rep. Bert “Einstein” Brackett’s slander about Jon Marvel? Brackett has attributed the 2007 range fires to Marvel and recommended naming them the “John Marvel Watershed Memorial Fire.” Maybe Brackett has another motivation for this tripe? Read the rest of this entry »

Gila Mothers are Not Afraid of Wolves

Gila mothers not afraid of wolves. Article Launched: 07/29/2007 01:00:00 AM MDT. By Denise Blake, Jennifer Bjornstad, Juniper Bowers, Jane Bruemmer, Dulcie Clarkson, Jamie Crockett, Teleah Dabbs, Carol Fugagli, Melanie Gasparich, Samira Johnson and Jennifer Sprague. SilverCity Sun-News.

These local women are responding to a fear-mongering ag lobbying who is using the standard, the wolves are going to a child or someone.

It’s my impression that if someone is afraid of wolves, the probability is it will be a man living in a rural area. Women in these areas are often made of more solid stuff.

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Rumor: Craig, Kempthorne, Otter to showboat about fire tomorrow

In contrast to the sensible position of Utah’s governor, rumor is Idaho’s three will show up tomorrow to talk about how the big rangefire was caused by not enough grazing and too many government regulations (on their buddies).

Note: as you can see from the comments below, they had their session today.

The cheatgrass menace: Utah’s governor willing to spend the money, but can hated plant truly be eradicated?

Finally an article in a major newspaper that almost gets it right about rangefires — it’s the cheatgrass! . . . the cheatgrass was

The Cheatgrass Menace. By Christopher Smart. Salt Lake Tribune.

A couple things that next to be emphasized. . . . larger seed banks need to be created and soon because the demand for reseeding outstrips supply, given all the fires.

In the article it says, “Of the more successful strategies, Pellant explained, is to introduce non-native grasses that can outcompete cheat and then seed with native grasses to restore the environment. But once new grasses have been planted, they must be allowed to take root over several years before they can be grazed, or the cheat will return. And there is always pressure to get livestock back on the range.” [emphasis mine]

In addition, they usually do not get around to seeding with native grasses a few years after they have planted these “non-natives that can outcompete cheatgrass.”

If this menace is to be curbed, more than money is needed. There also needs to be the political will to say “no” to ranchers who want start grazing again the second year after a reseeded burn, and there has to be the will to provide money to do a second seeding with the native plants. It is critical we don’t lot politicians use burns to as an excuse for even more abusive grazing practices.

Posted in wildfire, Wildfires, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on The cheatgrass menace: Utah’s governor willing to spend the money, but can hated plant truly be eradicated?

Idaho Fish and Game may curb hunting in burned areas

Wildlife took a beating in the Murphy Complex and other rangefires. The article says it may take 30 years to restore the sage grouse habitat. Giving the increasing incidence or rangefires, however, it is hard to imagine 30 years will pass before it burns again.

Unlike forest fires the flames moved so fast that a number of elk, deer and even antelope might have perished when they could not escape. Story in the Times News. Fish and Game may curb hunting in burned areas. By Matt Christensen
Times-News writer.

Note that the Murphy Complex is now about contained at just short of 700,000 acres

New fire briefly closes Highway 2 along southern boundary of Glacier NP

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31 “before and after” livestock grazing photos

The photos (from Western Watersheds project).

Insect insurrection: On the explosion of the mountain pine beetle

Scientists are increasingly alarmed that global warming has removed any control that bitterly cold winters once had over the mountain pine beetle, which co-evolved with pine trees over millennia in the West.

This is umpteen article I’ve posted on the mountain pine beetle. I think the beetle, drought, heat and fire are doing just what we would expect in a warming world, reduce the acreage covered by forests  in the northerly and high elevation regions of the Earth.

I am still waiting for the explosion when the B.C. or Alberta beetle kill catches on fire. It covers many thousands of square miles.

Read “Insect Insurrection” by Brodie Farquhar. Casper Star Tribune.

Another hold on a Dept. of Interior nominee

Earlier I reported that Ken Salazar, Democratic Senator from Colorado, had put a hold on the nomination of Idahoan Jim Caswell to be the new national director of the Bureau of Land Management.

Today reading Randy Stapilus’ Blog (Ridenbaugh Press), I learned the Oregon’s Democratic Senator Ron Wyden has a hold on Lyle Laverty, whom Bush nominated to replaced the now notorious Julie MacDonald, the department’s former deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks. MacDonald had rewritten the recommendations of USFWS biologists on endangered species.

In a related embarassment, Secretary Kempthorne had made Mark Limbaugh (another Idahoan and the assistant secretary for water and science), in charge the department’s new Conduct Accountability Board, formed in the wake of the many DOI ethical and criminal scandals.

However, within a week Limbaugh resigned to go work for a water development lobbying group. Senator Wyden was not amused by this and the hold on Laverty continues.

Story: Wyden, Kempthorne and endangered species. By Randy Stapilus

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Failure to produce lynx kittens this year in Colorado

After several years of rising success in the lynx restoration in Colorado, the Colorado Division of Wildlife said they haven’t found single kitten this year.

Nevertheless, it might part of the natural cycle of lynx. The cycle of abandance and then scarcity of snowshoe hare and lynx is well known by even those with most meager information about animal population dynamics.

However, it might not be natural.  That’s another possibility. Colorado’s not Canada and don’t recall the Colorado lynx rely so heavily on snowshoe hare.

Story in the Durango Herald Tribune.

Posted in wildcats. Comments Off on Failure to produce lynx kittens this year in Colorado

Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves and salmon

In recent email Jim Robertson wrote the following (see below). It was so interesting I decided to post it (with his kind permission). My, but he has some great photographs!

Ralph Maughan

Read the rest of this entry »

Pattengail Creek Wildland Fire near Dillon, MT could be a bad one

This fire has been burning for over a week, but it looks like now it could really take off. It is in southwest Montana to the NW of Dillon. It is a forest fire, not a rangefire.

Inciweb page on Pattengail Creek.

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Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Pattengail Creek Wildland Fire near Dillon, MT could be a bad one

50 Dirtiest U.S. Power Plants Named

While coal-fired power plants are notoriusly dirity, some are a lot worse than others. They are usually the older plants.

One that has long galled me is the old, but big, 4-corners power plant near the Four Corners area of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. It spews its pall over the scenic canyonlands country and the Grand Canyon, and as the article indicates, is a prime example of environmental racism because it was imposed on an area with a lot of poor Native Americans (along with still other coal plants, strip mines, and leaky natural gas wells).

Story. 50 Dirtiest Power Plants. ENS

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Wolf predation in the summer: Yellowstone Park study

In the latest “wolf weekly” report from Ed Bangs at USFWS, Ed wrote: Yellowstone Park researchers report that the summer predation study is going well. Approx 31 kills have been found May-mid through mid-July and they are 20 bulls, 5 cows, 5 calves, 1 mule deer. These data support the results of research done by following tagged elk calves [wolves killed few] and generally, but less so, scat analyses (scat analyses show more mule deer used in summer). Collar locations decrease from one every 30 min now to 8/day starting Aug. 1.

– – – –

I should say a bit more about this study. It is very important because all the quantitative data on wolf prey comes from winter observations when wolves generally have more of an advantage, and the ungulate composition in the Park differs somewhat from the summer when a lot of mule deer enter the Park from the Gardiner and some other areas.

Read the rest of this entry »

Retiring [Wyoming] elk tender defends [winter elk] feeding

Retiring elk tender defends feeding. By Cat Urbigkit, Casper Star-Tribune correspondent.

One of the reasons Wyoming government officials want to all but wipe out Wyoming wolves is that they chase and kill elk on these unnatural feedlots. The feedlots were created so the elk would not compete with the “sacred cattle” of Wyoming during the winter.

If we want wolves in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, if we want brucellosis free elk and bison, if we don’t want chronic wasting disease to permanently pollute the deer and elk population of the area, if we want free ranging bison in Montana, these feedlots have got to go.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rocky Barker’s blog: Fire brings out the same old question: Is it man or is it nature?

Barker blogs about the history of the general area burned in the giant Murphy Fire complex and the personalities involved.

He has written a lot about fires, beginning with his coverage of 1988 Yellowstone Park fires and living through the firestorm that blew through Old Faithful that year.

In 2005 his book Scorched Earth: How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America (Island Press) came out. I used it as a text in Public Lands Politics class.

I wrote to him yesterday asking him to point out that no amount of grazing would contain cheatgrass, and a lot of other folks no doubt contacted him too, probably leading in part to today’s blog. Fire brings out the same old question: Is it man or is it nature? By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman.

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Surprising New Species Of Light-harvesting Bacterium Discovered In Yellowstone

I posted a story earlier about this energy generating bacteria that lives in Old Faithful and nearby thermal features. It was a short story.

I have deleted it in favor of this longer story. Surprising New Species Of Light-harvesting Bacterium Discovered In Yellowstone. Science Daily.

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Posted in Yellowstone National Park. Comments Off on Surprising New Species Of Light-harvesting Bacterium Discovered In Yellowstone

States line up against Wyoming’s bid to overturn the reinstated roadless rule

To sum it up, President Clinton issued an executive order that the Forest Service would keep all the non-wilderness, but yet roadless areas on the national forests, free of new permanent roads.

There were a number of court challenges filled to this by states like Wyoming and Idaho. They had mixed success. Then, new President George W. Bush rescinded the roadless area protection rule. More court cases were filed, and eventually the Administration said the states could petition a special committee to adopt a state-created plan to manage the roadless area for various development and retention purposes. Idaho was the only state to do this. The plan was created and adopted by the committee. Most of the rest of the states, but not Wyoming, said “keep the roadless areas, roadless”.

Then a California district judge ruled the whole Bush enterprise invalid, restoring the Clinton rules, but Wyoming is going to its favorite judge, Clarence Brimmer of the Wyoming federal district, to try to invalidate the California judge, at least for Wyoming. The result could be a different “law” for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the 10th Circuit Court.

California, Montana, New Mexico and Oregon have formally intervened in the case arguing that Wyoming’s case threatens them.

Here is the AP story: States line up against overturning roadless rule.

fallcr6.jpg a

In Idaho’s Pioneer Mountains roadless area. Fall creek canyon.

Drought causes ripple effect in Idaho. Wildlife, forests, irrigators showing stress

This is on Idaho’s deep, deep drought from the Idaho Mountain Express. By Jason Kaufmann.

