Former Controversial Yellowstone Backcountry Ranger Becomes Bison Rancher

Todd Wilkinson conducted a five-part interview of Bob “Action” Jackson, the former Yellowstone Park Ranger who patrolled “the Thorofare,” the most remote part of Yellowstone, which laps over into the equally remote Teton Wilderness area (managed by the Bridger-Teton National Forest). In fact, here, near the Park boundary, is the spot most remote from a road in the lower 48 states of the United States.

As Park Ranger he was tough on poachers and outspoken about the way the Park boundary area was managed, creating friends and enemies within the Park Service, outfitters, and Wyoming politicians. Conservation groups tended to be highly favorable. On my old web page, I posted numerous stories about him.

Since he left the Park Service he has become a full time bison rancher and still has plenty to say, as this 5-part series indicates. He began bison ranching while still a seasonal ranger.

Here is the first interview, which is on-line at New West. Former Controversial Yellowstone Backcountry Ranger Becomes Bison Rancher. By Todd Wilkinson. New West. Here is the last interview. A Bare-Knuckled Poke At Public Bison Herds In the West. Once you go to this link, you will find the links to the rest of the interviews at New West.

– – – –
Note: along with Lee Mercer, I wrote a backpacking guide to the Teton Wilderness and the adjacent Washakie Wilderness. It was published in 2000, and is now out of print, but available on-line in places. Getting to the Thorofare is hard 2 days walk for the fittest, but it is plenty crowded during the elk hunt on Teton Wilderness side. . . Ralph Maughan.

Posted in Bison, Poaching, Yellowstone National Park. Tags: , , . Comments Off on Former Controversial Yellowstone Backcountry Ranger Becomes Bison Rancher

Study reveals details about Yellowstone, Teton bats

Study reveals details about Yellowstone, Teton bats. By Mark Stark. Billings Gazette.

Feral dogs attack livestock in southern Idaho

“Feral dog attacks in southern Idaho have killed or injured about 100 sheep, goats and chickens this month. . . ” Associated Press.

So far this year the 700 Idaho wolves have killed about 150 sheep. I don’t know the total for feral dogs in the whole state. This story is about one month in southern Idaho.

Rest of the story. Feral dogs attack livestock in southern Idaho. AP. Idaho Statesman.

Craig’s Fall May Benefit Salmon

Craig’s Fall May Benefit Salmon. By Matthew Daily. Associated Press.

Craig is the most hostile of any senator to conserving the salmon and steelhead runs, and with very little support he had held up many measures to assure these anadromous fish would continue to spawn in Idaho, migrate downstream as smolts to the ocean and return to Idaho to spawn.

The article describes many of Craig’s most recent actions against conserving these fish.

More. I found a column in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about Washington state’s US Senator Maria Cantwell (Dem) working to undo Craig’s damage in the Senate Appropriations bill. Cantwell Works to erase Criag’s Folly [regarding salmon]. By Joel Connelly.

– – – –

But has Craig really fallen? In Sunday’s Idaho Statesman wrote Popkey: For Larry Craig, ‘for now’ might mean ‘until January 2009 Popkey is the Statesman’s reporter who was on leave last spring investigating Craig.

– – – –

Also. One Week: GOP leadership’s silence on Craig speaks volumes. By Kevin Richert. Idaho Statesman. Richert is the editor of their editorial page.

I should add that at the bottom of his opinion piece Richert shows he has accepted the wolf population-is-still-growing-fast theory. However, the increase recently reported by Ed Bangs was the number of wolves estimated in mid-2007 population after maybe 500 pups were born compared to the final population figures for 2006 after there had been 7 months for the 2006 pups and adult wolves to suffer mortality. A valid comparison only comes at the end of 2007.

Mining law may be overhauled to protect public lands

Mining law may be overhauled to protect public lands. By Jennifer Talhelm. Associated Press.

“The Bush administration opposes the House bill, arguing that it would hurt small Western communities that depend on mining.” Even the mining industry knows change is badly needed. This Administration uses the stupidest, most primitive arguments on issue after issue. IMO.

Posted in mining, politics. Tags: . Comments Off on Mining law may be overhauled to protect public lands

A tale of two fires: Was Ketchum treated better?

This is from the Magic Valley Times-News. A tale of two fires: was Ketchum treated better?

Both fires had huge amount of resources poured on them, so I think this story sets up a false comparison. On one hand in the Murphy range fire, you had powerful ranchers to whom politicians bow and scrape. On the other hand with Castle Rock Fire, you had a community with some of the richest and best known people in the country.

Posted in politics, wildfire. Tags: , , . Comments Off on A tale of two fires: Was Ketchum treated better?

Female grizzly killed in fight with another bear in the Lamar Valley

Usually the news is another bear killed in conflict with people, but today news of a bear/bear conflict mortality . . . Grizzly killed in bear fight. By Gazette News Services

Rocky Mountains’ natural amenities more important to regional economy than the booming oil and gas industry

This is a very important report because it shows that the Interior West is being treated like a colony, a place where a dominant external political power stifles more lasting economic well being of the native population in favor of their interests. And like the colonies of old, there are plenty of local collaborators here in the West with the colonial power.

Report touts nature over energy. By Judith Kohler. Associated Press.

“Antelope, deer decimating Wyoming’s ‘sagebrush sea'”

As folks know, including the government of Wyoming, which fears a sage grouse listing under the ESA, large continuous areas of sagebrush steppe are in big trouble.

It is fascinating how they blame wolves wolves for too few elk and then say there are too many antelope and deer and they need to have a big hunt to decrease their numbers.

Aren’t these overgrazed sagebrush lands described in the article grazed by cattle and/or sheep as well as deer and antelope?

The one constant in Wyoming politics is ranching and minerals come first, and wildlife gets what’s left except it always gets the blame.

Story “Antelope, deer decimating Wyoming’s ‘sagebrush sea‘” By Jennifer Frazer. Rocky Mountain News.

Note I borrowed the headline from “Headwaters News.’

Rocky Barker’s blog: Another elk rancher angers neighbors in eastern Idaho.

