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.”

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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