The last week, the flow of monsoonal moisture coming up from the south (typical of August) has begun with thunderstorms, some quite wet. These have dampened some of the fires, but have little effect on the dry forests. These heavy fuels respond slowly to infusions of moisture.

Posted in wildfire, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Drought causes ripple effect in Idaho. Wildlife, forests, irrigators showing stress

Idaho Fish and Game talks about wildlife habitat damage from Murphy Complex

This video shows some of the rangefire damage, and they talk about damage to sage grouse leks and big game habitat. The best is at the end when they indirectly counter Larry Craig and the ranchers with quotes such as “Fuel moisture was at an all-time low…. fire burned right through grazed areas …”

76 sage grouse leks, burned with more still in Nevada where the fire burns on the to the south.

Video from the Times-News.

Incident report on the Murphy Fire complex.

Majority leader Senator Harry Reid, now opposes Nevada coal plants!

“U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that he’ll do everything I can to stop construction of three major coal-fired power plants in his home state of Nevada and will push for more alternative energy development.”

Reid had seemed to be neutral to leaning toward the coal plants. They are being proposed not because Nevada has a lot or coal or water, it has neither,  but it has a lot of clean air. Power companies apparently think this clean air is being wasted.

This is welcome news in the fight against global warming, curbing the mercury pollution that Nevada sends to neighboring states (from open pit gold mines), and keeping Nevada’s wide open spaces places where you can see for miles and miles.

Story By Brendan Riley. Reid Opposes Coal-Fired Plants in Nevada. AP

Wild horse round-up begins due to their overgrazing

This is from the Western Watersheds Project blog.

I’m not a great enthusiast for feral horses, although they are lovely to watch . . . prettier than cows. The horses can lead to overgrazing, but they are usually not the real culprit because the BLM does keep their numbers down, a minor factor compared to cattle and sheep.

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Caswell’s nomination to head BLM passes Senate Committe, but Senator Salazar keeps it “on hold”

Although the nomination of Jim Caswell, aide to former Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne has now passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Colorado’s U.S. Senator Ken Salazar (Democrat) says he will keep “a hold” on the nomination and not let it come to a vote before the full Senate.

The hold is there because Salazar is protesting how the BLM recently leased the willdife rich Roan Plateau to the gas and oil companies and BLM’s general permissive approach to oil and gas development thoughout the state.

A hold is like an silent filibuster, and they generally stay in place unless the Senator is satisfied. Salazar’s hold may doom Caswell’s nomination, a fact that would please many Idaho conservationists who fear his impact on BLM’s already permissive grazing policies, plus Caswell’s key role in Idaho’s wolf-killing, state wolf management plan.

You might want to contact your own US Senators and tell them to give Senator Salazar a pat on the back, and urge them to join him in a hold on the nomination.

Yellowstone’s Owl Fire now over 2000 acres

The one big fire in Yellowstone keeps growing, and now at over 2000 acres has burned out the middle of Specimen Creek, a major drainage in the NW Corner of the Park.

My earlier stories on the Owl Fire.

Update, from Inciweb on Saturday, July 28. Today 12 handcrews were assigned to the fire line constructing direct handline for perimeter control in divisions B, C, D and G. Weather conditions limited fire growth and was conducive to line construction. Little fire activity is expected for the next 24 hours.

All visitor services, park entrances and roads are open. Some trails and backcountry campsites are temporarily closed. 

The fire was estimated at 2800 acres. 

Posted in Wildfires, Wildlife Habitat, Yellowstone National Park. Comments Off on Yellowstone’s Owl Fire now over 2000 acres

Rocky Barker’s blog: Nampa man blows up dam in Oregon to aid salmon

Rocky Barker’s blog: Nampa man blows up dam in Oregon to aid salmon. Idaho Statesman.

Although I don’t write prolifically about salmon and steelhead (prized NW anadromous fish), their management and fate is one of the longest and divisive wildlife controversies in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

One of the major points of contention is the presence of dams which hinder the fish that are trying to return to spawn, and most importantly hinder the migration of the small smolts downstream to the ocean.

Rocky Barker has good news on this front, but those who fish and those who care about restoring the balance to many of Idaho’s rivers and streams have their eyes set on much bigger dams than the one just demolished. As Barker writes: “. . . the big kahuna for them is the four lower Snake dams in Washington that stand between Idaho’s thousands of miles of pristine salmon habitat and the Pacific.”

The four dams are Ice Harbor, Little Goose, Lower Monumental, and Lower Granite.

A related more recent story. Idaho chinook salmon still in trouble. By Roger Phillips. Idaho Statesman.

Posted in endangered species act, Fish. Comments Off on Rocky Barker’s blog: Nampa man blows up dam in Oregon to aid salmon

Craig, Otter criticize BLM fire management

Oh boy, these Idaho politicians acted fast to try to define what caused the fires, protect their butts, and try to get a bit extra for their good buddies out there.

It’s quite a scene — the BLM and 1000 of their staff diverted to help fight fires in Idaho caused not by the Clinton Administration, but by years of mis-management by the BLM which has been essentially run by Larry Craig, Dirk Kempthorne, and the good ‘ol boys they put in charge when Bush took over (like recently retired Idaho BLM Director K. Lynn Bennett). Sure is good Idaho’s ex-governor is now Secretary of Interior.

Story by By Erika Bolstad. Mcclatchy Newspapers. Idaho Statesman. Craig, Otter criticize BLM fire management. Senator blames grazing limits for major blazes in Idaho. Kempthorne shifts staff to bulk up firefighting efforts.

This is a good statement by Kempthorne, and I hope they actually do it. “Kempthorne said his department is working to address post-fire restoration needs, including a new program that seeks to replace the invasive cheatgrass with native sagebrush and species such as bluebunch wheat grass and Idaho fescue.”

Notice he is not talking about using non-natives such as crested wheatgrass and similar species, or worse, stuff like forage kochia. Nevertheless, action needs to be taken to see that he not only talks the talk, but walks the walk.

One great advantage these politicians have is that not many Americans are familiar with things like names and characteristics of rangeland grasses. Unfortunately, too ranchers are unfamiliar with their characteristics as well, other than that they are “feed.”

Update: their real goal is grazing without even the few restrictions present now . . . let’s get the last of the native grass before it’s all cheatgrass. Then we’ll be out of business. Even then we can sell the land to some conservation group and let the deep canyons be designated wilderness (the area is crossed by scores of vertical walled, often deep canyons, which some groups propose for wilderness designation).

Charred and scarred: Ranchers blame grazing rules for fire’s huge size

Charred and scarred. Ranchers blame grazing rules for fire’s huge size. By Matt Christensen. Times-News writer.

This story features none other than Idaho State House of Representatives Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, of whom KT has written.

Brackett is correct that the grazing rules led to the size of the fire, but in exactly the wrong way. The grazing rules have led to cheatgrass. The cheatgrass burns, killing the much less fire tolerant native grasses. Then the BLM reseeds with the wrong mixture of grass seed, such as non-native crested wheatgrass and various cultivars of native and non-native grasses. The the BLM doesn’t give time for even their poorly suited mixture to take hold before cows are dumped back on the grazing allotment. Of course, this leads to more cheatgrass.

Cheatgrass grows so fast and ripens so fast that no amount of livestock grazing can put a dent into it. Once the seed head develops, cattle and sheep won’t eat it unless they are to become dead livestock.

Therefore, it’s incorrect for Brackett to say there hasn’t there hasn’t been enough grazing unless he knows about voracious cows that will each thoroughly graze about a thousand acres of unripe cheatgrass a day (or cows that eat ripe cheatgrass!)

Posted in Grazing and livestock, public lands management, wildfire, Wildfires. Comments Off on Charred and scarred: Ranchers blame grazing rules for fire’s huge size

Idaho declared brucellosis-free

The largely non-story (in Idaho) about Idaho losing its brucellosis free status has now ended. Idaho has been declared “brucellosis free” again.

Idaho cattle had been infected by Wyoming elk near the Wyoming border in, naturally, a winter elk feeding operation close to cattle.

Idaho media barely covered the story, and, of course, Wyoming the source of so many unsanitary elk feeding operations (with a few Idaho exceptions) were not fond of talking about it.

Montana news, however, for whom brucellosis seems so important, repeatedly pointed out the Idaho had lost its brucellosis free status.

Story in the Billings Gazette (Montana). Idaho declared brucellosis-free. By the Associated Press.

Increased humidity keeps Idaho fires from growing

A relatively new forest fire, Trapper Ridge, is pumping a lot of smoke into Stanley Basin.

There will be a big controversy over grazing when the Murphy Complex and other range fires are out. Burned areas should be rested a good while and seeded with native grass, forbs, and brush to reduce the liklihood of cheat grass spread and the fires next time.

Natives are also much better for wildlife. Cattle prefer them too, which is one reason they eat it to the ground when grazing is not managed well, renewing the abnormal fire to cheat grass, cheat grass to fire cycle.

Fire teams: S. Idaho blaze No. 1 priority, but cooler temps help. By JOHN MILLER – Associated Press Writer

Despite the cooler temperatures and higher humidity, the fire has grown to 623,000 acres.

Posted in Grazing and livestock, public lands management, wildfire, Wildfires, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Increased humidity keeps Idaho fires from growing

Oregon too heads for wildlife dark ages

In Idaho and Wyoming it’s wolves, but in Oregon the state legislature has focused on cougars (oh, they’ll do that in Idaho too, soon enough).

Here is the sad story as told by George Wuerthner. Oregon’s Cougar Slaughter: A Return to the Dark Ages. New West.

Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildfire is using the same tactics as the anti-wolf forces . . . Oh my God, you are going to be killed!

Will these people stop it!!? They tell us to fear terrorists, fear wildlife, keep the kids indoors because there is a sexual predator on every street corner, drug dealers are everywhere. So stay home, shut up, let us handle it.

Oh, and while you’re indoors, safe from exercise and fresh air, be sure to worry about getting fat.

Note: People asked if the governor of Oregon signed this into law. Yes he did. He is a Democrat, and he has also supported letting the timber industry kill thousands of bears because they damage young conifers on the tree farms of the Oregon timber industry.  

Update July 26: Wyoming wants to increase its cougar “harvest.” Jackson Hole News and Guide. State raises hunting pressure on Wyo. cats. Cougar Fund says Teton County hunting quotas are not based on science.