Officials have killed 5 wolves in 2 days

Wildlife services has killed five wolves in the past 2 days in Montana. The language of the article is interesting to note . 5 wolves for 2 calves, four were gunned down from a helicopter.

– – – –

Update from RM Sept. 29. Ed Bangs has sent out the Grey Wolf Recovery Weekly Progress Report from USFWS, and there are more new “controls” in Montana. Bangs writes:

On the 20th, MT WS and CSKT confirmed that wolves had killed a steer calf near Ravalli, MT. Wolves were heard howling immediately above kill site and on the 21st the collared female was located immediately above kill site within a 1/2 mile. Control to remove the remainder of this pack is ongoing. On the 25th, MT WS shot 4 of 5 members of the Hewolf Mountain Pack from a helicopter. Three animals were recovered but the fourth wasn’t found. The remaining radio-collared female will be removed at a later date.

On Sept. 24th, MT WS used a helicopter to shoot 4 wolves from the Sapphire pack southwest of Philipsburg, MT in response to a confirmed calf depredation on the 21st. An adult female and 3 female pups were removed near the ranch where the depredation occurred. Up to 11 wolves remain in the pack. Control is now finished.

On Sept 24th, MT WS killed the collared adult female in the Fleecer Mtn pack, completing the removal of this pack. A 4th uncollared gray wolf either dispersed or was killed unknowingly last week during control operations. The SOS permit issued to the affected landowner was cancelled.

On Sept. 25th, MT WS used a helicopter to shoot the collared alpha female of the depredating Bearmouth pack, completing the removal of the pack.

A yellow lab was reported killed on private land in the Ninemile Valley, MT on the 26th. MFWP investigated and confirmed wolves had killed the dog. The incident occurred around 8 am in a small field about 80 yards from the house. The Ninemile pack consists of at least 4 adult wolves and 2 pups and is currently uncollared.

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I should add that the Ninemile Pack isn’t just any old wolf pack, but the oldest pack in the Northern Rockies, originated from native wolves that migrated down from Canada into NW Montana and eventually the Ninemile Valley. RM

Waiting for Frost: Bluetongue Appears in Montana Livestock and Wildlife

BE posted about this earlier.

Here we have yet another livestock disease threatening wildlife. Bluetongue hit north central Idaho deer hard a couple years ago. Hard frost will kill the insects that spread it.
Waiting for Frost: Bluetongue Appears in Montana Livestock and Wildlife.  New West. Kisha Lewellyn Schlege

Posted in Deer, wildlife disease. Comments Off on Waiting for Frost: Bluetongue Appears in Montana Livestock and Wildlife

Idaho Fish and Game biologists expressing concern ahead of winter snows near Sun Valley, Idaho

With the drought and the Castle Rock Fire, wildlife may have a hard time surviving the winter due to poor food availability during the summer and burned winter range. This is true too  in many places beyond the vicinity of Sun Vally, Hailey, and Ketchum, Idaho.

Story in the Idaho Mountain Express. Drought leads to more wildlife sightings.. Fish and Game biologists expressing concern ahead of winter snows. By Jason Kauffman. Idaho Mountain Express Staff Writer.

Posted in wildfire, Wildfires, Wildlife Habitat, winter range. Comments Off on Idaho Fish and Game biologists expressing concern ahead of winter snows near Sun Valley, Idaho

Why Feeding Stations for Bears Won’t Work

Given the recent query in comments about feeding the hungry bears, Randy Hampton from the Colorado Division of Wildlife sent me this.

– – –

Why Feeding Stations for Bears Won’t Work

By Perry Will and Randy Hampton

Recent media reports have highlighted the challenges facing black bears this year. A late frost that eliminated a lot of the natural berry supply and a hot, dry summer have made food tough to come by for bears. Even some recent rainfall may be too little too late.

Now, some people are asking why the Division of Wildlife doesn’t set up feeding stations, drop dog food from helicopters or place restaurant waste food into the woods to keep bears from coming to town searching for food. We understand people’s desire to protect wildlife, but we want to point out some of the biological reasons that make feeding bears a bad idea.

First, while natural food is hard for bears to find, it isn’t impossible to find. Bears, like most animals, are opportunistic feeders – they want food that is easy to find. Unfortunately, easy food often comes from people. Whether it is trash, birdfeeders, barbecue grills, pet food or fruit trees, bears have adapted to a new supply chain of food. As long as the easy to find human food is available, bears will incorporate it into their diet. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bears. 14 Comments »

Bears in town all over the place.

Yellowstone Park: Northern range packs are all large. Winter may be interesting

As autumn begins, for the first time not only are all of the packs on the Yellowstone Park northern range large, they are all almost equal in size.

The Park pup count for the year is quite accurate and pup survival was high, but it is harder keep track of the adults, so with the possibility of being off 2 or 3, basically the situation is this: Druid Peak 20 wolves, Agate Creek 20 wolves, Oxbow Creek 20 wolves, Leopold 20 wolves, Slough Creek 20 wolves.

The Slough adults are all females except for one male born to the pack some time ago, and a brand new alpha male who came from the Agates. The previous Slough alpha, now decreased, had seized the opportunity to became the pack’s leading male while he was just a yearling because of the sex ratio imbalance. He killed about a month ago by a vehicle in the Park. He was quickly replaced by another yearling male from the nearby Agates. He is also uncollared and unnumbered. The older male in the Slough Creek pack is likely the son of the alpha female so that is why he has not advanced to alpha status. Field studies and especially genetic studies of Park wolves show they strongly avoid inbreeding. This was confirmed in the findings of the recently released ‘The genealogy and genetic viability of reintroduced Yellowstone grey wolves.” VonHoldt, et al. Molecular Ecology (2007).

To the south a bit, the Hayden Valley Pack remained visible to people all year with its 5 adults and 4 pups. Nine wolves is a substantial pack, but they have an overlapping territory with the larger Gibbon Park of 10-12 adults and 2-4 pups (good pup sightings were never made for this hard-to-see-pack). The Haydens are also in contention with the brawny bison-killing Mollies Pack (8-9 adults and 5 pups).