Sheep in wolves clothing (editorial cartoon)

Posted in endangered species act, politics, Wolves. Comments Off on Sheep in wolves clothing (editorial cartoon)

Decisions on potential endangered species by disgraced Administration official to be reviewed

Decisions on species to be reviewed. Methods of Interior official who resigned in question. Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Here is yet another example of the Administration ignoring science to the detriment of our plants, fish and wildlife. This is not the first time Julie MacDonald, a former Interior Department official in charge reviewing ESA petitions has been in the news, but now the Department of Interior feels it must go back and look at 8 of her decisions.

Popular Granite Hot Springs (Gros Ventre Mtns, WY) may burn down.

Yet another wildfire. This one is in Wyoming in Granite Creek, familiar to many people who love the nearby Grand Teton National Park.

Updated July 25. News from Inciweb on the Granite Creek Wildfire.

Posted in Wildfires. Comments Off on Popular Granite Hot Springs (Gros Ventre Mtns, WY) may burn down.

Blaze ignites criticism. Ranchers question rules of engagement in Murphy fire

Blaze ignites criticism. Ranchers question rules of engagement in Murphy fire. Times News. By Nick Coltrain.

This is very irritating. Some of the ranchers are blaming the fire on not enough grazing and BLM’s tiny attempts to rest a few areas. The years of abusive grazing are the reason for the cheatgrass spread.

You don’t graze cheatgrass away because it is palatable for only a couple weeks before it starts to go to seed, and it goes to seed anyway even if it is grazed. Try it yourself if you have cheat-grass. Mow it to the ground (to simulate heavy grazing) while it is still green and downy. If there is any moisture at all, the mowed cheat grass will go the seed anyway.

The ranchers are a major reason for the spread of this weed grass that has changed the ecology of the West. They created the bare spots where it invaded and pushed out the native grass that stays green most of the summer.

This fire exploded at an incredible rate to become the largest in the country. What do these ranchers mean the “BLM didn’t react fast enough?” The firefighters are stretched incredibly thin. This is one of scores of rangefires. The sense of entitlement of these ranchers is appalling.

Now that the area has burned, it should be reseeded with native grasses and shrubs and rested for 10 years, but you can bet these ranchers will be using the political connections to be grazing in two years, and even next spring.

The BLM does deserve blame for not restraining the grazing, and planting the non-native crested wheatgrass under guise it was fire resistant. Thousands and thousands of acres of this exotic wheatgrass burned along with the cheatgrass.

~Story on why cheat grass wins~

I just got this email, which is certainly telling . . .

Read the rest of this entry »

Huge Murphy Fire ravages rare species habitat

Slickspot peppergrass and the sage grouse will be a step further toward extinction because of the huge Murphy Fire burning in SW Idaho.
Huge fire ravages rare species habitat. By Cynthia Sewel. Idaho Statesman.

The only place in the world that slickspot peppergrass grows is southwest Idaho.

More Idaho fire news.

Governor declares state of emergency declared in five counties. Idaho Statesman.

Today’s Inciweb update on the Murphy Fire complex. Some progress at containment has been made, especially on the north side.

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First big fire for Yellowstone Park

So far Yellowstone has escaped this summer’s conflagrations because there has been almost no lightning, but you don’t have spend much time in the Park to see that it is every bit as dry as the summer of 1988.

The first big fire is the Owl Fire in the backcountry at the NW corner of the Park.

Yellowstone Park page on the Owl Fire.

Update late on July 25. The Owl Fire has grown from 200 acres to over a thousand. The new Beaverdam Fire in the remote SE corner of the Park is over 540 acres (about a square mile).

July 26 The latest on the fire on Inciweb. The growth was due to thunderstorm winds.

July 27. The Owl Fire has doubled again, and is now over 2000 acres.

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Idaho state officials, livestock producers, and Idaho Sportsmen for Fish and (some) Wildlife – hand in hand…

Video of the recent Boise wolf hearing on the WWP blog.

Look who’s going to be running the show for wolves in Idaho. Note: “management flexibility” means kill wolves without restriction.

That’s the endangered species act under George Bush and Dirk Kempthorne. Note that Jim Caswell, in one of the video segments, is the new nominee to head the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (the largest portion of the public lands). Colorado’s U.S.Senator Ken Salazar has put Caswell’s nomination on hold, where it will hopefully stay until this God-awful Administration is done for.

Alien Invader in Yellowstone: toadflax

Here is the story in the West Yellowstone News. By Carol Hoffman.

When I was in YNP last week I pulled up some of this from along the Madison River (at “the Barns”) and also along the north part of the Grand Loop. I saw some on the edge of the road in Lamar Valley, but there was not good place to stop.

I hope someone who reads this will get it before it goes to seed.

Web page on yellow toadflax.

Rocky Barker’s blog: Wolf biologist says federal wildlife agent pointed rifle at her

I missed this story while I was in Yellowstone last week.

This incident involves the Mexican wolves.

Barker’s blog.

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Idaho fire nears homes, military range: Fires rage in Idaho, Utah, Nevada


Idaho fire nears homes, military range. By Keith Ridley. This is in the SW corner of Idaho, with a portion in Nevada. It is now being called “the Murphy [fire] complex.

“This fire has the potential to be one of the worst fires in American history” if it moves north, Hawkins [incident management commander] said. “But I don’t think that will happen.”

The figure they are giving is 880 square miles. That’s 2300 square kilometers — over 550,000 acres. Whatever, it will be larger after today because there is no break in the abnormally hot and dry weather, except perhaps thunderstorms (probably more of a curse than blessing).

Update: Murphy Hot Springs (resort) did not burn.

Update. Here is a very good wildlfire locator map KT emailed to me.

Incident web page for this fire — the Murphy Complex. It is updated every day at noon EDT, 10 AM MDT.

Update late on July 23. Forest Service closes Salmon River camps, river stays open. By Roger Phillips – Idaho Statesman.
I lunch with a boatman just off the Salmon River. He said the canyon was very hot and had filled with smoke from nearby fires. While some areas had over 2 inches of rain recently, the lightning that came with it caused many new fire starts. As the story says the Salmon River and the Frank Church Wilderness could be closed without a lot of notice, given the deteriorating conditions. Note: the Salmon River is in the Central Idaho Mountains. The huge Murphy Complex is in SW Idaho on the Owyhee Plateau and the Snake River Plain.



In other fires . . . in Central Utah where a number of fires burn, several small towns have received evacuation notices — Oaker Hills, Indian Ridge, Elk Ridge, Indianola and Holiday Oaks.

Story in the Salt Lake Tribune. Fiery retreat: Salt Creek residents flee menacing wildfire. By Matthew D. La Plante. FYI, Salt Creek is the canyon between Nephi, Utah and the San Pete Valley (the south slope of Mt. Nebo).

Photos of Utah Wildfires. From the Salt Lake Tribune.

Update July 24: Fire crews report gains across Utah. Salt Lake Tribune


Thunderstorm [Monday] threat today for huge wildfires across northern Nevada. By Martin Griffith. AP

Update. Photo of Scott Creek fire in Nevada

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Kathie Lynch: Detailed report on the Hayden wolves

Kathie Lynch sent this story to me on July 21. I was in Yellowstone at the time. The scene for watching the wolves was perfect — sit in the shade at the Otter Creek picnic area and wait for them to appear on the other side of the Yellowstone River about 175 yards away.

Kathie’s report below is mostly about the Hayden wolves, but she does discuss some of the other packs. Kathie told me today that the Hayden Pack appears to have finally moved — to the Alum Creek vicinity (not far), and they can still be seen.

I hiked across the valley and up the canyon to Cache Creek and then up the Cache Creek canyon a way today. I was looking for signs of the Druids. I thought perhaps I heard a distant howl, but I saw nothing but a few old scats. Given the temperature, I’d bet they are with the elk high up on the Absaroka crest somewhere.

Here is Kathie report.


Awesome! That’s the only word to describe the amazing viewing over the past two weeks of the Hayden Valley wolf pack across the Yellowstone River from the Otter Creek picnic area. Since July 7, the entire pack of four adults and five pups has put on an incredible show for the awestruck visitors lining the river bank. Seasoned wolf watchers and photographers alike agree that this has been their best pup viewing ever!

My best day, July 18, began at 5:30 a.m. with a blanket of fog over the river and no sign of wolves. By 9:30 a.m., the crowd of hopefuls had started to thin, and I debated about leaving for awhile. But, at 9:45 a.m., the cry of “There they are!” went up, and the entire group of four gray and one black pup burst into view on the river’s edge.

We watched with delight as the pups, strung out in a perfect line, gamboled along the shore. They played chasing games, pulled tails, practiced pouncing, explored rocky caves, leap-frogged over backs, straddled logs, and made life miserable for a pair of spotted sandpipers who kept trying to lure them away from a nearby nest. The most fun of all was watching them take turns slipping and sliding down a steep, sandy hillside with front legs straight out and toes splayed wide. Some even went down on their bellies with legs forward and back like a frog!


Read the rest of this entry »

Thanks to BE for being webmaster

I’ve been in Yellowstone for about 4 days. I want to thank BE for taking care of the blog.

I came home early. It was a very unpleasant trip — hot and smoky.  Until the heat wave passes and the forest fires abate, I won’t recommend the trip. Outside the Park, the dirt roads have turned to a dusty powder from weeks without rain. I can certainly see why the fish are dying because you could swim in what are usually cold mountain streams. In fact people were doing just that outside the Park boundaries.

July hasn’t been at all good for outdoors recreation from what I have experienced in Idaho and Yellowstone, but May and June were great!

Panel backs limits on coalbed methane water use

I thought this story interesting: The Powder River Basin has a whole lot of water pumping as a result of coalbed methane production – enough to “perennialize these (ephemeral) streams.”

Panel backs limits on coalbed methane water use.  AP

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Posted in Coal, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Panel backs limits on coalbed methane water use

Rehberg kills bill to protect yellowstone bison

It seems the cattle industry has maintained it’s scapegoat for the time being. Montana representative Rehberg killed a house amendment based on Schweitzer’s plan to buffer the rest of the state’s brucellosis free status from those that wander around Yellowstone. That would have protected the buffalo AND the livestock industry’s sacred brucellosis free status. Rehberg prefers to slaughter an icon of his state – and of the West – “saying the problem should be dealt with inside the park.”