The Hayden Pack alpha pair have become about the most photographed wolves in the Park’s history. They are now both relatively old. In their territory they need to be able to kill bison to make it through the winter. In the summer there are elk plus a convenient carcass dump in the vicinity (for animals hit on the Park roads). I learned about the dump while wolf watching this summer from folks who had been following the pack.

Dr. Doug Smith told me that studies have shown that the ability for a wolf pack to kill bison is different than killing elk (where speed is an advantage, something more typical of female wolves). Successful bison-killing packs are like Mollies. They have a number of large, strong male wolves.

While I don’t have a run down on the rest of the Park’s packs, I want to mention the Bechler Pack because I had no information about them this year until today.

They continue to inhabit the SW corner of Yellowstone (Bechler Meadows), but they do sometimes leave that vicinity. Two weeks ago they were tracked near Lewis Lake. That’s interesting because an Idaho State University student trip to the backcountry in that area heard wolves howling. This is not usually a place you hear that.

The Bechler Pack has 10-12 adults and 4-5 pups.

The Park population is up for the second year in a row after the big crash, although the mid-year estimate of about 175 is probably an overestimate because the adult wolf count for mid-year was mostly based on that of late last winter.

Factoring in the Yellowstone Park wolf increase, we see that it accounts for much of the Wyoming increase at mid-year as reported by ED Bangs the other day.

Update: In one of the comments below Kathie Lynch adds detail to the 20-20-20-20-20 breakdown of the wolf packs on the northern range. She also adds detail about the Slough Creek Pack males and other Park wolves.

Nature conservancy poisons prairie dogs until county issues restraining order

For a conservation organization, the Nature Conservancy often seems not be very nature friendly, although usually have a political explanation.

Here is the story from the Hays Daily News.

It decribes how they poisoned prairie dogs in Logan County, Kansas. Prairie dogs are a species most groups are trying desperately to conserve. Phostoxin was used without a permit on properties adjacent to their 18,000 acre ranch in Logan County, KA. According to the story, TNC was poisoning prairie dogs that moved from their ranch onto to adjacent ones.

Apparently TNC was responding to pressure from Logan County commissioners who don’t like prairie dogs, which had made a comback on the TNC ranch.

Phostoxin is a non-selective poison. Now TNC is putting pellets of zinc phosphide down the burrows.

I think this is the kind of problem you run into with their method of trying to appease backward local interests when they buy land.

Northern Rockies fire season just about over

The first day of autumn brought cold and often heavy rains to much of Idaho and Montana which have been on fire since mid-July.

Many fires will smolder on. It’s amazing how once a fire gets started in “heavy fuels,” meaning very dry (inside) logs, it can continue to slowly burn despite exterior conditions adverse to fire.

I took this photo of a very old smoldering log at the Bridge Fire (near Elk Summit in the Bitterroot Mountains) this September. It was early in the morning, the forest floor was damp from dew and the temperature was about about 1 degree C. above freezing (34 F.). Many logs lying in still green grass had been completely consumed without burning the grass upon which they laid. Photo by Ralph Maughan.

If the temperature gets up into the 70s F., and a strong wind blows for a few hours, some of these fires could return to torching trees and even making runs, but days are short now.

Read the rest of this entry »

Group not surprised by Yellowstone gate decision

Group not surprised by Yellowstone gate decision. AP. Idaho Statesman.

But I am. Cody businesspeople almost always get their way with the Park, and despite the astronomic cost of keeping the East Entrance at Sylvan Pass open for a handful of snowmobilers, I thought the Park would be ordered to cave. So this is good news if you think the Park’s limited funds should be used for its more important functions.

It has been hard to keep track of the many Yellowstone snowmobile plans, but a new, final plan comes out today, and it involves closing Sylvan Pass.

Final plan: Close Sylvan in winter. By Whitney Royster. Casper Star-Tribune environmental reporter.

Update. The new final plan reduces the total number of snowmobiles into the Park to 540 per day from the previous high allowance of 720, but in recent years the number of snowmobiles hasn’t come close to even the new lower limit.

To my view some good news is the discontinuance of the Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail between Moran Junction and Flagg Ranch.

Story in New West. Final Winter Plan Reduces Snowmobiles in Yellowstone Park. By Lucia Stewart.

Drought, lack of food, forcing central Idaho bears out of woods

Drought, lack of food, forcing central Idaho bears out of woods. By Todd Adams. Challis Messenger. Another story about this years “wayward” bears. This time it is not from a larger newspaper, but the Challis Messenger in Challis, pop. 1000.

Photo of the cub in the story above.

Posted in Bears, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Drought, lack of food, forcing central Idaho bears out of woods

Interview with Jon Way on the Eastern Coyote

Dr. Jon Way, who often posts here, has his book out, Suburban Howls, and there is a good interview with him on the radio. “The Point: Coyotes.

Pittman-Robertson Act: 70 years of conservation dollars

This tax on hunting equipment has provided $5-billion for conservation over the last 75 years. It has done a lot of good, but it also ties the USFWS to”game” wildlife rather than wildlife in general. Regardless of your view, every conservationist should know about Pittman-Robertson and the related Dingell-Johnson Act (Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act) which is funded by a tax on sports fisheries equipment.

Story. Pittman-Robertson Act: 70 years of conservation dollars. Since 1939, taxes on archery, shooting and hunting equipment have meant nearly $5 billion for conservation. By Jeff Dute. Outdoors Editor. Press Register (Huntsville)

The “one-shot” antelope hunt

This is a major event each year in Wyoming, with a limited number of contestants trying to shoot an pronghorn with just one shot.

Tradition Brings Hunters to Wyo. Event. By Ben Neary. Associated Press Writer.

Governor Freudenthal is a great shooter, apparently loves hunting, worries about the decline of the sport; but doesn’t worry much about the decline of habitat.

The article also discusses the decline of hunting as the United States becomes more urban, but I think there is more going on than this by far. We have a general problem.

The country is aging and getting fat and children increasing stay indoors and are often encouraged to stay there by parents who have become unduly worried about the dangers of outside.   It heard this slogan the other day. I like it “no child left inside!”

The rapid melting north polar ice has already changed the climate there

There have been a lot of article about this summer’s all time low ice pack, but this article from the Scientific American tells even more.