New York congressman advocates Schweitzer plan in U.S. House
Associated Press Writer

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Boise hearing shows backers/opponents true colors – and numbers

Once again, the Fish & Wildlife Service’s attempt to undermine the integrity and contribution of science in the wolf recovery process was met with a diverse and vociferous outcry of wolf, and science, supporters.
Read the rest of this entry »

Yellowstone cutthroat refused listing

Another listing denied

Yellowstone cutthroat not joining endangered list
Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Yellowstone cutthroat refused listing

Boise (10j rule) hearing to be webcast live – tonight

The Boise (10j rule) hearing will be webcast live tonight barring difficulties encountered at the venue. Unfortunately, does not support streaming embeds so I am unable to embed the video on this post. If you would like to watch the live video and/or participate in the public comment, you can do so by visiting one of these links from 6pm MST to 9pm MST :

The live video stream – Western Watersheds has youtubed the Idaho official’s comments thus far

The forum for live participation

We are going to attempt to have volunteers read the comments posted to the live forum/blog in the meeting as demonstration that there are people who wished to attend but were unable to given the timeframe, geographical restraints, etc. Remember… Read the rest of this entry »

Helena wolf-plan hearing

Not a lot of people showed up, but then I think wolf opponents figure they have won the day. Here is the story from Helena, MT in the Helena Independent Record.

As I learn more about the Cody hearing, it’s apparent that the scientific review process is bogus. The states will decide who reviews their plans, and they will only have to review the plan generically. For example, if the state wants to kill wolves because wolves are killing elk on Wyoming’s unnatural winter elk feedlots, all the reviewer will have to certify is that “yes, the wolves kill elk on the feedlots,” and that will end the discussion, forever.

The Boise hearing will be tonight. It may be on-line here in real time, and you may be able to testify. BE will be setting things up. We will see.

Posted in Delisting, politics, Wolves. Comments Off on Helena wolf-plan hearing

Due to fires, about half the Bob Marshall Wilderness closed to the public

The Ahorn and Fool Creek fires are behaving erratically and lightning has started a bunch of new fires in this wilderness area just to the south of Glacier NP.

Story in the Great Falls Tribune. By Eric Newhouse

Photos of the Ahorn Fire in the “Bob”

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Posted in public lands, public lands management, Trees Forests, Wildfires. Comments Off on Due to fires, about half the Bob Marshall Wilderness closed to the public

Rocky Barker’s blog: We want your good ideas for Idaho’s next national monument

The Idaho Statesman put out a call to readers Monday to submit their best ideas for a national monument in Idaho. The idea seems to have come former Idaho Governor, and now Secretary of Interior, Dirk Kempthorne. Rocky Barker discusses it on his blog in the Statesman.

I expect any national monument would be small. Barker discusses saving the ghost town of Chesterfield in Eastern Idaho, for example. Chesterfield’s unusual survival (it hasn’t been carried away by tourists) is unique. Protecting it would generate little controversy.

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Truck hauling scrap iron starts ten fires along Idaho Highway 52!

A truck driver hauling scrap iron along Idaho 52 Wednesday accidentally ignited a series of grass fires that threatened homes, closed the highway and knocked out electricity for more than 4,000 Idaho Power Co. customers.  Rest of the story in the Idaho Statesman. By Patrick Orr.

Latest Watersheds Messenger is available

The Watersheds Messenger for Summer 2007 is on-line. Here is the pdf version (much better quality).

This is the newsmagazine of the Western Watersheds Project. It has a lot of good articles, and they are not the bland generic stuff like that produced by many organizations.

Posted in Grazing and livestock, public lands, public lands management, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Latest Watersheds Messenger is available

Cody hearing on the new wolf rules (10j rule) saw both opponents and backers

Here is the AP story from the Casper Star Tribune. By Matthew Brown.

The story got the main point — the 10j changes are designed to get around the legal “problem” of delisting the wolves by treating them on the ground as if they had been legally delisted.

The story did not point out that the new rules would give states the right to kill wolves not just for being a suspect in the population decline of an elk herd, but for any “herd management objectives” (which, by the way it is defined, could mean for any reason the state wildlife departments want).

The only Montana hearing is tonight. Story on tonight’s hearing in Helena. By Eve Byron.

Yellowstone grizzlies will feel the effects of rising temperatures

 “Just like their polar bear relatives in the Arctic, Yellowstone grizzlies are rapidly losing habitat as a result of global warming. . . .”

This story is columnist Joel Connelly’s at the Seattle Post Intelligencer, but I should add that failure to discuss or plan for the effects of climate change is one of the major arguments be used the grizzly bear delisting lawsuit that a number of conservation groups have filed.

Posted in Bears, Climate change, endangered species act. Comments Off on Yellowstone grizzlies will feel the effects of rising temperatures

Milford Flat fire has been contained at 363,000 acres

The biggest fire ever in Utah and the largest so far this year has been contained.

Last update on Milford Flat at Inciweb.

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Posted in Wildfires. Comments Off on Milford Flat fire has been contained at 363,000 acres

Sen. Ken Salazar, Colorado Democrat, puts a hold on Jim Caswells’ nomination to head the BLM

Senator Salazar is upset about the BLM’s giveaway of the huge and wildlife-rich Roan Plateau in Western Colorado to the energy companies. One the surface, at least, all the Salazar is asking is a 120-day extension to review the Roan Plateau Resource Management Plan.

Story in Rocky Barker’s blog. Rocky Barker’s blog: Senator places hold on Caswell’s BLM nomination. Idaho Statesman.  Holds can delay nominations for a short time, and sometimes for a very long time.

Caswell was a natural resources aide (Idaho Office of Endangered Species) to Governor Kempthorne of Idaho, who is now Secretary of Interior. The Bureau of Land Management has not had a director since Kathleen Clarke of Utah resigned about 6 months ago.

Posted in oil and gas, politics, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Sen. Ken Salazar, Colorado Democrat, puts a hold on Jim Caswells’ nomination to head the BLM

Governor: Feed grounds necessary in Wyoming

Freudenthal is gearing up to defend the indefensible, — Wyoming’s winter elk feed grounds, the continued source of brucellosis transmission in elk and the place where chronic wasting disease will first show up in the Greater Yellowstone elk and deer.

If you are going, defend something so wrong, it might just pay off to say just the opposite is true. He does. “Feed grounds are a vital part of the state’s elk management and brucellosis strategy and will be a part of that strategy for the foreseeable future.” That’s what he said in Jackson, WY on Monday.

By defending the feed grounds as vital in preventing transmission of brucellosis, he can then accuse the wolves who come to the feed grounds to hunt in the winter just as naturally as bears come to backyard birdfeeders, as something menacing that needs to be killed. In fact the feedgrounds is one of the two major reasons for the proposed new 10j rule that will be argued in Cody tonight. The new 10j would allow the states to kill wolves if the wolves if they are a major cause preventing the state from meeting “herd objectives,” a term that the Federal Register says means the movements of herds, not just desired population size.

Freudenthal then gives the real reason for the pro-feedground, anti-wolf policy. The Jackson Hole News and Guide writes, “Freudenthal said the only thing that could possibly reduce the state’s dependence on supplemental feeding programs would be significant state investment to secure more wintering habitat for the animals.” [emphasis mine]. However, he said winter range would be too expensive to buy.

He is right, but not the way it seems. Wyoming state government is rolling in money from the mass industrialization of state for gas development. They have plenty of money to buy the land, but the political support for it isn’t there with a governor like him.

The expense the governor is talking about then, is political. To eliminate the feedgrounds, he would have to oppose the influential, old guard ranchers who have for a century, opposed using the successful method of Idaho and Montana — use natural winter range for wintering wildlife.

In Wyoming, it takes a lot of courage to oppose the old guard ranchers, and Freundenthal will allow disease to spread and the wolves south of Yellowstone to be killed because he has no courage. That’s what the wolf killing program is about.

Story: Governor: Feed grounds necessary in Wyoming. By Noah Brenner. July 17, 2007

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Why cheatgrass wins

The major culprit in almost all of the big lower elevation fires in the interior West is cheatgrass, which has a nicer name of downy brome (Bromus tectorum), probably given for the way it is during the brief period is it growing, green, and not ripening.

Cheatgrass has taken over the West, greatly increasing fire danger, damage, and harming wildlife habitat, causing stream erosion, etc. Global warming or not, there will be more and more fires as cheat grass spreads because that is a major way it wipes out its native competitors — fire.

It is an annual grass, and it is the first grass to sprout with late summer rains. It usually gets a good start before winter and continues in the early spring. If the autumn is dry, it sprouts in early spring. It is very shallow rooted, sucking the up moisture and nitrogen that native seeds need to sprout as well as shading them out. Cheatgrass is a tremendous producer of seeds, far exceeding native bunchgrasses.

Once it starts to move in, almost always as the result of some disturbance that creates bare ground, it is almost inevitable that it will convert most of the area into dry brown grass for most of the year, replacing semi-arid country shrubs and native grasses with a dreary monoculture. This will happen slowly if there is no fire, but with a fire it is almost inevitable and the annual probability of a fire increases with the proportion that is cheatgrass.

Great Basin wild rye and cheatgrass. Photo by Ralph Maughan

I took this photo of a tall perennial bunchgrass (Great Basin wild rye) and cheatgrass near Pocatello, Idaho in early July. To the casual observer it might seem the wild rye is doing great (it’s tall and green even though it was been half eaten by cows) and the cheatgrass dry and dead, but the wild rye is doomed even without a fire. That is a terrible thing because wild rye has very deep roots to seek out water in mid-summer, and these roots serve to hold the soil in place. Cheatgrass is only slightly better than a slope of bare soil.

I can’t tell if the cheatgrass was grazed before it ripened or not because it goes to seed even if cattle or sheep are put in to eat it during its brief “downy phase.” It can’t be eaten when it is ripe like in the photo because the seeds are very hard and sharp (you’ve probably gotten it in your socks — itch!).

Perennial bunch grasses can’t stand heavy grazing. If the rest of that green wild rye is eaten by a cow, it will be so weak when it sprouts next year that it will probably be overrun by the cheatgrass (no fire necessary). The wild rye’s seeds don’t have much of a chance sprouting in the cheatgrass, and cows have already chomped off all but one seed stalk on this bunch anyway.