Northern Rockies wolf numbers rise while livestock depredations falls

Ed Bangs has released the mid-year estimate of wolf numbers. The final estimate is made for Jan. 1, and, of course, it has to be lower because the pups are born each April or May..

The wolf population continues to grow, most strongly in per cent terms in Montana, although in absolute numbers in Idaho which has the largest base population of wolves. There are a number of newspaper stories about this now, and a major point of confusion is due to the fact that the 2006 figures Bangs cites below are year end and 2007 figures are mid-year. Therefore, a story in a newspaper on Sept. 22 that says the population growth rate is 19% is wrongly overstated growth because wolves will die between mid-2007 and the end of 2007. Comparisons of wolves killed and livestock killed are also hard to directly compare with 2006 because more will come.

I didn’t realize this either, thinking at first it was mid-2006 compared with mid-2007.

Below are the data and an analysis by Ed Bangs.

rough mid-year wolf population estimate for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains [NRM].
There are no known wolf packs in the NRM outside of Montana, Idaho, or Wyoming. Our
official interagency estimates in our 2007 annual report will certainly be different and much
more accurate than these because of better wolf monitoring conditions in fall/winter and
increased levels of wolf mortality and dispersal later in the year. These figures do give some
insight into the likely trend of the wolf population, conflicts, and control relative to last year.
Overall, the NRM wolf population in 2007 will be higher, wolf control about the same, and
confirmed livestock depredations lower than that documented in 2006.


State    Year    # Wolves         Packs   B pairs     Cattle killed  Sheep    Dogs     Other    Wolves


MT      2006    316                      60          21                        32                        4            4            2          53

MT      2007    394                      71          37                        48                        19          1            1          50


ID       2006    673                      69          40                        29                        205        4            0          45

ID       2007    788                      75          41                        36                        150        7            0          40


WY     2006    311                      40          25                        123                      38          0            1          44

WY     2007    362                      33          27                        28                        16          2            0          45


Total   2006    1300                    172        86                        184                      247        8            3            142

            2007    1545                    179        105                      111                      185        10          1            134


Congress probing EPA approval of Uintah County coal-fired power plant

Salt Lake Tribune. Congress probing EPA approval of Uintah County coal-fired power plant. By Patty Henetz

This issue is that the Bush Administration is paying no attention to the recent Supreme Court ruling the carbon dioxide is a pollutant that the EPA should regulate.

Reuters. Calif. lawmaker chides EPA for approving coal plant.

. . . . earlier. EPA permit for new coal-fired unit makes no sense. Salt Lake Tribune Editorial

Posted in Climate change, politics. Comments Off on Congress probing EPA approval of Uintah County coal-fired power plant

Boise Black bear rehabilitation facility expects busy year

Boise Black bear rehabilitation facility expects busy year. Idaho Statesman. AP
Sally Maughan has been doing a great job for a number of years running this facility. Link to Idaho Black Bear Rehabilitation.

Posted in Bears. 4 Comments »

Utah’s bull elk are the biggest

This story supports “elkhunter’s” frequent contention and that of my son-in-law who works for the Division in Utah.

 Story in the Salt Lake Tribune. By Brent Prettyman.

Posted in Elk. 3 Comments »

Wardens save bears from fire

Wardens save bears from fire. AP in the Billings Gazette

Related story (due to the comments that have been). Black bear comes to Bozeman.  In fact, the Bozeman paper has about 2 or 3 black bear in town stories every year.

Posted in Bears. 5 Comments »

Changing face of farming and grazing in the West

This is from the WWP blog.

What the story in the WWP blog does not mention, is that the very same thing goes on in Idaho to the harm of wildlife and revenue to the counties that allow it — trophy homes are built on an acreage and should generate a fair amount of property tax, but the county classifies it as agricultural land if the homeowner allows someone to run a little livestock on the property part of the year.

In Idaho you can also get a property tax exemption if you manage your land for wildlife. Naturally I like that, but this exemption is hard to come by and has been revoked in individual instances for purely political reasons.

Posted in Grazing and livestock, land development, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Changing face of farming and grazing in the West

BLM approves $23M to restore ID, NV land charred by Murphy range fire

Money is coming to “rehabilitate” the vast acreage burned by the Murphy fire. Unfortunately, it will not all be native seed and they want to build a lot of “temporary” fences. These temporary fences turn out almost always to be permanent to the detriment of wildlife.

Story in the Times News. BLM approves $23M to restore ID, NV land charred by the Murphy fire. By John Miller.

This blog and the WWP blog have covered the Murphy Fire extensively. There are also very good photos of area burned on the web site of the Western Watersheds Project.

– – – –

Headwaters News had a quote from the story by John Miller as their quote of the day:

Quote of the day:

“Fencing of any kind interferes with wildlife migration and can be fatal to sage grouse.”

Jon Marvel, director of the Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project, on his group’s objection to BLM funds being used to replace fences burned by wildfires.
– Twin Falls Times News (AP)

Vote whether to protect Wyoming Range

I’ve run a number of articles on the Wyoming Range and efforts to stop it from being drilled by the gas industry.  The Pocatello newspaper has a poll going on it right now. Some folks might want to vote.

Go to: 

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Vote whether to protect Wyoming Range

Fish and Wildlife Service has comment period open on EA for 10j rule

This is by far the most important thing going on with the wolves right now.

As you know, there were recently hearings in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming on revisions to the rule that governs how the reintroduced wolves are managed — “the 10j” rule. Once a protective rule, under the “leadership of Cheney/Kempthorne and anti-wolf interests the new proposal pretty much lets states kill off wolves by the scores, even by the hundreds if the wolves are affecting game herds in some way the state wildlife management agency doesn’t like (such as making it harder for unskilled hunters to find elk).

Outside of Cody, WY the recent public testimony panned the proposal and no doubt the Dept. of Interior’s soliciter told them their proposal violated the process required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). Therefore, USFWS is doing a quick environmental analysis (“EA”) on their new 10j rule, and you are invited to comment (not really, they have to let you; and you can be sure they aren’t doing this to hear what you say).

There is also a comment period on Wyoming’s wolf plan and a news release by Wyoming Game and Fish.