Cheatgrass begins to invade an area most often by dirt roads or vehicle tracks, usually in conjunction with cattle grazing. Heavy grazing leaves bare spots, and the first seeds to sprout on these bare spots will be cheat grass once an infestation is nearby. The cattle also spread the cheatgrass seeds and trample them in, for good measure.

Overgrazed range (sagebrush steppe) with all the native grass eaten. Bare ground, the perfect spot for cheatgrass to sprout and then soon burn, destroying the sagebrush which has already been weakened by cattle trampling. This photo in the Owyhee country (BLM) of SW Idaho was taken this year by Katie Fite. A fair portion of it that has been invaded by cheatgrass is currently on fire.

More information. Cheatgrass: the Invader the won the West. 

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The Hayden pups, their first big (5) litter

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Photographer Dan Stebbins was gracious and emailed me photos of this year’s Hayden Pack pups. In the past, the pack has only had one or two pups a year. This year there were 6 (now 5).


Read the rest of this entry »

Polar bears now avoiding sea ice for their den sites

This is from the blog Carnivore Conservation.

Polar bears in Alaska are increasingly denning on land because the sea ice is thinning, becoming too unstable for safe denning. This is according to a new study by U.S. Geological Survey’s researchers and published in Polar Biology . . .

Read the rest

Posted in Bears, Climate change. Comments Off on Polar bears now avoiding sea ice for their den sites

BLM is not responsible for the Milford Flat Fire

Some Utah officials blamed the BLM for the huge Milford Flat Fire in central Utah for not allowing enough grazing, but the Grand Junction Sentinel has it right — if anything, the blame is in the other direction. Overgrazing led to the huge infestation of cheat grass (which can only be grazed a few weeks in April and goes to seed even when it is grazed hard).

Fire season gets started in Montana

Montana has been slower than Utah, Nevada, and Idaho for wildfires, but they are underway now. Story in New West.

Web page for the new Patengail Creek Fire, NW of Dillon, Mt.

Photo of Patengail Creek fire.

Web page for the Ahorn fire.

Web page for the Fool Creek fire. This fire is not being activily fought, but being managed to improve resources in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Open thread

Anything you want to discuss.

As great as campfires can be, sometimes they just aren’t worth it

“Zimo” questions the need for a campfire, especially during the hot dry summer. Campfires are now banned in southern and central Idaho for the rest of the summer except in developed campgrounds. Nevertheless, people are still building them and accidentally starting larger fires.

As great as campfires can be, sometimes they just aren’t worth it. Idaho Statesman.

Experts, environmentalists, hunters aren’t sure if wolf tourism is doable in Idaho

From the Idaho Statesman.

Experts, environmentalists, hunters aren’t sure if wolf tourism is doable in Idaho. Some say watchers, hunters can help economy. By Heath Druzin

Idaho seems to be the Western state with the habitat that is the most congenial to wolves. Idaho has as many wolves as Wyoming and Montana combined, and Idaho has harbored the longest-lived wolves. Although the average age isn’t known, a number of the original transplants from Canada were found still alive (or just have died) years after the original reintroduced wolves were gone from the Greater Yellowstone.

Nevertheless, it it harder to see a wolf in Idaho than in Yellowstone, largely because of the topography of Idaho, and the absence of vantage points overlooking open valleys like the Lamar in Yellowstone. One exception, however, is Stanley Basin and adjacent Sawtooth Valley where the persistant can see wolves from the several packs in the area (the number of packs has varied over time. Right now I’d say there are four: Basin Butte, Phantom Hill, Galena, and Warm Springs).

A number social and political factors limit the development of wolf watching as a tourist activity in the area, such as the thousands of livestock in the summer and fall, and the perception that folks in the area don’t like wolves.

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Rocky Barker’s blog: Rangers say renegade off roaders ride roughshod over public lands

“Off-road vehicle problems cannot simply be blamed on just a ‘few bad apples’– as industry apologists try to do. America needs stronger penalties to deter reckless off-roading,” Southwest PEER Director Daniel Patterson, an ecologist who formerly worked with BLM. [PEER] wants much tougher penalties for off-road violations, as well as law enforcement funding devoted to stemming the avalanche of problems occasioned by reckless off-roading . . . from Barker’s Blog on PEER’s recent report on the destruction and lawlessness of off-road vehicle drivers on our public lands. Rest of Barker’s blog.

PEER is Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Their news release.

When I see a 4 x 4 or an ATV come off the public lands completely covered in mud, I feel sort of the same as when I see someone’s pet dog come out of a pasture with blood all over its face. When I see the mud-caked vehicle I wish gasoline was $10 a gallon.

I think it is true that the off-road problem is not just the “lawless few.” Most off-roaders, at least some of the time, blatantly violate the rules and harm the outdoors for wildife and other people. ”

Television ads for these vehicles blatantly portray unacceptable use, such as splashing through creeks, roaring through the mud, and climbing mountains where there is no road or trail.

Pup count for Yellowstone Park

Dr. Douglas Smith provided me with a near complete pup count for the Park this year. He stressed that for the packs where all pups have been visually counted, this is a high count, meaning that already a few have disappeared, probably dead.

Most surprising to me was Oxbow with 12 pups, eleven still alive. This was an odd double liter — one female with eleven pups, one female with one (which has died). He believed that eleven pups is a record sized litter for a gray wolf.

Slough Creek Pack, which had multiple litters, had the high count in the Park with 13 pups.

The Agates had 9 pups.

Druids had 6. Delta had 6. The Hayden Valley Pack, for the first time had an average sized litter — 6 pups. That’s now down to five. In the past, their litters were very small.

The new Gardiner’s Hole Pack (which has replaced the Swan Lake Pack almost exactly in terriotory) had 5 pups.

Mollies Pack had 4 or 5 pups.

The Leopolds, who have often had large litters, had just 4 pups.

The Snake River Pack which formed last year and had about 5 pups, but then moved south of Yellowstone Park, returned to den in the Park and had 4 pups.

Cougar Creek has a count of only one, but that pack lives in the thick regenerating lodgepole pine and probably has more than one.

Still unknown is the Gibbon Pack (which acted as though it denned and probably did) and the Bechler Pack. The SW corner of the Pack is the home of the Bechler Pack, but they haven’t been located on the last two flights.

Rocky Barker’s blog: Forest health and pollution control clash at Tahoe

Barker writes about the recent controversy in Nevada/CA after the big forest fire that took out many houses with scenic views of Lake Tahoe. Fingers are being pointed at something to blame, and Senator Reid (Democratic leader in the US Senate) and governor Jim Gibbons (Republican) are condemning the Forest Service for not thinning the national forest land enough, but, on the other hand, they have forgotten (perhaps conveniently) that keeping sedimentation out of Lake Tahoe, once renowned for its clarity, has been a major state and federal goal.

Barker points out that the two goals seem incompatible, and further, many homeowners in such a fire prone place are still not “treating” their property, helping lead to the torching of those who did.

Barker’s blog. Forest health and pollution control clash at Tahoe. Idaho Statesman.

We will hear a lot more controversy on what wasn’t done right once that smoke settles from the many fires still to come this summer.

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Posted in politics, wildfire, Wildfires. Comments Off on Rocky Barker’s blog: Forest health and pollution control clash at Tahoe

Gray wolf found shot dead in NE Oregon

This news release is from the USFWS.

It will probably be the Oregon papers tomorrow.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the discovery of a dead gray wolf in Union County, Oregon. The animal had been shot, and was recovered on May 25, 2007, from a forested area north of Elgin.

The carcass was badly decomposed when first discovered, making initial identification of the animal nearly impossible. Testing has confirmed that the animal was a mature female wolf, genetically related to the wolf population in Idaho, and that it died from a gunshot wound. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement agents are requesting that anyone who may have information regarding the death of this or any other wolf contact them immediately at 503-682-6131.

This is the fourth confirmed wolf to have been found in the state. In March 1999, a radio-collared female was captured near John Day and returned to Idaho. In 2000, a collared wolf was found dead along Interstate 84 south of Baker City, and a wolf without a radio collar was found shot between Ukiah and Pendleton. All three animals were confirmed to have been migrants from Idaho.

“It’s important for people to be thinking about the possibility of wolves in their area and to understand how to respond,” said Russ Morgan, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf coordinator in Northeast Oregon. “It is illegal to shoot a wolf, even one mistaken for another animal. Hunters in particular need to identify their target before shooting because wolves can look similar to coyotes.”

Hunters, livestock producers and others can visit for more information on how to identify wolves and respond to encounters including predation.

Any gray wolf which shows up in Oregon is listed as an endangered species under both state and federal law. Killing an animal protected under the federal Endangered Species Act is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000, one year in jail, or both. Killing a wolf is also a violation of Oregon state game law, with fines and penalties that are assessed by the court. In the unlikely event that a wolf attacks a human, any person may use lethal force to prevent or stop the attack. Such an incident must be reported to the Fish and Wildlife Service, at 541-786-3282, or 541-962-8584; or ODFW at 541-963-2138, within 24 hours. The wolf carcass must not be disturbed.

Individuals who see a wolf, or suspect or discover wolf activity are asked to contact one of the following immediately:

* Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Wolf Coordinator Russ Morgan in La Grande: 541-963-2138

* U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wolf Coordinator John Stephenson in Bend: office, 541-312-6429; cell, 541-786-3282.

* U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service La Grande Field Office: 541-962-8584.

Experts have long predicted that wolves from the expanding Idaho population would continue to cross the Snake River and enter Oregon. Breeding pairs and packs could also become established.

Although the Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to remove the wolf from the list of threatened and endangered species in the Northern Rockies, including part of Oregon, the wolf will remain federally listed until that process is complete. The proposal is open to public comment until August 6, 2007, after which comments will be considered carefully and more procedural steps will be completed before a decision is made. Information on the proposal can be found at

Oregon has a Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, created with extensive, state-wide public input and collaboration, which was adopted by the Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2005. More information on wolves and wolf management in Oregon is available on the website:

Update July 13. Here’s the story in the Oregonian. By Michael Milstein. It adds little new information, except that it wasn’t the wolf that has been videoed in the area.

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Wyoming could start killing wolves in early 2008

“Wyoming could start killing wolves that harm or harass wildlife in early 2008, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday.” Jackson Hole News and Guide. By Cory Hatch.

Can you believe that, the US Fish and Wildfire Service is going to let Wyoming kill wolves for eating elk? Most likely on the state’s disease-ridden elk feedlots which are maintained despite so that the ranchers don’t have to share any winter range with wildlife while they collect their fat subsidy checks.

There will be one hearing on this in Wyoming. It is in Cody July 17. During the last public hearing in Cody, those who rejected this wolf delisting plan were harassed and shouted down by some in the audience. The hearing officer closed the hearing because of the lack of order. Local politicians threatened and harassed her until she opened it up again.

Why isn’t there at least a hearing in Jackson, Wyoming? That’s where the killing will be. I guess that’s a rhetorical question — they couldn’t put together a room full of ignorant thugs and welfare ranchers there.

Here is the rest of the story in the Guide.

Here is the info on the upcoming Cody hearing:

Tuesday, July 17th in Cody, Wyoming (12:30 – 8:30 pm) at the Cody Auditorium, 1240 Beck Ave. There are two hearings the same day in Cody. The first hearing, immediately following the informational Open House held from 12:30-1:30 p.m, is from 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. and concerns the proposal to modify the 10(j) rule in the region. The second hearing is regarding delisting in the region under Wyoming’s wolf control plan. A second Open House will be held from 4:30-5:30 p.m. followed by the hearing at 5:30 – 8:30 pm. This is the only hearing scheduled in the region pertaining to the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s delisting proposal.

Could they have made this any more complicated?

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Wolf Tug-of-War in the Southwest

In case folks haven’t picked up on what Mary is posting about, it’s about the removal (gov’t killing of Mexican wolf) of wolf AF924k. She was thought by many in the locality to be an especially dangerous wolf. Wolf supporters thought her to be an especially valuable wolf because of her good genetics and the fact that she had wild born pups. Wolf supporters have been saying for some time that local livestock growers don’t clean up the carcasses of dead livestock.

See here are some stories on this controversy.


Wolf Tug-of-War in the Southwest

Jess Edberg, Information Services Director — International Wolf Center, 07/10/2007

Conflict between livestock producers and the reintroduced Mexican wolf population has remained steady since the first release of captive-reared wolves in 1998.

Emotions are running high in Catron County, New Mexico, after the lethal removal of a female Mexican wolf that had been seen near a family ranch. Wolf AF924 was released in the county on April 25 after being relocated due to depredation.

Wolf AF924, of the Durango pack, killed two cows previous to being released in Catron County. She was involved in a third depredation of a cow and calf that occurred late last month within the Durango pack territory. This recent depredation incident is the third strike against her.

In accordance with the rules of the 1998 program to reintroduce endangered Mexican wolves to Arizona and New Mexico, a wolf with three depredations on its record within one year must be removed permanently from the wild by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Removal can be in the form of removing the wolf from the wild and placing it in captivity or by lethal control—killing the wolf.

The removal of AF924 came as a relief to many residents in the Durango pack area. Previous to the current depredation investigation, residents in the area had appealed to the county for action against the wolf. They stated that AF924 was a threat to human safety, requiring fearful residents to arm themselves with pistols as they walked to the mailbox or ventured into their yard. A psychiatrist also diagnosed a teenage girl with post-traumatic stress disorder due to the presence of AF924 on her family’s ranch.

Catron County commissioners took immediate action and filed a notice with the USFWS that county officials would trap AF924 themselves and turn her over to the USFWS for removal.

The USFWS responded to the county with a letter stating that although the agency understood the presence of this wolf might be disconcerting, there was no evidence that AF924 was an imminent danger to humans and, therefore, there was no reason to remove her. The USFWS also reminded the commissioners that a county ordinance does not supersede the federal Endangered Species Act.

With the recent depredation, however, the USFWS took action with a lethal removal order on July 3. AF924’s mate, AM973, is also implicated in the livestock kill, but this would be the first strike against him. AF924 was shot and killed by USFWS agents on July 5.

This depredation incident comes on the heels of a failed attempt by Representative Steve Pearce (R-NM) to get the House to approve two amendments targeted at restricting the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program. Representative Pearce argued that the program has failed primarily due to depredation.

Conflict between livestock producers and the reintroduced Mexican wolf population has remained steady since the first release of captive-reared wolves in 1998.

However, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, 2008 Democratic presidential hopeful, expressed dismay at the USFWS policy to lethally remove depredating wolves.

“I strongly support the effective recovery of endangered Mexican wolves in the Southwest, done in a responsible and sensitive way,” said Governor Richardson “Changes must be made to the protocol for the wolf reintroduction program.”

The USFWS did not comment on Governor Richardson’s statement but did comment on the removal of AF924 in a previous meeting.

Elizabeth Slown, public affairs specialist for the USFWS, told the media that they want to take care of AF924’s pups and her mate AM974.

“We want the male to take over the care of the pups,” Slown said. “That’s why we didn’t set traps [to remove AF924]. We didn’t want to chance catching the male and causing too much stress on the pack.”

USFWS plans to supplement AF924’s pups and her mate AM974 with road-killed elk.

For more details on the removal of AF924, see the monthly report available later this month at


Sinapu has a story too.

Wildlife officials in N.M. shoot wolf after her third cattle kill

Story in the El Defensor Chieftain. Tuesday, July 3, 2007 (local newspaper)
[Rep] Pearce’s amendment to end wolf program is defeated. The local congressman tried to get the Mexican wolf program ended.


A lot of scientists were very unhappy about the termination of this wolf.

Hundreds of Scientists Warned Against Wolf Killing Before Feds Shot New Mexico Wolf. Governor Richardson’s Demand for Reform Echoes Scientists.’ News release in Common Dreams

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On fires, smoke, and the changing prime time for outdoor recreation in the Intermountain West.

On fires, smoke, and the changing prime time for outdoor recreation in the Intermountain West.
By Ralph Maughan
I’ve been posting a lot of stories about wildfires, but that seems like the dominant factor in the outdoors to me right now in Montana, Utah, Idaho, and Western Wyoming. Everyday about 9 am to as late as noon, the sky at Pocatello, Idaho becomes covered by high smoke, visibility decreases. Everything is hot and washed out in appearance.

I started seriously exploring the backcountry in these states when I was 25 years old, and some of you might have noticed the newstories about my recent retirement (age 62). One of the biggest changes over 35 years is the months for the best “summer” recreation. Back in the late 70s and early 1980s, it was mid-June until about mid-August. Prior to mid-June there was too much snow in the mountains. Now the prime time is early May to July. Early May snowpack is similar to mid-June snowpack of 30 years ago.

Before 1980, a large forest fire was an unusual event and in most Augusts, the air was quite clean in skies of Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. Now is it dirty almost every year from mid-July on due to the smoke from fires, near and and hundreds of miles away.

By late September the foul air is replaced by the clean and cool air of autumn.

Some people might take serious exception to what I have just written.

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Wildfire Location viewer. USGS. This looks like a very good way of keeping up with the location of the major fires.

Posted in Wildfires, The Great Outdoors. No Comments »

Though relatively small, Utah’s “Mathis fire” is number one firefighting priority in country.

This 1300-acre wildfire is burning in Utah’s coal country. There are numerous “de-gassing” bore holes present used to vent methane gas from mined-out sections of the numerous underground coal mines. So I presume the fire could set off mine explosions.

Story in the Salt Lake Tribune. By By Jason Bergreen and Mike Gorrell

Posted in The Great Outdoors, Wildfires. Comments Off on Though relatively small, Utah’s “Mathis fire” is number one firefighting priority in country.

Pressure to Kill Wolves Mounting Across the Western USA

This article is from the Environment News Service about the new 10j proposed rule and the backdoor approval of Wyoming’s “keep them inside Yellowstone Park” state wolf plan.

The headline is a bit misleading. I think what we are seeing is a last gasp from George Bush’s supporters while the fool President and his corrupt buddies and their corrupt buddies are in power.

Big fire? start near Stanley, Idaho

Breaking news. At about noon July 10 a camp fire in Basin Creek exploded into what may be a big forest fire. Under a stout west wind, the fire burned down the breaks above the Salmon River Canyon (north side) and threatened the electrical power line for Stanley. There is lots of dry fuel — dried out trees, dead trees, brush. It’s in very rough country.

The fire burned out of Basin Creek and is burning on the ridge above Mormon Bend — the long curve on Idaho 75 where rocks are always rolling down onto the highway.

It isn’t clear yet whether Idaho 75 will be/is closed (relevant to those coming up the canyon from the east). I hope to have photos by tomorrow.

The fire has died down with the night, but will wake up again after the sun rises. The fire could jump the highway and start burning the south side of the Salmon River Canyon too.

Update July 11. This is what the National Wildfire Report said this morning. NEW. Basin Fire (Salmon-Challis National Forest): 150 acres at 10 percent contained. This fire is 7 miles northeast of Stanley and is burning in grass, brush, timber litter and timber. Running, torching and spotting fire behavior was observed. Power is cut to the town of Stanley and Idaho Highway 75 is closed

Update July 12. It looks like this one will soon be controlled if high winds stay away. Electricity is back on and Highway 75 is open. There are photos below taken by a local resident. I was told this will probably not be the last one in the area, given the extreme dryness of the forests and all the dead trees from the insects that killed the lodgepole pine trees weakened by past years of drought.


Seven miles beyond an old log cabin near Lower Stanley, flames torch old Doug fir trees on the ridge between Basin Creek and Mormon Bend in the Salmon River Canyon, Tuesday, July 10, 2007. Photo copyright Lynne Stone.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Wildfires. Comments Off on Big fire? start near Stanley, Idaho

Western Watersheds Project urges federal judge to reverse USFWS decision not to list the sage grouse

Judge urged to toss ruling that denied sage grouse protection. By Todd Dvorak. AP writer.

The oil and gas industry, Farm Bureau, and assorted developers seem to feel immensely threatened by efforts to conserve the sage grouse and with it the remainders of the former “sagebrush sea” of the West.

It may be that once again the Bush Administration shot itself in the foot in the person of Julie MacDonald, former deputy assistant for fish, wildlife and parks in the Dept. of Interior, who resigned two months ago after revelations that she ignored the findings of scientists, rewrote their recommendations, and in general interfered politically with their job of deciding whether the sage grouse (and other plants and animals) merited listing as “threatened” or “endangered.”

Photo courtesy Idaho BLM

Reining in reckless off-roading. Editorial

This  appeared in the Idaho Falls, Idaho Post Register. “Rangers for Responsible Recreation” wants to Rein in Reckless off-roading.