So with my unbiased introduction here are their news releases:



Mountain-Prairie Region
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228
07-56 September 11, 2007

For Immediate Release Ed Bangs 406-449-5225, x204




Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published an environmental assessment to analyze the potential effects of proposed revisions to the (10j) special regulations governing the management of gray wolves introduced in the Central Idaho and Yellowstone areas of the northern Rocky Mountains. The proposed revisions to the 10(j), which were published in the Federal Register on July 6, 2007, allow states and tribes with approved wolf management plans more flexibility in managing nonessential experimental wolves. In addition to public comments requested on the EA at this time, the Service is reopening the public comment period on the proposed 10(j) special regulations.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cost of protecting homes from fires could consume the entire Forest Service budget

Despite the huge wildfires this year in Idaho and Montana, very few homes have been lost. The fire fighters are getting better and better and protecting structures, but it costs a huge, and rapidly growing amount of money.

Other people pay for this in terms of reduced forest management due to the exhaustion of funds of the Service and by higher insurance rates and local taxes. Counties should stop allowing homes to be built on the so-called wildland/urban interface, or, alternatively if they think this denies property rights of land owners, they don’t, and the Forest Service does not have to provide protection. The latter course of action would avoid the property rights argument.

Cost of saving homes adding up. By Jennifer McKee of the Missoulian State Bureau

Forest Fires Burning Up More Tax Dollars Than Trees. By Bill Schneider. New West. 

Critics hate Idaho hunting ranch’s guts

In an exclusive story today, the Idaho Falls Post Register (subscription only) revealed that one of those controversial elk shooting farms in Eastern Idaho (this time one really close to Yellowstone) was dumping the remains over the fence and attracting a large number of grizzly bears, one of which may have recently mauled a real hunter. It is the Velvet Elk Ranch.

Island Park (in Idaho adjacent to Yellowstone) has always been marginal grizzly country except for a few good pockets of habitat. This year, however, and last too, there have been grizzlies all over the place there. Recently a sow and two cubs that had no fear of humans were removed.

B.E. and I have posted stories reminding local folks and/or complaining how they don’t put away the bird feeders, leave out the trash, etc. However, this game farm, adjacent to Henry’s Lake Flat, might be the real culprit. Idaho Fish and Game said there might be 7 grizzlies were in the nearby area. There are many summer homes and much recreation, especially fishing, nearby.

Actually, I head a rumor about this place about a 1 1/2 years ago. I reported it to a low level Fish and Game person because I thought the guts would attract wolves who would then be condemned for hanging around.  I heard nothing more.

Here is a short version of the story from AP.

Bison hunt begins in National Elk Refuge

This new bison hunt is controversial, but I see as necessary in the short run because of the continued winter feeding of elk in Wyoming, which by default also means feeding bison in the winter. It is controversial because it is hardly a hunt. It is a herd reduction measure.

The Yellowstone bison are not fed and leave the Park looking for food, and the herd is largely self-regulating. The Jackson Hole bison are limited only by summer range, having plenty of artificial feed during the winter. As a result, Grand Teton National Park has an excess of bison, and the herd just keeps on growing. The Jackson Hole bison have little winter mortality, and they are increasingly taking over the valley floor in Jackson Hole and damaging wildlife habitat.

Everyone should note that while Montana livestock politicians are seemingly always in a panic if bison leave Yellowstone Park, suposedly because of the brucellosis infection in the herds, Wyoming livestock politicians are much more interested in keeping the winter feedlots open even though that perpetuates a brucellosis disease rate far higher than in Yellowstone Park.

Once again, the bison issue and problems are really problems spawned by the livestock industry’s insistence on being first in line in the Yellowstone region.

Here is the story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. By Corey Hatch.

Montana covered by stifling cloud of smoke.

The first big fires of 2007 in Idaho blew smoke across uninhabited Central Idaho and into the Bitterroot Valley of Montana on July 9. More and more fires started in Idaho and then throughout western Montana. The fires are of all sizes, but a large number are over 50,000 acres.

On my trip there last week I couldn’t find clean air anywhere south of Glacier National Park. While only some of the fires were actively burning new territory, diffuse smoke was rising all over the large swaths already inside the fire perimeters. This came from creeping, smoldering, individual trees (such as red lodgepole torching) and few runs. This made for few visible plumes, but omnipresent smoke.

I stayed one night at a motel in Hamilton, and I asked the night clerk about it. She said the smoke has been nearly continuous since July 9 (a few clear days). The smoke was hardly confined to the Bitterroot Valley, but filled almost all the Western Montana valleys and well as the mountain air and the plains to the east for a ways.

The year 2000 was a huge fire year and 2001 pretty big too. With just a few exceptions, Western Montana has been covered with smoke partially or entirely much of every summer since 2000. This has got to affect recreation and the economy — a dream retirement home in the Big Sky with the sky dirtier than in any city?

The fires will return too — not in an unusually wet year, but the trees are so stressed from lack of water and resulting attack by insects and disease, that they are going to burn for a long time in every dry and even normal precipitation year.

At Two Medicine Lake. Glacier National Park. Sept. 15, 2007.
Photo copyright Ralph Maughan

Smoky Fleecer Mountain, ten miles south of Butte. The way most of Western Montana has looked this summer.
Photo by Ralph Maughan. Sept. 16, 2007.

In Colorado, Drilling Some Holes in the Republican Base

In Colorado, Drilling Some Holes in the Republican Base. White House Push For Oil, Gas Turning A Red State Purple. By Karl Vick. Washington Post Staff Writer.

This is the reason political operatives are trying to stir it up between ungulate hunters and those more generally interested in wildlife — divide and conquer. What party do you suppose SFW- ED’s support?

Here is another article on this (added Sept. 20). Gas Drilling Shakes GOP Foundation. By David Frey. New West. 

Posted in oil and gas, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on In Colorado, Drilling Some Holes in the Republican Base

Evangelicals and environmentalists are surprising allies

“Evangelicals and environmentalists are surprising allies. Creation care divides evangelicals in Idaho and the nation, and a Boise congregation and its pastor are among those at the heart of the debate.” By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman.