Posted in Motor vehicles wildlife. Comments Off on Reining in reckless off-roading. Editorial

Wyoming official says new proposed changes in the wolf rule still won’t let Wyoming kill the wolves fast enough

Wolf changes insufficient, Wyo official says. Casper Star Tribune.

CHEYENNE (AP) — Proposed federal rule changes don’t go far enough in giving the state the ability to kill wolves preying on other wildlife, Wyoming Attorney General Pat Crank said Monday.

Crank is angry that the state’s wolf killing plans still would have to be peer reviewed. I guess he doesn’t want any scientists meddling. Scientists have an undesirable commitment to objective evidence, the truth, etc. Wyoming knows what it wants to do, and the facts be damned!

Washington State grazing project draws threat of lawsuit.

This story is on Washington governor Chris Gregoire’s sellout to the cattle interests in NE Washington where they are being allowed to graze for free on land purchased for wildlife (not cow) habitat.

Story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Washington State grazing project draws threat of lawsuit. By Chris McGann.

Earlier stories on this:

March 27. Western Watersheds Project says it will sue to keep cattle out of Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area in Washington.

April 18. Another victory for WWP. Cattle turnout on Washington state Wildlife Areas stopped!

April 19. Photos and video of cattle in the Joseph Creek Wildlife area in Washington State

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Black gold’s tarnish seen in Alberta

Black gold’s tarnish seen in Canada. Cash and jobs flow bountifully from Alberta’s oil sands, but they come at a cost to the environment and native peoples.
By Tim Reiterman, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer.

Northern Alberta is being destroyed environmentally by pit mining for oil sands. Worse still, the pollution doesn’t stay in Alberta, but flows north into the Arctic Ocean. You can see some of this devastation on Google Earth. Look at the area around Fort McMurray.

Although a great amount of oil is produced, once again the net energy is not all that great because it takes so much energy to extract the energy in the oil sands. This fundamental fact — that the world energy situation is not better off, worse off, counting the negative externalities, if there is little or no net energy, is very slow to sink into the minds of decision-makers.

This web site has some good (meaning awful) photos of the endless pits.

Posted in water issues, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Black gold’s tarnish seen in Alberta

Jon Way’s book on eastern coyotes is published — Suburban Howls.

Dr. Jon Way, who has often offered his expertise on this blog, now has his book, Suburban Howls: Tracking the Eastern Coyote in Urban Massachusetts, published.

You can order it from the usual on-line sources or a signed copy with special color inserts at his website: Eastern Coyote Research.

Video on Wildlife and the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park

CPAWS has just made a video on wildlife and the trans-Canada Highway that runs through part of Banff National Park. Significant expenditures have been made to build fencing and wildlife overpasses and underpasses.

These measures work, but they have to be designed correctly, put in the right place, and one kind of crossing does not fit all species.

In sum, I think they concluded that these measures have dramatically reduced wildlife mortality on the highway, but they have not increased, and perhaps have even decreased, the amount to wildlife that gets over the highway.

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Posted in Motor vehicles wildlife, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Video on Wildlife and the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park

Is the wolverine simply hard to detect, or is it endangered?

This feature story is from the High Country News. The perils of secrecy. High Country News by Eve Rickert. “Is the wolverine, the country’s most enigmatic predator, in danger of extinction, or just misunderstood?”

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Posted in wolverine. Comments Off on Is the wolverine simply hard to detect, or is it endangered?

Milford Flat fire in central Utah burns 160,000 acres in one day!

This fire in mostly juniper and cheatgrass (aka “june grass”) was fanned by high winds. It closed Interstate 15 for 95 miles. It contributed to the deaths of two people. The fire was started by lightning. It continues to grow. There is now an official government web site on the fire.

Milford Flat fire one of biggest in Utah history. By Nate Carlisle and Nathan C. Gonzalez. The Salt Lake Tribune

Milford Flat blaze creates dangerous area traffic. By Erin Alberty. The Salt Lake Tribune

Update: I-15 closed again, Milford Flat fire now burning more than 280,000 acres. By Nate Carlisle and Robert Gehrke. The Salt Lake Tribune

Update July 9. Milford Flat fire, Utah’s largest ever, sears its mark among nation’s worst. The Salt Lake Tribune.

Update July 9. Utah ablaze: Only 109 firefighters battling 282,287-acre Milford Flat Fire. By Laura Hancock. Deseret Morning News

Update July 10. Lighter winds help to hold Milford Flat fire to just over 300,000 acres. By Nate Carlisle and July Fahys. The Salt Lake Tribune.

Update July 11. Crews have contained 30 percent of blaze. Milford Flat Fire near 330,000 acres with afternoon winds and thunderstorms on the way. By Judy Fahys and Christopher Smart. The Salt Lake Tribune

Update July 12. Radioactive radiation rises from Milford Flat Fire. Cause unknown. By Judy Fahys and Christopher Smart. The Salt Lake Tribune

Update July 12. Crews contain 40 percent of 350,000-acre Milford Flat Fire. By Greg Lavine. The Salt Lake Tribune 

Note that most of these”early” fires are primarily range fires, not traditional forest fires. Range fires often move much faster than forest fires, and so they are more likely to overtake those who don’t flee fast enough.The size and frequency of range fires has been growing. Much of the change is due to the spread of non-native “cheat grass,” with which most interior Westerners are all too familiar. This fine-bladed grass begins to grow from the early summer’s seeds as soon as late summer, and they produce a lush swath of green grass in the spring. However, here is the “cheat.” By the next June (and with drying and warming climate, now as early as May 1) the cheatgrass has ripened, died, and is ready to generate a new wildfire that will regenerate the cheatgrass while the now-too-frequent fires eliminate its competition. Cheatgrass has changed the fire ecology of the West. The result is much for the worse for almost every human activity and for wildlife and plants.

I think a major public policy initiative is needed to stop its further spread and reclaim some of the country it has taken over. I have it on my property. It is very hard to get rid, other than temporarily, although it is slowly outcompeted by other plants if there is no fire.

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Clean air gone for the summer in Idaho?

With the onset of the thunderstorm season in parched southern Idaho, the clean air is probably gone for the summer. I took the photo below June 9this year. It is of the Lost River Range from Copper Basin.

It is very hazy today in Pocatello, Idaho today due to all the wildfires lightning ignited yesterday. Just got a call from Stanley — very smoky there too. You can check for air clarity by clicking on the web cams I have linked to. I notice today that a number of them show degraded air quality.

The air may not be this clear again until late September. The photo is a medium telephoto.

Photo copyright Ralph Maughan. Lost River Range. East Central Idaho. This is a telephoto shot taken from Copper Basin.

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Center for Biological Diversity echoes Richardson’s outrage over killing rare Mexican wolf

Posted in Mexican wolves. Comments Off on Center for Biological Diversity echoes Richardson’s outrage over killing rare Mexican wolf

Warm water due to hot weather, not hot springs, killing Yellowstone Park trout

With the record high temperatures in the Rocky Mountain and Intermountain West, the temperatures of trout streams are soaring above, sometimes far above, that which kills trout.

It is plainly evident in Yellowstone Park. Heat kills fish in Yellowstone. Jackson Hole News and Guide. Yellowstone is more vulnerable than many mountain stream areas because the hot springs do raise the stream temperatures over what is common at the elevation and the Yellowstone is mostly a high plateau, not an area full of snow-capped peaks.

Trout and other fish are under heat stress in many other places too, with their mortality not getting in the news like it does in Yellowstone Park.

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Rocky Barker’s blog: Summer means U.S. reporters start thinking about Idaho

It is true that there seems to be more national news about obscure Idaho in the summer.

Barker’s blog. Idaho Statesman

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Rocky Barker’s blog: Summer means U.S. reporters start thinking about Idaho

Governor Richardson to the rescue of the Mexican wolf program?

New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, the presidential candidate with perhaps the most impressive combined resume of legislative, foreign policy, and actual management experience of the many presidential candidates, today issued this news release about the Mexican wolf recovery program.

Office of the Governor


Bill Richardson


For Immediate Release Contact: Gilbert Gallegos

July 6, 2007 505-476-2217

Governor Richardson Seeks to Change Protocols for Mexican Wolf Recovery Program

SANTA FE – Governor Richardson seeks to change key protocols for the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program following a recent wolf kill incident in southwestern New Mexico.

“I am deeply concerned about the recent escalation in wolf removals and incidents surrounding yesterday’s lethal removal of a female wolf,” said Governor Bill Richardson. “State Police are investigating the incident and are collecting the facts as this investigation takes its course.”

Read the rest of this entry »

The real Western fire season starting today?

Pocatello. ID. Today huge thunderclouds grew in the record high temperatures of Idaho, SE Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Western Wyoming and Western Montana. The edge of one is grumbling over the mountain range I live under at Pocatello right now.

So far all the fire starts in parched Idaho, Wyoming, and much of Utah have been human caused. I think tonight and tomorrow might be the start of the worst forest fire season in the Northern Rockies in a long time. I’ll be following it on this blog.

With fire season underway, national forests thin on senior staff. San Jose Mercury News (you can find this AP story elsewhere by Google News)

Update 1. Highest temperature ever in Missoula. Mercury in Missoula cracks triple digits. Missoulian. By Kim Briggeman.

Update 2: Yesterday, there was one major fire in Idaho. Today there are 12! Nevada had one major fire yesterday. Today there are nine.

Update 3: Heat wave fuels Western wildfires. Yahoo News. AP 

Good News! Judge Rejects Utah Counties’ Road Claims in National Monument

Despite a potential setback on wolves, there is good news for those who don’t want to see totally unregulated use of vehicles in the Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument.

Judge Rejects Utah Counties’ Road Claims in National Monument. ENS

Editorial. Salt Lake Tribune. One road at a time: Ruling should help protect public lands from ATVs. Tribune Editorial

Fact sheet on what the change in the 10j rule means

The explanation below was provided today by Defenders of Wildlife.

Northern Rockies 10(j) Rule Q&A

I get email asking what can a person can do. One thing is to read fact sheets like this even though it is three pages long.