Several months ago I posted a piece by a SW Idaho politico-religious activist (Bryan Fischer) who said it was God’s word to kill all the wolves. This is an interesting counterperspective.

Thanks to “B.E.” for editing my blog while I was gone

I took a ten day trip to western Idaho, north central Idaho and western Montana, with more time in or near Glacier National Park because, other than McCall (western Idaho), Glacier was the only place not covered with heavy forest fire smoke.

These forest fires are clearly going to burn until snowfall, putting out lots of smoke even as they burn little new territory. I think the fires are the most significant wildlife event I saw during the trip, and a lot more needs to be written about their growing presence.

Thanks go to “b.e.” for taking over the blog while I was gone.

Posted in Bears. 5 Comments »

Motorcyclist gets hand slapped for hitting hiker in wilderness study area

This is from Rocky Barker’s blog, although I read a similarly outraged editorial in the North Idaho paper when I was recently driving around and hiking up there.

Barker: Motorcyclist gets hand slapped for hitting hiker in wilderness study area. Idaho Statesman.

I’d like to know more about this. Was the illegal motorcyclist a friend of the prosecuter? Or more likely the fact they were Sierra Club? I’ll bet there was plenty of politics involved.

Another hunter felled by grizzly near Gardiner, Montana

Hunter survives grizzly attack. By Matthew Brown. Associated Press writer. This is a new incident in the same general area and with different bears.

On the 9th a Yellowstone Park employee who was hunting black bears was mauled by a grizzly too in the Gardiner area.

. . . . more. I have learned that this individual behaved with more sense about grizzly bears than the earlier incident with the person who is the “Safety Officer” for Yellowstone National Park who was given at least two opportunities to retreat after her first attack. He also shot and wounded the bear.

Earlier story on the attack on the Safety Officer. Yellowstone Safety Office mauled by bear.

Posted in Bears, Yellowstone National Park. Comments Off on Another hunter felled by grizzly near Gardiner, Montana

Killing Wolves Violates Public Trust

This is a piece in New West by George Wuerthner. Killing Wolves Violates Public Trust.

Among other things Wuerthner argues that “state wildlife agencies [want to be] killing wolves merely to enhance hunter opportunity.” This isn’t true, and most in the agencies know it. Most state wildlife agencies are antagonistic to all carnivores because they perceive that their constituency thinks these animals reduce hunter opportunity, not that they really do reduce opportunities for those who want to hunt ungulates. State wildlife agencies are clientele agencies, meaning they owe their political support to just a segment of the public, and clearly not the public as a whole. Therefore, Wuerthner is right on when he argues killing wolves to reduce their numbers violates the public trust.

“The public” is a word that has gone out of style in recent years, and inasmuch as it has democracy, itself has been weakened. Many of the incumbent politicians today are the ethical stepchildren of railroad magnate William H. Vanderbilt, who in 1882 told a reporter inquiring about the operations of Pennsylvania Railroad, “the public be damned” (as well as a number of others).

Domestic livestock disease is killing wildlife

Bluetongue is a disease carried by livestock which has been found to be spreading into game populations, killing antelope and white-tail deer. Montana has confirmed two deaths caused by the disease, and flights indicate a significant amount of dead animals:

“Bluetongue can affect wildlife, and we got testing results back on our first two animals Tuesday that show bluetongue was the cause of death,” said Jay Newell, wildlife biologist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks at Roundup.

Disease is a significant consequence of intermingling domesticated livestock with wild animals. Consider the Buffalo slaughter in yellowstone ~ brucellosis was originally introduced by livestock, the consequences of the domesticated arrangement in the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming, or the die-offs of bighorn intermingling with domestic sheep.

Note: Western Watersheds Project, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, and the Wilderness Society have re-opened litigation regarding the use of the Salmon River Driveway to trail domestic sheep off of the Payette National Forest, a practice that exposes bighorn to epizootic diseases.

Wolves and Coyotes

Wolves have been demonstrated to reduce coyote density in Grand Teton National Park and in the southern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. This from a study recently released by the Wildlife Conservation Society and reported by Science Daily.

Coyote densities were 33 percent lower in wolf-abundant sites in the Tetons. Similarly, coyote densities declined 39 percent in Yellowstone National Park after wolves were recently reintroduced there.

Fate of Appropriations Riders

Rocky Barker sheds some light on a lesser known appropriations rider that Larry Craig sought to pass. The language would have limited water taken from Idaho reservoirs for salmon recovery.

Craig salmon-water rider has uncertain future

There has been speculation about another appropriations rider in response to the Senator’s wish to increase grazing (errr… “fuels reduction”) in Jarbidge following the Murphy Complex Fire.

Needless to say, Craig’s ability to ride these will be an uphill endeavor considering his loss of leadership position.

Posted in Dams, Fish. 1 Comment »

Wyoming heating up

The AP has written a story about federal wildlife managers more aggressive wolf controls in Wyoming:

Although the livestock deaths are dramatically lower so far, Jimenez said the same number of wolves has been removed because federal agents have “taken out more wolves quicker in shorter time frame to not allow packs to keep killing.”

“Not allow packs” is more like it.

State-side, Sinapu’s Wild Again ! notes that WY pumps up the war chest in anticipation of wolf management.

Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (sic) weigh’s in on Wyoming’s annual $2 million budget request for state management in the Casper Star-Tribune article referenced at Wild Again !:

Bob Wharff, executive director of the Wyoming chapter of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, said he wasn’t surprised by the budget.

“That is a lot of money, but that’s what it would take to do the job,” he said.

Both Rob Edward of Sinapu and Susan Stone of Defenders of Wildlife note that with that kind of money the state could compensate ranchers well over market for all livestock lost to wolves – market value is what they’ve been getting from Defenders. But Wyoming is making it clearer and clearer that this is not about maintaining economic security for ranchers ~ Wyoming is willing to spend $2 million dollars a year on gassing up helicopters and related costs to aerially gun down as many wild wolves as it can.