Here is the proposed new 10j rule in the Federal Register and the reopening of comments on delisting


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Revision
of Special Regulation for the Central Idaho and Yellowstone Area
Nonessential Experimental Populations of Gray Wolves in the Northern
Rocky Mountains

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designating the
Northern Rocky Mountain Population of Gray Wolf as a Distinct
Population Segment and Removing This Distinct Population Segment From
the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; reopening of comment period; notice of public

Worse news still for the protection of wolves in the Northern Rockies

On July 6, the US Fish and Wildlife Service will publish a new proposed rule 10j in the Federal Register, that will make it every easy for state agencies and even private persons to kill wolves even without them being delisted. They won’t have to scientifically prove that wolves are depleting elk herds, essentially they can just everybody in the bar or cafe. They may also be able to shot wolves for simply standing near livestock and not have to provide any evidence that even that was so.

We seem to be in the process of seeing the executive branch of the government reverting to the days when wolves were to be eliminated, made extinct, not recovered. All this has been done by the Bush Administration, by-passing Congress, just like it has done on everything else.

I’ve got to wonder how an Administration with a 25% approval rating gets away with these things?

Here is a news release we issued today. There will be a lot more to follow.

For Immediate Release

July 5, 2007

Contact: Suzanne Stone, Defenders of Wildlife (208) 424-9385
Amaroq Weiss, Defenders of Wildlife (541) 552-9653
Ralph Maughan, Wolf Recovery Foundation (208) 417-0906
Chris Anderson, Wolf Education and Research Center (503) 913-2816
Steve Thomas, Sierra Club (307) 672-0425

New Rule Would Lower the Bar on Killing Endangered Wolves in Northern Rockies

BOISE, ID. – A new draft rule from the Bush Administration would once again diminish protections for wolves under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and threaten endangered wolf recovery efforts in the northern Rockies. The new rule would significantly broaden the circumstances under which wolves can be killed allowing the states to kill more than half of the approximately 1,300 wolves in the region today prior to their delisting. The new rule is ardently opposed by wildlife conservation groups in the region.

“The new rule allows state agencies to kill wolves for essentially political reasons,” said Suzanne Stone, northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “This is clearly a back door attempt by the Bush administration to remove Endangered Species Act protections for wolves by sidestepping the public delisting process.”

If the rule is finalized, wildlife managers would be permitted to kill wolves that they consider to be a “major cause” of elk and deer declines. Additionally, the new rule would allow private citizens to kill any wolf that they claim is “chasing, molesting or harassing” livestock, pack animals or even dogs used to hunt carnivores – terms that are poorly defined by the draft rule. This action would essentially remove all federal protections for wolves, despite the fact that they are still listed as an endangered species.

“We support a healthy balance between our endangered wolves and our ranching and hunting communities,” said Chris Anderson, executive director of the Idaho-based Wolf Education and Research Center. “However, ranchers are already allowed to shoot wolves that attack their livestock. And hunting concerns are unfounded; all three states have robust elk populations that even exceed state management objectives.”

In Idaho, elk populations are 20 percent above management objectives, and, according to Idaho Fish and Game’s 2006 progress report, “Overall elk populations statewide are near all time highs.” In Wyoming, the state wildlife agency declared that “elk are probably at an all-time high historically.” There are nearly 100,000 elk in Wyoming, which puts the population approximately 17 percent above Game and Fish Commission objectives. In fact, according to Wyoming Fish and Game, the state is increasing the number of hunting tags it will issue this year due to the overabundance of elk. Additionally, two-thirds of the hunting districts in southwestern Montana, all of which support wolves, are currently offering the most liberal hunting opportunities seen in 30 years due to higher elk populations, according to the Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery 2005 Interagency Annual Report. Montana wildlife officials just announced that they’re seeking additional ideas from the public to reduce elk herd numbers in the region.

“The new rule would allow the killing of wolves as a first, rather than last, resort, and the government has no basis to do so,” said Steve Thomas, regional representative from the Sierra Club, based in Sheridan, Wyoming. “Clearly, the wolves are not affecting hunting opportunities. This rule would promote the needless killing of wolves that eat elk and deer; the same animals that wolves have been preying upon for thousands of years.”

This latest rule further erodes protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies. When wolves were first reintroduced in 1995, the original rules required wildlife agencies and livestock owners to first exhaust all non-lethal alternatives before killing a problem wolf. Private citizens were allowed to kill a wolf only if it was in the act of attacking livestock.

A 2005 revision by the Bush administration weakened wolf protections by eliminating the requirement that wildlife managers exhaust all non-lethal methods before resorting to killing wolves. It also permitted the killing of wolves that were proven to be “the primary” cause of deer and elk populations falling below state game objectives, but subsequent agency studies have found wolves are not the primary threat to big game populations. Private citizens were permitted to kill wolves in the act of attacking domestic animals, not just on their own property, but also on public lands they are federally permitted to use for grazing.

“Any further erosion of wolf protections, and we’ll be back to the days of shooting wolves on sight,” said Ralph Maughan, president of the Wolf Recovery Foundation. “Today, we’ve learned what an important role wolves play in our natural ecosystems. With this newly realized information, there can be no reasonable justification for returning to the days of mindlessly killing wolves.”


Boulder White Clouds Council • Defenders of Wildlife • Idaho Lands Council • Sierra Club • Western Watersheds Project • Wolf Education and Research Center • Wolf Recovery Foundation

Illusory Integrity at the Department of Interior

The Sierra Club sent this out today as one of their emails to activist members (the RAW newsletter)

Dept of Interior: Illusory Integrity and Other Idiocy
Josh Dorner

As faithful RAW readers know, the Department of the Interior has been buffeted by scandal after scandal at its highest levels. Apparently Sec. of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne decided that he ought to do something, what with former Interior No. 2 Steve Griles being all over the news last week following his tear-filled pleas for leniency at the hearing where he was eventually sentenced to ten months in prison for his role in the Abramoff scandal.

Since the corruption at Interior has been limited almost exclusively to the very highest levels, you’d think Kempthorne’s plan would be to rein in the political appointees that have been at the center of the ongoing circus, right? WRONG. Instead of aggressive measures to curb abuses at the top, the plan was directed at rank-and-filed employees and included winning steps such as placing a new “integrity motto” on every employee’s badge.

Read the rest of this entry »

Critics say [endangered] species list is endangered

While Congress has largely disappeared as a threat to the ESA with the defeat of Richard Pombo and change in party control, the Bush Administration is still trying to gut the act.

Their methods are 1. to reduce the administrative protections governing the species (that is, weaken the details because it is often the details that are the most important).

2. Not list species that are in fact endangered. Those who wrote the ESA believed the government would be, on the basis of science, the principal source of listings. It hasn’t happened that way. The Bush Administration has not voluntarily listed a single species. All of them added have been by lawsuit from groups who convince the courts that the Administration is clearly not doing their job. Most extinctions come while a species is waiting to be listed. Getting on the list really does prevent extinctions and the Administration knows this.

3. Attempt to defund the Act, which has never had much money anyway. Without money the ESA means little. Congress has the final say on funding (unless Bush vetos). Contacting your US Senators and US Representative would be very helpful if you want to see more money appropriated. The amount of money they give the ESA is so small that it would not fund an hour of the conflict in Iraq.

I don’t like to say this, but the Administration wants plants and animals to go extinct so they aren’t around to disrupt development plans and to do favors for their political buddies. The story below indicates that the master of darkness, Dick Cheney himself, has intervened to prevent the protection of species.

Here is the story in the LA Times. By Margot Roosevelt, Times Staff Writer

New Wyoming Senator may favor buyout of gas leases in the Wyoming Range

As folks may recall, Wyoming’s US Senator Craig Thomas died recently. Thomas was moving to protect the Wyoming Range mountains from oil and gas leasing and development.

His replacement is appointed Republican John Barrasso. Barrasso responds in the article below, saying that he too wants to protect the area, but worries about the oil companies property rights (which would have to be purchased by the US government).

I have a number of comments.

First, an oil or gas lease is a property right. If you don’t want to have to buy them out, don’t issue them! A year ago there were no oil or gas leases in public land in the area of the Wyoming Range. The Forest Service and the BLM did not have to issue these permits. These federal agencies created these property rights of their own free will (of maybe that Dick Cheney).

Second, the local residents have property rights too, and they precede the newly created property rights of the oil companies. The residents’ property is likely to be harmed, maybe severely by gas drilling and production. These property rights should be protected just as much and more than those of the oil companies.

Third, the Forest Service and BLM should not create any new property rights for oil companies (leases) in the Wyoming Range or elsewhere, where there is such widespread opposition and/or sensitive scenery and wildlife habitat.

I hope Senator Barrasso believes that the property rights of his constituents are just as important as those of the oil companies.

Senator for energy use buyout. Barrasso keeps Thomas’ legacy in mind but wants to make his own decisions on issues. By Noah Brenner. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

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Posted in mountain ranges, oil and gas, property rights, public lands management. Comments Off on New Wyoming Senator may favor buyout of gas leases in the Wyoming Range

‘Jonah in the Woods,” a possible scenario for natural gas development near Bondurant, WY

As you may know, the Jonah were are talking about here is not the guy eaten by the whale, but a whale of a gas field SW of Pinedale, WY, out in the high desert, or at least what was a desert before it became a vast industrial sacrifice zone.

With all the gas leases the BLM has granted (many after approval from the Forest Service) up in the forested country near Bondurant, another Jonah could appear in the woods.

Story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. Boom prompts look at ‘Jonah in the Woods’ Conservationists offer view of potential development near Bondurant, Hoback Rim. By Cory Hatch.

Here is the Skytruth simulation of what a full field like Jonah would look like in the northern foothills of the Wyoming Range.

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Idaho Fish and Game says it will continue to monitor eagles in Idaho

With the impending declassification of the national symbol of the United States — the bald eagle — in the news release below, Idaho F & G gives an overview of the current status of eagles in Idaho.

The major factor in the decline of the bald and the golden eagle was the long-lasting, primitive insecticide, DDT, which caused the thinning of the egg shells of eagles and many other birds of prey.

Strong protection of eagle came with the banning of DDT and through the endangered species act. There was strong federal action against the sloppy use of predator poisons after a series of stunning revelations about the mass killing of eagles in Wyoming and Texas by poisons set out by ranchers and their captive federal agency Animal Damage Control (now camouflaged as “Wildlife Services”) and ranchers sport-shooting eagles out of the sky from aircraft.

News Release. Idaho will continue to keep an eye on eagles. Idaho Fish and Game News Release.

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Posted in endangered species act. Comments Off on Idaho Fish and Game says it will continue to monitor eagles in Idaho