We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes—something known only to her and to the mountain.
~ Aldo Leopold

    A Sand Coutny Almanac

Jaguars walled out of US

Demarcated Landscapes mourns another biological opinion issued by the US Fish & Wildlife Service late last week disregarding the effects of the US-Mexican border wall on jaguar migration. It has been hoped that a population may cross. The wall effectively cuts off two known corridors for jaguar migration along the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge and the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.

Check out Brady McCombs piece in the Arizona Dialy star ~ New border fence (sic) rising

For some good photos of the jaguar sighted in Southern Arizona check out the Arizona Game & Fish page here.

I lived in Bisbee for awhile and own a plot on the southern-most tip of the Chiricauhua Mountains. I’ve been looking forward to taking my sons to explore among the elusive jaguars and the sunsets ~ another piece of the natural world dashed by political expediency and an egregious disregard for a scientifically informed process.

Thanks for your leadership Dirk.

Yellowstone safety manager mauled by bear

Another bit of bad news regarding bear. Yellowstone National Park safety manager, Ken Meyer, was injured by what is believed to be a grizzly bear along Little Trail Creek. He was hunting for black bear.

Grizzly suspected in attack on park safety manager
Mike Stark
Billings Gazette

Wolves back in Washington

Officials are reporting the presence of a wolf in Washington. This from the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

SPOKANE, Wash. — A calf in northeastern Washington was killed by a wolf, proving the endangered species is once again within the borders of Washington after being killed off decades ago, wildlife officials said Friday.

Selway-Bitterroot Grizzly Shot

A guided hunter from Tennessee accidently shot a Grizzly in Central Idaho while baiting for black bear. Idaho Statesman:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game are investigating the killing of a large grizzly bear in north-central Idaho, where the last confirmed sighting of the species was in 1946, officials said Friday.

The bear was shot in the Selway-Bitterroot ecosystem, if you’ll remember, then Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne ~ now Secretary of the Interior ~ was succesful in a standoff against Interior’s attempts to reintroduce Grizzlies into this area. Kempthorne in 2001:

The state of Idaho has made it very clear from the outset that it opposes reintroduction of grizzlies to Central Idaho, and the Interior Department is correct in focusing its recovery efforts on other bear populations in the lower 48 states.

The Yellowstone population has been delisted, which is being challenged in court, but Grizzly bear outside of the area remain protected.

Rocky Barker’s Take on his Idaho Statesman blog.

‘They’re asking for it’

There’s been a lot of discussion about bear interaction and about the best way to prevent conflict. In a previous post Ralph shared a story about folk not knowing or caring enough to clean up their camp entitled ‘They’re not getting it’. The Rexburg Standard Journal has a story which suggests to me that not only are they not getting it ~ in some cases they’re asking for it.

Note: I don’t know how long that link’s going to be alive

Utah: some wildlife more equal than other

Tom Wharton, a columnist at the Salt Lake Tribune, takes on Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources as being under the thumb of the state’s Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, to the detriment of predators and “a better, more holistic approach to wildlife management that recognizes the need for balance and the useful role predators play.”

The article gives the experience of a professor of pathology at the University of Utah School of Medicine who thought he’d do the civic thing by participating in state wildlife management ~ only to have wildlife spited for his effort at bringing some new ideas to their public fiefdom.

Wharton: Wildlife management process is rigged in favor of hunters

It’s the same animal in Idaho. A link to Ralph’s post Predator hunters for the environment, “Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife”

Perhaps its time to bring a bit more balance ?

Wildfire threat continues across West. Idaho, Montana account for nearly two-thirds of major wildfires.

Idaho, Montana account for nearly two-thirds of major wildfires. Disaster News Network.

I do think things are calming down, however, and I am taking off for a while to visit central Idaho.

Returned on September 16. The wildfires did cool a bit, although there were a couple big runs in Montana. McCall, Cascade, and Riggins, Idaho were completely free of smoke while I was there, but the plumes blew, and continued to blow, over very sparsely inhabited central Idaho into Montana, covering almost all of the west half of the  “Big Sky State” with smoke (to which was added the many Montana fires). The motel keeper in Hamilton, Montana (Bitterroot Valley) told they had hardly had a smokeless day since July 9 when the first big forest fires started in Idaho.

Posted in Wildfires. Comments Off on Wildfire threat continues across West. Idaho, Montana account for nearly two-thirds of major wildfires.

Maryland family fights off rare rabid bear

Posted in Bears, wildlife disease. Comments Off on Maryland family fights off rare rabid bear

Dying whitebark pine stands in Greater Yellowstone produce bumper nut crop for third year

This story is by Brodie Farquhar in the Jackson Hole Star Tribune.

Good News for Griz — For Now

Things look worse and worse for that critical fall food source of Greater Yellowstone grizzly bears — whitebark pine nuts. However, these stressed stands of high altitude trees have produced a bumper crop of nuts again this year for the third year in a row (it is usually every other year).

So this will be another year when the grizzlies don’t have to risk visiting the lower elevation, more inhabited zones, to search for the food to fatten for hibernation.

Posted in Bears, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Dying whitebark pine stands in Greater Yellowstone produce bumper nut crop for third year

Jim Risch Not a Done Deal to Replace Craig; Neither is Craig’s Resignation

A funny thing happened about Larry Craig’s resignation from the U.S. Senate.

Story by Jill Kuraitis, New West. Risch Not a Done Deal to Replace Craig; Neither is Resignation.

Larry Craig Might Not Actually Resign. Courtney Lowery. New West.

If you do a Google or Yahoo News Search, there are many other stories speculating whether Craig will not really resign and fight to hold onto his seat.

This will create an enormous disruption in the Republican Party in Congress, further weakening them for 2008.

Meanwhile word was out that the “go-to” guy for the timber industry, livestock industry, mining industry, etc. is going to be Republican Senator Gorden Smith of Oregon (up for reelection). With Sen. Craig disgraced, lobbyists turn to Smith. Oregonian. By Jeff Mapes.

Salmon numbers remain low. Only four sockeye swim to Redfish Lake (Idaho) from Pacific

Four sockeye swim to Redfish from Pacific. By Greg Moore. Idaho Mountain Express Staff Writer.

1,549 of the more numerous chinook salmon having been counted at the Sawtooth Hatchery near Stanley as of Sept. 4. Sept. 6 will be the last day of counting.

Returning salmon numbers are down throughout the vast Columbia river system.

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Fire closes Idaho 55 to Banks. Castle Rock Fire near Ketchum is 100 percent contained.

Fire closes Idaho 55 to Banks. The Castle Rock Fire near Ketchum is 100 percent contained. By Cynthia Sewell. Idaho Statesman.

The new Chief Parrish Fire has closed 14 miles of Idaho 55, a major route north to Cascade and McCall, Idaho.

The relatively new Grays Creek Fire to the north of Chief Parrish is threatening the high end Tamarack ski area and real estate development.

The perimeter around fires in Idaho this year is 1.6 million acres so far. This is about twice that of last year.

post 1543

Posted in wildfire, Wildfires. Comments Off on Fire closes Idaho 55 to Banks. Castle Rock Fire near Ketchum is 100 percent contained.

The Red Bluff Fire (photos)

Here is still another Idaho fire, apparently so new it isn’t on Inciweb yet. It’s the Red Bluff Fire.

Lynne Stone of Stanley, Idaho took these photos of its plume yesterday from highway 21, north of Stanley.



Photos copyright © Lynne Stone.

There’s plenty of game out there in Idaho this season — you just need to find it

There’s plenty of game out there this season — you just need to find it. By Roger Phillips. Idaho Statesman.

I guess this contradicts, “the-wolves-have-killed-all-the-game story” told by unsuccessful hunters. Of course, every year more and more ride ATVs up and down the roads and the trails looking for a shot. I suppose the folks who do this think that elk, deer, pronghorn, etc. can no longer hear very well.

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Male Deer Are Born To Live Fast, Die Young

Male Deer Are Born To Live Fast, Die Young. From Science Daily. Based on the academic article Juan Carranza and F. Javier Pérez-Barbería, “Sexual selection and senescence: male size-dimorphic ungulates evolved relatively smaller molars than females”, The American Naturalist (2007) volume 170:370–380. DOI: 10.1086/519852.

Posted in Deer. Comments Off on Male Deer Are Born To Live Fast, Die Young

Newest energy/wildlife battleground in Wyoming is the Atlantic Rim

The next battleground. By Dustin Bleizeffer. Casper Star-Tribune energy reporter.

Story: the next battleground.

This my be a battle of epic proportions. It shows the oil and gas industry wants it all — all of the West’s undeveloped spaces.

New Idaho Wildfire Fire Grows as Crews Get Handle on Castle Rock Fire Near Ketchum

Idaho Fires: Fire Near Tamarack Grows, Crews Get Handle on Fire Near Ketchum. By Courtney Lowery. New West.

Tamarack is a relatively new, posh, ski area and real estate development west of Cascade and McCall, Idaho.

Note: the huge East Fork and Cascade fire complexes are east of Cascade and McCall.

More on Idaho fires . . . as expected Labor Day was a bad on in much of the East Fork fire Complex. Here are the details from inciweb.

Part of the East Fork complex burning near Warren, ID

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‘They’re not getting it’

‘They’re not getting it’ By Whitney Royster. Casper Star-Tribune environmental reporter.

“JACKSON — Wildlife managers are baffled this year as to why people are not getting the message to put food and bear attractants away and secure, so fewer bears need to be relocated or killed.” Rest of the story.

Posted in Bears. 16 Comments »

Biologist Boyce discovers the landscapes where elk are most likely to be killed by wolves

It is this kind of information that is very useful in judging the ecological effects of wolves. Human hunters too should take notice because elk learn what kinds of areas are safe and which are not.

Story from Science Daily. [Silly headline] Wolves Find Happy Hunting Grounds In Yellowstone National Park.

Judge upholds grazing ban on Little Pend Oreille refuge (Washington State)

This from the WWP blog — success in keeping cattle out of a National Wildlife Refuge. The cattle growers claim that grazing the cows, hardly a native animal, is good for the many species of wildlife is ridculous in the face of it. Nevertheless, there has been so much propaganda over the years that a fair number of people believe it because livestock associations make the claim year after, refuge after refuge.

This is what Defenders of Wildlife was quoted as saying. “This isn’t about being anti-grazing or anti-ranching. There’s plenty of places to graze cattle in Eastern Washington. This is a place we’ve set aside for wildlife habitat,” said Noah Matson, vice president for land conservation with Defenders of Wildlife.

My view is no grazing on any wildlife refuge, state or federal, and no grazing on any public lands where the annual precipitation is less than 12 inches a year. Note: this figure and its justification came from The Western Range Revisited: Removing Livestock from Public Lands to Conserve Native Biodiversity. By Debra Donahue. University of Oklahoma Press.

Info on the refuge.

By the way, the pronunciation of Pend Oreille is “ponder ray”

Posted in Grazing and livestock, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Judge upholds grazing ban on Little Pend Oreille refuge (Washington State)

Castle Rock mop up continues, but high winds forecasted

Story from the Idaho Mountain Express. By Jon Duval.

Idaho weather will soon moderate, however, and I think there might be a fair chance of a fire season ending event in several days. Heavy, wet thunderstorms and much cooler weather is predicted.
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Craig, “ecoterrorists”, hidden riders, and industrial legacy

There is no doubt, the hoopla surrounding ID Senator Larry Craig is a well deserved condemnation of hypocrisy that’s been years in the coming and nobody is celebrating his descent more than progressives throughout the Northwest. Now, he has resigned effective September 30.

But the shamefull manner in which a powerful Republican Senator squandered his standing is thankfully failing to completely overshadow just what it is many in Idaho and throughout the West are celebrating:

In the meantime, his actions in backrooms of the nation’s capital deserve attention. Call it a Craig’s List of how to block good deeds, or at least see that they don’t go unpunished.

Read the rest of this entry »

Craig resigns! A great day!

As a friend wrote to me, “Wilderness, wolves and salmon lost a big powerful enemy when Larry Craig resigned today.”

Story in the New York Times. Craig Announces Resignation. By Kate Phillips.

He has resigned, but he will linger in the Senate until the end of September, and folks need to be on guard for midnight riders to legislation designed to be a last minute attack on wildlife, public lands, pollution control, etc.